Too many first-year college students need to take remedial courses. Since the formation of the state P-16 Council in April 1999, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Department of Education worked to create a coherent system of education-one in which students learn and make progress from pre-kindergarten through the baccalaureate without unnecessary and unintended barriers. One of the first tasks was to convene K-12 teachers and postsecondary faculty to define college-readiness in English (reading and writing) and mathematics. Rarely if ever in Kentucky have educators statewide—elementary through postsecondary levels, and including arts and sciences faculty—been brought together by discipline to define competency expectations across the P-16 continuum.
The cost of postsecondary remedial placement-in time, money, and morale-is unacceptably high. The department and the CPE recognize that the commonwealth's goal of increasing postsecondary enrollment, retention, and graduation rates requires the P-12 and postsecondary systems to work together. They assembled two teams of educators to address the high rate of remedial placement in English and mathematics.
The experiences of the few other states that have tried to align the curricula and P-12 and postsecondary competency standards guided alignment team planning. Dr. Janis Somerville, a consultant from The Education Trust (a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit advocacy group) and the National Association of System Heads in Washington, D.C., advised staff on how to identify areas of the P-12 and postsecondary systems to represent each sector. Steven Kay of the Lexington consulting firm Roberts & Kay, Inc. clarified the agenda and suggested how the teams could best function.
Each team comprised 16 members (Literacy Alignment Team Roster, Mathematics Alignment Team Roster): six K-12 educators, including one elementary, one middle, and one high school teacher, and one representative from each of three levels of K-12 administration (superintendent, curriculum development or supervision, and assessment); and 10 postsecondary faculty members, including one from each of the four-year public institutions, one from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and one from the independent institutions.
K-12 representatives were selected by the Department of Education. Postsecondary representatives were nominated by the chief academic officers of their respective institutions, so that the recommendations would have a greater impact in each institution. Postsecondary faculty on the literacy team included members of departments of philosophy, communications, and languages and literature, as well as of English and writing programs; faculty on the mathematics team included members of departments of biology, political science, and computer science and information systems, as well as of mathematics. Among the postsecondary members were representatives from various levels of administration. Preliminary versions of each team’s recommendations were shown to focus groups of parents and employers convened by the Prichard Committee, labor leaders, students who have taken postsecondary remedial programs, and the chief academic officers of the public institutions for their advice.
Interim Commissioner Kevin M. Noland and CPE President Gordon K. Davies issued the invitation to team members. Council member Peggy Bertelsman agreed to chair the literacy team, and Board of Education and P-16 Council member Lydia Carol Gabbard agreed to chair the math team. The teams met from March 1999 to March 2000 and regularly communicated over the Internet by listserv.
The discussions held by both the literacy and mathematics alignment teams have opened up areas for further joint work between P-12 and postsecondary educators. Since the alignment teams began, a statewide early mathematics testing program has been established, and the P-16 Council is examining how to offer the Pre-College Curriculum to more or all high school students.