U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander urges education policymakers to adopt education plan which will work for Kentucky

09/12/2016 04:33 PM

FRANKFORT – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Education Monday that they have a great opportunity to reshape Kentucky’s K though 12 education system to make for a more prosperous future for the students as well as the state as a whole with the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Alexander gave an overview of ESSA, a federal mandate which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, which replaces No Child Left Behind, signed by President George W. Bush in 2002.

Alexander’s message to committee members was that ESSA reverses the trend toward a national school board and makes it clear that, in the future, the path to higher standards, better teaching and real accountability will be through the states, communities and classrooms and not Washington D.C.

Alexander pointed out the numerous federal regulations from No Child Left Behind, which were widely criticized in the education community that are not part of ESSA, including Common Core.

“Since last December, there’s been no federal requirement that Kentucky have Common Core as its academic standard,” Alexander said. “That’s up to you going forward. You can have Common Core, uncommon core, half or common core, no common core, that’s your business.”

Alexander noted that one of the downfalls of No Child Left Behind was the backlash from states and local school districts about mandates sent down from the federal government which were met with resentment.

“If Washington says that you’ve got to have these standards, and these tests, and you’ve got to evaluate teachers these ways, people buck up, they don’t like it,” Alexander said. “Kentucky needs to develop its own standards.”

Moving forward, Alexander suggests that he likes the way Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt is going about getting feedback from a number of stakeholders before putting together an effective plan.

“Instead of saying we’re going to go out and do it exactly the way I want to do it, he’s asking the teachers and school board members what they think,” Alexander said. “A, you might get some good advice, and second, they’re more likely to do it if the result is something that they had some participation in.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, who brought Alexander to Frankfort to testify, confirmed that Senate Bill 1 will again be the legislation bringing Kentucky’s educational standards into compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Stivers says the most important item about ESSA is the fact that it puts most of the regulations under state and local control.

“That, which works in Massachusetts, or Idaho, or California, or New York, may not necessarily work in Kentucky,” Stivers said. “You have different demographics, you have different geographics, and you have different accesses to technologies and experiences.”


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