Kentucky's "Race to the Top," meeting new education standards (Part One)

Murray, KY – Monday, December 7, Kentucky Department of Education - KDE - officials present Race to the Top strategies to a Louisville meeting of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents. The Race to the Top grants program is a pool of 4.35 billion dollars for states to use towards education, emphasizing improving teacher effectiveness to meet new national standards. Kate Lochte begins a three part series following the new impetus in the Commonwealth's efforts to transform its educational system.

The Kentucky Department of Education's project manager David Cook in the effort to apply for federal Race for the Top funding says that "the suggested range for which Kentucky should apply is between 60 and 175 million dollars." You can see the Department's Race for the Top application in development at the KDE website where new Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday is also blogging about this and other initiatives.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear heads up a new Task Force on Education whose work begins next month. Republican State Senator Ken Winters of Murray and Ben Cundiff of Cadiz are among 31 members on the task force. The Governor expects this group to dovetail its work with the revision of state educational standards, the Graduate Kentucky program to boost college graduation and Race for the top strategies.

Race for the Top funds are not the only new funding Kentucky is seeing. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Vickie Phillips, a Kentuckian, directs its education programs including a fund for for assistance in preparing applications for the Race for the Top program, a facet of this year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law in February. The Gates Foundation has allocated money from this fund to Kentucky and has also contracted with the Commonwealth's Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence researchers for additional studies. So there's plenty of new momentum in educational reform that Kentucky began twenty years ago.

Prichard Committee Executive Director Bob Sexton: Lots of groups getting interested new math project everything opened up by Senate Bill 1.

This years Kentucky Senate Bill 1, requires new, simpler, internationally benchmarked standards and a new test to measure student progress, and prompts new cooperation between the KDE and the Council on Post Secondary Education. Prichard Committee members Margie Pope of Paducah and Ben Cundiff of Cadiz comment on evidence of this at November's Prichard

Margie: New commission of education Holliday and Dr King talking together that's a big improvement

Ben: New leadership might re-emphasize the importance of improving education.

Another Prichard Committee member, Mary Jane Littleton of Murray, says that Robert King, new president of the Council on Post Secondary Education, impressed her with a statement of principle that more high quality educational time should be devoted for Kentucky college students, noting King's words: "If we take these students we are obligated to train and graduate them."

Next week, we'll report about how new standards, being developed by a consortium of states across the country, are beginning a series of changes that Kentucky Education Commissioner Holliday calls a "tidal wave" of opportunity to transform school systems and dramatically improve teaching and learning.