Gov. Paul Patton
National Education Goals Panel
Nov. 5, 1997

Kentucky’s high-stakes system of student assessment and school accountability, which rewards schools that meet academic improvement goals and provides help to schools that do not, has caused educators across the state to focus on meeting high standards.

And this new focus has changed both what and how our teachers teach.

In fact, the curricular changes our teachers have made are driven by our assessment and accountability system, which is designed to measure student performance against rigid standards of academic achievement.

While we do not have a mandatory state curriculum, we do provide guidelines and direction for local schools as they work to develop their own curricula aimed at achieving the goals that are set for them.

For example, in the area of mathematics, Kentucky educators have identified a number of specific things our students should know and be able to do by the time they leave the 5th, 8th and 11th grades.

Every Kentucky student -- including those with disabilities and other special needs – is tested in mathematics at these grade levels to ensure that their school is doing an adequate job of educating its students.

School councils, which include at least two parent members, are free to decide how best to prepare their students with the required knowledge and skills.

We recognize that we -- like the rest of the nation -- still have a long way to go.

However, our progress in both mathematics and science, as well as in other subjects, has been impressive.

Since 1992, student performance in math has improved by 36 percent in 4th grade, 32 percent in 8th grade, and 26 percent in high school.

Similarly, in science, which is tested in 4th, 7th and 11th grades, performance has climbed 36 percent, 10 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

And we all know that mathematics and science skills will be critical to the workforce of the 21st Century.

What does our experience mean for other states?

First, it means that high standards alone -- without some mechanism of accountability for educators -- won’t do the trick.

School performance must be measured to ensure that high standards are being met.

Second, it means that local educators must have the flexibility to implement the curricular and instructional changes they deem most effective while being held accountable for their performance.

That is the only way to get their support.

Finally, it means that teacher training and professional development strategies must be two-pronged.

That is, they must address not only how to teach but also what to teach.

Educators need knowledge of instructional techniques and tools as well as content knowledge.

And they must be given the opportunity to determine for themselves, with the help of their supervisors, how best to obtain those skills and that knowledge.

We in Kentucky are very proud of the fact that the Ford Foundation and Harvard University just last month named our education reform effort one of the nation’s top ten innovations for 1997.

We invite every other state to come and take a look at the progress we’ve made and the manner in which we’ve achieved it.

We think our comprehensive education reform initiative can serve as a model for others.