FOR THE PAST 40 YEARS, the primary purpose of our schools has been to maximize academic achievement. However, over that time, the world has greatly changed. We believe the purpose of schools today is to ensure students can think critically and creatively, collaborate effectively with others, apply skills and knowledge to solving real problems, and find meaningful, fulfilling ways to contribute to the world and their community.

In an era when technical skills are evolving at an unprecedented pace, there is an important set of durable ‘soft skills’ that last throughout an entire career—how we use what we know (critical thinking, communication, etc.) and our character skills. America Succeeds’ Durable Skills initiative seeks to ensure every individual is prepared with the soft skills necessary for success in the workforce regardless of educational attainment, career path, or industry sector.

Defining Durable Skills

Our hypothesis is that every job in every sector requires Durable Skills. Based on Lightcast’s database of tens of millions of employer job postings from the past two years, we started by categorizing 100 of the most in-demand Durable Skills into 10 major themes or competencies.


  • Leadership: Directing efforts and delivering results
  • Character: personal and professional conduct
  • Collaboration: teamwork and connection
  • Communication: Information exchange and management
  • Creativity: New ideas and novel solutions
  • Critical Thinking: Informed ideas and effective solutions
  • Metacognition: Self understanding and personal management
  • Mindfulness: Interpersonal and self awareness
  • Growth Mindset: Improvement and aspiration
  • Fortitude: Constitution and inspiration

Time for a Jolt to Recharge Education Progress

By Brigitte Blom | December 13, 2022

Like Marty and Doc in the 1985 science-fiction blockbuster “Back to the Future,” we find ourselves returning to the past to ensure the Big Bold Future we know can be ours!

This year brought blow after blow, showing Kentucky losing ground to other states on important indicators of education progress.

While much of this traces to the upheaval of the COVID pandemic, we started seeing signs of decline in 2017. To get Kentucky back on track, we must focus on COVID recovery, but also rethink education to meet the future with greater strength, resilience— and sustainable progress. Consider the following examples of hard-won progress lost:

  • 29th in fourth-grade reading — a fall from 22nd in 2019 and a high of 8th in 2015.
  • 28th in eighth-grade reading — a drop from 25th in 2019 and a peak at 12th in 2011.
  • 34th in fourth-grade math — a fall from 30th in 2019 and 21st in 2015.
  • 41st in eighth-grade math — down from 36th in 2019 after reaching 33nd in 2011.

Because COVID had a disproportionate impact on those with fewer resources, Kentucky, a poor state, was likely hit harder than other states. Our losses could have been worse. We should acknowledge the strength in our systems that kept us from outright free fall — and meet our declines in the rankings with resolve to work smarter and harder — together and without division.

By Brigitte Blom
President & CEO

We must also recognize that test scores in reading and mathematics are not all that parents, students, communities, and businesses expect from a world-class public education. The 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act defined seven capacities required of students (with an eighth added in 2000). These include the durable and transferable skills that will serve students in a changing economy and world. Communication, leadership, critical thinking, and collaboration are among these skills.

While we don’t — and arguably shouldn’t — try to boil these skills down to standardized tests, a diploma should ensure meaningful evidence of skill development. Students should practice and be able to articulate how they developed these competencies. A “meaningful diploma” must assure that Kentucky’s students are prepared to succeed.

Our work, as a citizen-led, nonpartisan and independent organization — is the same as ever: striving to create conditions for success and progress. That means advocating for the policy and investment solutions that strengthen our system, like passage of the 2022 Read to Succeed Act and the General Assembly, so far, meeting our six-year Big Bold Ask investment requests for early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary.

It also means supporting and amplifying local solutions to the needs of students and families — a

Groundswell for community and family engagement. Communities need to be at the table.

Sustainable improvement will not be just the work of our school districts, early childhood providers and postsecondary institutions. It requires all of us to be part of the solution.

While we won’t be traveling back to the future in a DeLorean, we are indeed looking for a lightning bolt to restore our momentum. That jolt can come from Kentuckians uniting around a shared commitment, putting the pedal to the metal, and accepting nothing less than reaching that Big Bold Kentucky Future, together!

