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Stu Silberman and Brigitte Blom Ramsey

Stu Silberman and Brigitte Blom Ramsey

Bill sits down with Stu Silberman, who is retiring as executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and Brigitte Blom Ramsey, who will succeed him. Ramsey has been the associate executive director for the organization.They discuss the transition and ongoing work of the Prichard Committee.
S10 E34 Length 28:07 Premiere: 7.18.15

Advocates Present Kentucky Education Report Card

In the 25 years since the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was passed, the state’s public school system has improved on numerous benchmarks. But with ever tightening budgets, can those gains be sustained into the future?

Bill Goodman explored that question on KET’s One to One with Stu Silberman, out-going executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and Brigitte Blom Ramsey, who will lead the organization starting in September. The Prichard Committee is a non-profit advocacy group that seeks to improve education for all Kentuckians.

Celebrating the Successes
From fourth grade reading scores, to high school graduation rates, to college and career readiness, student outcomes have improved greatly since KERA was enacted in 1990. The reforms strengthened curricula and school governance, and made funding more equitable across the state’s 173 school districts.

Silberman says public schools in the commonwealth went from a national ranking of 49th to 33rd thanks to improvements instituted under KERA.

“It changed the lives of kids forever,” Silberman says. “We’re really proud of the progress, knowing that we have a tremendous amount of work still to do.”

He says K-12 education got another boost with Senate Bill 1 in 2009, which focused on educational assessment and accountability, and brought the Common Core standards to Kentucky schools.

Opposition to Common Core and Testing
Silberman acknowledges there’s a growing backlash among some lawmakers and parents against the Common Core standards, which they see as unwelcome federal government intervention into Kentucky schools. Some politicians have even called for a repeal of the standards.

But Silberman says reversing course on Common Core would cost more than $30 million, would negate significant work by teachers to prepare for the standards, and would set back student achievement.

“I think it’s time to put the political football in the locker room and focus on the kids,” Silberman says.

During a recent listening tour around the state, Ramsey says she and Silberman heard complaints about too much student testing. She contends local school districts actually require more testing than the state does.

“We do want to have a conversation about the number of assessments and the appropriate use of assessments in our schools,” Ramsey says. “We need to provide the opportunity for more performance-based assessment [and] move away from some of the standardized, pencil-and-paper testing that parents and community members are frustrated with.”

Funding Inequities Return
State funding for public education remains a serious issue in the commonwealth. During the recession years, Kentucky cut per-student investment in K-12 education by more than 11 percent, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

With fewer state dollars in play, Silberman says school districts have to find more revenues locally, which put poor counties with weaker tax bases at a disadvantage. Silberman says that simply recreates the funding inequity that KERA sought to resolve 25 years ago.

In the last legislative session, the Prichard Committee and other education advocates celebrated a rare increase in public school budgets back to 2008 levels.

“We worked very hard to get that funding restored not knowing that when that happened, the money came from our friends,” Silberman says. “Higher ed got hit, social services got hit, mental health got hit.”

But Silberman also notes that the 2015 funding increase wasn’t adjusted for inflation, so schools are still actually 10 percent behind where they were seven years ago. Ramsey says that’s simply not acceptable in an era when schools should be creating more career and technical education opportunities.

“For policymakers to think that we can just cut our way to student outcomes, is flawed,” Ramsey says. “We need to invest for innovation to get our students where they need to go – and thinking about KTRS and fixing that first is going to be critical.”

Ramsey is a member of a task force that Gov. Steve Beshear recently appointed to study the $14 billion unfunded liability in the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System. That panel held its first meeting last week, and is scheduled to make recommendations to the General Assembly by the end of the year.

Technology Concerns
Another issue facing Kentucky students is the digital divide. Silberman compares broadband Internet access to textbooks. He says in earlier days some schools provided their students with worn, out-of-date textbooks when other districts stocked their classrooms with the newest editions. Silberman says that disadvantage is being replicated today as many students can access high-speed Internet at school and at home, while others cannot.

Ramsey says Internet access is important not only for routine assignments, but it can be crucial during lengthy school closures due to bad weather. She says the Internet can help connect snowbound students and teachers so that learning can continue even while they’re at home. Plus she says expanding broadband statewide will provide additional benefits as well.

“We can think about it from both an education and an economic imperative,” Ramsey says. “Because what impacts our students’ education with regards to technology is also affecting the workforce in those areas of the state.”

Recommitting to Education
Because Kentucky schools and students have made significant gains since KERA, Silberman worries that people might become complacent about the work that remains to be done. As he retires from the Prichard Committee and hands the leadership to Ramsey, he says he hopes the organization will continue to foster a sense of urgency about improving education in the commonwealth.

