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Blue Ribbon school making the most of its diversity

ESL teacher Betty Snyder plays a skills game with 1st-grade students Samir Salazae, Abdullah Bahanin and Yassen Mohamed at Glendover Elementary School (Fayette County). Samir speaks Spanish and Abdullah and Yassen speak Arabic. Photo by Amy Wallot, May 30, 2014

ESL teacher Betty Snyder plays a skills game with 1st-grade students Samir Salazae, Abdullah Bahanin and Yassen Mohamed at Glendover Elementary School (Fayette County). Samir speaks Spanish and Abdullah and Yassen speak Arabic.
Photo by Amy Wallot, May 30, 2014

By Susan Riddell susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

In recent years, Glendover Elementary School (Fayette County) has developed a strong reputation for meeting the needs of its diverse students, according to Principal Catherine Fine.

The school has embraced that diversity and currently welcomes students from 26 different countries.

“At Glendover we truly are a window to the world,” said Fine, who just finished her 11th year as the school’s principal.

Using a systemic approach to intervention targeting literacy, Glendover Elementary teachers and administrators have been focused on strategies to make learning for these students, many of whom are English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, more enriching and to improve achievement In doing so, all students have benefitted, Fine said, as these efforts have worked for multiple groups of students who tend to score lower on state and national assessments and are involved in the intervention process.

In 2011-12, Glendover Elementary was a School of Distinction with an accountability score in the 96th percentile. It also scored at least 20 percent higher than district and state averages in every subject in K-PREP testing measures. The designated Gap Group scored 21 percent higher than Fayette County school district test scores and 19 percent higher than the state average.

“I think our best approach is holding all students accountable to the same high expectations,” Fine said.

That approach is one of the key reasons Glendover Elementary was honored as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School. Continue Reading

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Associate commissioner focused on supporting educator improvement

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By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

Amanda Ellis became the Associate Commissioner of the Office of Next-Generation Learners at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) on June 1. Ellis came to the department in December 2013 after more than eight years as principal at Emma B. Ward Elementary (Anderson County).

She started her career as a middle school science teacher in Indiana after graduating from Indiana University. She also has taught at Anderson County Middle School and was a curriculum resource teacher. During her time at Emma B. Ward, Ellis was on the steering committee for the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES). Her school also participated in field tests and a pilot program for the system.

As associate commissioner, Ellis will help implement PGES in all 173 districts for the 2014-2105 school year. The new system will be without consequences the first year, then in 2015-2016 the systems will be implement statewide with consequences for accountability.

Ellis lives in Lawrenceburg with her husband, a teacher at Anderson County High School, and her two children.

How did piloting PGES as an elementary school principal prepare you to lead the statewide implementation?

It was a learning experience for me as a person and as a professional, but I saw immediately how it enhanced my role as a principal to coach teachers. I had a tool to really coach teachers to the next step no matter where they were. Continue Reading

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Comics in class? Teachers at Let’s TALK conference learn to use graphic novels to get students reading

Amanda Bruce, Spencer County High School's special education chair, talks about how graphic novels work well with her students during the Power of the Graphic Novel session at the Let's TALK conference in Louisville. Photo by Amy Wallot, June 16, 2014

Amanda Bruce, Spencer County High School’s special education chair, talks about how graphic novels work well with her students during the Power of the Graphic Novel session at the Let’s TALK conference in Louisville.
Photo by Amy Wallot, June 16, 2014

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

The first time Holly Wooten picked up a graphic novel, the Lafayette High School English teacher had no idea how to follow the cartoon panels inside, much less how to teach the book to her students.

“I had never even read a comic book before,” Wooten said. “When you first open it up you think, where do I start?”

But she quickly learned that the mash-up of images and text called graphic novels not because of explicit content, but because they are written and illustrated like comic books, could be a valuable tool to engage reluctant readers and teach students how to analyze literature and art.

At the second-annual Let’s TALK: Conversations about Effective Teaching and Learning conference in Louisville last week, Wooten and her fellow Lafayette (Fayette County)English teacher Christopher McCurry showed a room full of teachers not only how to use the medium, but how teaching the novels fits into the new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System.

“Graphic novels challenge readers of all abilities,” Wooten said. “It helps to engage those that don’t like to read, they don’t see it as reading. Also for students that have difficulty reading, it’s usually because they can’t visualize what they are reading. They don’t understand it, they can’t picture it, so this helps to provide them with that visual so they can follow the story.”

Most high school students are already familiar with graphic novels or at least the movies and television shows that they have spawned, McCurry said. Several comic book-based movies are listed on Internet Movie Database’s Top 250, including the Dark Knight, X-Men and the Avengers. The popular television series The Walking Dead is also based on a comic book series.

