Op-Ed

State needs to transform education again

What do you want your schools to do?

Twenty years ago, Kentucky took a stand against failure.

Pushed by a court ruling and energized by widespread community support, we created from scratch a system guaranteeing all children in the commonwealth a chance at a quality education — regardless of income, race or geographic location.

We've made significant and measurable progress over the last 20 years, but all the while the world has been dramatically changing. The fundamental foundation of knowledge and skills that one requires to function — and succeed — has expanded far beyond what we could have possibly imagined during the education reform effort of 1990.

Last fall, I set in motion a new look at our education system designed to ensure our schools are preparing our children for the challenges of the 21st century. Called Transforming Education in Kentucky, the initiative is not only updating our schools but is regalvanizing the support that has helped us achieve so much.

But now we need your help and input.

On Tuesday, we will hold "TEK Talk" — community forums at 10 locations across the state to discuss Transforming Education in Kentucky. In addition to the local discussions, KET will stream a live panel discussion I will have with the first lady and education advocate Jane Beshear, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King.

We will address questions posed at the community forums and discuss issues that emerge from those questions.

Bill Goodman will moderate the panel for his program, Education Matters, which will broadcast live on KET that night at 8 p.m. EST.

We're working hard to build a large attendance at these forums because it's critical that we engage everyone — from our largest cities to our smallest towns, deepest hollows and most rural farms in the effort to make education, once again, our top priority.

Since the day I was elected governor, this has been my mission. I believe that creating a top-notch system of education is not only a moral obligation but also a "no-lose" investment in the intellectual capital that will drive Kentucky's future success.

Slow, steady and incremental improvement is no longer enough. The modern, highly competitive world requires us to move in an all-out sprint.

Kentucky needs not just new energy but also new strategies.

Members of the TEK task force — which includes parents, teachers, superintendents, education advocates, lawmakers and business and community leaders — are working to help develop these strategies while reinvigorating public and business support.

Their meetings have focused on issues that will better prepare our students for success — issues such as improving college readiness, expanding opportunities to earn college credit during high school and creating a system of assessments that measure what employers value.

They also have discussed ramping up academics in career and technical education, using technology to improve teaching and learning, improving teacher recruitment and retention and improving transitions between preschool and K-12.

While many efforts to improve student achievement are already underway, TEK is designed to stitch these initiatives into a comprehensive fabric, creating not an array of stand-alone programs and goals but something much more powerful, something much more focused.

The task force is preparing to recommend ways to channel all of these efforts into an integrated and complete system of education in Kentucky.

The end goal is to create a unified and focused vision of what schools in the commonwealth need to offer in order to better serve students today and tomorrow.

I'm calling on our state and our people to re-commit ourselves to ensuring the future of our children.

Twenty years ago we made a start — a ground-breaking approach that drew the attention and praise of the nation. With your support, we have the chance to seize the moment once again.

If we are successful, this time we will draw the attention not only of the nation, but of the world — a world in which our children must compete.

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