For Kentucky school systems, it is not all about testing. It's just a lot about testing.
It's also a lot about college and career preparation and student achievement. Hickman County Schools, a tiny district hundreds of miles from the Capital City is doing something right in all those categories.
On February 4, 2016, Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt came down from the Capitol Plaza Tower in Frankfort to see for himself what has propelled a once was at risk system into a system of achievement all within a few years.
Pruitt, shown at right, the sixth commissioner of education, has been on the job for only a few months. He follows Terry Holliday who retired in 2015. Pruitt is a former teacher who spent 12 years teaching science and chemistry. "A teacher is not what you are. It's who you are."
After spending the morning visiting the two school buildings that make up the Hickman County School District, Pruitt spoke at a luncheon honoring the supporters of Falcon Academy. All juniors and seniors can take college classes without charge because supporters donate tuition money and the School Board supplies books. Falcon Academy works with Murray State University and West Kentucky Community and Technical College for credit hours. Students participating in Falcon Academy served guests as waiters and autographed table coverings with their credit hours.
Below: Commissioner Stephen Pruitt jokes with Murray State's Gina Winchester. She's been involved with Falcon Academy since its beginning.
Twenty three juniors and forty one seniors at Hickman County High School are on track to earn over 885 credit hours earned by the end of the school year. In addition to college credits, students can enroll in the Area Technical Center in fields like carpentry, welding, mechanics, health sciences and computing.
Students are provided test prep courses for ACT achievement. The District estimates that test preparation can raise test scores by an average of two points.
Pruitt said he wanted to be in Kentucky because the state is doing things for students. Since the state raised the drop out rate, it has the highest graduation rate in the nation.
There are three principles that Pruitt espouses:
Equity - every kid has opportunity;
Achievement - graduation matters; and
Integrity - we need to be honest with our kids.
Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt found in Hickman County a school system that works on the principles he values.