A Fragile Ecosystem IV – Will Kentucky Child Care Survive When the Dollars Run Out?

September 27, 2022

Nearly three years into the pandemic, Kentucky’s child care sector remains on shaky ground, and the sector is bracing for more challenging times ahead. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, The Prichard Committee and a team of statewide partners released data capturing the pandemic’s impact on Kentucky’s child care sector in the survey series A Fragile Ecosystem: COVID-19’s Impact on Kentucky’s Child Care Sector. The survey series is now releasing its fourth edition with this publication, A Fragile Ecosystem IV: Will Kentucky Child Care Survive When The Dollars Run Out?

By Brigitte Blom, President & CEO

As a nation, we just received the first look at the long-term impact of the pandemic on student learning. These new national scores show 2022 reading and math results for nine-year-olds on the NAEP Long-Term Assessment. The results are sobering, reversing years of progress.

However, nationally and in Kentucky, we know dedicated educators and families met an extraordinary moment with everything they had – making the lockdown months much less damaging than they might otherwise have been.

At the Prichard Committee, the results are reason for a renewed call for school-community collaboration in every facet of recovery response. Every commitment we promoted before the pandemic – engaged schools, families, communities, and businesses – must be deeper and more strategic now.

Only nationwide results are available, with related state level scores due later this calendar year. Here’s a snapshot of the changes, with startling losses in both subjects.

Further, the data show losses are not evenly distributed. Results for the students previously scoring near the top of the NAEP scale are much less severe than the drop for students previously scoring further down the scale. In short, students struggling to reach proficiency before the pandemic lost the most ground through the pandemic. (The asterisks in the charts confirm all declines shown are statistically significant.)

Accelerating student learning with targeted, intentional, and comprehensive approaches must now be the shared focus of schools and communities. Twenty years from now, the students who have struggled because of COVID disruptions are not going to be given a pass – and Kentucky will not be given a pass in quality of life, economic and workforce development. It’s our shared duty to the rising generation to ensure collaboration that results in the development of the full array of knowledge and skills each student will need for the future.

To do that, schools and communities must come together with all the individual and collective ingenuity at their disposal, including the significant financial resources in schools and local municipalities from the federal government.

The release of these NAEP results is a renewed call for school districts to make their learning recovery plans and strategies transparent; to make the regular evaluation of those strategies transparent; and to bring parents, families, community-based organizations, and businesses to the table in designing and iterating toward clearly established and articulated goals.  These results also call on families and communities to respond with full energy – in collaboration with their schools – to support rich and rigorous teaching and learning.

We can meet this moment together – and be better, and stronger, for it!

About the Annual Meeting

This year’s Annual meeting will be held in beautiful Berea, KY. We have scheduled learning and engagement events over two days to maximize opportunities for members, stakeholders and partners to connect and reengage.

There is a $100 registration fee for the meeting this year. This helps cover the costs of food and facility rental. Need help covering the $100 Registration fee? Contact Melody Brooks.

(All Times are Eastern Time)

Thursday, October 27

  • 5:30 pm – Reception (Boone Tavern Event Center)
  • 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm – Dinner, Keynote, & Awards (Boone Tavern Event Center)

Friday, October 28

All Friday meetings will take place at Berea College Alumni Center, Baird Lounge

  • 8:30 am – Business Meeting
  • 9:30 am – Welcome by Chair
  • 10:00 am – Morning Meeting Sessions and panels (To be announced)
  • 12:00 – Lunch
  • 1:00p – Afternoon Meeting Sessions and panels (To be announced)
  • 2:30 – Wrap up/Call to Action
  • 3:00 – Adjourn

2022 Annual Meeting Registration

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Need help covering the $100 Registration and travel costs? Contact Melody Brooks.

