It isn’t every day that a state’s public education commissioner, the head of its chamber of commerce, and the president of its teachers’ union sit side-by-side before a legislative body and agree with the direction of its education system.
But, that is happening in Kentucky.
As an early implementer of Common Core State Standards, Kentucky has already posted gains on the assessments that measure what students should know in math and language arts under the new standards.
We are so far along in Kentucky that we have rebranded them for our very own: KCAS – Kentucky Core Academic Standards.
This week, the Senate Education Committee provided time to opponents of the standards. Three witnesses skyped in from California, Massachusetts and Chicago to tell Kentucky legislators what they believe is wrong with the higher standards.
Testifying in support the standards, KY Education Commissioner Terry Holliday pointed out that school districts have worked hard to implement the higher standards with no new funding (with less really) and that the vast majority of teachers and administrators strongly support KCAS and show that daily in their work.
Stephanie Winkler, President of the Kentucky Education Association, listed top reasons why the new standards are good for kids and teachers. She reassured the audience that these are only “standards” that do not script how teachers teach or the curriculum they use. The standards focus on “mastery of a subject,” not only memorization of facts. They “ratchet up rigor,” as well as foster more teacher collaboration. They ensure all children target equally high standards that will help them become “college and career ready.”
Dave Adkisson, President of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, reminded the legislators that the #1 strategic goal of the state’s business community is education. He lauded recent gains in Kentucky that combined to move the Commonwealth up from 34th to 10th in Education Week’s 2013 Quality Counts Report. He summed up by saying that abandoning KCAS is “exactly what we do not need.”
I listened from the audience remembering the work I have seen in Jefferson County Public Schools by teachers and administrators who took on this task, and now take great pride in pulling off what many might have thought impossible.
Hindsight is 20-20 in this case. And it tells me we got it right blazing the trail in adopting the Common Core State Standards.
Sen. Gerald Neal of Jefferson County wrapped up the hearing with an appropriate summation. He acknowledged that there are questions that should be answered for those who distrust the path the state has chosen. However, he pointed out the positive in the news about the direction the standards are taking us, saying evidence indicates we are making progress for students.
An issue that must be addressed over time, he said, is funding. To make sure all students get where they need to be requires resources. Of course, that is still a big issue for the legislature to address before adjournment.
Our team of KCAS champions showed today that our state public education system is well worth an increased investment.