education

Flickr/Creative Commons/my_southborough

Kentucky inmates earned dramatically fewer GED diplomas since the test switched in January 2014 from a paper-based test to a more rigorous version taken on a computer, according to the state Department of Corrections.

In the 2013 fiscal year — the last full year the previous test was given — Kentucky prison and jail inmates earned 1,135 GED diplomas. In the 2015 fiscal year ending in June, 126 GED diplomas were awarded to Kentucky inmates.

The 89 percent decline means that fewer inmates have been awarded “educational good time,” which reduces prison sentences by 90 days for each inmate who earns a diploma.

The department declined a request for an interview. But in an email response to questions posed by Kentucky Public Radio, the department said that it had responded to recent changes to the test “with frustration.”

Kentucky LRC

The appointment of Kentucky’s top education official would be subject to state Senate confirmation under a bill pre-filed last week in the General Assembly.

State Rep. Kenny Imes, a Murray Republican, said he’s seeking to add accountability to the state’s education department.

“I think the public should have the right to have a voice in who is running our education system in Kentucky, along with their elected representatives,” he said. “The state by constitution is charged with providing the public education, and as such I just don’t think it ought to be totally run by KEA or any specific group.”

A spokesman for the Kentucky Education Association did not return an email request for comment on Monday.

The Kentucky education commissioner is appointed by the state Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor. Under current law, the Senate confirms the governor’s appointments to the education board, according to information provided by the Legislative Research Commission.

Last weekend, the state Board of Education interviewed a dozen candidates for the education commissioner post. The person chosen will replace the retiring Terry Holliday, the state education commissioner since 2009.

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell informed faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon that Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Gordon Emslie is stepping down from his administrative roles and returning to teaching.

An email sent by President Ransdell said Emslie will take a sabbatical and teach in the WKU Physics and Astronomy department beginning in January.

Dr. David Lee will take over as Provost and VP of Academic Affairs Monday. Lee, currently the Dean of the Potter College of Arts and Letters, will serve a two-year appointment, with a search for a successor beginning next summer.

Dr. Emslie has served five years as Provost and VP of Academic Affairs.

“I support Gordon’s decision and offer my sincere appreciation to him for his loyal and dedicated service,” said WKU President Gary A. Ransdell.  “I have appreciated his sound financial acumen, tenacious support of the faculty and his teamwork with our colleagues on the Administrative Council."

Warrick County Schools Start Year with 48 New Teachers

Aug 10, 2015

Warrick County, Indiana schools filled 48 teaching positions this year. The district about 30 miles northwest of Owensboro, Kentucky is now fully staffed for the first day of school on Aug. 12.  

Warrick County Schools Superintendent Brad Schneider said 19 of the 48 were resignations, with some teachers likely leaving because of changes in public education, such as the emphasis on high-stakes testing.

“In my opinion, that pendulum has swung way too far and those test scores now seem to be dictating everything we do," said Schnieder. "As educators we know that’s not what’s best for kids. They also need to know problem solving skills. They need to know how to work with others, resolve problems, think outside the box, be creative.” 

Schneider said one concern in Indiana is the elimination of a salary scale, which guaranteed incremental raises for teachers.

Rob Canning, WKMS

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King says Kentucky’s recent strides in economic recovery have not been reflected in its funding for higher education.

The CPE was at Murray State University Tuesday evening as part of its series of town hall debates to gather input on the new five-year strategic initiative plan.

An audience of about 100 educators, business leaders and local and state government officials were present for the forum in MSU's Freed Curd Auditorium.

One of the key challenges outlined in King's presentation was finding alternative funding.

State Funding

Since the 2008 recession, Kentucky colleges have had to cut budgets and raise tuition in light of reduced state appropriations. Although some state experts say the Commonwealth is now on an economic upswing, King says colleges are still struggling to maintain quality programs with reduced funding levels.

The Anderson County Adult Education Center is empty on a Thursday afternoon, except for a receptionist, a teacher and the director.

Two years ago, every table in the small classroom might be filled, said Jerry Shaw, the center’s director.

He’d have trouble just walking across the room.

“Every age group, every stage of the test. There were days where it was slow, but that was unusual. Now the days that are slow are the usual,” Shaw said.

The situation is playing out across the state.

The number of Kentuckians passing the General Educational Development test, or GED, has dropped by 85 percent in the last two years, according to the state’s adult education program.

During the 2013 fiscal year, 8,890 students earned GED diplomas.

The current fiscal year ends this month. So far the state has issued only 1,351 diplomas.

Lance Dennee/WKMS

The results are in from a biennial survey that asks Kentucky teachers about the state of teaching and learning in the commonwealth.

A record 89.3 percent of certified educators responded to the voluntary Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) Survey, administered by the New Teacher Center.

Overall, the survey shows teachers are more positive than two years ago, with 87.9 percent of teachers calling their school a good place to work and learn. That’s compared to 85.2 percent in 2013.

Some of the topics included in the survey are time, school leadership, teacher leadership, facilities and resources, professional development, community engagement and student conduct.

“Time” was the least positive category in the survey, though it, too, showed improvement over 2013’s survey. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they feel there's enough instructional time to meet the needs of all students. That's up from 68.6 percent in 2013.

Kevin Willis

A group of WKU students is spending the next two weeks in the Great Plains tracking severe storms and dangerous weather patterns.

WKU Meteorology Professor Josh Durkee is taking eight students to a part of the country that is often hit by tornados and other storms this time of the year. He says the class is an opportunity for participants to collect and analyze weather data that are used to predict where storms will next appear.

“The most common phrase I hear students say is, ‘I learned more in two weeks that I have in two years.’ That’s because it takes a lot of the stuff we have been learning about in the classroom and they get to see it in real-time, and they get to put their hands on it.”

Durkee says the students taking his annual Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting course are never in danger and stay at least five miles away from the storms they are tracking. The class travels throughout the Midwest and Great Plains regions to learn more about how to predict how and when severe weather will impact the area.

Metcalfe County native and graduating senior Tori Hampton has been looking forward to taking the class for years. She says experiencing a tornado at the age of five fueled a passion to learn more about storms.

University of Kentucky

Michael Lewis got fed up seeing his peers struggle with student debt—so he decided to do something about it.

Lewis, an 18-year-old from Louisville, and a small team of his fellow students at the University of Kentucky are preparing to launch a start-up that takes direct aim the nationwide issue of student debt.

The start-up, called FinanceU,will give prospective college students a platform to fund their own education through crowdsourcing.

“FinanceU (will be) available to any student who seeks to or is already trying affording higher education,” he said.

To use, FinanceU students will have to create an online profile, complete with hobbies, skills and interests. Then, the start-up will employ a three-tier crowdsourcing model.

Kevin Willis

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Math and Science at WKU is preparing to undergo a transformation that will sharply increase its population.

The academy has been given a financial gift from businessman Bill Gatton to expand the residence hall that houses the academy’s students. The renovation is needed because the academy is expanding its class size from 120 to 200 students this fall.

The academy is home to some of the top high school juniors and seniors in the state who take college courses for two years at WKU, and has been repeatedly ranked as the top high school in the nation.

Speaking at a ceremony Wednesday at WKU announcing the gift from Gatton, Governor Steve Beshear said the academy is a point of pride for the state.

“The Gatton Academy is a shining example of how our educators are preparing the next generation of highly-trained graduates. I’m proud that my last budget will allow another 80 students the opportunity to study in the nation’s best high school.”

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