Kentucky is among seven states that will participate in a two-year pilot program to improve teacher training programs.
The initiative was developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and will help states reform the systems that guide what an educator should look like.
Robert Brown, executive director of Kentucky’s Education Professional Standards Board, says the network of participating states will allow Kentucky to develop new initiatives based on best practices
“You have to look beyond your borders. Even though we know we’re on the right track and we’re doing well, are there practices that will inform our work that will make us even better.”
The council has made recommendations to guide the states over the next two years. Brown says Kentucky has already begun to improve how it prepares teachers but says the program will allow the state to align its expectations to recent education reforms.
Nearly half of Kentucky’s 173 school districts have increased local property tax rates as much as possible.
The moves come in light of education cuts at both the state and federal levels. Kentucky School Boards Association spokesman Brad Hughes told the Courier-Journal that “districts have no choice” but to turn to local taxpayers in order to find increased funding.
Eighty-one districts in the state have adopted tax rates that will increase revenue by 4 percent. Under Kentucky law, that’s the largest property taxes can be increased without being subject to voter recall.
School officials who have increased local property tax rates say they’re still coming out on the short end despite making the move. The Estill County School Board will see an additional $65,000 from a tax increase approved this year. But officials there are quick to point out that the district's primary state appropriation is down nearly $700,000 compared to 2009.
Kentucky students are being recruited to spread the message about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
State Attorney General Jack Conway on Monday joined in announcing the start of a public service announcement contest for middle and high school students. The competition is part of an effort to warn youngsters about prescription abuse.
As part of the competition, Kentucky students will produce a 30-second video showing the perils of prescription drug abuse.
Final numbers are expected to show a slight decrease in enrollment this semester at WKU. Provost Gordon Emslie attributes the decrease to a drop in part-time students and fewer students enrolling in associate-degree programs.
"I think more students are choosing to enter baccalaureate degree fields or possibly they're going to KCTCS to start their college education there," says Emslie. "We have eight joint-admissions agreements with community colleges in Kentucky and Tennessee, and we hope to welcome those students back as juniors in a couple of years."
Dr. Emslie says the freshmen class has the highest number ever of full-time students seeking four-year degrees.
"Because a larger fraction of the class are called cohort students, those students tend to be retained at a much higher level, so we're very confident that even with a slight reduction in number, the rate of graduation will be higher than it has been in the past," explains Emslie.
The school is seeing some other firsts. The fall class has the highest average ACT score, up a half-point from 2012. More than 15% of WKU's total enrollment is made up of minority students, a new high for the university. International enrollment is up 43% and will top 1,000 students for the first time.
Centre College in Danville, Kentucky has received a $1 million anonymous gift to help fund travel to foreign countries.
Seventy-five percent of the gift is intended for study abroad grants to qualified students who have completed two years of foreign language study at Centre and want to travel to a country where that language is spoken.
The remaining 25% will go to Centre faculty to travel to nations where the language they teach is spoken.
Milton Reigelman, who oversees study abroad at Centre as director of the Center for Global Citizenship, said in a news release that the gift will make an already strong program in study abroad even stronger.
The four-day joint meeting of the U.S. Confucius Institutes concludes on Monday in Bowling Green. Representatives from over 90 universities have attended the meetings, hosted by WKU. More than 260 delegates are attending the conference.
Madame Xu Lin is director general of the Chinese Education Ministry of Hanban. She says it’s important for Americans to learn about Chinese culture and vice-versa.
“Parents, students and teachers realize the two countries need to be hand-in-hand and we need to know each other, especially [in terms of] culture and for the younger generations [for their] careers,” said Xu who was in Bowling Green for the meetings.
W-K-U established its Confucius Institute in 2010 and sends students and staff every year to visit China. Xu says experiencing another culture first hand is invaluable.
The presidents of Kentucky’s universities are meeting this week to discuss a higher education funding model that they will propose to the governor and state legislators.
When lawmakers convene the next General Assembly in January, they’ll be tasked with approving the state’s next two-year budget. WKU President Gary Ransdell says the proposal being offered up by the school presidents puts a great deal of emphasis on how many graduates the universities produce.
“The performance funding model will be based primarily on degree production," Ransdell told WKU Public Radio. "In other words, how many more degrees are you awarding over the last three years? It will be a three-year rolling measure of degree productivity. And that’s the primary driver of the performance funding model."
"In the final analysis, that’s what matters to the state: how many more graduates are you putting in the workplace to drive the economy?”
President Ransdell says the proposal by the school presidents also contains requests for capital project funding, with each university contributing a list of priorities it wants the state to support.
The school presidents meet Wednesday in Frankfort.
A proposal to create new majors and minors in two different languages will be taken up by the WKU Board of Regents next month.
At Friday’s committee meetings, board members agreed to consider new degree programs for both Arabic and Chinese. WKU Modern Languages Department Head Laura McGee says there is an increasing student interest in those two languages
“We regularly receive requests from students to start Arabic here, or, if they’ve already started it, to continue to the higher levels. And they ask if there’s a potential to major in Arabic and Chinese. So we’re really glad that it looks like soon we’ll able to say they can.”
If approved by the full board during its October meeting, WKU would become the first university in the commonwealth to offer a major in Arabic. Under the proposal, the new degree programs in Arabic and Chinese would start in the spring of 2014.
A central Kentucky school system is celebrating the newly released scores on state assessments. The Elizabethtown Independent School District climbed from Proficient in 2012 to Distinguished this year.
Superintendent Jon Ballard says one of the specific bright spots in all the data is Morningside Elementary, a school that went from the Needs Improvement category to Distinguished in one year.
“One of the elements in the new assessment is a gap score, which targets those students considered more at risk, and in that particular area, Morning Side Elementary’s scores went up by 18 points, which is very significant,” Ballard adds.
Ballard credits the success with focusing more on students individually. He also says teachers are becoming more comfortable with the new standards in the two-year-old Unbridled Learning testing system.