Bring Student Voice Back To Kentucky

Although Kentucky has now dropped this practice, one informal factor of teacher evaluations used to come in the form of student voice surveys. The surveys were introduced back in 2013 as part of Kentucky’s new professional growth and evaluation system (PGES), designed to make sure that teachers are growing in their skills and being held to high standards. As the…

‘Tough Kids’ Need Love Too

For twenty years I worked in traditional school settings — “normal” elementary and middle schools. Then it all changed. I was sent to work at our district’s alternative learning center. I had heard about the ALC. That’s where the “bad” kids were sent. The kids that bullied others. The kids that brought weapons to school. The kids that made bomb threats.…

Franklin County Court Rules Pension Reform Bill Unconstitutional

Kentucky’s controversial pension reform bill, Senate Bill 151, has been declared unconstitutional. WDRB reports that on Wednesday, Franklin County Court Judge Phillip Shepherd declared Senate Bill 151 void, ruling that the bill failed to meet procedural requirements set forth by the state Constitution. The controversial bill was initially passed and signed into law by Governor Bevin earlier this spring, and…

If You Want Great Schools, Build Great School Climates

Seeds don’t grow in bad soil. It doesn’t matter how much water or sunlight you give them or how much you drown them in Miracle-Gro. If you plant a seed in rocky soil, don’t expect much to happen. School climate — characterized by high expectations, positive relationships, student engagement, and more — is the soil that can make or break student performance.…

Here’s How A Supreme Court Decision Could Lead To Another Wave Of Teacher Protests

We saw what happened back in the spring when “pension reform” was all the buzz in Kentucky. Teachers got a sewage bill, Frankfort got a whole lot of protesters, and Matt Bevin got sued. Teachers unions like the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) were critical opponents of that debacle in this year’s General Assembly, and now, they are bracing themselves yet…

Live From Rural Kentucky, It’s The Belief Gap!

Mass media has an unmistakable impact on our impressions of people and places. Take, for example, shows like Baywatch and 90210, which color our perceptions of Los Angeles. When I think of the City of Angels, I see endless sunshine, luxury, and Kardashian-esque mansions. When I think of The Big Apple, songs like Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and Alicia…

This Is LeBron James’ Greatest Achievement

LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet. He is a 3-time NBA champion, a 4-time league MVP, and he’s now been to 8 straight Finals. That means that for nearly a decade, the road to an NBA championship has gone through LeBron. He literally does everything. LeBron scores at will, like a lion on a court of…

#KYGoDigital Tour Starts Off With A Bang In Western KY

Yesterday kicked off the beginning of the #KYGoDigital Summer Tour, which is taking the Bluegrass by storm. Hundreds of teachers leaders, administrators, and instructional coaches from across Western Kentucky made their way to Murray State University, where experts from across the region met to deliver high-quality and user-friendly professional learning. It might be summer, but teaching and learning never stop…

The Rural-Urban Divide: Responses To School Shootings Show Us Two Sides Of America

When then-candidate Barack Obama was still seeking the Democratic nomination back in 2008, one of his most notable gaffes of the primary campaign trail was an ill-worded assessment of blue-collar culture. Speaking to a wealthy fundraiser crowd, Obama suggested that rural residents of Pennsylvania were bitter, and that they were inclined to “cling to guns or religion” as a result…

If The Boys Really Aren’t Alright, We Have Work To Do

When Michael Ian Black published an op-ed entitled “The Boys Are Not Alright” for The New York Times back in February, it garnered a lot of attention from educators, parents, and advocates of young people. Black’s analysis of young men and masculinity didn’t pull any punches. He referenced the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 high school students…

Kentucky’s ESSA Plan Was Just Approved. Here’s What That Means.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has just approved Kentucky’s new education plan under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). For Kentucky schools, that means new changes in accountability, school ratings, and student success are coming. Kentucky’s Interim Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis was optimistic about what the new plan means for Kentucky students. In a statement released May 7, Lewis said,…

This Is Why State Testing Matters

We’ve arrived at that point at the end of the school year where everyone and everything is moving at a frenetic pace, and if you didn’t know any better, you might think there was some sort of natural disaster about to nail your local public school. That’s right, it’s testing time. Thousands of Kentucky students are gearing up to take…

Citing Low Performance and Student Abuse, Interim Commissioner Lewis Calls For JCPS Takeover

Jefferson County Public Schools is facing a takeover. Referencing the low performance of several Louisville schools as well as abuses in student discipline, Interim Commissioner of Education Dr. Wayne Lewis stated on Monday that he will attempt to give control over the JCPS district to the state. JCPS is one of the nation’s largest school districts, and the largest in…

Nation’s Report Card: Gap Between Kentucky’s Highest and Lowest-Performing Students Continues to Grow

The first time I had the opportunity to travel to London, I was taken aback by the speed and efficiency of the London Underground. Affectionately called the “Tube” by locals, London’s network of underground railways is actually the world’s oldest metro system. It may not be the cleanest form of transportation in the world, but it’s remarkably fast, punctual, and…

The Good, The Bad, and The Not-So-Terrible: What’s Happening to Kentucky Teacher Pensions

This article originally appeared in teacherpensions.org. This week, thousands of Kentucky teachers marched in the state capitol in response to a prospective change in retirement benefits and general concern with the state budget. While their budget and salary concerns are real, the retirement plan reform is necessary, and will in the long run be good for Kentucky and the state’s next generation of…

An Open Letter To Kentucky’s Future Teachers

Dear Future Kentucky Educators, I have been worried about you.  The truth is we all have been worried about you.  To say that we are going through a tumultuous time in our profession is an understatement.  A great deal of consternation has been around how we are going to be able to get you to join our profession. You are…

With pension reform and disparaging comments against teachers Matt Bevin appears to be waging a war

Matt Bevin’s War

When Louisville businessman Matt Bevin ran for governor in 2015, he did so on the platform of fiscal responsibility, school choice, and conservative reform. Armed with Tea Party rhetoric and the funding to match it, Bevin did the unthinkable by knocking off establishment candidate James Comer in the GOP primary. His margin of victory was just 83 votes. Shortly after…

Should Kentucky Teachers Get A Bonus For Working In Struggling Schools?

