The number of Kentucky children who are prepared for kindergarten is nearly unchanged over last year—half of kids entering school still don’t have the basic skills that the state deems as necessary to be “kindergarten-ready.”

The Kentucky Department of Education’s annual kindergarten readiness results released Wednesday show that 50 percent of children are prepared for a public education, a 1 percent increase from last year.

In Jefferson County Public Schools, 51.9 percent of children were ready for kindergarten this school year.

Last year, 52.3 percent of Jefferson County Public Schools’ kindergartners were ready—a higher rate than the state average, which was 49 percent. While that rate is still slightly higher than the state average, it’s a slight drop for JCPS.

The University of Louisville’s music school and athletics department will share a $12.6 million gift from retired pilot and investor Max Baumgardner of Louisville.

The $6.3 million donation to the School of Music is the largest planned gift in its 82-year history, the university said Tuesday in a news release.

The money will be used to create the Max Baumgardner Endowed Fund for Excellence in Jazz Studies.

Michael Tracy, head of U of L’s jazz program, said the funds will support faculty positions, scholarships and other programs, including studies abroad.

Bowling Green City Schools

The superintendent of Bowling Green Independent Schools has announced plans to retire. 

Joe Tinius has worked in the city school system since 1977 in a number of roles, including teacher, coach, and principal.  He became superintendent in 2005. 

In a letter submitted to the Board of Education, Tinius said after 37 years in education, he had reached the point in his life where he wanted to spend more time with his wife, children, and grandchild. 

He tells WKU Public Radio that while technology and education reforms have had major impacts on Kentucky’s classrooms, a teacher’s ability to connect with students remains vital.

“It is still, at the end of the day, that personal relationship that teachers develop with students that ultimately determines how much of an impact and effective the learning process is.”

Tinius says one of the biggest changes he’s seen over the years is the increasing diversity of the area’s student population, with major growth seen in the number of students who speak English as a second language. Tinius said school administrators have to be willing to connect with students and parents from international communities.

Kentucky educators are experimenting with possible changes to the state’s high school diploma.

The Kentucky Department of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Education Professional Standards Board are collaborating to consider ways that the high school diploma can better reflect the college and career achievements that students attain while in school.

The new diploma may also try to encourage students to pursue an education that will lead them to careers in foreign business.

Kentucky School districts are bracing for a mid-year state funding cut totaling nearly $8 million.

The cut is relatively small given the state’s $2.9 billion K-12 budget. 

Kentucky Department of Education Associate Commissioner Hirem Desai says the cuts are due to mostly higher than projected attendance which despite the funding cut, is a good thing. 

In Peter Maginot's sixth-grade class, the teacher is white, but all of his students are black. They're young and they're honestly concerned that what happened to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner could happen to them.

"Who can tell me the facts that we know about Mike Brown?" Maginot asks the class at Shabazz Public School Academy, an afro-centric school in Lansing, Mich.

On New Year's Eve, 2013, as people were setting up house parties around the country and Times Square workers were preparing for the ball to drop, a small few were instead rushing to their local GED testing centers. Tyron Jackson, a 24-year old resident of Washington D.C., was one of them.

He had taken a prep course in the District and, because of aggressive marketing by the GED Testing Service, knew that Dec. 31 was his last good chance to pass the old version of the high school equivalency exam. For 2014, a newer, much harder test was coming.

With another impending deadline for coverage, enrollment in Kentucky’s health insurance exchange is steadily growing, says Nicole Comeaux, deputy executive director for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.

So far, 12,500 individuals have enrolled in qualified health plans and 25,700 individuals have newly enrolled in Medicaid coverage, Comeaux said during a wide-ranging conference call Wednesday with health care exchange directors from other states.

Franklin-Simpson High School

A $3 million federal grant will go towards efforts to improve the career and college readiness of special needs students at nine Kentucky high schools.

The four-year grant awarded to the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative will model a program currently in place at Franklin-Simpson High School. That program matches educators and disabled students for an hour a week, with the educator focusing on ways to help the student achieve success in the classroom.

“So she might help him to catch up on homework, she might work on his study skills, she might arrange for him to do an internship down the road at a business or an industry,” said Johna Rogers, with the GRREC.  

Rodgers says the idea is to provide consistent, one-on-one guidance that will help special-needs students reach their educational and career goals. Each student in the program will have what’s known as an Individual Career Plan, tailored to the individual’s aspirations and abilities.

“And I think that is one of the key strategies—identifying chunks of time where teachers, who are specially trained to work on college-career readiness, are able to move that child forward from wherever he is, to where he wants to be.”

The nine schools included in the grant are:

Although the numbers are expected to change slightly over the next few months, the board agreed to cut 50 jobs and slice teachers' pay by 9.8%.

According to WBKO-TV, an estimated 500 people jammed into Muhlenberg County High School's auditorium Monday night, mostly teachers and their families opposed to the cuts. Both in their comments and on printed signs, members of the public said the cuts would lead to increased class sizes within the district and impact learning.