1997 Winner
Winners:
Commonwealth of Kentucky
1997
Publication:
Innovations in American Government Awards
Sponsored By:
Innovations in American Government Awards
Jurisdiction:
Kentucky

Prior to 1989, the Kentucky public school system suffered from a major achievement gap among kids from different districts. At the state level, Kentucky was constantly at the lowest end of the national rankings in school performance. The State was not oriented towards spending on education, teachers were not paid properly, and the school administrations had a reputation for cronyism and nepotism. The children of Kentucky were suffering academically due to a profound lack of exposure to technology, fresh pedagogical approaches, and achievement standards.

Rose v. The Council for Better Education (1989) was a dramatic state Supreme Court ruling that deemed the entire public school system of Kentucky unconstitutional and discriminatory. Recreating Public Education for Results grew out of the Kentucky's Education Reform Act (KERA) the legislation mandated by the ruling. Since the precedent of equality has been set, constant dollar spending on education has shot up 56 percent to $3.1 billion a year. Teacher salaries have increased more than 20 percent and the State has poured $220 million into upgrading technology in the schools. Spending inequalities have been diminished by an unprecedented 50 percent.

But the reform is about much more than money. Individual schools are now directly accountable for academic achievement. School-based councils made up of parents, teachers, and principles, run each school, and all are held to high standards. Top performing schools are rewarded financially and those who are struggling to show improvement are supported through increased funding and professional consulting.

Teachers and administrators agree that the premium set on accountability and achievement are the most important qualities of Recreating Public Education for Results. In conjunction with the increasing equity throughout the school system, the effort to increase student performance and school responsibility raises the standards and capabilities of all classrooms in Kentucky. Schools can easily be targeted for needing more support, or as successful learning environments due to the site-based accountability provided by the school councils. In Kentucky schools have been propelled forward by the sound combination of funding equality and contemporary methods of quality control.

Instead of languishing at the bottom of the national public education performance spectrum, the State of Kentucky can now realistically shoot for the top echelons thanks to Recreating Public Education for Results.

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