Stephen Pruitt.jpg

Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky's commissioner of education, speaks at a town hall meeting last April in the Glasgow High School auditorium.

GDT File Photo

Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky's commissioner of education, recently revealed his five-point plan to improve student achievement and career readiness, according to a press release from the Kentucky Department of Education.

The plan, which he presented on Wednesday during the Kentucky Board of Education meeting, includes five main points that form the acronym KIDS(S) — K-3 Literacy; Individual Instruction and Assessment; Diploma Requirements; Student Success in Postsecondary; and Social and Emotional Help.

For K-3 Literacy, Pruitt wants to “renew the commitment to and focus on primary literacy that takes a holistic and comprehensive approach and incorporates student interests and applied learning.”

KDE would “leverage grant resources and its collaborative partnerships with regional education cooperatives to assist in the effort," Pruitt stated in the press release, adding that he “acknowledged the effort would present challenges, most notably around funding, teacher training and raising expectations, but he said it would pay off by raising student achievement and reducing the achievement gap between different groups of students.” 

For Individual Instruction and Assessment, Pruitt wants to “rethink learning and assessment so that it becomes more individualized and allows students to progress as they gain mastery of skills and knowledge.”

“Students’ career interests would be connected to their courses and assessments,” the press release states. “This effort also would include a move to online assessments and a revamp of the student Individual Learning Plan (ILP) to make it more useful.”

For Diploma Requirements, Pruitt wants to “strengthen state high school graduation requirements so that the diploma a student earns accurately reflects the learning required to be successful after high school,” adding the these requirements “would allow more flexibility in the way students learn.”

“We want to give more opportunities for kids to take content in areas they enjoy and have a curiosity in and that don’t hem them into specific courses,” Pruitt said. “It’s time we flipped the script on the future. It is time we say everything we’re doing leads to a career.”

Pruitt did, however, caution that “the change may lead to a drop in graduation rates, at least temporarily, but that long term it will align graduation rates and college and career readiness, and will mean that when Kentucky students graduate high school, they will be ready to pursue their desired career path.”

For Student Success in Postsecondary, Pruitt wants to provide more opportunities for high school students to pursue dual credit, industry certification, apprenticeships, as well as International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses.

For Social and Emotional Help, Pruitt wants to “create a real focus on social and emotional wellbeing of students,” adding that “more needs to be done to provide support to students, educators and schools, and also raise awareness about the importance of social and emotional wellbeing.”

“It will be hard to do these things, but if we do there will be great benefits,” Pruitt said, adding that this plan would help Kentucky: lead the nation in closing the achievement gap in reading as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) fourth-grade reading assessment; lead the nation in increasing the percentage of students earning industry certifications; improve its national ranking on the ACT college entrance exam from fourteenth to fifth; increase the state’s Gross Domestic Product from $4 million to $8 million, based on all students staying in the state; and close the achievement gap by 50 percent in next 13 years.

According to the press release, “several board members commended Pruitt for his vision.”

Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education who also serves as an ex officio board member, said Pruitt’s ideas are “critical for Kentucky.”

“They are critical for our young people to have a real opportunity to compete in an increasingly competitive global economy,” King stated in the press release.

Board Advisor Kathy Gornik “stressed the importance of including increased parental involvement and engagement.”

“The more empowered they are, the more active they are going to be in the care and learning of their children,” Gornik stated in the press release.

Pruitt agreed that “parental engagement would be part of the work as well as larger community engagement and buy in.” 

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