Reflecting on 2018 and Looking Ahead

As 2018 comes to a close and I reflect on the events of the year, I am thankful for the incredible efforts of educators, school staff, and leaders across our public education system who give their all everyday for the benefit of Kentucky students. This year has included triumphs, successes, trials, and continued challenges, yet tens of thousands of school district personnel across Kentucky get up every morning to meet our children at the bus stop, at the front office, on the school yard, in the cafeteria, in the hallways, and at the classroom door. Educators in every school district in the state push our students to be their very best. All across Kentucky, educators and school staff are positively impacting the learning and lives of our children. And for that, I am thankful.

Over the last eight months I have had the privilege of seeing some of our schools and educators at work firsthand. I saw leaders and teachers at Paris Independent and Trimble County implement strategies for providing greater personalization to the learning experiences of students. I saw leaders and teachers in Christian County preparing students for high wage, high demand careers through their Gateway Academy to Innovation and Technology. I saw the continued growth and transformation of the Four Rivers Career Academy in Fulton County as they continue to prepare more and more students for technical careers and success in college, all while their students earn more dual credit hours than most would think is possible. I saw leaders and teachers in Boyle County implementing an out-of-the-box co-teaching approach with the aim increasing student engagement and closing gaps. It’s working. I saw leaders and teachers in Jefferson County and Fayette County implementing wall-to-wall academies and providing many incredible career education experiences for students through the Academy of Louisville and the Academy Lexington. I saw leaders and teachers in Lee County experiencing firsthand the benefits of making student readiness for college and career an absolute top priority. I saw performing arts teachers at Glasgow Independent prepare students for a production of Little Women that could have been on Broadway. I saw leaders and teachers at Carter G. Woodson Academy in Fayette County successfully implement an innovative alternative model, a school of choice, which targets middle and high school boys of color. Their students told me that Carter G. Woodson is school as they have never experienced school before, and that their education experiences there are helping to mold them into strong young leaders who are prepared for whatever lies ahead. Finally, I have a daily front row seat to see the preschool teachers in Woodford County work to ensure that our youngest learners, including my daughther, are not only academically well-prepared for kindergarten, but that their social and emotional development is progressing as well. To these educators, to all those I have had the opportunity to spend time with and learn from over the last few months, and to those I have yet to meet, I am so grateful for their service and their dedication to Kentucky students, families, and communities.

In 2019 we will continue to build. While our public education system has made tremendous progress over the last few decades, in recent years at the state level, our improvement in academic achievement has stalled, achievement gaps remain constant or widen, and too many of our young people exit our system without the skills necessary to be successful in college and the workforce. For the sake of our children and our commonwealth, we must continue to improve. The most difficult part about improvement is that it requires change, and change can be hard. The advantage we have in Kentucky, however, is our education workforce. Kentucky’s teachers and leaders are some of the most talented, hardworking, and dedicated professionals in the country. So even with the challenges we face with raising achievement, closing gaps, and preparing students for transition, I know our educators, with the support of our parents and communities, are up to the challenge.

Happy New Year.

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