In Nov. 19 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Gov. Steve Beshear spoke to a crowd of students, teachers, parents, superintendents and public officials at the Russell County Schools' Auditorium/Natatorium complex last Thursday about a new education initiative that he hopes will re-energize support for public school systems in the state.
The initiative, Transforming Education in Kentucky, comes nearly two decades after the state implemented what some called the nation's most comprehensive school reform, the Kentucky Education Reform Act, or KERA, as it is widely known.
"Our world has changed dramatically since the reforms of 1990," Beshear said. "We must now turn our focus to the future and again to our schools to ensure that our strategies and programs are designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century."
Before the governor spoke, Russell County Superintendent Scott Pierce touted his school system and the many academic honors that local schools had received the past few months. He also named Beshear an honorary Laker during his visit.
Beshear said the he appointed the TAK Task Force to help develop new strategies while reinvigorating public and business support for K-12 education.
"I'm here in Russell Springs to continue that campaign," Beshear said. "I believe that it is imperative that every community recognize and embrace the urgency of this effort."
The goal is to create a unified vision of what schools in the state need to offer in order to better serve students now and in the future, according to Beshear.
"Our focus is not on the past, it has to be the future," he said.
The members of the task force include education advocates, teachers, superintendents, legislators, parents, business leaders and others who have been handpicked for their commitment to education and to Kentucky.
Beshear said the group will examine efforts currently underway in the state, such as the Common Core Standards Initiative, Graduate Kentucky, the Gates Foundation/SREB college and career readiness initiative, the Race to the Top competition and the Governor's Task Force on Early Childhood Development and Education.
The governor said the panel will recommend ways to channel all of these efforts into an integrated and comprehensive system of education in the state against the backdrop of renewed energy and activity.
The task force will also explore career and technical education, expanded use of technology for learning, increased opportunities for students to earn college credit in high school and other issues that affect student success.
"I'm proud to say that your own representative Jeff Hoover, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, has agreed to be a member of this task force," Beshear said.
The goal is to come up with recommendations by the end of 2010 for consideration during the 2011 legislative session, the governor said.
"We want to make sure we do this right," Beshear said. He said the task force would be looking into how to improve teacher recruitment and retention, smoothing out the transition from pre-school to kindergarten, figuring out how to give every high school student the opportunity to obtain college credit hours and making better use of classroom technology, among other goals.
"This effort seeks to build off the progress of the last 20 years in order to lay the foundation for the 20 years ahead," Beshear said. "Today, I'm calling on our state and our people to recommit ourselves to ensuring the future of our children."
After his talk, Beshear met privately with Pierce and superintendents from several other area school districts in a conference room in the big building.
The governor and Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Terry Holliday will serve as co-chairs of the task force.
Joining Supt. Pierce and Gov. Beshear on stage for his speech was Rep. Jeff Hoover, Sen. Vernie McGaha and Rep. John "Bam" Carney.