Regardless of whether it’s technology, testing, or overall education funding, Ramsey says the rapid pace of change today makes it ever more important for all Kentuckians to be engaged with their public schools.

“I think with each generation we have to recommit, re-energize, and deepen the community’s commitment to education,” Ramsey says. “And our schools need to be open and welcoming to that commitment. They need to ask the community to come to the table and to be part of the discussion.”

amgrad3KET’s education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Program Details

One to One

About One to One

Host Bill Goodman and a variety of interesting and engaging people talk about the state and world we live in. Important, memorable, and provocative, this series offers an array of interviews with guests including politicians and philosophers, artists and authors, and the leading thinkers in Kentucky.

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Season 10 Episodes

Jeff Smith and Jonathan Miller

S10 E53 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 12.27.15

Economic Boom for Kentucky Bourbon

S10 E52 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 12.20.15

Steve Beshear Reflects on Service

S10 E51 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 12.13.15

Dr. R. Albert Mohler

S10 E50 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 11.22.15

Governor-elect Matt Bevin

S10 E49 Length 29:03 Premiere Date 11.15.15

Kentucky Life Host Doug Flynn

S10 E48 Length 28:26 Premiere Date 11.8.15

Al Cross on the 2015 Election

S10 E47 Length 28:32 Premiere Date 11.1.15

Trey Grayson

S10 E46 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 10.11.15

Tony Kemper of the de Paul School

S10 E45 Length 27:26 Premiere Date 10.4.15

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth

S10 E44 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 9.27.15

David Gregory on His Journey of Faith

S10 E43 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 9.20.15

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie

S10 E42 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 9.13.15

Sen. Mitch McConnell

S10 E41 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 9.5.15

Education Chief Reflects on Service

S10 E39 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 8.23.15

Making the Case for Higher Academic Standards

S10 E38 Length 28:11 Premiere Date 8.15.15

Emily Bingham Discusses Aunt's Biography

S10 E36 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 8.1.15

Personalized Cancer Treatment

S10 E35 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 7.25.15

Stu Silberman and Brigitte Blom Ramsey

S10 E34 Length 28:07 Premiere Date 7.18.15

Coding - Part 2

S10 E33 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 7.11.15

Scott Terrell on the Lexington Philharmonic

S10 E30 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 6.20.15

Jane Chu and Lori Meadows Discuss Kentucky Arts

S10 E29 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 6.13.15

Giving Voice to Kentucky Women

S10 E28 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 6.6.15

The Heroin Epidemic in Kentucky

S10 E26 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 5.23.15

Al Cross Discusses May 2015 Primary

S10 E25 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 5.16.15

Immigration Laws in Louisville

S10 E24 Length 28:17 Premiere Date 5.9.15

Cameron Ludwick and Blair Hess

S10 E23 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 5.2.15

Len Peters Discusses the EPA

S10 E22 Length 27:46 Premiere Date 4.25.15

Kim Baker Discusses the Arts

S10 E21 Length 28:56 Premiere Date 4.18.15

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Dr. Alison Davis

S10 E20 Length 27:46 Premiere Date 4.11.15

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

S10 E19 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 4.4.15

Dr. Mark Evers

S10 E18 Length 27:11 Premiere Date 3.28.15

Teddy Abrams

S10 E17 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 3.21.15

Dr. Robert Davies

S10 E16 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 2.22.15

Brad Jones: Black Walls Turn Gray

S10 E15 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 2.15.15

SOAR Executive Director Jared Arnett

S10 E14 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 2.8.15

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto

S10 E13 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 2.1.15

Rep. Andy Barr: One to One from Washington

S10 E12 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 2.4.15

Rep. Thomas Massie: One to One from Washington

S10 E11 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 2.3.15

Rep. John Yarmuth: One to One from Washington

S10 E10 Length 27:41 Premiere Date 2.2.15

Rep. Brett Guthrie: One to One from Washington

S10 E9 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 1.30.15

Rep. Ed Whitfield: One to One from Washington

S10 E8 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 1.29.15

Rep. Hal Rogers: One to One from Washington

S10 E7 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 1.28.15

Sen. Rand Paul: One to One from Washington

S10 E6 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 1.27.15

Sen. Mitch McConnell: One to One from Washington

S10 E5 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 1.26.15

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell

S10 E4 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 1.6.15

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers

S10 E3 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 1.18.15

Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo

S10 E2 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 1.11.15

Gov. Steve Beshear

S10 E1 Length 28:41 Premiere Date 12.26.14

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