Reviewing Kentucky’s Education Power Structure: Gene Wilhoit

Kentucky Power Structure, Common Core
Kentucky Power Structure, Common Core
Feb. 11, 2013 The National Center for Innovation in Education was established with Gene Wilhoit as Exec. Director

Feb. 11, 2013 The National Center for Innovation in Education was established with Gene Wilhoit as Exec. Director
There is a reason why Kentucky was the first state to adopt and implement the Common Core State Standards. As noted in an earlier article, Kentucky’s power structure consist of Gene Wilhoit, Terry Holliday, Felicia Smith, Steve Beshear, David Adkisson, Vicki Phillips, etc., along with a bureaucratic framework that rivals most any other state. And the timing was right as well.
In 2009 the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1. This legislation mandated new academic standards focused on the “critical knowledge, skills and capacities needed for success in the global economy.” The Senate Bill 1 steering committee supported collaboration with the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), then led by former Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit, in the Common Core Standards project. February of 2010, Governor Steve Beshear and the Kentucky Department of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (although now yet completed and without our elected legislators’ involvement).


Gene Wilhoit is perhaps the most experienced education administrator, not only of this Kentucky group, but on the national scene as well.
Gene Wilhoit is currently the Executive Director of the National Center for Innovation in Education located on the University of Kentucky’s Research Campus. Gene served as Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) from 2006 until 2013, having spent his entire professional career serving education at the local, state, and national levels. At CCSSO, Gene spearheaded 46 states’ collective action to adopt the Common Core State Standards, marshaled a comprehensive restructuring of teacher and leader supports including consensus on preparation reform, stimulated state action to improve data systems and founded the multi-state Innovation Lab Network.

From 1994 to 2006, Gene led two state education agencies, as director of the Arkansas Department of Education and as Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education. In those positions, he shepherded finance reform, led equity initiatives, designed and implemented assessment and accountability systems, advanced nationally recognized preschool and technology programs, and reorganized state agencies to focus on service and support. Gene began his career as a social studies teacher in Ohio and Indiana. He served as a program director in the Indiana Department of Education, an administrator in Kanawha County West Virginia, and a special assistant in the U.S. Department of Education before assuming the position of Executive Director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) which he held from 1986-1993.

Gene holds degrees from Georgetown College and Indiana University. He has also studied education administration at the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies.
On a summer day in 2008, Gene Wilhoit, then the Executive Director of the CCSSO, and David Coleman, considered the “architect of Common Core”, spent hours in Bill Gates’ headquarters in Seattle, trying to persuade him and his wife, Melinda, to turn their idea, a new approach to transform every public-school classroom in America, into reality. Weeks later, Bill called back, Gates was all in. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With hundreds of millions of dollars, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments, and funding big teachers unions, business organizations, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, parent teacher groups, the US PTA, etc.
Without Gene Wilhoit, the Gates Foundation may not be bankrolling the federal reform of our education system, and without Gene Wilhoit and his strong leadership during his time at the CCSSO, a majority of states may not have adopted the Common Core State Standards. At his current post, as the Executive Director of the National Center for Innovation in Education, Gene will continue to influence innovation in education and in the training of teachers for the future.
Kentuckians would rather see members of this power structure develop education standards and their aligned assessments for Kentuckians, by Kentuckians, rather than adopting standards that were developed in secret behind closed doors at the national level. Transparency is critical to us as is control of our education system at the state and local levels.
Wayne M. Meyer, AIA
A Father and Grandfather A 40+ Year Professional wmeyer1248@gmail.com

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