As educators, we want our students to be effective problem solvers and critical thinkers so they are prepared for the rigorous challenges of college and careers upon graduation. Being a mother of six children and a teacher for 15 years has given me some perspective on education and what I see happening in classrooms.
I want my children to have the best quality education and be challenged with high expectations to be the best learners they can be. I am sad to say that before Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS) the level of expectation varied between classes. There were islands of great teaching where classroom expectations prepared students to think critically, problem solve, reason, and argue. But there were classrooms where that did not happen. KCAS has changed that and made it so teachers are required to have the same level of high expectations for all students.
As a parent I am more at ease knowing that my children are being challenged so that they can be prepared to compete in the global workforce. The reality is that jobs in Kentucky are sometimes outsourced to other states and countries. That is why it is so important that we ensure our students acquire the skills employers need.
As an educator the task of preparing our students is a great responsibility and at times a daunting task, especially as we are asked by our state, districts and schools to embrace new standards and rethink our classroom practices. But teachers are resilient in the face of these changes and demands. Currently, the opportunity to be trained on how to implement lessons that meet the more rigorous standards are not as readily available or equitable across the state. The funding for professional development, resources to support students, and teacher support has diminished. In recent years, teachers have faced increased demands when it comes to staying on top of changes with standards, assessments, accountability, and the Teacher Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (TPGES).
There is not enough funding and professional development for these changes. At the Kentucky Board of Education last month, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday supported the restoration of state education funding to 2008 levels. The number of children we are educating has increased, but our funding has stayed the same. Four dollars per teacher is allocated for professional development. That amount is disproportionate to what we as teachers are being asked to do relative to the education changes that are taking place in our state. There has to be professional development to fully build capacity in our schools with knowledgeable and equipped educators who know how to teach to the higher KCAS standards.
Kentucky is truly leading the nation in so many aspects of education reform and it is evidenced in our growth. The “Quality Counts” report supports that Kentucky is focused on doing what is right for our kids. As Commissioner Holliday has said, “The educational progress we’ve made to date is something we can be proud of and is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our educators. But we are at a crossroads. We’ve stretched our dollars as far as we can. Without improved funding for education, that progress will quickly erode.”
Teachers, it is imperative that we use our voices. For the sake of our students, we also need to stay informed about discussions and decisions during the 2014 General Assembly. Because I care about the quality of my children’s education and my students’ education, I am going to use the power of my voice to send emails and call my legislators to support new school funds to match the higher expectations for our students and our educators. As my superintendent Tom Shelton put it, “Our students have one chance to obtain a quality education.”
Teachers, let us use our voices for Kentucky’s future.
Here are simple things we can do:
- Attend a “Our Kids Can’t Wait” rally near you. I am attending the rally in Lexington at Wellington Elementary.
- Write a letter to your legislator.
- Reach out to your professional organizations to see what is being done.
Melanie Trowel is the 2014 Middle School Teacher of the Year. She teaches science at the Carter G. Woodson Academy in Fayette County, and will write occasional columns for Kentucky Teacher during her year-long reign.