Kentuckians should be proud of state's progress in education

December 3, 2012 

Ron Daley of Hazard is chairman of the Kentucky Association of Local P-16 Councils.

At a time when citizens are fearful of the economic picture and the public's opinion of state and national leaders are low, we need to celebrate our successes in education, be thankful for what leaders have accomplished and be hopeful for the future.

Many Kentuckians are unaware of the progress the state is making in education and that we are admired for our remarkable history of reform. Despite the challenges the General Assembly and governor face from budget shortfalls and the structural imbalances in the retirement systems, we are on the path to be a national education leader. And, I am pleased to report that through creative collaborations Eastern Kentuckians are accomplishing some best practices in education.

In 2010, Kentucky was the first to adopt the common core standards, developed by a coalition of states, which align K-12 curriculums with college and work force readiness and are competitive with high performing nations. This was made possible by the passage in 2009 of comprehensive education reform in Senate Bill 1. Our state and local education leaders and teachers are making a valiant effort to improve learning in the classroom and tie it to preparation for college and high wage/high demand jobs.

Preparing our citizens for the global work force was enhanced in 2000 when the legislature enacted adult education reforms to tackle Kentucky's low adult literacy rate.

Through the leadership of Gov. Paul Patton and the legislature in 1997, the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Act constructed a road map for reform which set the bar high and created the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and the Council on Post-secondary Education.

The Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990 tackled the inequalities of school districts due to economic situations and geography while revamping P-12 education. There were both improvements made and lessons learned from the reform legislation.

A tremendous amount of teacher training is going on now as the Kentucky Department of Education works with higher education to implement SB 1. Materials are being prepared for teachers, including an advising tool kit for all middle and high school teachers helping their students prepare for the 21st century work force.

Complimenting this is the work of the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board in developing strategies to prepare Kentuckians for high wage/high demand jobs.

Additionally, Kentucky is a national leader by creating local P-16 councils which are partnerships of educators, citizens, business leaders and organizations working to raise education levels.

The two councils in the Kentucky River and Big Sandy River districts have formed the innovative Appalachian Teaching and Leadership Network with a goal of creating the first rural Edu-conomy Empowerment Zone in the nation — essentially tying education to economic development. One ATLN goal is to showcase and replicate best P-20 practices while promoting the value of education. One of the best strategies is a plan for the 13 counties to pursue the Workforce Investment Board's ambitious Kentucky Work Ready Communities designation.

We have the creative genius to use available resources to advance education and Kentuckians' quality of life. In the mountains, the rural creative genius has led to:

■ The University Center of the Mountains, a partnership that has allowed more than 800 people to earn bachelor and master degrees locally.

■ Perpetuating Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Leadership which implements an innovative professional development plan to use the unique strengths of local educators to mentor their colleagues through creation of a school-wide Talent Map.

■ Lee County High School's Microsoft Pilot Program, TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), which has high tech professionals teaching computer science education in high school classes remotely.

■ Owsley County schools are using distance-learning technology to obtain advancement curriculum opportunities and for "snowbound" students who are not in regular school due to inclement weather.

■ C3R is a five-year career and college readiness initiative beginning for eighth- through 12-graders in ATLN districts. C3R is implementing a new, Web-based software program, customized for rural Kentucky, which will compile, analyze and display the most current education, work force and economic trend data for industries and jobs and be used for career exploration and individual career pathways for every student.

All Kentuckians, especially those in the mountains, should be proud of the progress being made in education.

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