(FRANKFORT, KY) – In the 2019 State of Education address Dec. 3, Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis issued a call to action to the state’s education community and encouraged education leaders, educators, policymakers and families to work together to ensure each and every student is well-prepared for life and the opportunities of the 21st century economy. The address was livestreamed via the Kentucky Department of Education’s Facebook page and is available online.
Citing recent K-PREP assessment data, ACT and NAEP test scores – along with studies by the Kentucky Center for Statistics and “The Opportunity Myth” report from TNTP – Lewis said despite years of educational progress in the state since 1990, progress has stalled.
“While we have made tremendous progress with our high school graduation rate, too many Kentucky graduates exit high school without basic skills or the competencies necessary to be successful in college or the workforce,” said Lewis. “Thanks to the investment of the Kentucky General Assembly and the collaborative leadership of school districts and postsecondary institutions, we are seeing increases in early postsecondary opportunities (EPO) for high school students. Our data show that completing EPOs increases the likelihood of students completing a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree.”
According to the Kentucky Center for Statistics, a study of the 43,626 graduates in the class of 2011 showed that by 2018, only 9,275 graduates had received bachelor’s degrees and were earning an annual median income more than $34,000 per year.
During the address, Lewis honored three Kentucky school districts and one educational cooperative for their innovation and excellence in educational leadership in ensuring students are ready for college and/or careers following graduation. The districts and cooperative are:
- Laurel County Schools for its Center for Innovation. The center focuses on specializations in English, math and technical education, and staff delivers instructional content while integrating components connected to the student’s career pathway.
- Meade County Schools for its partnership with the Meade County Area Technology Center and Elizabethtown Community and Technical College (ECTC). The school focuses on partnerships, building a premier graduate that is ready for a quality life after high school and thinking outside the historical makeup of a high school. All 1,600 Meade County High School students have a career pathway. The ATC features air conditioning technology, allied health, automotive technology, computerized manufacturing and machining, construction carpentry technology, health sciences, industrial maintenance technology, information technology, marketing education and welding.
- Owensboro Public Schools for the Owensboro Innovation Academy. Students from Owensboro Independent, Daviess County and McLean County public schools attend the academy, which focuses on project-based learning where students immerse themselves into hands-on projects as a way to actively learn valuable subject material.
- Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative for the iLead Academy. iLead serves students in Carroll County, Gallatin County, Henry County, Owen County and Trimble County public schools. The academy focuses on the notion that students control the time, place and pace of their learning and that they understand how what they are learning applies to the real world.
Following the awards presentation, Lewis reviewed highlights of 2019 K-PREP, NAEP and ACT scores.
“Results from the 2019 K-PREP assessment, show an alarming percentage of African-American elementary students are scoring at the Novice level (the lowest level) in reading – 40.2% are at this level of academic emergency,” he said.
Lewis pointed to a recent national study, “The Opportunity Myth” by TNTP, which found that “students of color and students from low-income backgrounds were about 25% less likely to receive grade appropriate assignments and less than half the amount of high-quality lessons” as their peers.
“The systemic flaws that allow and perpetuate such inequity must be changed. Unless we acknowledge and boldly address those flaws, making policy and practice decisions that truly put students’ needs first, students in academic emergency will remain on the fast track to poverty, dependency and prison,” said Lewis.
The commissioner closed by saying the most important school-level elements for reducing Kentucky’s Novice numbers are ensuring all students have access to a high-quality, Kentucky Academic Standards-aligned curriculum at grade level; and ensuring all students have access to effective instruction at grade level.
He pointed to four Kentucky schools that are making significant headway in closing gaps among students: Simmons Elementary in Woodford County; Cochran Elementary in Jefferson County; McNabb Elementary in Paducah Independent; Gamaliel Elementary in Monroe County; and Whitley County East Elementary School.
“From analyzing our own assessment data, we know that we must act quickly and urgently to provide students with the experiences and support they need to thrive,” Lewis said. “We understand that there are significant challenges – from funding constraints to staff shortages to family economic challenges and hardships. But we also know that that if a school changes nothing else except adult expectations, approach, behavior and actions to ensure kids have access to high-quality instruction, curriculum and materials, kids will respond. Students’ academic and behavioral outcomes improve. Teachers and leaders across Kentucky prove that it can be done.”