Kentucky's education commissioner on Common Core: Changes had to happen in the classroom

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMay 19, 2014 

NASHVILLE — Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told a national education writers group on Monday that states implementing the Common Core standards should "keep improving" them.

The State Common Core standards are the basis for what Kentucky students should know and be able to do in grades K-12.

Holliday, who spoke on a panel about the Common Core Standards at the Education Writers Association conference in Nashville, also gave the group a historical perspective on the standards. Holliday said he thinks Kentucky has had an easier time implementing them because of initial widespread support.

Holliday said Kentucky lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1 in 2009 that required academic standards which had been adopted by national advisory groups and that focused on skills needed for success in the global economy.

He also cited the support of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence which launched a citizen information campaign and involvement by teachers who helped each other learn and implement the standards.

"We knew to do this we had to change what happens in the classroom," he said. Holliday said Kentucky was the first to adopt and implement Common Core. The state also developed "an accountability system based on Common Core," he said.

Efforts in the 2014 General Assembly to pass legislation that would have eliminated Common Core standards were unsuccessful. But Indiana has abandoned the Common Core standards in favor of new benchmarks.

On Monday, Holliday told the journalists — as he has said publicly in the past — that Kentucky lawmakers overwhelmingly supported Senate Bill 1 in 2009. He said he had not heard criticism of Kentucky's academic standards until President Barack Obama talked about the Common Core standards in a positive light.

Then, Holliday said, "the national debate moved from a debate about the schools to a debate about federal intrusion in education."

Critics have pointed to the appearance of federal overreach in support of the standards.

But Kentucky education officials have said 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.

Teachers in Kentucky have told the Herald-Leader that the standards allow them to focus on a select number of important goals so they can better help students master a subject.

On Monday, Holliday encouraged other states not to hold teachers accountable too soon as the standards are implemented. He said Kentucky is still rolling out its accountability system.

Meanwhile, Holliday told the group about Kentucky's upcoming efforts in August to revise the standards through a campaign called the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge. Holliday has said he intends to update the standards.

After Monday's panel was over, Holliday said the state Department of Education officials would post the standards online in August and allow citizens to make suggestions for about six months.

Then higher-education professionals, business leaders and teachers will review the proposed revisions that would ultimately be approved by the Kentucky Board of Education and subject to review by state legislators. In all, the revisions should take about eighteen months, he said.

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

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