Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

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Checking in on the Rose Requirements

30 years ago, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued its powerful ruling in Rose v. Council for Better Education, insisting that a constitutional “efficient system of common schools” must give each and every child opportunity to develop seven student capacities. Do our current state standards, assessments, and accountability rules aim to deliver those capacities? Here comes my take.

1. Communication Skills

Rose calls for:

+ “Sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization”

Our current system includes:

+ Reading and writing standards (written communication skills)

+ Reading and writing assessments used in accountability

A full system needs to address:

+ Speaking and listening (oral communication skills)

+ Reading and writing to seek new knowledge, find relevant sources, check credibility, and integrate the information obtained

2. Economic, Social, and Political Systems

3. Governmental Processes

Rose calls for:

+ “Sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices”

+ “Sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the student to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation”

Our current system includes:

+ New social studies standards that engage these requirements

+ Social studies assessments under development, with data from those assessments slated to be included in accountability reports

A full system needs to address:

+ Sustained inquiry into social issues, study of social problems and analysis of potential solutions

+ Engagement with varied perspectives

+ Skilled participation in shared decision-making

4. Wellness

Rose calls for:

+ “Sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness”

Our current system includes:

+ Standards for health knowledge

A full system needs to address:

+ Self-knowledge, including active use of health knowledge and skills

+ Evaluating student knowledge and skill without state assessments

+ Promoting and ensuring health teaching and learning without state accountability levers

5. Arts

Rose calls for:

+ “Sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage”

Our current system includes:

+ Standards for creating, performing, and appreciating in dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts

A full system needs to address:

+ Poetry, story-telling, and other literary creation

+ Evaluating student knowledge and skill without state assessments

+ Promoting and ensuring health teaching and learning without state accountability levers

6. Preparation for Life Work

7. Skills to Compete

Rose calls for:

+ “Sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and pursue life work intelligently”

+ “Sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or in the job market”

Our current system includes:

+ Standards for mathematics, science, technology, and vocational skills

+ Assessments of mathematics, science, and postsecondary readiness, all used in our school accountability system

A full system needs to address:

+ Evaluating deeper learning in science and math, including skills for systematic investigation and sustained and sustained problem-solving

+ Evaluating work-related capacities like teamwork, reliability, and persistence

+ Promoting and ensuring effective teaching and learning without accountability levers in those areas

State Accountability and Beyond

Our current academic standards set high expectations for most Rose requirements (though the gaps on speaking, listening, and creative writing need attention). Our assessments gather useful evidence on some of the knowledge and skills in those standards, and the ratings and interventions of our state accountability system encourages schools to pay close attention to those elements.

On other capacities identified by Rose, our statewide assessments gather very little evidence. Timed, standardized assessments won’t tell us whether students are developing capacities to carry out independent research and investigations, analyze and solve problems, participate in the arts, or work effectively in collaborative teams.

Without test scores, it’s hard to imagine a state accountability approach that presses schools to deliver those capacities.

That’s why I think it’s time to imagine a parallel system of commitment. We can and should build up systemic capacity to deliver all the Rose capacities. That system can include:

  • Teachers who design big curriculum and deep assignments for the full standards, reason together about the resulting student work as evidence of students meeting or not meeting standards, and work together to move each learner to the high levels we expect
  • School leaders who guide and support that teacher work, with special attention to making and protecting the collaborative time it requires
  • Community members who watch for and push for that level of student learning and teacher collaboration, making it clear that both the assessed standards and the unassessed standards matter
  • State leaders who speak clearly for our full expectations, and back their words up with adequate resources and enough policy stability to allow teachers, school leaders, and community members to stay focused on the big teaching and learning challenges

Our constitutional education language is a promise Kentuckians made to one another in 1891, and Rose stands as a 1989 renewal and clarification of that promise. To live up to both, we need a new mobilization (yes, a groundswell) to deliver on the full capacities our rising generation deserves.