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Ky. expects to be first to adopt new K-12 core-content standards

Kentucky expects to become the first state in the nation to officially adopt new common core-content standards for math and English in grades K-12.

The standards — which describe the classroom content deemed essential for children to master — focus on fewer concepts while stressing deeper learning and understanding, and are part of an overall drive to better prepare Kentucky's students for college or careers, educators say.

The Kentucky Board of Education, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board have scheduled a rare joint meeting Feb. 10 in Versailles to approve the standards, which were developed by a national group of education experts.

Action by all three boards is required because the state board will be responsible for implementing the standards in schools, the post-secondary council's colleges and universities for training future teachers to use the standards and the professional board for certifying that teachers are qualified to teach the new requirements.

"Standards really are expectations of what our children should learn," said Robert Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee on Academic Excellence. "And we've known for some time that the standards we had were too broad — a mile wide and an inch deep.

"Now, we're moving to new, clearer standards that teachers can follow. The idea is to provide teachers with clear goals and then give them the training to help every child reach those expectations. That's what's really exciting about all this."

Educators say that the standards will demand greater efforts and that state test scores could fall initially until teachers and students master the tougher requirements.

The new math and English standards were developed through a joint effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. If Kentucky adopts the standards as planned, it would be the first state to do so, according to the state Department of Education.

Schools would start implementing the standards next year, but students wouldn't be tested on them until the 2011-12 school year.

The standards update is one of three key initiatives aimed at ramping up Kentucky's education system over the next few years. Senate Bill 1, which the legislature adopted last year, calls for several sweeping changes, including new content standards for classes beyond math and English and creation of a statewide testing system to assess students on the standards. The third piece is Kentucky's application to the federal Race to the Top program, which could bring the state millions of dollars to implement SB 1 and other steps to upgrade education.