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Commentary: Kentuckians need to rally to lead nation in education reform once again

By Derrick Graham
Special to KyForward

We have a moral obligation to all of the commonwealth’s students to address the achievement gap and the implications it has on the future of our children.

Kentucky has made continuous progress in educational achievement since the 1990s. However, gaps in achievement continue to persist between different populations.

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence published a report on Aug. 18 that examined the achievement gap, a term used to describe the persistent disparity of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by socioeconomic status, learning disabilities, English language learners, race/ethnicity, and gender.

The report’s authors are some of Kentucky’s best and brightest individuals who represent the business community, teachers, parents, principals, superintendents, university and college faculties, local school board members, former and current state school board members, community members, university trustees, former secretaries of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and social services organizations.

Few topics are as beset by jargon as education, and I don’t want the term “achievement gap” to get in the way of starting a community dialog about the Prichard Committee report. The report’s authors recognize that the gap will not be closed without community participation. That includes bringing together businesses, government, nonprofit charities, religious groups, and readers like you.

I join this group of dedicated educators and Kentuckians in communicating to this great commonwealth the importance and need to close our achievement gaps. The economic success of our state depends on us to ensure that all of our students are well educated and well trained.

The Prichard report is a call to action to support and demand bold leadership at the state level, in every community, every district, every school, and in every classroom. We must speak up and out to ensure that accountability drives improvement for each student.

We must encourage policy and practice that welcomes and supports each student and family. We cannot allow the recommendations from the achievement gap study group to be just words in a report. We must work together to implement these recommendations. As one member of the study group wrote in the foreword of the report, Kentucky can’t afford to waste additional time and money to further study the achievement gap. Kentuckians need to act—now.

As the report pointed out, Kentucky has already made nationally recognized progress from the bottom of educational rankings in the early 1980s to today’s reality where the average Kentucky student performs on par with those across the nation on many measures. But being on par is not our goal.

Our goal is to ensure that each student, regardless of their zip code, social economic status, and race/ethnicity or learning differences, receives a world-class education.

It’s no coincidence that the Prichard Report is named “Excellence with Equity: It’s Everybody’s Business.” We cannot expect our schools and educators to do this work alone. As a retired educator, I couldn’t agree more with the conclusions that we need our communities to unite with our educators to ensure that all students have access and equitable opportunities to learn at high levels and to graduate with a world-class education.

I strongly agree with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and their Achievement Gap study group’s message that “Excellence with Equity is Everybody’s Business.”

You may find the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence report “Excellence with Equity: It’s Everybody’s Business.” at prichardcommittee.org.

D Graham

Derrick W. Graham represents the 57th Legislative District in the Kentucky House of Representatives

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