Kentucky’s minority and low-income college students continue to graduate at lower rates than their peers.
In its upcoming annual accountability report, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is expected to show that while college graduation rates increased between 2011 and 2012, a significant gap in those rates persisted for underrepresented minority and low-income students.
Other highlights of the report include an uptick in college readiness, a decline in GED attainment and “lost ground” in the areas of college funding and affordability.
The council will release a finalized version of the report “in the near future.”
A group representing nearly all of Kentucky's school districts is planning a study that could show lawmakers that school funding needs to be restored.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the Council for Better Education is raising money for the $130,000 study, which could begin Dec. 1.
Council president Tom Shelton says the study would design an equitable and adequate funding system to allow all students to become college- and career-ready.
The SEEK program, the primary source of money for school districts, has remained flat while schools have seen increases in the number of students and average daily attendance figures. That caused the amount of funding per student to slip from $3,866 in 2009 to $3,827 this year.
Flexible focus funds -- which include textbooks, preschool and staff development -- also have dropped.
Kentucky has again posted above-average reading results in the latest release from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card.
This year, education officials are celebrating the inclusion of more special needs students than ever before.
The NAEP test gives a snapshot of 4th and 8th grade student performance in math and reading every two years. Kentucky has previously been criticized for excluding more students with special needs than schools the national average.
“The exclusion rates do have an impact on test scores, the more kids you exclude the higher your scores are going to be because most of the kids who are in that region of either being excluded or not being excluded are lower scoring students," said University of Virginia research professor David Grissmer, a member of the NAEP Validity Panel.
Like most other states, Kentucky is moving forward with implementing the Next Generation Science Standards. Governor Steve Beshear decided in September to adopt the new science requirements even though a legislative subcommittee found them to be “deficient.” Beshear told WKU Public Radio he’s supporting the requirements to keep Kentucky students competitive.
“My job, Commissioner Holliday’s job, and the Kentucky Board of Education’s job is to make sure our children are college and career ready when they leave high school," said Beshear. "Part of getting them college and career ready is to make sure they study all the different scientific theories they are out there that everybody else in the world will be studying.”
The General Assembly might consider legislation in January that would kill the new teachings. Opponents have criticized the standards claiming they treat evolution as fact rather than theory, and put too much emphasis on climate change.
The new standards are slated to be in the classroom next fall.
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.