Gov. Andy Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, President for the Council on Postsecondary Education Aaron Thompson and Education Commissioner Jason Glass recently announced the creation of the Commonwealth Education Continuum to assist students as they transition through the state’s public education system.

“This is an education first administration, and building a better Kentucky starts with our public education system,” Beshear said. “This continuum ensures that we’re taking advantage of every opportunity that helps our students and teachers.”

The Commonwealth Education Continuum is a partnership between the Council on Postsecondary Education, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Kentucky Department of Education.

The Commonwealth Education Continuum is co-chaired by Coleman, Thompson and Glass and will consist of 27 members whose expertise ranges from early childhood to adult education. Members are expected to be announced soon.

The continuum will focus on the need to increase and improve the quality and competencies of a diverse teaching workforce, as well as to increase student and family access to and awareness of opportunities for students to achieve the necessary degrees and credentials to enter the workforce successfully.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 51% of Kentucky children are kindergarten-ready and 40% of Kentucky fourth-graders are proficient in mathematics, with that percentage falling to 29% by middle school.

In order to close the gap between educational transitions, this collaboration provides a forum through which to strengthen the education pipeline and ensure that Kentucky’s educational experience, from preschool through postsecondary education, provides an equitable opportunity to successfully transition to the next level.

Coleman, who also serves as secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet said, “Today’s announcement is another step toward ensuring every Kentuckian has the tools they need to succeed from cradle to career. The collaboration between these shareholders and leaders will help us work together to build a better Kentucky for everyone.”

“Our educators must be able to teach with cultural awareness of student needs and learning styles,” said Glass. “That means we need a more diverse teaching workforce.”

Presently in Kentucky, students are two times more likely to be male than their teachers. While 23% of Kentucky’s public school students are minorities, only 4.8% of teachers are.

In order to address the significant attainment gaps between underrepresented minority and white adults, Glass said, “The change has to start with our schools, because schools are a microcosm of our larger society.”

Thompson also detailed how a lack of representation can lead to disparities in access to high school dual credit and other early college experiences.

Only 60% of Kentucky high school graduates are college- or career-ready, which leads to Kentucky’s in-state college-going rate being just 51.7%, down from 55% in 2013-14, and significantly below the national average of 70%t. The gaps remain higher for non-white students.

“We must ensure these opportunities are available to all students,” he said, adding that it includes “more and better information about how to plan and pay for college.”

The Commonwealth Education Continuum will hold its first meeting in January 2021.