Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Unprecedented": King's Letter to all University Faculty

They tell me that university faculty never receive letters directly from the head of the Council on Postsecondary Education. Today we did.

This from CPE President Robert King:

To: Kentucky Faculty Members
September 14, 2009

Dear Kentucky Faculty Members,

Let me first say how pleased I am to have been asked to come to Kentucky to work with all of you and your respective campuses on the goals of postsecondary reform. I have been here for nearly nine months and have visited many of your campuses, and I am impressed with the wide variety of activities occurring for the benefit of your students.

Council staff and I have received a number of questions on the status of the recently enacted Senate Bill 1. I am writing you today in order to explain as much as I can about the ever-evolving landscape of this hallmark piece of legislation.

Senate Bill 1, signed by Governor Beshear on March 26, 2009, revises the assessment and accountability system for P-12 education in Kentucky. It requires a revision of standards to be based on national and international benchmarks in order to increase the rigor and focus the content of P-12 education, increasing the number of students that are college and career ready.

The Bill calls upon the Kentucky Department of Education, in collaboration with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, to plan and implement a comprehensive process for revising the academic content standards. Part of this process includes the development of a unified strategy to reduce college remediation rates and increase graduation rates of postsecondary students with developmental education needs. An outline for that process, including timelines for all activities, has been completed and is being implemented. You may find that outline and further information at: http://www.cpe.ky.gov/policies/academicinit/senbill1/.

The next step, already underway, is the review of current systemwide public postsecondary placement policies in English and mathematics, and, working with institutional faculty members and representatives from the K-12 system, determining whether revisions are needed in those content standards. A statewide reading group, partnering with the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development (housed at the University of Kentucky), is reviewing strategies for reading in academic content areas. Assessments to identify those reading skills needed for success in postsecondary introductory reading-intensive courses are being developed. A mathematics group, partnering with the Kentucky Center for Mathematics (housed at Northern Kentucky University), is doing the same. Reading and mathematics are widely acknowledged as the gateways for success in all educational endeavors. The science standards will be reviewed in the very near future as part of the next stage of the process.

A catalog of college readiness strategies already in use within the state and nation is being developed. This catalog of strategies can be used by educational cooperatives and P-16 councils in their efforts to limit the number of students in postsecondary education and the workforce underprepared in the essential skill areas. KDE and many other state and national partners will be a part of the process to align course content and assessments between P-12 and postsecondary institutions.

A steering committee also has been established and met on August 12. This committee will provide guidance and oversight in the implementation of the process to create one set of standards from P-12 to college entry-level courses and will provide insight into the development of strategic plans to reduce the remediation rates of high school graduates and increase the graduation rates of underprepared students entering postsecondary institutions.

KDE Commissioner Terry Holliday and I are working together to ensure that the revised standards that are recommended to the Kentucky Board of Education for approval are aligned with postsecondary education course and assessment standards for reading and mathematics. We are guiding a process to improve education at all levels for all students without diminishing admission or curricular standards. We are working with representation from all of the campuses in order to maintain the quality and rigor of the postsecondary experience in Kentucky.

Finally, let me emphasize that the expectations for achieving the goals of Senate Bill 1 extend across the entire educational spectrum in the Commonwealth. The primary driving force behind this legislation is to make sure that the P-12 system and the postsecondary system work together to prepare students who are college-ready, who will subsequently attend and successfully complete postsecondary study, and who will graduate and contribute to Kentucky’s future. These responsibilities are naturally embedded in the professional preparation of educators, both pre-service and in-service, and extend from early childhood through post-graduate study. There is a significant need for relevant and focused research that will facilitate and enable our P-12 colleagues to make and sustain the changes needed to achieve the goals of Senate Bill 1, and you as postsecondary faculty are best positioned for this work. I am honored to be working with you for the good of our communities on this shared obligation.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of Kentucky’s students.


Robert L. King


Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see whether or not university faculty find this unusual letter from the commisioner to be a veiled attempt to pull professors at the post-secondary level into the same line of thinking KDE administrators try to impose on teachers at the K-12 level.

Too, I wonder when/ if university faculty will see this "letter" as an attempt to tell higher education faculty how to teach their subject matter.

Finally, I wonder who will challenge the commisioner with the two most important words in the academy: "Academic Freedom."

Anonymous said...

Let me interpret for you:

University faculty...we're going to do our best to control every aspect of what you teach, do, say, and test in your classrooms like we currently do in the K-12 classroom.

End if interpretation...

We'll see if university faculty stand by and take it like K-12 faculty have done over the past 18 or so years.

Anonymous said...

This is indeed a new low in higher education in Kentucky. As a professor at a Kentucky college, I refused to be told what to do, or how to comply, or how best to articulate, by Robert L King. King's intrusion into the world of higher education is, in my view, both unprecedented and unwarranted. King's future letters and emails to me will go where they belong: in the trash container.

Anonymous said...

The colleges of education throughout the State are already puppets of the Standards Board and Phil Rogers...their greatest "grand directive" that all education MA programs in the state WILL be teacher leader programs or WILL NOT be approved is a shining example of that level of control. Of course, most professors in education are ex-public school teachers/admins, so they are already conditioned to allow this kind of control from the state.

I don't think the state will see the same willingness receive directives from those outside the education colleges.

Anonymous said...

I have news for you: The majority of K-12 teachers have continued to exercise a large degree of academic freedom since the Reform Act of 1990. We generally pay lip service to the up-line while doing what we think is best for kids. It is a game to balance our autonomy with governmental attempts at control. We have known for 18 years now that the learning standards would slowly be changed. Don't take the Commissioner's letter too seriously.

Richard Day said...

"...to improve education at all levels for all students without diminishing admission or curricular standards...working with representation from all of the campuses in order to maintain the quality and rigor of the postsecondary experience in Kentucky."

What's wrong with that?

The only thing I feared in this process was that somebody would try to lower college standards. That would be worth fighting against.

Now this bears watching, but cooperating with P-12 folks to reduce the number of students in developmental programs on our campuses is service to the state.

I hear the approach (in math for example) will be to move developmental course standards to the senior year of high school (you know, the least demanding of the four years) and require developmental students to pass the KYOTE before leaving high school.

Somebody will have to explain to me how that harms Kentucky students or undermines my academic freedom.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with that?

Teachers are getting sick of being told what they need to do by everyone from their principal to the academic dean to the director of ___________ and the superintendent.

Why is it assumed teachers always need to be re-trained in the area of student achieve degrees that worthless?

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with that?

As Richard well knows, a lot is wrong with that...he's just being political.

Richard Day said...

C'mon. On some level, everybody gets told what to do. Being political?

I call 'em as I see them.

If I were simply being political, I would not have written half the things I've written over the years. It would have been much better for me to have simply sucked up and gotten the goodies.

But I agree with certain education leaders from time to time. When that happens, I'm going to say so, even if I just criticized them the week before.

Anonymous said...

Teachers must be part of teh decision-making process. For Richard, or anyone else, to deny that teachers are not losing autonomy, is plain misguided non-sense.

I know schools where if it's Tuesday, all language teachers must be teaching persuasive writing. It'd becoming distressing....