Great principals are strong instructional leaders first

School principals must feel a lot like circus performers. Just as a performer is expected to juggle multiple balls, bowling pins, or torches while dangling from a high wire with ease, principals must also juggle a seemingly endless series of responsibilities. Finances, operations, safety, and legal issues are some of the most well-known “tricks” that a principal must possess in…

Can “grow-your-own” programs help end rural teacher shortages?

“Why don’t people who live there, teach there?” That question, posed by this recent Hechinger Report story, is a troubling reminder of the unique, persistent challenges that rural communities face in staffing schools. Like rural America itself, teacher shortages are often discussed but seldom understood. Shortages occur less frequently than the average observer may speculate, and when they do, it…

Digital Equity for All Students Has Never Been a More Attainable Goal

With the American Rescue Plan (ARP) officially signed into law, the nation’s public school systems will soon have an additional $126 billion to navigate challenges brought on by the pandemic. That leaves state education leaders with a burning question: How can that funding be used to address the most pressing issues that the COVID-19 crisis has created for schools? With nearly 12…

May your voices cut through the noise

With my term on the Commissioner of Education’s Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) set to end next week (not a humblebrag, I swear), I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the valuable insights and opportunities that teacher leadership has afforded me these past three years. I’ve been privileged to engage in meaningful conversation about Kentucky education issues with four different commissioners,…

How 18 million Americans could move into rural areas – without leaving home

About 46 million Americans – 14% of the nation’s inhabitants – are currently classified as living in rural areas. That number could jump to 64 million – an increase of nearly 40% – without anyone moving into a new home. That could actually hurt small cities and rural communities across the country. The federal government classifies communities’ characteristics based on…

Redefining Rural America: Beyond the ‘Rural-Urban’ Divide

The “rural-urban divide” is real, but complicated. Most communities are neither entirely rural or urban, instead situated somewhere along a spectrum. Recognizing this is the key for policymakers, scholars, and activists seeking a better understanding of the complexities and contradictions of America’s diverse communities, particularly those of rural America. It’s also the message coming from a recent report called America…

Kentucky will have state testing this year. Here’s what it will look like

The Biden Administration has given the green light to state testing this year, meaning students across Kentucky will be expected to complete KPREP in the spring. The announcement came after months of speculation on whether or not the Biden Administration would extend waivers for state testing like last year because of the pandemic. Doing so would have marked two consecutive…

I Love Teaching, But I’m Not a Martyr

I have been navigating majority (or all) white spaces for a very long time. Whether it was the tracked gifted and talented classes or my time at university, I’ve always sort of been an outsider. In a state with 96% of its teaching staff being white, choosing teaching was to be no different. Current wisdom and policy advocates ‘if we…

A new company in Applachia is showing us how to defeat the “skills gap” through education

A new industry in Eastern Kentucky is sending us all an urgent reminder that workforce readiness must be an educational priority.  AppHarvest, a sustainable greenhouse company based in Morehead, made its stock market debut last week. In a state with fewer than 20 publicly traded companies, the innovative agritech corporation looks poised to make an immediate impact on some of…

Cardona Matters, But the Most Important Decisions Will Happen at the Local Level

President Joe Biden has certainly kept busy during his first days in the Oval Office. He has issued a call for national unity, doubled down on his promise to reopen most schools in his first 100 days, and signed a flurry of executive orders on everything from climate change to immigration. However, with fanfare of the new Biden administration likely to continue…

Rural and small schools are the unsung heroes of innovation, and it’s time we learn from them

While the challenges of rural schools have been discussed at length, they also have unique opportunities for innovation. Not only do rural schools act as centers for learning, but they serve their small towns as community hubs as well. Accordingly, rural schools are often better positioned to create opportunities for family engagement than their suburban and urban counterparts. This environment,…

Good news for KY teachers as vaccination campaign picks up speed

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Kentucky teachers eager to get their students back to the classroom. According to Governor Andy Beshear, Kentucky is currently ahead of its original timeline for vaccinating teachers. “This means on something as important as vaccines, we’re actually meeting deadlines,” Beshear said in his Thursday briefing, “and maybe even getting them…

Will Biden’s Pick for Education Secretary Work for All Kids?

