Change will always be constant in education

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Moving Forward

By Keith Davis

 It is the beginning of August and we are almost ready for our students to get back to the business of preparing for their futures.

In this column, I’d like to bring you up to date on some changes to our curriculum this year, what is behind those changes, and what it will mean for our students and community.

In 1990, the state legislature passed a comprehensive education reform package that came to be known as KERA. 

It was passed in response to a court ruling that declared the entire system of public education to be unconstitutional.  KERA was revolutionary. 

It changed the way schools were funded (inequitable funding was the reason for the original lawsuit), but it also changed what and how students learned and the way they were assessed.  Much of the change was positive, but not everything. 

Many teachers and parents felt that our state strayed from the basics of writing, reading, and arithmetic and most felt that the assessment system did not give timely information on individual student progress on which teachers could make solid educational decisions.

Fast forward almost 20 years and we are given the 2009 Senate Bill 1. 

It has mandated fixes for many of the problems with KERA and since its passage, Kentucky teachers and administrators from districts across the state have been working feverishly to implement the mandates, none of which have been funded, but instead have occurred in the midst of substantial cuts to educational funding.  

What has come out of this so far should please you, whether or not you have children in school.  

First, starting this year, we have new standards for mathematics and for English/language arts (including writing).  They are substantially more rigorous.  There are fewer standards, but they go much deeper and are more specific. This will go a long way to ensuring that all students have access to the same rigorous curriculum, and a lessening of the educational lottery regarding what a teacher chooses to teach. 

We have widespread agreement and we have a legal mandate that is very specific regarding what our students are to be taught.  

Second, we are rightly being judged on the number of our students who are prepared for college or a career and the law requires clear cooperation between K-12 school districts and higher education partners.

In response to this, our local school board has taken a very strong position of leadership in Kentucky by instituting a policy that requires every student - starting with this year’s freshmen - to demonstrate readiness for either college or a career in order to receive a diploma from this school district. 

The impact of this will be substantial on the future of this county.   Bullitt County currently has among the lowest levels of citizens with a college degree in the region. As the economy changes and high-paying jobs available to those without a degree become scarcer, this can have a negative effect on our community’s quality of life. 

Recognizing that everyone will not wish to go to college, we must also focus on providing career training, along with work and citizenship skills, so these non-college bound students are ready to enter the job market or shorter-term post high school training that is nearly a necessity to compete for high wage secure positions. 

Preparing our kids for the future is our job and we intend to make sure our high school diploma means that our graduates are ready for that future.

In addition to these bedrock components, there are many aspects of the law that will bring about better instruction.  The testing will measure student progress compared to students across the country, it will measure results for a particular student over time (growth), and the testing period will move to the last two weeks of school, rather than a month or more before school concludes. 

There is a provision requiring program reviews of the arts programs to ensure that those important areas are not ignored, and other pieces that require schools to closely monitor student progress and provide remediation for students who do not meet academic standards.  

In conclusion I’ll summarize by saying that our state made a great deal of educational progress under KERA. 

Under the 2009 Senate Bill 1, which is now being called “Unbridled Learning,” our students will have access to what is a more rigorous, sensible, and accountable system of education. 

All of us who work for Bullitt County Public Schools are mindful of our responsibilities and excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for our students as a result of this landmark legislation.  We are committed to our vision of being the leader in educational excellence and with your help, we will achieve that vision.