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U.S. Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers

Forward in the Fifth—a nonprofit organization created in 1986 by U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) to reverse Southern and Eastern Kentucky’s low educational attainment levels—will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Monday, Nov. 7, in Hazard, Ky. with an awards luncheon and “Unbridled Learning Educational Summit.”

Educators, business leaders, parents, and students from across the region will converge on the grounds of Hazard Community and Technical College to celebrate the organization’s successes and discuss Kentucky’s top education issues.

“Forward in the Fifth was a pioneer organization in helping to pave the way in our state for education reform at its inception 25 years ago,” Jim Tackett, Forward in the Fifth executive director, said. “Visionaries, like Congressman Rogers, Al Smith, and others had their fingers on the educational pulse of our region and saw it was critical.

“This event is about celebrating the successes of the past, but striving to further transform educational attainment for our current and future generations,” Tackett added.

The event is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. (EST) in the college’s First Federal Building, with a reception followed by an awards luncheon featuring Congressman Rogers. During the luncheon, Rogers will present “Difference Maker Awards” to five individuals who have worked to advance education in the region and throughout the state.

At the conclusion of the luncheon, educators will participate in the “Unbridled Learning Educational Summit” from 1:30-4:30 p.m.(EST), where they will address some of the leading topics in education related to the passage of Kentucky Senate Bill 1 (SB1) and Unbridled Learning, the state’s new public school assessment and accountability system.

Former Kentucky Commissioner of Education Gene Wilhoit

Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and former Kentucky Commissioner of Education, will be the summit’s keynote speaker.

Wilhoit, who served as Kentucky’s third commissioner of education from 2000-2006, will address educators before they break out into smaller groups to discuss topics related to Kentucky’s new Unbridled Learning assessment system.

In 2009, the General Assembly overhauled education in Kentucky with the passage of SB1. The legislation requires the state Department of Education and higher education institutions to establish new, clearer curriculum standards that are more aligned for college readiness and global competition.

Concurrent sessions at the Educational Summit will center around topics such as common core standards, college and career readiness, dropout prevention, the new accountability system, and homeschooling.

Educators who attend the summit will be eligible to receive Effective Instructional Leadership Act (EILA) professional development credit.

“The 25th anniversary of Forward in the Fifth is an opportunity to honor our past achievements and move toward the future with a renewed passion about raising education levels in our region,” Dr. Dessie Bowling, chair of Forward in the Fifth’s Board of Directors, said. “Twenty-five years ago, Congressman Rogers and a group of dedicated leaders recognized that educating our youth was one of the most important issues facing Southern and Eastern Kentucky and it remains true today.”

Tickets for the anniversary event are $25 per person. For more information or to reserve tickets, contact Rhonda Lawson at The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000 or email The deadline to reserve tickets is Oct. 31.