Op-Ed: Improving Kentucky’s Early Literacy & Math Outcomes

Op-Ed

By: Rep. James Tipton and Brigitte Blom Ramsey

ClayCoNews - Op-Ed: Improving Kentucky’s Early Literacy & Math Outcomes - Rep. James Tipton - Brigitte Ramsey

Left: Rep. James Tipton represents District 53 (Anderson, Bullitt and Spencer counties) - Right: Brigitte Blom Ramsey is President and CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

The General Assembly has an opportunity in this legislative session to invest in the capacity of our teachers to improve student success in third grade reading and mathematics. House Bill 271, along with a $1 million appropriation in the budget, would create the Kentucky Early Entry Initiative, a partnership with the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and a proven way to strengthening teaching and learning for Kentucky’s young students.

Research shows two primary factors impact student achievement: teacher experience and the socio-economic status of students. Therefore, in poor state like Kentucky, teaching matters most. By improving teacher preparation programs and supporting evidenced-based professional development opportunities, we will improve outcomes for our students and begin breaking the cycle of deep poverty in our state. Further, it’s been estimated that simply bringing all Kentucky students up to a level of basic proficiency in reading and mathematics would result in more than $300 billion in the state’s economic growth, an expansion of our economy that all Kentuckians will benefit from.

The proposed Early Entry Initiative will support 100 early career teachers per year in partnership with the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and target teachers in early elementary classrooms where the fundamentals of reading and mathematics are built. The Initiative is a key recommendation of a task force facilitated last year by the Prichard Committee and comprised of educators, college and university faculty, and legislative leaders. The task force studied issues related to early literacy, mathematics and teacher preparation and development. These meetings resulted in a report entitled, Teaching Matters Most: Student Success in the Early Grades, available at prichardcommittee.org, which provides recommendations for both state and local action.

Research confirms that students taught by National Board-certified teachers experience substantial learning gains, and that high-quality teaching is the most important school factor impacting student achievement. More than 4,000 Kentucky teachers have achieved National Board certification to-date.  The Early Entry Initiative will multiply the impact of National Board certification on our education outcomes, specifically early reading and math outcomes.

The early years of education build the foundation students need to do well in middle and high school and to be successful in college and the workforce. Building these foundational skills before students enter fourth grade requires a sustained focus on equipping teachers with the sharpest literacy and numeracy tools through both their college training and regular professional development. The Early Entry Initiative is designed to do just that, for first through third year teachers entering elementary classrooms and backed by the evidence of the National Board Standards.

We urge the Kentucky General Assembly to support House Bill 271, the Kentucky Early Entry Initiative, and to fund this crucial step in our state’s educational progress. It is a small ask of just $1 million in this budget – for a BIG return, and a step towards a big, bold future for our students and our state.

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Rep. James Tipton represents District 53 (Anderson, Bullitt and Spencer counties); Brigitte Blom Ramsey is President and CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

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