To start off the State of Education Address, Commissioner Wayne D. Lewis, Jr. regaled everyone with stories of his past in the world of education.

Lewis explained that he began teaching at a young age at New Orleans public schools. He said, early in his career, he began to understand realities about kids lives, their background and the challenges that they faced.

“Educators have a window into families, into communities, in a way that even physicians don’t. You get to understand the challenges as well as triumphs that families deal with on a daily basis,” said Lewis.

Lewis explained that the students he taught came to him with tremendous challenges and the adults did nothing to help.

“Everyone shows up and wants to do the best they absolutely can by kids,” he said.

But Lewis explained that the system had been constructed in such a way that that the kids got the short end of the stick. In order to illustrate this, Lewis explained that despite the difficulties the students he taught faced, they had been given him as a teacher, someone who did not have enough training or background yet.

Lewis said that the inequality perpetuated in the system is “why I got into education. That’s why I stayed in education.” He went on to say that he started with those stories so that everyone can have a clear understanding of who he is, what he believes in and why he does what he does.

New Strategic Plan

Lewis explained that the strategic plan had been created, headed by Chief Performance Officer at the Kentucky Department of Education Karen Dodd, was revamped in 2019. He said that the main reason for this was to change the central outcome by which they measured success to student achievement and learning. He said that the plan has been implemented and they are making good progress.


Lewis explained that the changes to Kentucky’s graduation requirements are important because they “set a meaningful bar towards high school graduation in Kentucky.” He explained that Kentucky’s graduation rate is one of the highest in the country at 91%.

But, Lewis explained, Kentucky has less than the national average of students who move into post-secondary education. So they went back and looked at the already existing graduation requirements and edited them to make sure that students get a diploma and be ready for life after high school.

Lewis said, with the help of teachers from across the state, the KDE has also revised Kentucky’s academic standards. Teachers helped to form new standards for math, reading, social studies, health, P.E.,and computer science.

The KDE also has revised portions of their accountability system by bringing in stakeholders and changing how they look at growth, said Lewis. He said that they have also implemented a new accountability system with a star rating system this year.


Lewis handed out four different awards to highlight and recognize innovative practices in public education.

“We have some incredible bright spots across our state,” said Lewis.

The first award went to the Ohio Valley Education Cooperative. Lewis explained that within the program students controlled the “time, place, and pace of their learning.” Lewis explained that the students design their own education experiences and are taught how what they are learning applies to the real world.

The next award went to Laurel County School’s Superintendent Doug Bennett for Laurel County’s Center for Innovation. Lewis said that the center focuses on english, math, and technology education and the staff delivers instructional education while also helping students focus on their chosen career path. He said that the center has three stages of project management such as design, create, and demonstrate.

The third award went to Meade County School’s Superintendent John Millay for the partnership between Meade County Schools, Meade County School Board, Meade County ATC, the Department of Education, and Elizabeth Town Community and Technical College.

The fourth award was presented to Owensboro County School’s Superintendent Nick Brake for the innovative academy partnership between Owensboro Independent and the Davie’s County Public Schools. Lewis explained that the school started four years ago and the first graduating class was this past may.

Other Highlights

• Lewis said he was able to recommend to the Board of Education two districts, Breathitt County and Menifee County, that had been under state management when he became commissioner to become state assisted. Lewis explained that this means the power that had been with him returned to the superintendent and the board of education.

• Gretta Hylton became the first Associate Commissioner at KDE for the Office of Special Education and Early Learning while Rob Akers became the first Associate Commisioner at KDE for the Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness.

• According to information from the Kentucky Longitudinal Data System Opperation by the Kentucky Center for Statistics in Kentucky after seven years only 30% of kids are career and college ready.

• From 2015 to 2019 in KPREP scores proficient and distinguished levels have stayed relatively flat.

• Novice scores in reading haven’t had much movement but novice scores in math have a slight uptick.

• ACT scores for Kentucky have not show incredible movement.

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