“These things are becoming more popular, they are becoming what students want to participate in so you can tap into that,” said McCurry, who also teaches a science fiction fantasy class in addition to AP literature. Continue Reading

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Program launches younger students into STEM

By Brenna R. Kelly
Brenna.kelly@education.ky.gov

CaMareius Caldwell used pipe cleaners to poke tiny holes through a thin layer of modeling clay. His creation, if it worked, would scatter seeds.

“If we used our fingers it would be too thick,” he said, and the flour, being used to simulate seeds being spread by an animal, would fall through in one big clump.

As CaMareius and his partner built their seed delivery system, other students in the second-grade classroom at Morningside Elementary huddled in pairs using bright feathers, pompoms, pipe cleaners, and clay to build their own models. None of the students noticed – or cared – that it was almost lunchtime.

“I love the level of engagement they have with this,” said teacher Debbie Lewis, as the students piled their creations with flour and unleashed them over a mat to see how much area they could cover.

“Now I want you to go in your notebook and write,” she told her students, “Was your design successful? Would you do anything differently?”

The project was the culmination of a lesson from Launch, a new science, technology, engineering and math curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade from Project Lead the Way. The program is the expansion of the non-profit organization’s STEM-based curriculum, which is already being used in 155 middle and high schools in the state. Continue Reading

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Different paths for the same goal

Gigi Pattison focuses on synthesizing from reading with a small group in her 5th-grade class at Clear Creek Elementary School (Shelby County). As part of using differentiated instruction in her class, other groups focused on determining the most important information and monitoring for understanding while reading. Photo by Amy Wallot, May 16, 2014

Gigi Pattison focuses on synthesizing from reading with a small group in her 5th-grade class at Clear Creek Elementary School (Shelby County). As part of using differentiated instruction in her class, other groups focused on determining the most important information and monitoring for understanding while reading.
Photo by Amy Wallot, May 16, 2014

By Susan Riddell
susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

Kentucky teachers know the impact differentiated instruction has on getting all students college- and career-ready, and that’s why they are asking for more resources and professional development (PD) for it.

“At the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) we want to ensure that we are meeting the professional development needs of teachers throughout the state,” Bart Liguori, KDE research analyst, said. “Educators’ ability to differentiate instruction using Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS) will greatly impact our goals of graduating more students college- and career-ready.”

Based on recent Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) survey results, nearly 40 percent of state teachers said they have not had at least 10 hours of differentiated instruction PD in the past two years, and 31 percent of Kentucky teachers said they don’t have enough time to get optimum results in regard to instructional practices and supports that cover aspects of teaching it.

Whether it’s modifying the content, process or the learning environment, the key to making differentiated instruction work is constant reflection. That may be based on an individual student or looking at the teacher practice when assessment results aren’t proficient, teachers said. Continue Reading

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Star shines bright as Blue Ribbon School

KW Sexton helps a 4th-grade student with a geometry equation during his class at Star Elementary School (Carter County). Photo by Amy Wallot, May 14, 2014

KW Sexton helps a 4th-grade student with a geometry equation during his class at Star Elementary School (Carter County).
Photo by Amy Wallot, May 14, 2014

By Susan Riddell susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

When Star Elementary School (Carter County) earned a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School honor, it was the first Blue Ribbon honor for the school district.

Principal Charles Baker said that while the award was an indication of strong teamwork at his school, he doesn’t want staff and students to think their work is done.

“This honor really says to us that when people put in the work and they work together, you can reach success,” said. “Getting recognized by the state and nation is a pinnacle, but we don’t want to slack off. We’ve got a commitment to the kids to raise the bar.”

District instructional supervisor Judy Dotson said that aside from the district setting high expectations for all its elementary schools, Star Elementary succeeds because of “a strong intervention program, focused professional learning and an intentional and collaborative process for implementing Program Reviews.”

In completing Program Review work, Star has focused efforts on community involvement, especially in regard to its Practical Living Program Review and arts and humanities emphasis. Star has reached out to its community for learning opportunities, setting up a career day and bringing in The Big Smile Dental Program and educating students on the importance of not using drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Continue Reading

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Pulaski County ATC adds Natural Gas Pipeline Technician Program to its offerings

David Hargis, left, Somerset Fuel Center Manager, explains natural gas fueling processes to Maci New, the first student to sign up for Pulaski County Area Technology Center's natural gas pipeline technician program. Photo by Tim Thornberry, May 23, 2013

David Hargis, left, Somerset Fuel Center Manager, explains natural gas fueling processes to Maci New, the first student to sign up for Pulaski County Area Technology Center’s natural gas pipeline technician program.
Photo by Tim Thornberry, May 23, 2013

By Tim Thornberry
tim.thornberry@education.ky.gov

Beth Hargis knows how important partnerships are to the success of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. It is the foundation on which the programs are built, she said.

As principal of the Pulaski County Area Technology Center (ATC), Hargis has enjoyed partnerships between local business and industry, local government and the local community college.

