When its state legislature passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act more than two decades ago, the Bluegrass State was lauded as a leader in K-12 education reform.
“In 1990, we were the darling,” said David Baird, associate executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association. “Everyone was looking to Kentucky and saying, ‘What a wonderful reform you have done.’”
Kentucky basked in that praise for many years – maybe too many years, Baird said Monday. Like just about every other state, even with education reform, too many of its high school graduates were needing remediation when they got to college.
But Kentucky snapped out of its complacency in 2009 when the legislature passed Senate Bill 1, a new education reform initiative that just happened to dovetail nicely with the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Once again, Kentucky was the first state to raise the bar.
Baird and Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education, talked Monday morning at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., about what school districts should expect from the Common Core – and what the Common Core expects of them. Described as “fewer, clearer, higher,” the new standards aim to help all students be prepared for college or the 21st century workforce.
A state-led program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, the Common Core standards in math and language arts have so far been embraced by 46 states and the District of Columbia. It is built upon the strengths of current state standards.
“[NSBA] supports these because they are state-led,” Barth said, but added that the organization expects more financial support for the program.
“We support more funding to go to research and support of assessments,” Barth said.
Two consortia are developing assessments to align with the common core. The assessments are scheduled to be released during the 2014-15 school year; it’s a scenario that doesn’t give school districts a lot of time.
Among the biggest changes in language arts standards will be a new emphasis on exploring and analyzing nonfiction texts, Barth said. She said U. S. students score highly on international comparisons on their ability to analyze fiction, but do less well on expository texts.
Some English teachers have been critical of the standards, believing it would force them to limit the teaching of literature, but Barth said the aim is to spread the requirements for nonfiction reading across the curriculum and to all teachers.