education

Upset that retired Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Michael McCall is taking a $324,000 consulting fee when the system has been running in the red, its professors and staff members are asking him to decline the money.

WKU

WKU is receiving praise for the number of Fulbright Scholars it produced last year.

The six grants awarded to WKU students ranks third in the nation among schools offering Master’s degrees, according to a list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. WKU’s six current Fulbright Scholars are teaching English and conducting research in five countries: Costa Rica, England, Germany, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Melinda Grimsley-Smith, with the school’s Office of Scholar Development, says a growing number of students are seeing the value of scholarships that offer an international component “where they’re taking a year off, or a year in between here and grad school, or between here and a job to go out into the world for a year and live in another culture and be a cultural ambassador for the United States.”

She also believes part of the school’s recent success stems from its efforts at convincing more students that they have a shot at landing prestigious grants, like the Fulbright.

“Students are more and more willing to take the risk of applying, I think. They’re more willing to think of themselves as compelling and competitive candidates for national scholarships.”

WKU’s 2014-15 Fulbright Award recipients are:

Five Kentucky school districts have created the state’s first regional career and technical academy, where high school students will learn advanced manufacturing and technology skills.

The goal of the I-Lead Academy is for students to earn a work certificate or dual credit for college, and possibly an associate’s degree, while in high school, said Alicia Sells with the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, which helped develop the school.

The school will be located in Carrollton and will offer up to 30 spots a year to freshman students from Carroll, Gallatin, Henry, Owen and Trimble counties beginning next fall.

In four years, the school will have an attendance of around 120 students, said Sells. They’ll attend the Jefferson Community and Technical College campus in Carrollton full time as juniors and seniors.

To create the school, OVEC researched which jobs are in demand in the region, she said.

Kentucky LRC

A measure approved in the state Senate would allow for the creation of piloted charter schools in Kentucky's two largest cities. However, the bill is expected to run into heavier opposition in the House.

If enacted, up to five charter schools could open in Louisville and Lexington over the next five years.  Senator Mike Wilson of Bowling Green, the bill’s sponsor, says the charters would be funded in the same way other public schools are supported with certified teachers in classrooms. 

"It gives the principal freedom for hiring his own teachers for the school and gives the teachers the freedom not to work on all the compliance issues, but really do what they love to do, which is teach our kids," said Wilson.

Wilson believes charter schools could help address achievement gap concerns.  Lexington Senator Gerald Thomas says he hasn't seen many requests for charters. "We've had no testimony from any parent saying that they feel a need for this legislation," said Thomas.

Centre College

Centre College is establishing a new full-ride scholarship program aimed at attracting students who want to make an impact overseas.

The liberal arts school in Danville has announced a $20 million challenge gift from an anonymous donor that will be used to fund the Lincoln Scholars Program. The program will award 10 scholarships a year beginning in the fall of 2016.

The anonymous gift offers a dollar-for-dollar match and is part of Centre’s Third Century Campaign, which aims to raise $200 million by 2019, when the school celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of its founding in 1819.

Centre Dean of Admissions, Bob Nesmith, says those awarded the scholarship will get more than just free tuition, room and board, and books. They’ll also receive $10,000 for an independent study project that contains an international component.

“When you take an ambitious 18 year old and say, ‘OK, put together something good and exciting for something somewhere in the world that you want to work on, and we’re going to help you fund it’--that’ll be super appealing to this kind of kid.”

At the end of Angela Kohtala's leadership skills course, her high school students have to plan and carry out a community service project. Maybe it's fixing up their school courtyard, or tutoring younger students in an afterschool program.

Afterwards, they create a PowerPoint with pictures of the project. This isn't just a nice way to develop presentation skills — it's mandatory to prove that they really weeded that garden or sat with those kids in the first place.

You see, Kohtala's students are spread across the state of Florida, while she herself lives in Maine.

In the education world, you see this phrase all the time: "free and reduced-price lunch." What's the percentage at a given school? In a given district or state?

It's not necessarily out of concern about who's getting fed. Instead, it's most often used to talk about concentrations of poverty and how that affects learning.

The phrase refers to students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program — an easily available data point for any school and any district.

Kentucky’s teacher pension policies are receiving near-failing grades in a new report.

The National Council of Teacher Quality gives the pension plan a D-, and points out that 48-percent of the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System consists of unfunded liabilities.

Council Vice President Sandi Jacobs says the vast majority of taxpayer funds going into the system isn’t being invested in the future retirement of current employees.

“Only 23 cents on the dollar—less than the national average—is going towards the cost of the system. About 77 cents are going toward the debt.”

KTRS currently has over $13 billion in unfunded liabilities. The state budget passed by lawmakers last year provided about half the money needed to bring KTRS into the black.

Jacobs says her group also considers the system’s five-year vesting period a negative feature.

“If you leave before five years you’re not eligible for future benefits. That’s a long time to wait.”

You can see the NCTQ’s report card on Kentucky’s teacher pension policy here.

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell believes a White House plan to make community college free has little chance of becoming reality.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Obama announced a plan to offer two years of tuition-free community college to students who maintained certain academic standards.

The effort would cost about $60 billion over ten years, with the federal government picking up three-quarters of the cost, and states paying for the rest.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio during a break in Friday's Board of Regents meeting, Ransdell said that’s an unsustainable model. 

“There’s no way I can be advocate for Kentucky putting money into that and continuing to cut higher education for the public universities."

Ransdell said he understands that the technical and associate’s degrees that many community college graduates earn help drive the manufacturing sector. 

“But the reality is, it’s bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees that drive the economy, and those are the people who are the decision-makers with the intellectual skills that go into driving the economy.”

As the new — and paid — president emeritus of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System, Michael McCall will attend meetings, give advice, provide executive coaching, help hire new executives and help run a systemwide leadership academy now bearing his name.

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