A new statewide reading survey shows roughly half of Kentucky’s kindergartners entered school this year unprepared to learn the reading and math skills that are expected of them.
The survey shows 51-percent of Kentucky kindergartners who began school last fall were described as “not ready” to learn the basic reading and math skills expected of them. That means those students lacked basic literacy, match, or cognitive skills, such as knowing letters and numbers. The social and physical readiness of the students were also taken into account.
Governor Steve Beshear, who has proposed expanding early childhood initiatives in the state, said the report showed how some students are at a disadvantage “from day one.”
In a statement, the Governor said too often those students who begin school academically behind their peers never catch up, and face poor grades and negative school experiences that “usually only end when they drop out or graduate from high school unprepared for college or career.”
Warren County Public Schools is now offering a mobile application that allows the community to get information in a quick and convenient way.
The mobile app from School Connect allows smartphone and tablet users to keep track of district news and receive notices from faculty and staff, all in real time. Much of the information is already posted on the school system's website.
"It just gives us another way for community members to access information about the district in a convenient with mobile apps being the way of the world these days, it seems," says WCPS Spokesman Don Sergent.
The app will provide information such as school calendars, athletic schedules, gradebooks, and lunch menus.
The free app is available for Apple and Android devices.
The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah is known not only for showcasing independent films, and bringing together movie-types like actors, directors and filmmakers – but also for its generous amounts of snowfall and chilly temperatures.
For 23 WKU students including Jayme Powell, the Sundance experience was one that can’t be replicated in south-central Kentucky.
That is, with the possible exception of the weather.
“When we got back last night, it was colder in Kentucky,” said Powell on Saturday afternoon. “But it was cold in Park City. We were bundled up a lot.”
Powell , an aspiring film producer says she saw 22 films at Sundance. Many of her days started as early as 8:30 or 9 o’clock in the morning and often ended hours later with a midnight showing. She also spent much of her time attending panel discussions with filmmakers and producers.
A program being used at WKU is providing a better idea of what can be done to prevent students from leaving school before completing their degree.
The MAP-Works system helps identify at-risk students who take a voluntary survey. Students who appear to be struggling receive direct intervention by WKU faculty and staff who direct the student to programs that can help with academic, financial, or health issues.
Lindsey Gilmore, with the WKU enrollment management office, says she assumed money problems would be the top reason why students drop out. But she says MAP-Works shows that’s not the case.
"Generally, what MAP-Works does is let us see about five top issues our students are facing per classification, and lack of financial confidence is always in the top five, but it’s never number one."
Gilmore says MAP-Works shows the biggest stressors for WKU students include homesickness, test anxiety, study habits, and low peer connections.
More than 5,400 WKU students have been contacted or met with in person this academic year about their survey results. Gilmore says the school is working to get more students to take the MAP-Works survey. A little over 27 percent of WKU students completed the survey last fall.
The President of WKU says he’s not counting on a big tuition increase to help offset a proposed cut in state funding for universities.
Dr. Gary Ransdell says he believes the Council on Postsecondary Education will cap the next round of potential tuition increases at about three percent.
That’s the increase the CPE set last April for in-state undergraduate students beginning this fall. President Ransdell told WKU Public Radio that it’s probably not realistic to expect anything more than that.
“Even if the CPE would allow a higher number, we’re not likely to go there,” Dr. Ransdell said during a break in Friday’s Board of Regents meeting. “So we’re going to have a modest tuition increase. Every year there’s going to be a tuition increase. It will simply cover our fixed-cost increases. These other items are going to have to be funded in some other way—probably through redirection of funds within our budget.”
The proposed budget announced by Governor Beshear this week includes a 2.5 percent spending reduction for state universities, which amounts to a loss of $1.8 million for WKU in fiscal year 2015.
Kentucky minimum wage increase?
A proposed increase in Kentucky’s minimum wage would add an estimated $419,000 to WKU's current payroll obligations. Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is sponsoring legislation that would boost the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, up from the current $7.25 an hour.
A bill that would allow computer programming courses to count toward foreign language requirements in Kentucky schools has passed out of a Senate committee.
Republican Sen. David Givens of Greensburg sponsored the measure and told the committee it's needed to prepare Kentucky’s students for a modern economy.
“Part of the challenge goes to the fact that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and the numbers continue to decline as the job opportunities increase."
Givens also says his bill would help close a knowledge gap for women and minorities, groups he says are under-represented in the fields of computer science.
Kentucky’s public universities were requesting an eight-percent increase in operating dollars, but in the governor’s next two-year budget proposal, the schools would instead receive a 2.5% cut in funding.
"We took a smaller reduction in his proposal than other state agencies, but it's substantial," remarked Robbin Taylor, VP of Public Affairs at WKU. "It's about $1.8 for us, and on top of all the other reductions since 2008, that's going to be fairly painful."
On the other hand, the governor’s budget plan funded WKU’s top capital project request. The proposal sets aside $48 million to complete the science campus renovation, which includes renovating the Thompson Complex Center Wing, demolishing the North Wing, and building a new planetarium.
The Gatton Academy for Math and Science also received funding to expand the number of students from 120 to 200.
The leader of Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education is joining others in calling for the Governor to renew funding for the state's colleges and universities.
CPE President Bob King and officials from Kentucky's postsecondary institutions have signed a newspaper op-ed pointing out that 70,000 students who qualified for need-based aid last year went without.
King says state campuses have had to take revenue from students who could pay full tuition to help fund aid programs that Pell Grants and state programs can no longer fully support.
"The aid that's being provided by the institutions means that those dollars that they are otherwise receiving in the form of tuition can't be spent to hire more faculty, or to (purchase) more computing equipment or laboratory equipment--all the things that we need to enhance the academic experience for our students," King said during a phone interview.
King's comments come ahead of Governor Beshear's budget address Tuesday evening in Frankfort.
WKU has been awarded a $150,000 grant to support early childhood education.
The funding from the PNC Foundation will be used to produce videos that will expose children to the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. The videos will be distributed to places such as libraries, housing authorities, and preschools in Kentucky and Tennessee.
"The hardest thing about changing the number of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in Kentucky relates to the fact that unless you stimulate interest early and students are really prepared to be successful when they go to college in those areas, then it's not going to happen," said Dr. Julia Roberts, executive director of the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at WKU.
Kentucky will need to fill 74,000 STEM jobs by 2018, yet only 12 percent of bachelor’s degrees conferred in the state are in STEM fields.