This week, in cooperation with education advocacy groups across the state, the Kentucky Department of Education began the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge. According to the Daily Independent, the challenge is a method for collecting feedback on the English/language arts and mathematics standards which were implemented in 2011. The standards are in place to establish what students in K-12 should know and perform at each grade level.
“We hear a lot about the standards, but rarely hear specifics on how they could be made better,” Commissioner Terry Holliday said. “We are conducting the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge to raise awareness of what the standards actually require students to learn and to solicit specific feedback in order to inform the Kentucky Department of Education’s regular review process of the standards that are being taught in our classrooms.”
The purpose is to allow P-12 teachers, higher education, parents, students, and other interested parties to “make recommendations on how to change a particular standard”.
“The Kentucky Board of Education, Council on Post-secondary Education and Education Professional Standards Board have adopted these as Kentucky’s standards and teachers have worked hard over the past five years implementing them,” Holliday said. “We want to honor that work by reviewing the standards and tweaking them to make them stronger so that all Kentucky students will graduate with the knowledge and skills they need for college and career.”
Those who are interested may go to the site, read the standards, and provide a response. The standards can be searched by subject, grade level, and key word. Participants may suggest:
• Moving the standard to another grade level
• Splitting the standard
• Creating a new standard
• Rewriting the standard as it currently exists
When the challenge is over, suggestions will be reviewed by a team of Kentucky educators from all levels of the standards’ content areas. The results will be released, probably, in the fall of 2015.
Holliday stated that the standards are only the minimum of what students should learn, and they do not dictate how they are taught, or the curriculum and instructional materials used. Decisions like these are left to the district, school, and classroom teacher.
The Council on Post-secondary Education Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Aaron Thompson said that incoming students are less and less in need of remediation and are more likely to stay in school and graduate. He thanks the legislature for passing Senate Bill 1 in 2009, making the way for more rigorous standards in all subject areas.
“Thanks to the foresight of our legislature, the dedication of our teachers and the support of our partners, Kentucky is no longer at the bottom of the education barrel,” Commissioner Holliday said. “We appreciate them all recognizing the importance of doing what is right for Kentucky’s children.”
The survey has begun and and has been extended from the original March 31 deadline to April 30. Brad Hughes of KyForward, and the director of member support for the Kentucky School Boards Association says that the extended time will push the challenge beyond the April 15 closing date of the 2015 General Assembly. Holliday has expressed concern that the legislature might attempt to change the standards or Kentucky’s assessment and accountability system. Now, any changes made by the Kentucky Board of Education (and the regulatory review by legislative committees) won’t happen before summer or fall of next year. Holliday says the national political debate over the Common Core is another reason for the Kentucky Challenge.
Valarie Honeycutt Spears, in an article for Kentucky.com, quotes Holliday.
“Don’t tell us it’s a communist conspiracy to take over education by the federal government,” Holliday said. “Tell us what’s wrong with the standard and how to fix it, and what you would add or subtract.”
The president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, Anthony Strong, sees the challenge as an opportunity to support what educators and administrators have been doing in using the standards for several years..
“Our staff and those in the schools across the state have been working very hard on the standards. It’s important for people to see the work we’re doing and to realize it’s not something that’s been taken over by the federal government. It’s work we’re doing here in our state,” Strong said.