Friday, February 19, 2016

If you are from Frankfort, bring evidence

What constitutes evidence? As a former science teacher, this question has always been an important consideration for me. The dictionary defines evidence as the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.

So why am I writing about evidence when this is an education blog? Well, when we talk about policy it is a critical point – one that we, as a society and as a Commonwealth, need to embrace.This will be essential as we embark on creating a new accountability system for our schools.

First, there is a difference in data and evidence. Data are the things you collect. They can be qualitative or quantitative. They can be descriptive and even predictive. However, all the data in the world does not constitute evidence. Evidence is only achieved when the data are put into a logical order that reveals patterns or trends AND reasoning is applied to address the phenomena.

I am a pragmatic guy who likes things simple. But I am also a person who does not accept the things people say as true without data AND evidence. In education, we have heard too many times, “Research shows….” What research? Who did it? Was there bias? What does the data say? WHAT is the evidence?

I believe evidence is a key principle to make one’s thinking visible. Evidence explains not just the data, but how decisions are made and the logic behind them.

I have a sign in my office that states, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.” I love my sign and its intent, but I think we may need to amend it to include providing evidence.

So, what does this have to do with what is going on in Kentucky education? It is about our education shareholders holding everyone in Frankfort accountable, including me. I challenge you to hold our policymakers, educators and all of our partners accountable by demanding evidence. I call on our citizenry to not respond to education work based on hearsay or rhetoric, but to require that we present evidence that backs up the reasons for proposed and final decisions.

In short, it is my belief that in all we do in Frankfort, we should make our thinking visible. We should not be allowed to stand on anecdote or just data. We cannot be allowed to give simple one liners that attempt to justify our decisions. Rather we should be able to provide data that shows patterns or trends toward the things we value in education. But again, the key is that we make our thinking visible. It’s said the devil is in the details. So also, I would call on all Kentuckians to inform themselves with the facts and thoroughly read everything that is produced regarding proposed changes in education.

We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us in developing Kentucky’s new accountability system. It will be hard work with a lot of feedback and moving parts.

Shortly, you will see announcements about my town hall tour to hear from all Kentuckians about what we value in schools so we may begin shaping Kentucky’s vision for accountability. I am looking forward to meeting a lot of people, hearing their views on what we value in education, and developing a system that will be the envy of the country.

If we are to build Kentucky’s public education system on equity, achievement and integrity, we need all of our shareholders to hold Frankfort accountable for providing evidence and visible thinking about all of our decisions, but especially this one.

Data is valuable, but evidence is critical to good and transparent decision making. So, perhaps every Kentuckian needs a sign that states, “In God we trust; if you’re from Frankfort, bring evidence.”


  1. Dr. Pruitt, you were recently quoted as saying, "What do we care about? What do we value? It is time to stop valuing the test and start valuing our students." and "I call on our citizenry to not respond to education work based on hearsay or rhetoric, but to require that we present evidence that backs up the reasons for proposed and final decisions."

    As a special education teacher, I value all our students, but sadly our system currently does not. Twenty percent of our student population is being left behind and I have both the data and the evidence to prove it. By training teachers to recognize the warning signs, screening those identified students at an early age, and then providing them with the correct multi-sensory interventions through RTI and/or special education quickly and efficiently improves their academic success. Their reading, writing, spelling and math become more commensurate with their same age peers. Most importantly, the well being of the child is increasingly improved. They are less stressed and anxiety decreases. Their social interactions improve as they feel accepted and understood. Confidence begins to show on their face and through the risks they take academically and socially. If data and evidence is what you need you can find it right here in Kentucky. There's evidence in our children who are receiving everything mentioned above. Those children can be found in Campbell County, Boone County, Anchorage Independent, The Hindman Settlement School, and Boyle County. There are many other children in private schools and tutoring programs experiencing this success. What we need is for every Kentucky school district to follow suit.

    There are many experts, "mommy-advocates', teachers, and students ready and willing to help Kentucky be a leader as we follow the Guidance released in October 2015 by the U.S. Department of Education.

    Dr. Pruitt are you ready? Our children are.

  2. KY must address dyslexia like no other state and teach all our citizens to read. Dennis and Victoria Molfese are internationally know educational researchers which have offered to fine tune all existing programs from birth to adulthood free of charge. We don't need more programs, we just need the programs we have to be more effective! Bring it on Dennis Molfese and Tori! We are ready for you!

  3. There has to be an easier way to comment on your blog. I know about 50 that would be telling you how dyslexia has effected their lives but they won't post. It took me 2 days to figure it out. If you want to know what the public thinks, please make it easier for them to tell you.