- Multi-agency effort seeks to retain students at every level for economic success.
- Work will seek to close achievement gaps, diversify ranks of teachers.
By Jim Gaines
Gov. Andy Beshear and state education officials on Dec. 3 announced the creation of an initiative to help Kentucky students through transition points in education, from early childhood to adult learning.
The Commonwealth Education Continuum (CEC) is the latest of several moves by the Beshear administration to promote and improve educational performance.
Beshear said that “high-quality, accessible and cohesive public education” is essential for economic success, and its impact will be felt across succeeding generations.
No one state agency can tackle the multiple issues facing public education, so the CEC will unite the efforts of educational authorities at all levels. Gov. Beshear said learners are most likely to be lost at transition points, such as between high school and college and that is what the CEC will address.
“This is an education-first administration, and building a better Kentucky starts with our public education system,” he said. “This continuum ensures that we’re taking advantage of every opportunity that helps our students and teachers.”
The CEC is a partnership between the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Kentucky Department of Education.
Its governing committee will be co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, CPE President Aaron Thompson and Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. The committee will have 24 members, to be announced soon, from all levels of the education community. Its first meeting will be in January 2021.
Thompson said the CEC will have three priorities:
- Providing more and better information on planning and paying for college;
- Improving access to dual-credit and other college preparatory programs for all students; and
- Diversifying the teaching force by attracting more men and people of color.
Kentucky students are twice as likely to be male as their teachers. Nearly a quarter of public school students are minorities, but only 4.8% of Kentucky teachers are.
Education is vital for breaking the cycle of multigenerational poverty, said Lt. Gov. Coleman, who also serves as secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. She envisions the creation of a “cradle-to-career cabinet” of state agencies working together to prepare students for successful careers, enabling industries to retain Kentucky’s best and brightest students in the state.
“Today’s announcement is a huge step in doing just that,” she said.
The initiative will not require additional state funding.
Glass said statewide economic development, good jobs, healthy communities and citizen engagement all depend on quality education. That extends from early childhood education through high school, into career and technical schools, and community colleges and universities, he said.
Kentucky has a tradition of educational innovation, and the CEC is an extension of that spirit, Glass said.
“An education system that helps connect students from our schools to postsecondary education, to meaningful careers and lives is in all our interests,” he said. “This work will be about removing the barriers for our students, so that every student can see themselves as the graduate of a postsecondary experience.”
Glass said the initiative has the full support of the Kentucky Board of Education, which formally endorsed it through a resolution passed at its Dec. 2 meeting.
Racial and economic achievement gaps exist, and the CEC will tackle those as well, seeking to increase mentoring and working across agencies, Gov. Beshear said.
Thompson said only half of Kentucky children are prepared for kindergarten, and those deficiencies carry forward all the way to workforce preparedness.
“As I’ve said before, the way to get an excellent higher education system is to get an excellent early childhood education system,” he said.