Discussion sparked last week as an op-ed surfaced in The Courier-Journal, pulling no punches: “We’ve set up a system throughout Kentucky, and particularly in JCPS, that fails our most vulnerable students and hamstrings our lowest-performing schools, known as priority schools.” There’s a reason behind why some schools are stagnant, author Kent Oyler posits, though that reason has been buried beneath…

Illusion of ESSA Flexibility Fades as Federal Reviews Clarify Prescriptive Nature of New Education Law

In a recent speech she titled “Tough Love,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said states’ plans for holding schools accountable for progress in student achievement under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are not ambitious enough, lacking innovation, and not taking full advantage of the law’s flexibilities. While I am certain no state plan is perfect in…

What Is Good Teaching, Anyway?

Earlier this year my principal informed me that our state’s Commissioner of Education, Dr. Stephen Pruitt, would be making a visit to my school as part of our district’s showcase. The kicker? Since Dr. Pruitt had a pretty big role in crafting the newest science standards, he was coming to my science classroom to watch me teach. I was honored,…

Taking A Page From Elaine Farris, Kentucky’s First Black Superintendent

We’ve just celebrated International Women’s Day, and goodness, do we have a lot to celebrate. People from around the world are recognizing the tremendous power and potential of women from all sorts of backgrounds, and with it being Women’s History Month, what better place to start than with the inspiring women of our own Commonwealth? Elaine Farris, Kentucky’s first Black…

#ArmMeWith What Makes A Real Difference

On January 23rd, 2018, students and teachers across the state were horrified when the Marshall County High School shooting occurred in Benton, Kentucky. The effects of the tragedy were felt statewide. Classroom educators watched and waited as fear and trepidation fell over our classrooms like dominoes knocked loose in a hectic array of patterns as politicians began arguing whether or…

Kentucky Dropping Its Master’s Degree Requirement: A Win For School Quality?

Kentucky is a hectic place to be right now. Teachers and other state employees across the Commonwealth are fighting for their pensions, which are subject to massive changes at the behest of Senate Bill 1. Major reforms are being made to our accountability system, so there’s a steep learning curve ahead. We’ve just witnessed forty public school teachers announce their…

We’re Kidding Ourselves If We Think 90 Percent of Teachers Are Effective

This post originally appeared with Education Post. Photo by US Dept. of Education, CC-Licensed. A while back I sat through a professional learning community (PLC) meeting where the other science teachers and I listened to a YouTube lecturer discussing strategies of “highly-effective teachers.” I was struck by that phrase, “highly effective.” What makes these teachers so effective? What does learning look like…

This Is What It Means To Be #MarshallStrong

It’s been nearly a month since the shooting at Marshall County High School, but in the wake of national conversations on gun control, mental health, and school safety, it’s not getting any easier for us Kentuckians to shake the memories. In the past weeks, we’ve witnessed a tragedy beyond comprehension. I teach just two counties over from Marshall, but I…

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The Pension Bill Dropped This Week. Here Are The Quick Facts.

After months of speculation, we’ve finally got a pension bill. And it’s a doozy. Senate Bill 1 was introduced this past Wednesday by Sen. Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro), who says the 30-year plan will effectively save the state’s public pension system. It differs wildly from Gov. Bevin’s proposal back in October, which would have raised the retirement age and switched teachers’…

Rural Kids Need Better Schools Too

I didn’t really think much about rural representation until I first got involved in educational leadership. For the first time, I learned that there was an entire world of organizations, social media campaigns and professional-development sessions all dedicated to improving schools and closing achievement gaps in Kentucky. “Wow!” I thought. “How awesome to see so many educators who had dedicated…

We Can’t Keep Doing The Same Thing In Schools And Expect Better Results

“School reform” is such a misunderstood concept in the education world. That misunderstanding, of course, leads many people to dismiss useful improvements. But we need those changes, and quick, because nothing can so profoundly impact our children’s lives as much as receiving a good education. Any parent could agree with that. Sometimes, though, I worry that our attempts to make…

Want to Close Achievement Gaps? Know Why They Exist in the First Place

There’s a sad reality in our education system today: Some students just don’t do as well as others. I realize I’m not breaking news here, but the fact that there’s such a disparity between students from poor families and communities and students from solid middle-class families is bad for everyone. The fact that minority students historically fall far behind their…

Banning ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Because It Makes You Uncomfortable Isn’t How You Learn

Biloxi, Mississippi made news when its public school district pulled Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” from its eighth-grade reading list earlier this month. When pressed, the Biloxi School Board stated that the acclaimed Southern novel was pulled because some parents and students felt uncomfortable with it being taught at the eighth-grade level, given its themes of inequality and racism and…

Kentucky’s Changing How Schools Are Judged and Here’s Why You Should Care

With the adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the marquee educational law that Congress passed in 2015, Kentucky stands ready to dramatically shift its approach to accountability. Designed to replace the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, ESSA gives states more freedom to set goals for their students’ achievement. Kentucky opened the floodgates for that earlier this…