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Education Commissioner Makes Push for Feedback & Understanding of Common Core

The Kentucky Department of Education on Monday launched a major push to get teachers, parents, and others to learn more about the state’s English/language arts and math academic measures, and then to provide input – pro or con – about the standards and any specific changes that should be made next year.

During a webcast media event at Woodford County High School in Versailles, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said the online Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge is designed to achieve several goals.

“We would like for you to read the academic standards in Kentucky. We would like you to consider whether those standards are placed at the appropriate grade level and what we may have missed. We’re asking you to edit the standards in case you think there is a tweak needed,” Holliday said. “(This) is all for the purpose of helping our children at each grade level to continue down the road toward college and career readiness.”

Holliday said the survey is being extended from the original March 31 deadline to April 30 to give educators and interested citizens more time to learn about the standards. The new timetable also pushes the process beyond the April 15 closing date of the 2015 General Assembly. On several occasions, Holiday has voiced concerns of possible legislative attempts to change either the standards or Kentucky’s assessment and accountability system, set up under the 2009 Senate Bill 1 reform law. Now, any changes by the Kentucky Board of Education – and the required regulatory review by legislative committees – won’t take place before summer or fall of next year.

Holliday acknowledged that the national political debate over common core standards is another factor in the approach of the Kentucky challenge.

“All across America, the term ‘common core standards’ has become a polarizing term. Political opinions have taken control of the discussion about education standards,” the commissioner said. “We’re seeing that in Kentucky, too. People are against the common core standards just because of the name and the federal intrusion that they think these standards represent.

“In Kentucky, we need to demonstrate that the focus is not about whether you support the common core state standards or whether you’re against the common core state standards,” Holliday said. “The focus should be on what our children in Kentucky need to know and be able to do so that they graduate from high school prepared for college, career and life.

“We need to change the conversation from one of ‘us versus them’ to one of collaboration on tweaking the standards,” Holliday said. “If you don’t have concerns, we need to hear that, too. If all you do is go in and click the green Thumbs Up, that’s critical because we need to hear from parents, teachers, professors who support the standards. If you want to click Thumbs Down, great. But don’t tell us it’s a communist conspiracy to take over education by the federal government. Tell us what’s wrong with the standards and how to fix it.”

Reaction in support

After the news conference, leaders of several education groups told KSBA eNews that they would be urging their members to go online and take part in the challenge.

“I hope my members will take the time to go on the website and participate in the challenge because I’m convinced that they know better than any other group of people how the standards actually work in the classrooms every day with real kids and real schools,” said Mary Ann Blankenship, executive director of the Kentucky Education Association.

Pendleton County Schools Superintendent Anthony Strong, president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, called the survey an opportunity to validate what educators and administrators have been doing for several years in using the English/language arts and math standards.

“Our staff and those in the schools across the state have been working very hard on the standards. It’s important for people to see the work we’re doing and to realize it’s not something that’s been taken over by the federal government. It’s work we’re doing here in our state,” Strong said.

The KDE survey does not cover the Next-Generation Science Standards, which have sparked in-state debate over climate change or evolution and are being taught this year for the first time in Kentucky classrooms. KDE recently sought an extension of time to implement those standards and count them in testing in 2016, but the request was denied by the U.S. Department of Education.

To take the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge, click here.

Brad Hughes is director of member support for the Kentucky School Boards Association and writes for the association’s eNews service. 

Photo: Terry Holliday (Amy Wallot)