“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not his own facts.” Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Most everyone has an opinion about public schools. Differing opinions can spark productive debate. But when we are moving toward big decisions regarding public education, those decisions should be based on the facts, not opinions.
We read way too many opinions that tout purported “facts” – often negative. These statements are often used to promote a proposal to impact schools.
I find it so disappointing that anyone – particularly well-known civic leaders – would be so careless as to completely mischaracterize Kentucky’s education gains. I have read multiple news columns recently that promote an inaccurate picture of our schools – one in particular by a local attorney and former elected official.
When I started writing this blog after a trip to Finland almost three years ago, I made it a goal to emphasize the positive about public education. One of the things we learned in Finland – a country well known for its public education success and support for educators – is that its citizens DO NOT disrespect public schools. I believe that is one big reason for that country’s success.
We often say we should be more like Finland. Well, one way to improve is to stop being negative and sarcastic about public schools.
I truly believe that if you build on the positive, you will get more of it.
So, I wanted to offer this first blog post of the new year to offer a little fact checking, and to call upon those in our community who support public education to stop letting negativity and lies go unchallenged. Our students and educators deserve our unyielding support.
On December 15, 2015. Bob Heleringer wrote in a feature column in The Courier-Journal. In it he said:
“On Mr. Beshear’s eight-year watch, Kentucky’s public education benchmarks declined precipitously, sinking even lower than the pitiful levels at the time he assumed office.”
That’s not even kind of wrong; it’s completely wrong. The facts:
- In 2013, Kentucky’s four-year graduation rate was 86.1 percent – the fourth highest in the country. In 2014 it increased to 87.4 percent.
- Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report of key education indicators, put Kentucky at #10 in 2013, moving up from 34th in 2010. Its 2015 results put it in the middle of the states, right along with Indiana and Tennesee. Part of this ranking includes how we finance education.
- According to the National Assessment of Education Progress – which compares states in key subjects – Kentucky has posted real progress in reading and in math over the last decade, outpacing Indiana in 4th grade reading and math gains, even outscoring Indiana in reading placing us in the top 10.
- During Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, Kentucky was first to implement higher academic standards, and after an expected dip in scores to adjust to new tests, the state has made gains EVERY year.
Pointing to past progress is no reason to rest. But it is important to know that in the Commonwealth there has been a real commitment to systemic change. But knowing isn’t enough, we need to take action.
My call to action to you is to recognize the progress that has occurred in public education. Start with the facts. Rural and urban school districts across the Commonwealth have made great strides. Don’t let negative comments about public schools go unanswered.
Resolve to support public education in 2016 – as my minister would say – with your words and with your deeds.