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Kentucky State Legislature Relies on Alliance Advocates for New K-3 Teacher Preparation Strategies

Last year, Kentucky advocates convened a task force on early grades educator preparation and professional learning. The task force was formed and led by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. As a result of their work, two bills based on the task force’s recommendations were introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 session. The bills were aimed at advancing educator preparation and supporting early literacy instruction. And though the legislation didn’t pass, the work of the task force continues to lift early educator excellence as a policy priority. This first pass at legislation, our Kentucky allies say, is an important foundational step in the longer process of creating a strong, pro-early-education policy environment.

The Task Force on Educator Preparation and Professional Learning: Literacy and Numeracy for Primary Grades was formed in summer of 2020 and was composed of legislators, teachers and principals, students, postsecondary and K-12 education leaders, and Prichard Committee members. The group studied and considered policy recommendations on issues related to early literacy and mathematics as well as teacher preparation and development.

Their work culminated in the release of a report titled Teaching Matters Most: Student Success in the Early Grades. The report details the importance of high-quality instruction from highly trained educators in the early grades and provides policy recommendations in regards educator preparation; professional learning; equity, teacher diversity, and cultural competency; and state funding.

“When it comes to our schools improving reading and math proficiency, research nationally and in Kentucky, shows the quality of teaching matters most,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, President and CEO of The Prichard Committee. “Enacting the recommendations in this report is a sure way to begin to stem the decline in our national rankings in literacy we’ve witnessed the last few years, and to ensure Kentucky once again leads the nation in education improvement.”

Earlier this year, two bills were introduced based on recommendations from the task force report. House Bill 271 would have created the Kentucky Early Entry Initiative in partnership with the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. The bill, which also relies on a $1 million budget appropriation, would support early career educators in receiving National Board Certification, a proven way to strengthen teaching and learning for young students. Senate Bill 115, the Read to Succeed Act, included support for early literacy diagnostic assessments and screening, intervention and student supports, family engagement, and teacher preparation and professional development.

Kentucky K-3 Teacher Development Screen Shot
Op-Ed pieces like this one -- co-authored with the bills' sponsors -- elevated the task force's priorities in the legislature and across the state.

With support from the Alliance, the Prichard Committee worked tirelessly advocating for the passage of these bills. They published an op-ed on HB 271 and one on SB 155, each co-authored by the bill’s bill’s sponsors.

“Though this legislation ultimately did not pass,” Ramsey says. “We know early childhood advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Convening voices, bringing on passionate sponsors, introducing strong new legislation for the first time – these are all crucial steps in the long push to improve teaching and learning for Kentucky’s young children.”

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