“We want to support you so that you can get to the great work of helping kids. You have to commit to that partnership if you’re a public school, and you are.” That’s Miguel Cardona, President-Elect Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. education secretary and current education commissioner of Connecticut, speaking last February to leaders of the charter school network Achievement First, which serves…

We Know That Education Data Matters, So Here’s How You Can Make It Easier For Activists To Use

By now, “follow the science” is in contention for the most popular phrase of 2020. But research and data aren’t just relevant for communities trying to stay safe during a pandemic. In education, advancing research-based practices can be the difference between a student falling through the cracks or beating the odds to get a great education. Grassroots education activists rely…

Making teacher diversity a priority in Kentucky

In the wake of the pandemic, a potential budget crisis and civil unrest in Louisville and beyond, there’s one unassailable investment that should be on every leader’s mind right now: Recruiting more teachers of color to Kentucky’s classrooms. The research is clear. Educators of color are more likely to use effective, culturally relevant teaching methods in their classrooms, leading to…

Citizen voices are speaking out on education during COVID-19

Citizen voices are key to COVID response in education and beyond Add to Kentucky’s groundswell of education influencers some innovative, if earnest, laypeople. We are part of a citizen research team of school stakeholders. We call ourselves the “Intergen 9,” and we comprise three parents, three teachers, and three students representing eight districts across the Commonwealth, including five people of…

No surprise that Kentucky comes up short in new parent choice index

The Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power! Index is an annual assessment of the educational opportunities afforded to parents across the country. By looking at each state’s charter school laws, school choice programs, teacher quality, and digital learning pathways, the CER aims to inform and empower parents to make decisions about their children’s education. Arizona, Florida, and Indiana claimed the…

This teacher has the best explanation for why we need more Black male teachers in rural schools

Devonte Wilson is a teacher in rural North Carolina and co-chair of the New Leaders Council. He’s also insanely good at explaining how Black male teachers, whether they’re in urban schools, rural schools, or anywhere in between, have a significant impact on all of their students. Only 2% of America’s current teaching force is African American men. Like Wilson points…

If You Care About Educational Justice in Your Community, #GetEducated and #VoteLocal

Focus on what the talking heads have to say and you would think there’s nothing more to this election than donkeys and elephants. Yes, we’re witnessing one of the most contentious presidential elections in history. The outcome will have immediate consequences for a nation struggling to navigate a disastrous public health crisis, an economic recession and racial injustice all at…

This Month Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Teach About the Contributions of Hispanic Americans

There are close to 50 million Hispanic people in the United States. But like many minority groups in the United States, their history and heritage are often overlooked by traditional educational standards. That is where National Hispanic Heritage Month comes in. Like Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month was designed to combat the tendency to gloss over the history, accomplishments and contributions…

Overwhelmed by remote teaching? These simple mindset shifts may give teachers a lift

Around the country, teachers are working hard to educate our students in some form or another. Whether you’re managing a virtual academy or juggling between in-person and remote learners, one thing is clear: teaching in 2020 is tough. But with a few shifts in mindset, remote learning doesn’t have to be the bane of every teacher’s existence. Here are a…

Education savings accounts could bring another school choice showdown to KY

Is another school choice debate getting ready to take the stage in Kentucky? Education savings accounts, or ESAs, may be the heir apparent to Kentucky’s longstanding contention with school choice. According to EdChoice, ESAs “allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but…

Hirsch: Making education great again?

If you read one thing today, let it be this incendiary piece from The Wall Street Journal. Provocatively named “Bad Teaching is Tearing America Apart,” the piece profiles one of my personal education heroes, E.D. Hirsch, who has spent decades explaining how flawed educational trends and theories are failing our students and hindering their achievement. Folks who are keen to…

Let’s extend grace to education leaders as Kentucky students head back to school

Our nation’s education leaders are asked to take on many roles in their good work to promote safe and supportive learning environments for their students. In many cases, “punching bag” is among them.  School principals face pressure from all sides: staff members, parents, students, and district administrators. Nearly half have considered leaving the profession because of the relentless workloads. District…

Fact Check: No, the Kentucky Board of Education is not banning fall sports

While the Kentucky Board of Education did meet on Friday to discuss athletics amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the purpose was not to overturn the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s (KHSAA) decision to proceed with fall sports. This comes after the Kentucky Department of Education received thousands of emails and phone calls after the topic of fall athletics appeared on the…

As school starts, teachers across the U.S. are trying live virtual instruction for the first time. Will it work?

