Feedback, engagement critical to schools, students continued progress

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Terry Holliday
Terry Holliday

No matter how busy my schedule gets as Kentucky’s education commissioner, I am always interested in receiving feedback. That’s one of the many reasons I meet regularly with staff, connect through social media and visit schools around the state. The comments, questions and ideas I receive from all of these and many other activities are invaluable, and I believe help Kentucky continue making gains toward its goal of every child graduating from high school college and career ready.

Public engagement is critical for our education initiatives and efforts to succeed. That’s why I want to encourage you to take advantage of three specific opportunities in March and April aimed at engaging educators, parents and others in efforts to improve student success.

The first is exclusively for educators, and is the 2015 Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) Kentucky survey, which was first administered in 2011, and again in 2013. Last time, 87 percent of school-based public school educators completed this working conditions survey. This month, March 2 through March 31, all certified staff members in Kentucky’s public schools will again have an opportunity to use this anonymous, Web-based survey to voice their perceptions of the teaching and learning conditions in Kentucky schools. The survey, which is voluntary and confidential, will query certified staff about working conditions in areas such as leadership, facilities, resources, professional development, empowerment and time. The results will be used by school-based decision making councils, schools, districts, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) and numerous other organizations to improve the working conditions, which have a direct impact on the learning conditions in our schools and districts.

As in previous years, the intent of the survey is to provide schools, districts and the state data that can be used to enhance school improvement efforts. The survey data has been used in different initiatives across the commonwealth, including use in school improvement plans, the design of new evaluation tools, Race to the Top and Kentucky’s ESEA Waiver applications and professional development opportunities.

I ask every certified staff member in Kentucky to take the TELL survey, encourage their co-workers to do so and monitor the participation rates for your school and district through the TELL Kentucky website. Your voice is essential to improving student learning results, reducing teacher turnover rates and making a long-term impact on the economy of Kentucky.

Take the Challenge

The second opportunity for feedback is the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge, a process to inform the regular review of the English/language arts and mathematics standards implemented in 2011.

Announced last August, the Challenge runs through April 30 and is aimed at getting teachers, professors, parents, students, business leaders and community members – all Kentuckians – to read Kentucky’s English/language arts and mathematics standards and provide feedback on whether they support each standard as written or would like to see specific changes.

To make the process as easy as possible, we’ve created a special interactive website, http://kentucky.statestandards.org, where you can read the standards and submit your feedback. You may comment on one or more of the grade-level standards.

Whether you support the standards or have specific concerns, we want to hear from you. However, I want to be very clear, the Challenge is designed to focus on the content of the standards and adjustments that may need to be made to them. We are looking for specific, actionable feedback to the standards.

Once the challenge ends, the feedback we receive will be posted online and a team of Kentucky educators, from all levels specializing in specific content areas, will review the suggestions and make recommendations on any changes to the Kentucky Board of Education for its consideration, most likely in the fall of 2015.

This is a wonderful opportunity for teachers and parents to share their specific experiences with the standards and offer their feedback and suggestions. This is exactly the kind of input we need in Kentucky to hone, improve and enhance our standards going forward. Who better than to give us insight than the people who are working day in and day out with the standards, either in their schools and classrooms or at home with their children? I encourage everyone to visit the website and take the Challenge.

Share your knowledge with students

Last, I remind everyone of a great initiative we have in Kentucky called Operation Preparation.

Operation Preparation is a statewide program, started by the Kentucky Department of Education and the Department for Workforce Development, that takes place every March.

This initiative helps 8th – and 10th-grade students realize their potential, maximize their academic preparation and stay on track for success during and after high school through one-on-one conversations with community volunteers. The volunteers engage students in meaningful conversations about their college- and career-plans, and offer insight about required education and training. They also discuss whether the student is on target to meet his or her goals and recommend courses that may better prepare students for the future.

No matter what students decide to do after high school, it’s critical we engage students now in talking about their futures. It can make all the difference. Please consider volunteering for this worthwhile program by contacting your local school district for information about Operation Preparation activities they have planned.

I hope everyone takes part in these opportunities to engage in our schools and make a difference for Kentucky students. It is only together that we will be able to improve our schools and ensure our students are prepared to succeed and strengthen this state. We can’t do it alone.

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