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Been There, Done That!

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Guest blogger Kip Hottman is a 2013-14 Hope Street Group Fellow, and Spanish teacher at Oldham County High School located north of Louisville, Kentucky.

This past Saturday my phone began to buzz with Tweets and Text messages about House Bill 215, which is an attempt to repeal the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS). After reading the bill, I was deeply saddened to learn that a small group of individuals were attempting to crush all of the hard work that Kentucky teachers have done over the past three years. House Bill 215 allows districts to stop using KCAS standards and possibly create their own, which would diminish any continuity amongst the districts in Kentucky.

House Bill 215 sounds like a Kentucky of the past, a Kentucky that my mother, an ex teacher and principal, fought so hard to change back in the 1970's and 1980's. I called her and learned that during those decades our state had no true standards to follow. Most districts in Kentucky were "doing their own thing", which is exactly what House Bill 215 would create. She recommended that I read Ronald Reagan's "A Nation at Risk" to get a better picture of why education reform was so important for our country during the 1980's.

After reading "A Nation at Risk", I looked up Kentucky's statistics from the 1980's, and as a teacher, parent, and former student, I was absolutely flabbergasted. Before the 1989 decision of Rose v. Council for Better Education, Kentucky was fiftieth in the country in adult literacy and adults with high school diplomas, and forty-ninth in sending graduates to college. Only 68 percent of ninth graders were graduating high school and in the Appalachian counties over 48 percent of the population was functionally illiterate. WE WERE IN THE LOWER 20 TO 25 PERCENT NATIONALLY IN ALMOST EVERY CATEGORY USED TO EVALUATE EDUCATIONAL ACHEIVEMENT!

We were lucky in the 80's to have The Prichard Committee, a grass roots organization, who fought so diligently to push our state out of the educational mess in which it existed. Because of their excellence and persistence in embracing education reform, Kentucky has made unprecedented advancements in improving the learning experiences of Kentucky's students since 1989.

To paint a picture of how much our state has improved, let's look at where we currently stand. For the 2013 EdWeek Quality Counts national school report card, Kentucky was ranked in the top ten for the first time. Kentucky teachers need to embrace this data with pride because the shift within education in our state has been so dramatic. WE WERE ALMOST DEAD LAST AND NOW WE ARE A NATIONAL LEADER IN EDUCATION!

I don't want to go back to the "wild, wild, west" mentality that House Bill 215 promotes. We need to invite these legislators into our classrooms so that they can witness the wonderful learning environments that we are creating for our students. It is imperative that they feel the passion that we exude daily and see the amazing growth that is happening.

Our students are learning and we know what is best for our classes. Legislators need to ask the experts. Let's unite, sending the voice of 43,000 teachers to Frankfort and stop House Bill 215 from reversing 20 years of progress for Kentucky students.

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