Monday, October 19, 2009

Gov Beshear Launches Initiative to Transform Education in Kentucky

"Twenty years ago we made a start -
a ground-breaking approach that drew
the attention and praise of the nation.
Today that mission continues...
Today I'm calling upon our state and our people
to recommit ourselves to assuring the future of our children."
--Governor Steve Beshear

TEK task force will be catalyst to
reinvigorate public support for K-12 education

I took a little trip down memory lane this morning as Governor Steve Beshear, kicked off his tour in support of transforming education reform from one of my old schools - Meadowthorpe Elementary in Lexington. There was very nice turnout of... (I didn't really count...but) maybe 70 people to learn about the governor's plans.Joining Beshear were First Lady Jane Beshear, Education Cabinet Secretary Helen Mountjoy and Commissioner Terry Holliday. It was nice to finally meet Terry Holliday, who will be a guest in my little lecture hall next week, and it was great to see Jane Beshear many years after our Kentucky Literacy Commission days. And despite our paths crossing over the years, this was the first time I actually met Helen, unless addressing her across a board room table counts.

Among other things, the Governor wants to expand preschool opportunities; fully fund all-day kindergarten; improve teacher pay and training; give every student the opportunity to take AP courses; and to provide better textbooks.

"But for now, my biggest financial priority is simply to maintain our current investments in education during this worse recession since the Great Depression," Beshear said.

Beshear advocated taking this time to aggressively look at our education system from top to bottom; to build partnerships with the business community; and to rally around our students and our teachers, reasoning that - if we do this - when the recession ends, we will know how to best invest those dollars.

This from the Gov:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 19, 2009) – In a move to re-energize the support of public schools that nearly 20 years ago sparked Kentucky to implement the nation’s most comprehensive school reform, Gov. Steve Beshear today launched his new education initiative, Transforming Education in Kentucky (TEK). The goal is to create a unified vision of what schools in the Commonwealth need to offer in order to better serve students today and tomorrow.

“Our world has changed dramatically since the reforms of 1990,” said Gov. Beshear. “We must now turn our focus to the future and again to our schools to ensure that our strategies and programs are designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

(The last 2:22 of Beshear's remarks...starting right after he states his support for expanded pre-school opportunities. Here's the audio of the full speech: 13:26)

To that end, Gov. Beshear appointed the TEK Task Force to help develop new strategies while reinvigorating public and business support for K-12 education in the Commonwealth.

The members of the task force include education advocates, teachers, superintendents, legislators, business leaders and others who have been handpicked for their commitment to education and to Kentucky.

The group will examine efforts currently underway in the state, such as the Common Core Standards Initiative, Graduate Kentucky, the Gates Foundation/SREB college and career readiness initiative, the Race to the Top competition and the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Development and Education. Against this backdrop of renewed energy and activity, the panel will recommend ways to channel all of these efforts into an integrated and comprehensive system of education in Kentucky.

In addition, the task force will explore career and technical education, expanded use of technology for learning, increased opportunities for students to earn college credit in high school and other issues that affect student success.

The goal is to formulate recommendations by the end of 2010, for consideration during the 2011 legislative session.

In an effort to build awareness of the initiative and to receive input from citizens statewide, Gov. Beshear is visiting 10 cities across the state for a series of press conferences and town hall forums. The Governor and the TEK Task Force will use this input as guidance for the work of Transforming Education in Kentucky.

“This effort seeks to build off the progress of the last 20 years in order to lay the foundation for the 20 years ahead,” said Gov. Beshear. “Today, I’m calling on our state and our people to recommit ourselves to ensuring the future of our children.”

Gov. Beshear and Kentucky Department of Education
Commissioner Terry Holliday will serve as co-chairs of the task force.

Other members of the task force include:

Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-19th District
Rep. Leslie Combs, D-94th District;
Rep. Jeffrey Hoover, R-83rd District;
Rep. Carl Rollins, D-56th District;
Helen Mountjoy, secretary, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet
David Adkisson, president, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce;
Sheldon Berman, superintendent, Jefferson County;
Mary Ann Blankenship, executive director, Kentucky Education Association;
Karen Cash, classroom teacher, Louisville;
Margaret Cleveland, school board member, Woodford County;
Sam Corbett, chair, Prichard Committee;
Ben Cundiff, Cundiff Farms, Cadiz;
Sharon Darling, president, National Center for Family Literacy;
Betty Griffin, The Griffin Group, Frankfort;
Tim Hanner, superintendent, Kenton County;
Trichel House, classroom teacher, Russell;
Nanette Johnson, superintendent, Hardin County;
Eleanor Jordan, executive director, Kentucky Commission on Women;
Robert King, president, Council on Postsecondary Education;
Nana Lampton, American Life & Accident Insurance Company of Kentucky, Louisville;
William Lovell, school board member, McLean County;
Brent McKim, president, Jefferson County Teachers’ Association;
Bob Porter, mayor, City of Paintsville;
Johnna Reeder, Duke Energy, Covington;
Stu Silberman, superintendent, Fayette County;
Stephen Trimble, superintendent, Johnson County; and
Diane Whalen, mayor, City of Florence.

*Gov. Beshear has asked Senate President David Williams to recommend two additional members from the State Senate and they will be added to the task force once they have been named.

Others in the crowd:
Mike Stacy, Meadowthorpe principal; FCPS honchos Mary Browining, Mike McKenzie, Jack Hayes, Melissa Bacon; Cindy Heine from the Prichard Committee; Rep Charlie Hoffman; KBE member Rev C B Akins; Meadowthorpe School Council member Tracy Letcher; P G Peeples of the Urban League; H-L's Jim Warren and lurking in the rear of the room Larry Dale Keeling; Alva Clark of Petrilli v Silberman fame.

This from Jim Warren at the Herald-Leader:

Beshear announces education task force

Gov. Steve Beshear announced in Lexington on Monday morning that he is naming a task force to develop plans for future educational development in the state, to build on the success begun with the Kentucky Education Reform Act almost 20 years ago.
Beshear made the announcement at Lexington's Meadowthorpe Elementary School on the first stop of a three-day tour of the state that will include press conferences and town-hall meetings to talk up the importance of education...

..."This effort seeks to build off the progress of the last 20 years in order to lay the foundation for the 20 years ahead," Beshear said. "Today, I'm calling for our state and our people to recommit ourselves to ensuring the future of our children."

Beshear said that although KERA, which was enacted in the early 1990s, dramatically improved Kentucky education, more work is needed to improve the state's education system and prepare its children for the future.

"Slow, steady, incremental improvement is no longer enough," he said, calling for "an all out sprint" to boost student achievement.

"Let's get started," he said.


Anonymous said...

Blah, blah, blah....Here we go again. Maybe he is trying to fill in the footsteps of Martha Wilkinson or Martha Layne. Better textbooks, Governor? What's wrong with the ones we have?

Richard Day said...

More Martha Layne Collins. Much less Martha Wilkinson, in fact, that's not a very good comparison at all.

Collins is the last governor to stalk the state in support of better schools. Granted she was campaigning at the time, but as I recall she made it to all 120 counties and education was a central focus of her campaign. She deserves credit for some preKERA support.

Like Collins and in a more abbreviated form, Beshear is taking his message directly to the people - the only thing that has ever worked.

Other comparisons could be made to State supts Robert Breckinridge & John Grant Crabbe. The central differences are the economy (although that was pretty shaky in Breckinridge's day as well) and the amount of partners the the governor brings with him.

At the press conference, I saw a number of organizations represented but it was not clear that they would be supporting (joining) this state-wide effort with their own advocacy. Maybe I missed that, but they appeared to be observers.

For this to become a movement, Beshear needs to enlist vocal supporters who will continue t5o carry this messages into every hometown - a la Prichard in 1984.

And, you're right. This can't be about textbooks. I don't know this to be true, but my guess is that "textbooks" made it into the speech because it was textbook dollars that were most recently cut and it was a problem is some districts.

Beshear is well and truly hamstrung by the present recession. I give him credit for trying to focus the debate on what kinds of improvements SB1 and other reforms ought to take.

Anonymous said...

I have respect for Steve Beshear. He is a good man, but he knows little about education, and that was evident from the press conference.

The very fact that he mentions "better textbooks" shows he doesn't know what school reform is. Textbooks are not the answer, though they clearly need to be up-to-date.

Class size is, on the other hand, fundamental. A teacher with twenty students can devote more time to her students than one with thirty.

Holding parents accountable is next, but this is a politically risky move that few politicians would support.

I'm waiting, though, for the public to speak to the issue of a longer school year. What would that mean in extra pay for teachers, and why does Dr. Holliday think that tacking on a few extra days will increase test scores? Show me the data.