Reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act ushers in a new day in Kentucky and across the nation, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt told the Kentucky Board of Education at its meeting Dec. 9 in Frankfort.

The U.S. Senate approved the bill, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), by a vote of 85-12 on the same day as the board meeting. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law before the end of the year.

ESSA shifts much of the oversight and responsibility for schools from the federal government to the state – including how accountability is determined and how to define and improve low performing schools.

“This will give us an opportunity to bring all shareholders to the table to create a system that not only holds schools and districts accountable for students’ education, but also celebrates the good things happening in our schools,” Pruitt told the board. “Our goal is to ensure we do the very best for all of our kids and provide them with a well-rounded education.”

The board received a report on the current status Priority Schools at its meeting. Of the 36 Priority Schools assessed during the 2014-15 school year, 11 schools exited Priority status, four scored in the Distinguished category, nine scored in the Proficient category and nine were categorized as Progressing. Three schools entered Priority status. The department has already started to address those Priority Schools making little or no progress by implementing novice reduction strategies, strengthening the capacity of leadership in those schools and districts, and working to ensure that resources are aligned to Priority School work.

Also at its meeting, the board unanimously approved its legislative agenda for the 2016 Regular Session of the General Assembly. In addition to its biennial budget priorities, policy priorities include a clearer definition of bullying, enhanced career and technical education, support for district improvement, greater dual credit opportunities and addressing the unfunded liability faced by the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System.

The board meeting started with Frankfort Chief Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd administering the oath of office to the newest member of the Kentucky Board of Education, Susan Kaye Edington of Madisonville. Edington is a teacher and program coordinator at Murray State University. She represents the 1st Supreme Court District and replaces Jay Parrent, who resigned. Edington will serve for the remainder of the unexpired term ending April 14, 2018. In a related matter, the board elected Bill Twyman as its new vice chair to replace Parrent.

Also at its meeting, the board approved:

  • District Facility Plans for Ohio County, Paducah Independent, Somerset Independent, and Webster County
  • District Facility Plan Amendment: Boyle County School District
  • 2015-16 Local District Tax Rates Levied
  • 2015-16 Local District Working Budgets
  • Waiver of Section 304 of the Kentucky School Facilities Manual, as incorporated by reference into 702 KAR 4:180, for the Danville Independent School District
  • Waiver Request of Section 2 (1-9) of 702 KAR 6:090, for All School Districts

The board also heard reports on:

  • 2015-16 Kindergarten Readiness Screener results
  • Kentucky’s Economic Competitiveness Agenda
  • State Assistance in Fleming and Robertson counties and Caverna Independent
  • State Management in Breathitt and Menifee counties.

The next regular meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education will be Feb. 3 in Frankfort.