Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kentucky Post wants Draud, Beshear to shoot higher

This from the Kentucky Post.

The Kentucky Board of Education certainly did not make the same mistake twice in its year-long search for a new commissioner. Burned earlier this year when post-hiring questions led to the withdrawal of an out-of-state candidate, the board has now turned to a well-known figure from Northern Kentucky: Jon Draud....

...In short, Draud's educational background and his intimate understanding of the political process ought to be a big asset in his new job, which makes him responsible for more than 668,000 students in a state that, while it continues to bask in the glow of reforms passed 17 long years ago, is actually struggling to catch up with much of the rest of the nation.

From the tenor of comments given to reporters in the wake of his hiring, it appears that Draud's initial tasks include securing more funding for public pre-school programs, improving performance on federally-mandated proficiency tests and reviving enthusiasm for the 1990 school reform agenda.

This makes sense as far as it goes. The benefits of a nurturing, stimulating environment during the first years of life have been amply documented, and in many communities, particularly those where poverty is rampant, the public schools are a logical avenue for helping families provide such an environment during the day. And Kentucky has properly set a goal of having every school reach "proficient'' levels on its accountability testing system by 2014. But, as school board chairman Joe Brothers noted, while many elementary schools on are track to meet that goal, only 25 percent of middle schools and 12 percent of high schools are now at that level.
Those are challenging tasks, but we hope that Draud and governor-elect Steve Beshear aim even higher.

The goal, particularly here in Northern Kentucky, must be to improve the overall quality of education well beyond proficient - to expand the depth and reach and variety of offerings and increase the number of students successfully going on to college. Eight of the 14 districts in Northern Kentucky, after all, already meet all their federal No Child Left Behind targets, and five of the six that don't missed this year on just one or two measures. Only Covington, which met just eight of 16 targets, can be fairly said to be struggling to achieve the minimum standards system wide.

What most of our districts need is a structure and a set of incentives that are flexible enough and aggressive enough to promote quality, to capitalize on the resources of the region and push students and educators to reach further than they are now.

Given that the state board of education dismissed Beshear's request to launch a new search for a commissioner (and, implicitly, to reject Draud and the other finalists), the relationship between Draud and the new governor will probably be tentative, at least initially. But both men are pragmatists and appear to be big thinkers. Both must realize there's an enormous amount of work to be done. Hence, we expect Beshear to be as a sincere as we are in extending congratulations to Jon Draud.

Now, please, gentlemen, get to work.

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