Commissioner Pruitt’s growth goals for 2017 include more time in the classroom, closer look at how science is being taught

KSBA eNews Service, Frankfort, Dec. 8, 2016

KDE chief’s to-do list includes firsthand look at schools with “disproportionate” rates of student disciplinary actions
by Brad Hughes

Following an overwhelmingly positive annual review by the Kentucky Board of Education, Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt has formulated an action plan for the coming year that will take him on the road more and into the classroom, looking for specific insights.

At Wednesday’s December KBE meeting, Pruitt submitted a set of goals for the coming year that he said was based on discussions that began in October as part of his annual evaluation.

“I looked at the feedback you guys gave me in my evaluation and tried to design goals that met with the areas of growth which you presented to me,” he said.

One of those goals will be to increase the number of school districts he visits from 20 across the state to at least 33 during the current school year. But Pruitt said he’s planning on a new focus in those trips.

“In the 33 districts I’m visiting this year, with our new science assessments rolling out, I’m going to see science at all grades, especially nontested years,” he said. “It’s not going to be walk through, high-five the kids and the teacher and leave. I’m going in for a half an hour.

“I’m not sure they know (the visits) are a double whammy. It’s not just the commissioner coming in. It’s somebody who knows a little bit about what good science instruction looks like,” Pruitt told the KBE.

The focus on science instruction comes as the state is scheduled to field test the new science assessment in Kentucky classrooms next spring.

Additionally, Pruitt pledged to visit at least three schools that have reported out-of -the-ordinary statistics on student disciplinary actions, including suspensions, expulsions and violations of rules.

Other highlighted areas of the commissioner’s goals include completing the development of a new state school accountability system to meet the requirements of the federal Every Study Succeeds Act, creation of a strategic plan for his agency with emphasis on closing achievement gaps and eliminating “separation between academics and career and technical education,” and strengthening relationships between his agency and higher education and preschool institutions.

KBE Chairman William Twyman echoed praise for Pruitt’s work during his first year on the job.

“These are different times and it takes all of us rowing in the same direction. I thank you for your thoughtfulness. Many times a knee-jerk reaction is asked for, but you don’t give it,” Twyman said.

Here is the content of the goals’ memorandum that was adopted by the state board Wednesday.

M E M O R A N D U M

TO: The Kentucky Board of Education

FROM: Stephen L. Pruitt

RE: Annual Commissioner’s Evaluation -- Goals for 2016-17

DATE: December 7, 2016

First and foremost, I am taking this opportunity to express my deep appreciation for the support the Kentucky Board of Education members give to KDE, me personally, and most importantly the students of the Commonwealth. The past year has been an absolute whirlwind, but it has also been one of the most exciting and fulfilling in my career. I am honored to be here and I relish the fact that I get to work with our staff and our schools each day. Kentucky has been a bellwether state for many years in the education world, but it is time to take our work to the next level. I am committed to closing our achievement gap, strengthening and building relationships, and communicating the needs of our students and schools. I also remain committed to our three pillars of equity, achievement, and integrity. We have the great opportunity ahead of us with a new accountability system that will push opportunity and equity; we cannot squander it.

Based on your feedback during the October 2016 evaluation process, I have incorporated your suggestions into the goals, strategies and indicators for the 2016-17 commissioner’s evaluation process.

Those are reflected below.

Relationships

Strengthen the connection with higher education as well as with early childhood/pre-K to enhance the alignment of the P-20 education system

In 2016-2017, I will ensure every committee/task force includes members from higher education and early childhood (where appropriate), add alternate monthly meetings with the president of KCTCS to ensure alignment of our CTE programming, continue monthly meetings with the president of CPE, Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and Executive Director of EPSB, initiate standing meetings with representatives from Governor’s Office of Early Childhood

Increase the visits to schools and districts

In 2016-2017, I will visit 33 districts and at least 66 schools for a total of at least 33% of districts visited in 2 years

Focus for the visits this year to be on science instruction at all levels and in offtested years

Visit at least three schools to discuss disproportionate rates of violations, suspensions, and expulsions to understand contributing factors.

Continue to build and strengthen relationships with all partners. Relationship building has definitely been strengthened and improved. The board recognizes that relationship building is a two-way process, but it needs continuous attention.

In 2016-2017, I will continue to focus on strengthening relationships with superintendents, administrators, teachers, non-certified personnel, General Assembly members, and the Governor’s Office

Build new relationships needed to move the state forward, such as meeting with presidents for all content professional groups (e.g., Kentucky Science Teachers Association, Kentucky Reading Association)

Continue standing meetings with KASS, KSBA, the president of CPE, Secretary of the Education and Workforce Cabinet, and Executive Director of EPSB

Conduct annual town hall meetings

Continue meetings with key legislative leaders

Communication

Increase the use of social media as a communication mechanism

In 2016-2017, I will increase usage of social media by 25% to advertise school visits, town halls, important announcements, and to educate social media followers on KDE initiatives

Increase all categories of communication support to shareholders by 5% as reflected on the customer service survey

Bring clarity and explanation to e-mail communication perhaps either dealing with less content or better targeting the audience for certain content

In 2016-2017, I will reorganize email communications to be clearer to the various audiences

Leadership of the Kentucky Department of Education

In 2016-2017, I will increase clarity among KDE staff of direction and goals based on the new strategic plan by 5% on my survey of staff

Improve internal communication to ensure integrated and cross-functional understanding of KDE’s work by 10% on my survey of staff

Make deliberate attempts to meet with all levels of employees to listen and show I value them and their work. I will increase the survey numbers by 5%.

Develop and implement a new accountability system and any other plans required to meet the elements of ESSA

In 2016-2017, I will complete development of Kentucky’s new accountability system

Oversee modeling of the system to ensure the metrics measure what is valued by the accountability system

Develop and implement a strategic plan

Areas of focus should include:

Identify and focus on the best strategies for closing the achievement gap

Accelerate strategies to dissolve the separation between academics and career and technical education

Seek ways to provide equity of opportunity

Continue to make improvements at KSB and KSD and define how we should measure success

In 2016-2017, I will marshal resources of KDE to support ongoing and continuous improvement of both KSB and KSD

Develop new strategic plans for both KSB and KSD

Place both KSB and KSD on the new accountability system

Complete the design of the new science assessment and implement it

In 2016-2017, I will perform successful full-scale field test of the science assessment in the spring of 2017

Convene state level committees to review student work submitted by schools for Through Course Tasks

Continue development of Through Course Tasks

Design and implement how the department can be more involved in the modeling of/guidance for curriculum/best practices that will lead to deeper learning

In 2016-2017, I will develop and implement a process in partnership with co-ops and other partners to provide exemplar instructional materials and a process that local schools can use to evaluate the materials

Design and deliver the professional learning that teachers and leaders need to improve student learning

In 2016-2017, I will conduct a needs assessment for the purposes of providing professional learning to teachers and leaders

Develop guidance for districts as to the most needed professional learning based on KDE’s strategic plan and needs assessment

Embrace innovation as a key strategy to accomplish the items listed above

In 2016-2017, I will continue our review of regulations for the purpose of removing barriers to innovation

Ensure quality implementation of any innovative initiatives originated by KDE or the General Assembly

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