Ky. education commissioner weighs in on common core,
preschool, career tech
This from NKy.com:
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday thinks kids are “over tested” and that many states are making a mistake by using Common Core tests to evaluate teachers or decide whether students should be held back.
Holliday made the candid comments during a visit Tuesday to the Enquirer to meet with reporters and editors.
His conversation focused mostly on the Common Core standards in English and math, and the Next Generation Science Standards that were recently adopted by the state.
But he also touched on some other issues universal: preschool (he’s for it), charter schools (he’s for them), vouchers (he’s against them). And he said there will be another proposed revamp soon for career technical schools.
• On Common Core:
Kentucky was the first state in the country to adopt the Common Core – an overhauled set of education standards that aim to better prepare students for college and careers. Kentucky was also at the front edge in creating its own Common Core tests. Most other states don’t start testing until next year. The standards and tests have drawn criticism; some say they amount to a federal overreach.• On unfunded mandates:
Holiday said he’s open to tweaking the standards, but disagrees with critics. He said he was at the table when the standards were “dreamed up,” and “there was no one from the federal government at the meeting,” he said.
He said many states, however, have made mistakes with the standards.
“They have made the tests too high-stakes,” he said. “They should not be used to evaluate teachers. They shouldn’t be used to hold kids back from promotion. That should be a more widely discussed decision with all the teachers and parents looking at the body of the student’s work, not a one-day, one-shot test,” he said. “We’re just using common sense in Kentucky and I’m afraid some of the other states have been too misled by education reformists,” he said.
In Ohio, districts are required to base teacher evaluations in part on students’ performance on the standardized state tests. This year Ohio will also use third grade reading tests to determine whether students will be held back in reading.
“I [think] we’re over tested, he said. “We’re the most tested nation in the world and the least informed. Kids aren’t engaged anymore, it’s just ‘get ready for a test.’”
Holliday said although the changes in education may be well-intentioned, they’re coming too fast and schools are getting “piled onto” with unfunded mandates.• On Career tech:
“I‘m very much a person who pushes back on these kinds of things because our schools are overburdened,” he said. “Back in the ‘50s, when I was in school, it was the three R’s, a little music, no standardized tests. Nowadays we teach everything – sex ed, financial literacy, hearing screenings, eye screenings, we’re giving them insulin shots. We piled onto our schools and districts.”
“The community expects schools to do everything,” he said. “Our schools cannot be everything to everybody. It (also) takes the parents and the community to help kids be successful.”
Holliday said his office will announce major recommendations in a few weeks on ways to revamp the state’s career technical landscape.
Recommendations would include decreasing the number of career tech centers – there are 96 statewide – and have each one specialize more and serve bigger regions.“It really makes no sense for three career tech centers to offer automotive technology and three high schools and Gateway (Community College) to offer it,” he said. He said similar models exist in other states.• On charter schools:
He’s supportive of allowing charter schools into the state, as long as the local school boards are the authorizers.• On vouchers:
“It could be another tool that local school districts can use,” he said.
Charter schools are public schools run by independent organizations. They’re often criticized for academic performance, lack of oversight and financial accountability.
Kentucky is one of the few states in which law does not permit them. Holliday said the fall election may be the turning point. If Republicans take the majority in the House, as they have in the Senate, “we’ll probably see charter legislation pretty quickly.”
Many states, including Ohio and Indiana, have voucher programs in which state money helps pay tuition for families to send their kids to private school. They generally are intended to give more options to parents zoned to low-performing school districts, especially those who can’t afford private school. Holliday doesn’t support them. He thinks they’ll open the door to privatization of education.• On universal preschool:
Holliday thinks more quality preschool is a good investment, but it needs to be a group effort.“If we want to close the achievement gaps in the nation, we need to focus our dollars on preschool and high quality preschool with ... some parent accountability for this,” he said. “Communities need to invest so they have some ownership of these processes.”