Chivon Gulley is getting ready for a very different first day of school. When the pandemic hit this spring, the Oklahoma City public high school science teacher focused on helping students with failing grades bring those averages up. She checked in with families twice a week and held office hours, but never taught live on video. That’s all about to…

Dear 2020-2021 Educators

I really hope you use this distance/remote learning experience to reimagine school. Begin by letting students and families know you are here to help, teach, encourage, and love them. You’re here to support and move kids forward just like you always have. Don’t plan for students to be working from home from 8am-3pm. That’s not possible for most kids. Some…

Demand #InternetForAll for 15 Million Students Who Are #LoggedOut

On Wednesday, August 26, education activists and organizations around the country are staging a national day of action, demanding that every student have access to broadband internet.  Back in March, more than 50 million schoolchildren were forced to learn from home. At least 15 million of them (nearly a third) were unable to log on and do their schoolwork simply because they lacked…

Yes, Kentucky school districts can reject Beshear’s recommendation. But should they?

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear made waves last week when he officially recommended that all schools start virtually through at least September 28th because of the state’s high rate of coronavirus transmission. However, several school districts have already indicated that they will buck the recommendation with others potentially joining in this week. That’s leading many educators and parents to ask a…

Several WKEC school districts among most equitably funded in KY

Equity has long been a buzzword in education, and even topics like school funding aren’t exempt from the conversation. It’s no secret that students in low-income school districts are less likely to have access to high-quality curriculum and digital resources, and in many cases, their schools don’t receive as much funding as those in affluent communities do.  However, a new…

One of America’s first states to reopen schools in person, Tennessee serves as ‘experiment’ in COVID safety

This piece was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here. Amid a low local infection rate and starting with small clusters of students, Alcoa Middle School last week became one of the nation’s first schools to reopen its campus to students during the pandemic. Within two days, a teacher with…

KY teacher coalition launches Brave New Teaching KY

Amid the uncertainty of school reopenings during a global pandemic, teacher voices are rising in Kentucky. Brave New Teaching KY, an open, collaborative coalition of Kentucky educators who want to learn and grow, makes its official launch this week.  COVID-19 has presented education leaders with a bold opportunity to rethink teaching and learning. If you’re a Kentucky teacher looking to…

What would the new JCPS student assignment plan mean for West Louisville?

New schooling opportunities may be coming to West Louisville.   For decades, students in the historically low-income West End have lacked access to schools close to home. But during a virtual summit earlier this month, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio explained how the district’s new student assignment proposal would create new schooling options for West Louisville families.…

Everything we know about Kentucky’s #HealthyAtSchool guidelines

This week, Kentucky officials released the #HealthyAtSchool guidelines for school reopenings this fall. Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown and Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman were quick to point out that flexibility among the finer details will be key, and that what works in small rural districts may not work in a large urban district like Jefferson County. Instead, the #HealthyAtSchool guidelines…

Transformers

“Mommy, why do you have the Transformer sticker? You don’t even like Transformers.” A declarative statement from my new home school student. “Well, yes, I do like transformers, but not in the same sense as you.” Growing up in the ’80s, my toy box had a few Transformers, Cabbage Patch dolls and Barbies; yet it’s the Transformers that stuck with…

Why Teach?

A lifelong love of reading and learning cultivated early in life by several impactful teachers influenced me to become a teacher. In 2nd grade, Mrs. Jackie Crabtree introduced me to a whole new world through books. Early on, she noted that I had an interest in reading and she encouraged that hobby in every way possible. She asked me about…

Culturally relevant education isn’t about “indoctrination,” it’s the first step towards justice

Back in 2018, I was really fed up with the major incidents of discrimination and hatred going on around the country. (Remember Charlottesville? Or when two Black men were wrongfully arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks?) It led me to write this piece, challenging educators to appropriately call out discrimination when they see it. The feedback was mixed.  My message was…