Annual Meeting Location: Berea, KY

October 27th – Boone Tavern: 100 S Main St North, Berea, KY 40403
October 28th – Berea College Alumni Building: 101 Chestnut Street, Berea, KY 40403


Guests can make reservations by calling Boone Tavern and asking for the group block Prichard Committee at  859-985-3701. Guests may also make reservations by going to the Boone Tavern website www.boonetavernhotel.com and selecting the Reservations tab. From that screen select “Check Availability and Book Now” blue button.  Use the group code of: 235086 in GROUP ID.  That code is specific to your group block only.  Then, follow the reservations prompts to complete the reservations.

All reservations require a credit card number to guarantee the reservation only. Payment is due upon check-in. We have a 24 hour cancel policy. All reservations must be canceled 24 hours prior to arrival to avoid a one-night room and tax cancellation fee.  Your block will be open at the group rate until September 27, 2022.  After that, all the remaining rooms will go back to general public selling.

Group rate pricing:

Standard Guest Room: $109

All rates are plus 10.24% total tax.

In a Daviess County elementary classroom outside of Owensboro, students are especially glued to a morning math lesson. What better way for a swarm of preschoolers to understand subtraction than tracking how many cookies remain as a plate empties? 5-3=2 is hitting home.

In the space of a half hour, the group of 11 three- and four-year-olds at Burns Elementary covers important basics: In the math problem, veteran preschool teacher Nikki Knott takes extra time to single out and explain the minus sign and the equal sign in the math equation. The class transitions to a foundational literacy lesson on the letter K. Students discuss and practice the sounds the letter makes in different words.

The teacher shows how lines are combined to create the letter when it is written; and, shortly after, each child pushes bars of construction paper together, then draws K’s themselves. Even that prompts an important reminder — the best way to hold a pencil, pen or marker is grasping it between the thumb and first two fingers. “Alligator pinch!” their teacher reminds them.

The preschool day is an active and playful journey through facts and routine that set a solid foundation for everyday action and knowledge. In this Kentucky community, expanding access and participation in high quality early childhood education will get a big boost in 2022 as an educational and economic development priority.

In January, the Greater Owensboro Partnership for Early Development launched a new plan for building a stronger and more accessible early education system over the next four years. The emphasis has been building steam as a major focus of the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro, which has committed $4 million to the cause. In 2021, the group partnered with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence to identify key issues and build the civic campaign.

“The research is clear — the path to opportunity for all begins with the start we provide to our youngest children,” the Partnership stated in a January report outlining its goals. “Investments in high-quality early childhood education result in higher rates of educational attainment, a reduction in health costs, a reduction in the incidence of crime, less demand for social welfare services, and a more competitive local economy for Greater Owensboro. All in the community stand to gain from this work.”

CHILDREN IN THE EARLY HEAD START program at Audubon Area Head Start on the east side of Owensboro play outside in dress-up vests.

Over the next four years, the Greater Owensboro Partnership report calls for:

  • A community awareness push to intensify support for expanded early learning;
  • A coordinated effort to develop and retain a talented pool of early childhood workers;
  • Expanded child care benefits for employees in local businesses including at small and mid-sized employers;
  • Greater awareness among eligible families of child care subsidies and free preschool;
  • A campaign for private child care providers to earn ratings above three stars on the state’s quality scale;
  • Expanded access to clear waiting lists for Head Start and other programs in the county; and
  • Better availability of school readiness and quality data to encourage continuous improvement.

In the last half of 2021, more than 40 community representatives met to draft the strategy after the Prichard Committee and the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration pulled together an analysis of the current early childhood ecosystem in Daviess County, showing opportunities for significant improvement.

The research found that almost half of third graders in the county did not reach state reading proficiency targets in 2019, with economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English language learners facing even steeper proficiency gaps. At present, the analysis found, only about 20 percent of nearly 6,800 children under age five in the county had access to early childhood education services. Licensed providers had capacity to serve about 3,800 children, but enrollments lagged that number.

I’m looking forward to the day when we move the needle on kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading. … That means increased availability of quality, affordable childcare for low-income families.

— David Boeyink


Reshaping early childhood care, improving quality, and focusing on improved school readiness can be key factors in improving quality of life, adult success, and economic conditions, members of the Greater Owensboro Partnership’s organizing group agreed.

