Monday, April 20, 2009

Where Kentucky’s New Education Standards Might be Coming From

Senate Bill 1 is on the books, so the focus on improving Kentucky’s public education system shifts away from the legislature. Now, the Kentucky Board of Education, the Kentucky Department of Education, and the critical academic course content review committees required in Senate Bill 1 move to center stage. Of these three groups, the course content review committees may be the most crucial.

But, what will these various committees, which must review standards for all our academic courses like math, science and social studies, use for guidance?

One answer may be a pending set of model national standards being created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Education Week newspaper (subscription) reports that 41 states convened in Chicago on April 17, 2009 to work towards creating those standards. The time scale under consideration meshes with timing spelled out in Senate Bill 1. The resources this powerful consortium can muster exceed anything Kentucky could possibly assemble on its own.

That could lead to a pretty solid set of recommendations – or not.

There has always been considerable resistance from some quarters in this state to adoption of externally developed education standards.

Furthermore, aside from a “not invented here” issue, there is no guarantee that a national standards effort will work. Just recall the fiasco of the much maligned National History Standards in the 1990s.

Past educational efforts of both the national groups in the consortium have not generally been well received by more conservative factions in the education world. This time, it looks like even some very liberally oriented educators are uncomfortable with this national standards effort, as well.

So, stay tuned. Passage of Senate Bill 1 does not guarantee that things will be better in our schools. All of the great intentions and planning in the bill could be outdone depending upon what happens in those course content review committees, and maybe in Chicago, as well.

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