State leaders announced Thursday the creation of the Commonwealth Education Continuum, a “cradle to career” initiative that will focus on building a more diverse teaching workforce and helping more students earn degrees and credentials.
The Commonwealth Education Continuum is a partnership between the Council on Postsecondary Education, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Kentucky Department of Education.
It will be co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, who also serves as secretary of the state’s Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, as well as CPE President Aaron Thompson and Kentucky Education Commissioner Glass.
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The continuum’s 27 members, with expertise ranging from the early childhood to adult education, will soon be announced, officials said Thursday during a news conference.
“This is an education first administration, and building a better Kentucky starts with our public education system,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “This continuum ensures that we’re taking advantage of every opportunity that helps our students and teachers.”
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 51% of Kentucky children are kindergarten-ready and 40% of Kentucky fourth graders are proficient in mathematics, with that percentage falling to 29% by middle school.
The Commonwealth Education Continuum will seek to improve those learning outcomes and create more equitable opportunities for students to transition to the next level in the education system.
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Thompson layed out three areas that Kentucky cannot ignore in order to better serve students.
The state must provide “more and better information about how to plan and pay for college,” he said.
It must improve access to high school dual credit options and other early college experiences and “ensure these opportunities are available all students,” Thompson continued.
“Finally, we must attract and retain more teachers, particularly men and people of color,” Thompson said.
Currently, students in the Bluegrass State are twice as likely to be male when compared with their teachers, and while minorities make up 23% of public school students, only 4.8% of the state’s teachers are, according to state officials.
“The change has to start with our schools, because schools are a microcosm of our larger society,” Glass said.
Thompson also pointed to how only 60% of Kentucky high school graduates are college- or career-ready, which leads to an in-state college attendance rate of just 51.7%, down from 55% during the 2013-14 school year, and well below the national average of 70%.
Those gaps remain higher for non-white students.
Coleman said the continuum will not cost the state extra money but is more a matter of using existing resources and “bringing us together so that we can all work together in a much more efficient way.”
Thursday’s announcement “is another step toward ensuring every Kentuckian has the tools they need to succeed from cradle to career,” she added.
“The collaboration between these shareholders and leaders will help us work together to build a better Kentucky for everyone,” Coleman said.
The Commonwealth Education Continuum will hold its first meeting in January 2021.
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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Leaders: Commonwealth Education Continuum to increase teacher diversity, career readiness