Arkansas Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell spoke at length to the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators on Wednesday in Little Rock. His remarks on STEM Works was posted earlier. These are excerpts on other topics in his speech:
We thank the Governor for his commitment to our schools. And I pledge to him that we—the Department of Education and you school leaders—will use these resources wisely to improve the quality of education for every student in Arkansas!
To improve education in Arkansas, we have to turn around our lowest-achieving schools and get them on the road toward success. We have to close the achievement gaps that separate some student groups from others.
We can always improve, always do better. The good news is we have a plan to guide us on this journey.
Our plan sets forth our priorities: implementing Common Core State Standards and next generation assessments; supporting struggling schools; ensuring educator effectiveness; and deepening essential partnerships with stakeholders that will result in enhanced educational opportunities for Arkansas students.
Our plan gives us a vision of where we need to be. But, as the saying goes: Vision without execution is hallucination. The task before us is to put our plan into action. That’s where we find ourselves today.
In a true culture of responsibility, we would never think in terms of “our kids” or “those kids.” We would see in every child the curiosity about the world, the eagerness to grow and to learn, and a great desire to succeed. For a true “culture of responsibility” to take hold in our state, every one of us must step up to do our part of the work.
We are doing that in a number of ways:
Common Core State Standards and Assessments—Never before in the history of this state have we seen such collaboration and support for new learning standards that will lead our students to college and career readiness.
I’m so proud of the work of Dr. Laura Bednar and her Learning Services team. They are on target with a three-year strategic implementation plan including professional development opportunities delivered in a variety of ways.
I can report the work of PARCC is moving full steam ahead. PARCC has just released an Invitation to Negotiate for item development. This is a major milestone in PARCC’s work and a critical step towards on-time delivery of the PARCC assessments. I encourage you to go to PARCC Online to review the ITN and summary documents.
ESEA Flexibility—John Hoy and Phyllis Stewart are leading the Department’s efforts in drafting an application that will provide our schools flexibility regarding specific requirements of NCLB and an opportunity to better focus on improving student learning and increasing the quality of instruction.
We’ve secured the services of Education Counsel in guiding our work. Ed Counsel is an innovative advocacy organization committed to strengthening education systems. The staff is experienced in the workings of Washington, DC and particularly USDE. Our goal is a clear, concise plan that builds upon our current accountability system yet simplifies the terms and strategies for school improvement.
We’ll be submitting that plan February 21.
Teacher Effectiveness—Dr. Karen Cushman is working with the legal team to develop rules that will help school leaders base key personnel decisions on meaningful evaluations of teacher effectiveness measured in part on student learning. This is important and deliberate work.
Breakfast in the Classroom—I want to thank you for your support of Breakfast in the Classroom as part of our combined effort to increase academic achievement.
Academic Distress—As you know, the State Board of Education wants to toughen up the state’s criteria for determining whether a school district is academically distressed. We’ve been working on that and believe we can develop a plan that is manageable. That work is ongoing.
Rewrite of the Standards of Accreditation—The standards have not been revised in 10 years. We’ll be developing a plan for a rewrite in the coming months.
Fiscal Session to begin in February—We will be monitoring all proposed legislation to protect education funding. Again, we thank the Governor for holding the line on public school funding.
So, if you ask “How’s school?” I would say “School is great!”
I look forward to 2012 as we work together to improve education in Arkansas. Thank you for your continued support of our work!