Re-Do gives students who know better an opportunity to do better…

Approximately 62% of Kentucky's secondary and elementary school students are presently failing the grade in which they are enrolled. 

The Governor of Kentucky has signed Senator Max Wise’s Senate Bill 128, a.k.a. the “Academic Re-Do” bill. It passed the Senate without a single dissent and passed the House 93-7.

Many parents from across Kentucky have reached out to me to discover my opinion about whether their children should seize hold of this opportunity? I have no idea why my counsel is being sought, but am happy to give it where it is requested. The below are my thoughts... 

First off, it was just as well Governor Beshear signed the “Re-Do" bill into law. There existed the greatest of likelihoods the legislature would have overridden Beshear’s veto anyway. Every veto this Governor has exercised, since coming into office, has been overridden.

This bill has received overwhelming support across Kentucky. Many kids across the commonwealth are planning on taking this “second chance” if their local boards permit. Individual districts are still required to decide if the opportunity will be afforded to its students.

I believe the late Maya Angelou would have approved. She was a civil rights activist, a poet extraordinaire, and the award winning author of a memoir published in 1969 entitled, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She also published numerous collections of both essays and works of poetry.

Maya Angelou didn’t care one bean about high school sports. Neither do many of the proponents of the Re-do law.

She cared an awful lot about second chances. On this point the law’s proponents and the late, great writer seem in complete accord.

Ms. Angelou once wrote, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” 

I have heard the arguments both for and against this newly minted law which only becomes enforceable in the respective school districts with board adoption. Let’s talk simple facts.

I have been told that as many as 62% of Kentucky secondary and elementary school students are presently failing the grade in which they are enrolled. The virtual learning model hasn’t been very effective. It isn’t all the students’ fault, nor is it the faculty’s, nor is it the virtual learning apparatus. 

Some of it is the unavailability of access to technology. Let me explain.

When I lived in western-Kentucky it used to peeve me when my mountain friends wouldn’t answer their phones, return phone calls, or respond to texts. They used to tell me they had no service at their homes or businesses and didn’t always get my communiqués. I didn’t believe them.

Then I moved here and purchased internet and cellular service. There are places in town, I mean in the smack-dab, where I can’t maintain service sufficiently to continue an existing phone call. Perhaps the most common cellular phone phrase in the Appalachia mountains is, “I am about to drop this call…” 

We mountain-folk have that cellular repertoire down pat. Ask some of my western cohorts and buddies with whom I regularly talk since moving here. 

My daughter works in the busiest shopping center in Jackson, Kentucky. I don’t have any cellular service there.

My wife can text me a list of stuff she wants me to pickup in Walmart. Take one guess where I will never receive said list, standing anywhere in Walmart!

Simply put, there are places all over the mountains without reliable internet. Hard to engage in virtual learning without any virtual. Heck, I attempted to GPS Highland-Turner Elementary the other night and got led 7.5 miles down the road to Rousseau and dumped rounding a curve in the middle of “nowheresville.” 

When the voice said, “You have arrived at your destination,” I was on a bridge curving to the right without a building anywhere in sight. I was also roughly 20 or so miles from where Highland-Turner actually sits and in the exact opposite direction from where I had started on this odyssey. I believe I saw Polyphemus, the cyclops, where I was led, but I am not quite sure.

The late Ms. Angelou also once wrote, “There are people who go though life burdened by ignorance because they refuse to see…” We need to both see and recognize we have kids all over Kentucky who have had more than an entire year of their lives stolen from them, from their development, that we both can and should restore if able to do so without harming the unaffected.

So we’ve been given a chance. We’ve been left an election as parents; as have our school boards.

If your child’s last year, pandemic-ridden as it was, constituted a “throw-away” for all intents and purposes, then Kentucky offers you a redo, a second chance. Now that your kids know better, they may exercise the opportunity to do better.

This law’s focus has been too centered toward the Class of ’21. It isn’t confined to that class.

All public school students in grades K-12 have a chance to repeat their current grade level. The law allows parents to request the use of the next academic year to retake or supplement completed courses and grades. It applies to both academics and athletics.

The athletics aspect draws the most attention in the media. Over the past year, we have seen competition after competition, season after season, canceled because of the virus. 

Some of these kids essentially missed a year and a half of the last opportunity many of them will ever again have to do some of the activities high school athletics affords kids. Your kids will discover these same opportunities, to play these same games, are even more rarely enjoyed by adults. 

Approximately ninety-four (94) percent of high school athletes hang it up after high school graduation. That means the overwhelming majority aren’t afforded the opportunity to participate in the sports they have spent the bulk of their young lifetimes training to play. Post-high school, most of these same kids won’t be afforded even one more opportunity to play even one last game, one final time.

Painfully few kids get to play college athletics at any level. Far fewer play professionally. 

So, high school members of the Class of ’21 will be given a fifth-year of eligibility, provided they are still 18-years of age on August 1, 2021. Kids younger than the ‘21s will be afforded a Re-Do, should they need it or just want it. 

We don’t often get opportunities like this in life. Take it from a much older person.

Seems a shame to waste it, if you need it, after Providence has dropped it (virtually) in your lap. For those who avail themselves of the chance, “…Now that [you] know better, do better.”

This is Fletcher Long, reminding you to take this opinion for whatever you may find it worth, but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!

Note: Mr. Long is an award-winning Kentucky journalist recognized for excellence in both writing and reporting by the Kentucky Press Association. 

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