Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pruitt issues first State of Education Report

This from Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen L. Pruitt:
Fellow Kentuckians,

It’s been a little more than a year since the release of the first State of Education Report, and what a year it has been!

At the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), we have continued to push forward on improving education for the 650,000 children across the Commonwealth who attend public schools. In the past year we’ve concentrated on three pillars – equity, achievement and integrity. Each of these pillars is crucial to the work we do and none can be taken for granted. But after a full year in my role as commissioner, it is becoming clear that equity needs to be a special focus for the state and the lens through which we consider all things moving forward.

While we have made steady progress on traditional measures of education success, the difference in performance among the various student groups in our schools is still too wide. A special Kentucky Department of Education research analysis, A Focus on Equity for All, shows that despite our top 10 graduation rate and drastic improvement in the college/career-readiness rate, too many students are not adequately prepared for the rigors of college or the workplace. (See more about the analysis starting on page 5.)

Staying with the status quo is not good enough for the Commonwealth. We need a system of public education that will generate better outcomes for all of our students and will support economic development in Kentucky.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides us an opportunity to build on our successes, meaningfully address our shortcomings and raise all students to higher levels of achievement and postsecondary readiness. So in the past year, we’ve been developing a new accountability system that will be a catalyst for reaching those goals.

Last spring, we heard from thousands of Kentuckians at Town Hall Meetings who said they wanted a system that promoted education of the whole child, greater equity and didn’t place so much emphasis on test scores. Guided by that input and the requirements of the federal ESSA law, hundreds of Kentuckians – administrators and teachers from all levels, subject areas and district sizes across the state; education partners; parents; community members; and the business community – have drafted a new accountability system that reflects Kentucky values and provides more clarity and transparency on school performance that can be the basis for improvement. (See an overview of the accountability system starting on page 9.)

The system under development will hold schools – and all of us – accountable for ensuring equity. Schools will be tasked with moving all children’s academic achievement forward every year, but they will be expected to move children who fall into one of the traditionally low-performing student groups forward faster to help shrink the achievement gap. The system is one of continuous improvement and is designed to ensure all students have access to rich learning opportunities, regardless of the student’s zip code, school assignment, family income, language, disability, the student’s nationality or skin color.

Change can be difficult, but it is also necessary. There are many great things going on in education across Kentucky and we will continue to celebrate those and build on our successes. But we also must face our challenges head-on with determination, humility and perseverance. I hope you will join me in this critical work.

Our ultimate goal is to provide each and every child with an excellent, world-class education that will lead the student to success in his or her postsecondary endeavors, in the job market and in life. I speak not only for myself, but also the Kentucky Board of Education and KDE staff in saying that all of us are committed to supporting schools and districts to eliminate inequities and provide the excellent education that all of our students need and deserve.

This report is meant to shine a light on both the achievements and challenges of public education in Kentucky. Yet, our focus is on the future. As we move forward in the weeks and months ahead, we must put away the ideas of what we have always done and focus on equity, access to quality programs for all students and making decisions that are in their best interest.

After all, it is both Our Children and Our Commonwealth that benefit from a world-class system of public education in Kentucky.

Stephen L. Pruitt, Ph.D.
Commissioner of Education

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