State schools chief wants educators to sign readiness pledge

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday wants every public school district superintendent and school board chair to pledge to increase college and career readiness in their high schools by 50 percent during the next four years.

Only about 34 percent of students graduating from Kentucky public high schools last year were ready for college or careers, a figure Holliday has called abysmal.

Holliday sent e-mails to the superintendents and board chairs Friday, asking them to sign the new pledge, the "Commonwealth Commitment to College and Career Readiness." He wants signatures by April 1.

According to the state Department of Education, the pledge is in line with a provision in Senate Bill 1 calling for plans to halve the amount of remedial work Kentucky high school graduates now need when they enter college.

Failing to meet the pledge would carry no legal accountability. But education spokeswoman Lisa Gross said Monday it is a way for Holliday to tell local educators what he expects.

"When you sign something like this, as a public official, it does send a message that you are going to focus on it," she said.

Gross compared the pledge to Holliday's effort last year to have every Kentucky public school district sign off on the state's application for the federal Race to the Top program.

"This is the same kind of thing," she said. "Having every district publicly say we're going to do this will help make us all accountable in the long run."

SB1, the education reform adopted by the 2009 Kentucky General Assembly, takes effect in the fall. But Gross said school districts must get started now, working with current eighth-graders, to achieve the mandated 50 percent reduction in remedial work by 2015.

Fayette County Public Schools' college-and-career readiness rate was 44 percent for 2009-10. The district would have to raise that to 72 percent by 2015 to achieve the improvement Holliday wants, according to state projections.