You have a long history of work in education both on the local and the state level. What first led you down this path and how has your perception of the teaching profession changed as you’ve taken on different roles?
Well, I was a teacher for 15 years. I feel like I will always be a teacher first. As I worked in teaching, I became very interested in the overall education process and the impact that education could have on the lives on children. I’ve attempted to work at various levels: principal, district supervision, state superintendent, and at the national level with organizations to push support for public education, and primarily support for teachers.
What do you see as the result of the Kentucky Department of Education’s focus on raising teacher voice, which has been supported with programs like Hope Street Group’s Teacher Fellows Program, in education across the state?
I think teacher voice is critical if you want to implement any type of education reform. If you look at states that have struggled with implementation of standards, assessments, and accountability, what you see is where they didn’t have teacher voice, they had lots of problems and real concerns coming from teachers. Our collaboration and partnership with teacher groups has been critical to our success.
Hope Street Group strongly believes that a cross-sector approach is key to addressing social issues whether in education, health or jobs. In what ways do you see Kentucky employing this approach and in which areas would you like to see further alignment?
It’s critical that the business community be heavily involved. Our state Chamber of Commerce was one of our leading advocates for standards, assessments and accountability. We also believe parent voice is critical so our Pritchard Committee and the Kentucky PTA groups are very important to our work. We also collaborate with our unions, our principal and superintendent associations, as well as our teacher associations, so that collaborative spirit has been prevalent in Kentucky for many years.
After 6 years, you have decided to move on from your role as Education Commissioner. What are you most proud of during your tenure as a leader in the state?
Student outcomes. Graduation rates are at an all time high. Our college and career readiness rate, which measures the percentage of kids ready to enter college without remediation, has doubled. And we have a lot of teacher buy in with our work. Those things I am the most proud of.