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The 2012-13 school year is off to a great start. We are into our first full month of school and we are pleased with the smooth beginning to what promises to be a successful and exciting school year.
The professionals at every level of our organization are to be commended for the hard work and attention to detail that resulted in a tremendously smooth opening of school this year.
It is always fascinating to see schools transform from nearly empty buildings one day to centers of learning full of excited young people and adults the next.
We appreciate the efforts of our principals, teachers, office and support staff, and personnel in our transportation, facilities, and food service departments in getting the new year off to such a great start.
Our goal was to immediately establish a school and classroom environment where students can safely and comfortably think and learn at high levels and we are pleased to see this has happened.
There are lots of exciting changes our students will experience this year.
We are delighted to welcome many more students to our schools.
Of the 174 school districts in the state, we are currently the eighth largest and we continue to grow, gaining 49 students more than this time last year.
We are taking advantage of the slower pace of student growth to get caught up on much needed renovations.
Students who returned to Centerfield elementary were welcomed by a bright, fresh, more modern and energy efficient learning environment than the one they left at the end of the last school year.
After more than 35 years of use, the building was overdue for a major renovation. Over the summer, we also installed wireless network access points throughout our schools so that teachers and students can use handheld technology devices to make learning more engaging and rigorous.
Our students are also embarking on the second year of a completely revamped math and English/language arts curricula.
The breadth and depth of these changes are too vast to adequately address in this brief article; however, we encourage you to contact your child’s teacher or principal to learn more.
These revisions are a result of educational reform legislation enacted in 2009.
The act, known as Senate Bill 1, called for immediate changes to school curriculum and student assessment, and altered school and district accountability.
Future articles will highlight the reason for these changes and will explain in more detail what is widely recognized as the most significant education reform in Kentucky since the landmark education reform act of 1989, known as KERA.
It has been an enormous undertaking to make the changes mandated by SB1. I am proud of our teachers and leaders at the school and district level and the way they have used this opportunity to raise the bar for our students at all levels.
Our district has never been content with anything less than challenging our students to achieve at the highest possible levels so we embrace many of the changes brought about by SB1.
We have developed a roadmap for equipping our students with the skills they will need to be successful when they graduate from the Oldham County Schools.
The state standards are embedded in this road map, along with the other critical skills we have determined our students need: critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, media and technology, leadership and communication.
The new standards adopted by the state, known as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, are more challenging across the board than the previous standards.
The KCAS are based on the skills and knowledge that students will need to have in order to be prepared for college and/or a career when they graduate.
As a result of the new standards, our teachers have raised their expectations for students, and we are encouraged by how well our students are responding to these higher, more rigorous learning expectations.
In addition to new curriculum standards, last spring our students, as well as all students throughout the state, were tested for the first time using an entirely redesigned assessment system.
We are looking forward to receiving these results in mid-October.
In the meantime, we will be providing lots of information to our community and our parents about this new assessment system.
The results from this inaugural year will establish a baseline for all schools and districts throughout the state.
Our focus remains on student learning, and we will use this new assessment information to improve the learning of each of our students and to set improvement goals for schools.
We have established lofty learning goals for each of our students and each school.
Assessments that measure student learning help us reach those goals by allowing us to respond with instruction, intervention, and acceleration that meets each student’s current ability and takes them to the next level.
In the next few weeks, we will provide more details regarding the new state standards and assessment system, and how our schools are using this opportunity to provide excellent educational opportunities for our students.
Will Wells is the superintendent of Oldham County Schools. He can be reached at 241-3500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The views in this column are those of the writer.