Kentucky School Advocate
By Madelynn Coldiron
Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday gave what amounted to a “state of K-12 education” speech as he addressed the school board members, superintendents and others attending KSBA’s annual conference.
Holliday rounded up the high points, from the “balanced curriculum” that stemmed from Senate Bill 1 education reforms to the progress made in increasing proficient and distinguished test scores to the leap in college and career readiness made by the state’s schools.
But he also pointed to some areas of weakness and to some initiatives aimed at addressing those and other needs.
Noting the way education groups “pulled together” to get education funding restored to partial 2009 levels during the 2014 legislature’s budget session, Holliday warned against losing ground. Looking ahead to the 2016 session, he said, “It’s going to be critically important that we all come together yet once again.”
Holliday said it’s not enough to simply say that schools need more money: “We’ve got to have a message that resonates with the General Assembly and policy makers.”
That message, he said, should be that education is the key driver of economic development. Kentucky’s economy is becoming more global, with 21 percent of jobs tied to international trade, and foreign investment increasing. To continue this progress, the state needs an educated workforce that has what Holliday calls, “cultural competency.”
All the state’s districts are on board with the new dropout age of 18 and are using planning grants to implement the change, but Holliday acknowledged that won’t be enough. He said the education department is working with state leaders and local districts on support for more alternative pathways for 17- and 18-year-old students, such as digital learning and work-based learning. He said a half-million dollars per year will be available for this, and he hopes to increase that amount.
Reforms are in the works for career and technical education, Holliday said, with a study to be done this year “on how to level the funding for career and technical education.” He pointed to the recently launched five district-community college partnership in northcentral Kentucky as “the wave of the future.”
Holliday said next year the state school board will provide more support to help schools and districts reduce the number of novice students. And the focus in the next few years, he said, also will be on closing the achievement gap and on improving kindergarten readiness, especially with early interventions. Improving math scores and ensuring the validity of program review ratings by schools also are on tap, he said.