“Ultimately, I’m looking forward to the day when we move the needle on kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading,” said David Boeyink, whose involvement with the Public Life Foundation over the past 25 years helped lead to the creation of the new Partnership. “But that will only happen when we get programs on the ground. That means increased availability of quality, affordable childcare for low-income families.”

Those who work in early childhood programs said that a coordinated, community approach may be the best way to address an area like early childhood that spreads across many agencies, including school districts, specialized programs like Head Start, public and home-based providers. The system also involves employers, social workers, specialized assistance aimed at first-time parents and newborns, churches, and requires attention to services offered before, during, and after typical work hours.

Chris Westerfield, preschool coordinator for the Daviess County Public Schools, said he is eager for more parents and community members to see the kind of preparation happening in schools across the county like Burns Elementary.

“It lays the foundation for everything else we do,” he said. Practicing basic skills and gaining experience with other children and adults is a big advantage for children moving into elementary school years, he said. “I hope the communication piece is going to push more people to see the value.”

Boeyink, a former journalist with the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, said that this community provides fertile ground for deeper work in early childhood improvements. Both local school districts have built strong preschool programs and other groups have eagerly embraced school readiness. Local pediatricians, he said, offer a literacy program that provides free books and information to families on reading and brain development.

“Community collaboration isn’t just talk; it’s a daily reality,” he said. “In the midst of a pandemic, we’ve been working with a large, diverse group of people who come to monthly in-person meetings ready to push this project forward.”


At the Audubon Area Head Start program on the east side of Owensboro, a group of three- and four-year-olds move around a busy classroom offering games, puzzles, and areas where teachers have created stations. This day, students play with ice cubes to discuss how they melt into liquid when children handle them. Nearby, another adult is guiding children through a similar activity with a tall, clear container of water. Children take turns choosing items to drop in the container to see what will float, what will sink, and discuss why.

Outside, a group of younger children in the center’s Early Head Start program, run across a play area, trading dress-up vests made to look like the uniform of a chef, police officer, mail carrier, and more. They stop to tinker at play areas or to chat with their teachers.

Amanda Huff, who has worked with local Head Start efforts over the past 15 years from part-time teacher to local-area manager, said that planners here understand that challenges and opportunities extend beyond stronger early learning benefits for the children enrolled.

She said that the Partnership’s goals will also improve the abilities of parents. In many cases, Huff said, the lack of options for affordable child care keep able and talented young parents out of the workforce. “We are missing out on talent in the community because of what we can’t provide for people,” she said.

In addition, leaders of the Greater Owensboro Partnership have recognized the chance to examine their work and share their experiences.

Bruce Hager, chair of the Public Life Foundation, said the Prichard Committee’s involvement not only strengthens efforts locally but will allow lessons to spread in other Kentucky communities. Part of the Prichard Committee’s role is disseminating best practices.

“We are thrilled to support them in work that will have roots in Owensboro but will expand throughout the state to benefit early learners from Pikeville to Paducah,” Hager said last year in announcing the foundation’s long-term emphasis on quality early childhood programs.

Huff is optimistic about what can happen in Owensboro. Her involvement in developing the Partnership’s four-year plan, plus long experience working with a variety of partners, make her look forward to the wider community response.

“This community always comes through — anytime there is a need, you put it out there someone will pick it up,” Huff said. “Children really are put first here, and that’s huge.”

FOUR-YEAR-OLDS AT AUDUBON AREA HEAD START participate in a group discussion.

TOP PHOTO: PRESCHOOL TEACHER NIKKI KNOTT works with a student at Burns Elementary in Daviess County on recognizing and writing out the letters in his name.

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If you find yourself smitten with someone you’ve only just met, you’ll question whether you should give the feeling so much weight – and risk ending up like Michael.

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If you find yourself smitten with someone you’ve only just met, you’ll question whether you should give the feeling so much weight – and risk ending up like Michael.

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If you find yourself smitten with someone you’ve only just met, you’ll question whether you should give the feeling so much weight – and risk ending up like Michael.