Those relationships have gotten the ATC’s newest project off the ground. A Natural Gas Pipeline Technician Program began this year at the school, signaling the development of a program to fill not only a local need but a growing demand for technicians across the country.

“I believe this program will provide a meaningful and lasting occupation for those students who become involved,” she said.

Hargis added that with the introduction of this program at the ATC comes the recognition of it being the first of its kind in the state’s secondary education sector, and the most comprehensive program at the high school level in the country.

“We have researched this for months to make sure we have all the proper components in place to ensure success and have not found anything like it anywhere, from a secondary education standpoint,” said Hargis.

The program began as an initiative from Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler, who was frustrated trying to hire qualified gas pipeline technicians, explained Hargis.

Somerset owns a natural gas pipeline that spans seven counties, and the city recently opened a natural gas fueling center and is moving toward a natural gas fleet of city vehicles. Continue Reading

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Education fares well in budget, several education bills also enacted

Commissioner Terry Holliday and KEA President Stephanie Winkler testify before the Senate Committee on Education discussion on SB224, an act relating to academic standards.

Commissioner Terry Holliday and KEA President Stephanie Winkler testify before the Senate Committee on Education discussion on SB224, an act relating to academic standards.
Photo by Amy Wallot, March 13, 2014

By Tracy Goff Herman
tracy.herman@education.ky.gov

The 2014 Regular Session of the General Assembly has finished its work with 1,486 bills considered with 145 bills and resolutions enacted.

The most important piece of legislation considered was HB 235, the state’s budget that covers the 2014-2016 biennium. Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed several budget measures, including language that required the Finance and Administration Cabinet to finalize end-of-year receipts early and language that limited flexibility for the executive branch in handling fiscal matters, including shortfalls and administrative matters. The legislature did not override the vetoes.

Budget

With little economic growth, Kentucky’s revenue situation isn’t much improved from the previous biennium. As such, the newly enacted budget reflects additional cuts to operating and program budgets. However, elementary and secondary education fared better than many other executive branch agencies, with funding restored to many K-12 programs.

Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding was increased by approximately $189 million to cover mandated certified and classified salary increases for school district employees (1 percent in FY15 and 2 percent in FY16). Continue Reading

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Mann makes education enriching with a civic-minded approach

Fifth-grade teacher Tracy Trego checks in on students playing a number game about negative and positive numbers during her class at Mann Elementary School (Boone County). Photo by Amy Wallot, May 1, 2014

Fifth-grade teacher Tracy Trego checks in on students playing a number game about negative and positive numbers during her class at Mann Elementary School (Boone County).
Photo by Amy Wallot, May 1, 2014

By Susan Riddell
Susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

When Mann Elementary School (Boone County) opened its doors eight years ago, the school motto was taken from the school’s namesake, Shirley Mann. Her philosophy was “choose joy.”

“That was her motto in the classroom, so we took it, and we apply it to everything we do,” said Connie Crigger, who has been the school’s only principal. “The Choose Joy Award is the big award we give to a 5th grader each year, and we feel that choosing joy every day is something that has a big impact on our school.”

Mann Elementary was recently named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School. With solid assessment results the past several years, Crigger said choosing joy and applying strong service projects that go beyond the walls of the school are the biggest reasons for schoolwide and Blue Ribbon success.

“It makes a huge impact,” Crigger said. “We know that learning environments are crucial to learning success. It’s something that was important to me when the doors to this building opened, and our staff knows that it’s vital to getting these kids prepared with the 21st century skills they need.” Continue Reading

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Teachers hope camp experience pays off in the classroom

Michelle Hendricks, a teacher at Freedom Elementary School (Bullitt County), second from left, during a simulated mission at space camp. Photo submitted

Michelle Hendricks, a teacher at Freedom Elementary School (Bullitt County), second from left, during a simulated mission at space camp. Photo submitted

By Susan Riddell
susan.riddell@education.ky.gov

Michelle Hendricks, a 4th grade teacher Freedom Elementary School (Bullitt County), spent a week at a summer space camp that she hopes will have a lasting impact on her classroom and teaching practices.

“This was an incredible week,” Hendricks said of Honeywell Space Academy for Educators camp she attended last July. “We were working and learning from sunrise to way after sunset – not just learning about space, but teaching techniques, ways of incorporating collaboration and getting content knowledge that we can use to be more specific, thorough and engaging with our students.”

Hendricks attended the camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. It focused on space science and exploration, but incorporated teaching strategies appropriate for any classroom.

John Franklin, a mathematics intervention and physics teacher at Pulaski County High School, also participated in the space camp. He is interested in teaching an astronomy elective at his school next year, and he said he really benefitted from the two space mission simulations he experienced.

He also built and launched model rockets, extracted DNA, programmed a simple robot, designed a permanent space habitat, participated in a team ropes course and learned about Continue Reading

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