As a parent of three children – two who have graduated from the same Kentucky public high school and one who is just two years away from graduating – the past 16 or so years has been focused on helping them navigate through their educational experiences. There has been nothing more important than being a partner with other parents, teachers, and administrators in ensuring my children are accessing the content areas in a way that will lead them to become successful adults. And as an educator myself, I took that understanding to heart as I worked with other people’s kids daily. I relied on my professional peer educators and administrators; our higher education experts; and our school, district, and state decision-makers to determine the “what” we need to teach our kids so they will be engaged citizens, thoughtful leaders, insightful problem-solvers, and generally prepared to raise and provide for a stable family. The most recent opportunity we have to give input towards what standards our kids need to reach in Kentucky public schools has come through a refreshing new education bill.

Just two short months ago, Governor Bevin signed Senate Bill 1 into law. This wide-ranging bill, sometimes referred to by supporters as the “Let the Teacher’s Teach” bill, reframes and revises many facets of Kentucky’s public education from reducing bureaucratic burdens on teachers to modifying how the state labels and responds to low-achieving schools to increasing postsecondary readiness for college and careers.

One major change that will have a direct effect on our public school K-12 students is the required timeline and process of revising and implementing of current academic standards that drive the curriculum our kids are being taught. SB1 requires that one to two content areas each year will be on-tap for reviewing and revising – and then every 6 years on a rotating basis once all content areas have been reviewed and revised. It calls for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to implement the process as described in legislation beginning this upcoming 2017-18 school year.

In response, KDE released their first attempt at gathering input from citizens, parents, educators, etc. on the first two content areas – English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. In May, KDE issued an invitation for us to weigh in using a similar survey format they used in 2014-15 when they released the Kentucky Core Academic Challenge. This challenge was met with around 4,000 responses. About half of those who responded were educators, and 88% of reviewers responded that no change was needed. However, there were a handful of standards that teams of educators did revise based on suggestions made.

In 2014-15, I met the “challenge” and gave feedback on some of the specific standards I had some concerns about as both a teacher and parent—and I’m responding to the request this year. I challenge you to submit your input as well – and am offering some pointers as you complete the surveys:

  • It takes some time. Given that I was already deeply familiar with these standards as a teacher, responding to the survey still took me about 30 minutes per content area. I skipped through many of the pages of current standards because I think they are appropriate developmentally and academically, are nicely aligned from grade-to-grade, and prepare students for life-after-high school. Those are my professional and parental opinions.
  • Be aware of the grade level you’re reviewing. After the descriptions of the purpose and creation process of the survey, the first few pages of the surveys lead you through suggested revisions of the “current” standards. I became a bit confused as it seemed like one standard was a stretch for a kindergartner until I realized that the grade level had changed to 3rd grade. I felt much more validated after that.
  • Stick with it – there’s CURSIVE! After the “revised standard” suggestions, the ELA standards include adding “cursive handwriting” to second and third grade requirements. I had some overall suggestions here, not really specific to each of the individual standards, so I put those in the very first comment box.
  • You can skip through standards and still be able to submit. There was one standard in math that I’d offered a revision in 2014-15, that was not taken. I re-stated that suggestion, otherwise, I was able to just scroll through the rest of the standards.

Find the survey on English Language Arts here and Mathematics here. Parents, educators, advocates, and others can submit their comments and suggestions through September.