State to seek critics' feedback on Kentucky Core Academic Standards, education commissioner says

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comApril 10, 2014 

FRANKFORT — In an initiative that begins this fall, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said he will ask Kentuckians to review state academic standards and suggest revisions.

Holliday said in an interview Thursday that by initiating revisions to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, he is not reacting to criticism of the controversial national Common Core Standards, which are the basis for Kentucky's standards on what students should know in grades K-12.

Holliday said that since the Kentucky Core Academic Standards were implemented in 2010, he has always said they should be formally reviewed after about five years.

"We're going to challenge Kentuckians to read the standards," Holliday said. "It's time to start looking at the standards and tweaking them based on feedback" from parents, business leaders, teachers and others.

Holliday said he has heard criticism of how the standards were developed, but he said he wants to hear specifics about content.

"I have yet for any critic to say, 'I don't like that standard and here's why, and here's how you need to revise it,'" he said.

After the public provides feedback on the academic standards, a group of higher-education professionals, business leaders and teachers would review their concerns and make revisions in 2015-16, Holliday said. The revisions would become part of a regulation that would be approved by the Kentucky Board of Education and subject to review by state legislators.

Holliday said the initiative to get public feedback is tentatively called the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge.

Holliday and teachers who spoke to the Herald-Leader said there is a misconception that core standards are curriculum. Actually, curriculum is set by local school leaders, Holliday said.

Critic Richard Innes, a spokesman for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said the Kentucky Core Academic Standards are more rigorous than what Kentucky had before 2010.

"However, the less-than-transparent, out-of-state process that created the new standards is troubling. So too is the appearance of possible federal overreach in support of the standards," Innes said.

State education officials have said that the federal government played no role in the development of the national Common Core Standards and does not govern them. The national standards were developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers, of which Holliday is a member, and the National Governors Association.

Holliday said he had not heard criticism of Kentucky's academic standards from state Senate Republicans until President Barack Obama talked about the Common Core Standards in a State of the Union Speech.

Legislation was introduced this year in the General Assembly to eliminate the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in mathematics and English language arts and the Next Generation Science Standards. The bill mirrored others filed in states across the country.

A vote was not taken on the legislation, Senate Bill 224, sponsored by John Schickel, R-Union, but the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on it last month.

State Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, who cosponsored SB 224 and expressed concerns about Common Core at the hearing, said Thursday it was "great" that Holliday is asking Kentuckians for input, but she said she wished that had been done before the core standards were implemented. She said her concerns were not political; rather, she said she thinks the standards are not rigorous enough.

At the March Senate committee meeting, Holliday, Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler and Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, all told lawmakers that they supported the Kentucky's Core Academic Standards.

Kentucky's Core Academic Standards allow teachers to focus on a select number of important goals so they can better help students master a subject, said Winkler, whose organization represents school employees.

Meanwhile, Holliday described as invalid the criticism that science standards set to be implemented in the fall will result in chemistry and physics not being taught. However, Holliday said officials from the Department of Education and other professionals are reviewing those concerns from citizens as well.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears

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