Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Council leader on P-20 policy discusses new Commonwealth Continuum in Q&A

January 07, 2021

Ellis
Amanda Ellis

As associate vice president for P-20 policy and programs, Amanda Ellis will help coordinate CPE's role on the new Commonwealth Education Continuum.She has more than two decades of experience in education, including 14 years at Kentucky middle and elementary schools. She previously worked as the chief academic officer and associate commissioner of the Office of Teaching and Learning at the Ke<>ntucky Department of Education.

We had some important news recently. Gov. Andy Beshear announced that CPE will play a key role in the Commonwealth Education Continuum. Can you tell us more about this initiative and its goals?

It's a new collaborative effort between CPE, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Kentucky Department of Education. We are coming together to make a public commitment to strengthen the education pipeline at every level for all Kentuckians. That begins with preschool and spans all the way through advanced degrees and into careers. We want to develop intentional, focused objectives to address what CPE President Aaron Thompson calls "potholes" in the system – areas that disrupt the pathway to success for our students.

Has the partnership set any specific objectives at this point? Because the pipeline is so vast, we've agreed to focus first on the transition between high school and higher education. CPE and our postsecondary institutions are clearly at the forefront, along with our secondary schools, and we've developed some broad goals for year one. We especially want to look at teacher quality, supporting successful transitions and improving access and awareness. But members of the continuum will have a high degree of autonomy when they begin to establish objectives in January.

Let's start with teacher quality. What types of ideas are under consideration? We are really focused on educator preparation and professional learning – ways we can promote and elevate teacher quality – along with diversification of our teacher workforce. Right now, minority teachers make up only 4% of our pool, which is pretty small.

Yeah, especially given that minorities make up nearly a quarter of the student body. But what can be done to encourage more diversity?

There are efforts underway at some of the universities as well as KDE. They really have been promoting the KAET (Kentucky Academy for Equity in Teaching) Scholarship to encourage more minority teacher candidates to enter the profession. They also established the Educators Rising program and an education career pathway – all wonderful efforts. We need to improve our collaboration on these issues to support the work being done.

Right now, we are looking at different teacher recruitment and retention models. We are also learning from efforts to address a shortage of special education teachers and improve teacher diversity at Jefferson County Public Schools. We also want to tap the expertise of the diversity, equity and inclusion team at CPE to develop and promote sustainable and supportive practices.

You mentioned spreading awareness. What do students need to know and how will the continuum help?

So it's wonderful that we have scholarships and supports, but if folks don't know about them, it's not helpful. One of the things we are looking at is a unified communications plan. Also, many of our organizations do great things, but all at different times. We need to be more strategic and make the postsecondary application process and affordability more intuitive. One example is rebooting CPE's KnowHow2Go website so that students and families can find what they need without going to a host of different organizations.

You've had an interesting career and a lot of experiences at various levels in the education pipeline. From your own personal experience, are there any important lessons to bring to this effort?

What drives my passion is the belief that every part of the pipeline matters, but nobody can do it alone. Even if we make significant gains at CPE, we cannot sustain that without the support of KDE. And they can't succeed without the support of early childhood, and the workforce can't succeed without the support of postsecondary. So we all have this interdependence.

I call this a moral imperative, and we owe it to our youngest citizens in Kentucky. If we want to be sustainable and improve the lives of our families and our future adults, we have to invest now. And they are absolutely worthy. That's what it is for me. I've been an elementary principal, and I've seen disparity beyond what I would ever imagine and realized how quite sheltered I was even though I grew up in a blue- collar home. Many parents do the best they can with what they have, and it's not always easy. But when you have a group of adults who are committed to the success of students, it will happen. And we owe it to our students to do this.

Yes we do. Thank you for your time and good luck.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 7/22/2021