education

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.”

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says if he’s elected governor he’d essentially offer Kentucky students a $20,000 degree to University of Kentucky and University of Louisville if they can graduate in four years and then stay in the state.

Comer, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, on Thursday unveiled the education plank of his campaign.

Under his plan, students would be able to have the full amount of their tuition reimbursed through credits on their Kentucky tax returns if they stay in-state to work.

It currently costs over $44,000 to go to UK for four years and over $41,000 at U of L.

He said he’ll also push for an outcomes-based funding model that rewards Kentucky colleges for producing employable students.

He also wants to give employers who hire graduates of the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges a $2,000 tax credit per student.

To fund that initiative, he’d cut KCTCS administrative staffing budget by 10 percent to save $13 million a year, he said.

At a governor’s debate in Versailles on Wednesday, Comer said that putting more money in the K-12 education system isn’t going to ensure Kentuckians have a better education because of government inefficiency.

“The education dollars in Kentucky especially with respect to K-12 isn’t making it to the front lines, it’s getting eaten up by bureaucracy and administrative costs,” Comer said.

Last year the General Assembly passed a budget that increased K-12 funding by $189 million over two years.

Last year, critics argued that Kentucky students could not meet college and career readiness standards because of a lack of funding.

Some Kentucky students working under the umbrella of the recently adopted common core standards are showing signs of faster progression and heightened college and career readiness levels than students in older curriculum models, according to a recent study by the American Institutes for Research.

Zeyu Xu, principal researcher on the study, said the findings should not serve as an “assessment of common core itself.”

A familiar face is returning to the helm of the University of Pikeville.

Former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton will serve as interim leader of the school following the departure of its current president. A news release issued from UPike Monday says  James Hurley is stepping aside for “personal reasons.”

Patton is chancellor at UPike and served as president from 2010 to 2013.

The school’s board of trustees will initiate a national search for the school’s next leader. In announcing the moves, UPike credited Hurley for the school’s record enrollment growth, as well as its recent additions of new colleges of businesses and education, and global education partnerships.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Aaron Vowels

A week after announcing the receipt of $6.3 million from the foundations of businessmen “Papa” John Schnatter and Charles Koch, the University of Louisville has released the underlying seven-year agreements.

The two documents affirm that the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise will be created by Dec. 1. It also states that the money will be spent on two tenure-track professorships, two visiting professors, center staff and expenses, up to five research grants, up to four doctoral fellowships, and classes, seminars and annual lectures.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Aaron Vowels

John Schnatter’s long-running, multi-generational ties to the University of Louisville just grew $4.64 million deeper.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the university’s College of Business, President James Ramsey confirmed a $6.3 million, seven-year grant that will fund the establishment, staffing and operation of the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise. Scheduled to open in the fall, the center will “engage in teaching and research that explores the role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in advancing society.”

The source of Schnatter’s wealth, the publicly owned Papa John’s International pizza chain, is already emblazoned across the UofL campus. Through gifts exceeding $20 million, the company and John and Annette Schnatter have helped build Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for football and Cardinal Park for mens’ and womens’ sports.

“We’ve been fairly successful in business at Papa John’s and we want to share that with entrepreneurs and teach these kids how to be successful,” he said. “If we can get just one or two kids from the $6 million, it will be money well spent.” Their share of the gift is equal to the cost of 515,555 small pepperoni pizzas at Papa John’s.

The $4.64 million from Schnatter’s family foundation will be boosted by $1.66 million from the Charles Koch Foundation.The $6.3 million will go toward two tenure-track and two visiting professors, up to five research grants and up to four doctoral fellowships, as well as classes, a speaker series, seminars and salaries for center staff.

Free enterprises centers funded by the Charles Koch Foundation at George Mason University, Florida State University, the University of Kansas and other U.S. colleges have ignited controversy in their collision with dominant liberal arts cultures. Opponents have objected to contracts that give the Koch Foundation authority over hiring and curricula.

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