Archive | Features

Thinking of the future

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

She’s only in 8th grade but Savannah Smith knows she wants to be a biomedical engineer.

“That’s pretty tough to get into,” Bruce Griffis, an assistant biology professor at Kentucky State University told Smith when she sat down at his advising table. “How are you going get (into college)? What are you going do?”

Smith’s answer: “Study a lot.”

Griffis and Li Lu, also an assistant biology professor at KSU, told Smith and three other Anderson County Middle School students at the table – an aspiring doctor, orthodontist and physical therapist – that they should take four years of science in high school, do as much math as they can and, of course, study a lot. Continue Reading

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Teaching students to think globally

Second grade teacher Mary Fryer looks over Doug Hogan's painting of rain putting out fire during a class at Clay Elementary School (Webster County). As part of their aboriginal art project, students wrote short stories to go along with their paintings. Photo by Amy Wallot, Jan. 28, 2015

Second grade teacher Mary Fryer looks over Doug Hogan’s painting of rain putting out fire during a class at Clay Elementary School (Webster County). As part of their aboriginal art project, students wrote short stories to go along with their paintings.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Jan. 28, 2015

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

Several of Crystal Harris’ 2nd-grade students now turn their papers in with their names written across the top in Chinese characters.

They are in Asia, at least for this year. Next year, in 3rd grade, they will move to Australia.

By the time students leave Clay Elementary after 6th grade, they will have traveled around the world, learning about people, culture and language on all seven continents without ever leaving Kentucky. Continue Reading

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State will focus on Novice reduction to close achievement gaps

Kentucky Department of Education Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd and Associate Commissioners Amanda Ellis and Kelly Foster discuss closing the achievement gaps through novice reduction with the Kentucky Board of Education during its meeting. Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 4, 2015

Kentucky Department of Education Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd and Associate Commissioners Amanda Ellis and Kelly Foster discuss closing the achievement gaps through novice reduction with the Kentucky Board of Education during its meeting.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 4, 2015

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

It’s one of the most vexing issues educators face – closing the achievement gap – which is why Kentucky Department of Education officials recently announced a new plan for how they will assist districts and schools in raising achievement for all students.

“We know in this state if we partner with districts to have a laser-like focus on issues, results happen,” said Kelly Foster, associate commissioner of KDE’s Office of Next Generation Schools and Districts, which works to raise student achievement by supporting districts. “We’ve seen that with college and career-readiness.”

In a nutshell, the state’s plan is focused on decreasing the number of students performing at the Novice level under the state’s accountability model, and raising the achievement among specific groups of students, such as minorities and students in poverty, who tend to lag behind their white, more economically advantaged classmates.

“If we can create the same intensity around closing achievement gaps through novice reduction, kids will be impacted in great ways,” Foster said while presenting the plan at a recent Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) meeting.

KBE has made closing achievement gaps one of its top priorities. Under state law, KBE and districts are required to address the gaps in achievement between African-American and white students, male and female students, students with and without disabilities, students with limited English proficiency and English speakers, and students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and students who do not. Continue Reading

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KDE, educators smoothing new pathway to early graduation

Marshall County High School counselor Elaine Hogancamp, center, works with students Karly Hardin and Karson Johnson at the school. Photo provided by Marshall County Schools

Marshall County High School counselor Elaine Hogancamp, center, works with students Karly Hardin and Karson Johnson at the school. Hogancamp is among the educators helping interested students take advantage of the early graduation option that became available last year.
Photo provided by Marshall County Schools

By Mike Marsee
michael.marsee@education.ky.gov

When students at Marshall County High School started hearing about early graduation, Elaine Hogancamp and Scott Terry fielded two types of questions from two groups of people.

Hogancamp, a guidance counselor at the school, and Scott Terry, an assistant principal there, said students wanted to know what they had to do to leave high school a little early, while parents wanted to know how it would affect their children in college.

The Marshall County educators faced both questions after an early graduation pathway was created by the Kentucky General Assembly last year.

Administrators, counselors and teachers across the state have been asked the same questions, and they said they expect they will be responding to them more and more as students become aware of the early graduation option.

Early graduation isn’t for everyone, but Kelly Clark, who is coordinating the program in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Next Generation Learners, said more students took advantage of the option in its first year than KDE officials had expected.

“Parents have been really excited about this,” Clark said. “We thought we’d have around 100 students when we looked at the data from years past of kids who left who would have been college- and career-ready, but about 300 kids applied the first year.” Continue Reading

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Breckinridge County ATC joins NASA Hunch project

Breckinridge County ATC Computerized Manufacturing and Machining teacher Dean Monarch discussed some of the roles students will be involved in as part of the school’s partnership with the NASA HUNCH program.

Breckinridge County ATC Computerized Manufacturing and Machining teacher Dean Monarch discussed some of the roles students will be involved in as part of the school’s partnership with the NASA HUNCH program.
Photo by Tim Thornberry, Sept. 18, 2014

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

When Dean Monarch’s students got the opportunity to work on a project with NASA, he wanted to make sure they didn’t take the easy way out.

Machine tool technology students at the Breckinridge County Area Technology Center are helping to create training hardware as part of High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH).

Monarch, their instructor, said he wanted to make sure his students were challenged.

“I try and push the students every day to learn as much as they can,” Monarch said. “I told the students when we started I picked the hardest project NASA had because I knew they could handle it. They fussed at me when they saw some of the other things we could be building. But if we can do something to showcase our talents, we’re going to do it to the fullest extent we can.”

They are building hardware that will be integrated into NASA’s mockups of the International Space Station (ISS) and used by crews every day in their hands-on environment to train those people who support the ISS. Continue Reading

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Stopher students benefit from involved community

Third-grade teacher Pam Whitfield reads I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 a historical fiction book by Lauren Tarshis at Stopher Elementary School (Jefferson County). Photo by Amy Wallot, Jan. 28, 2015

Third-grade teacher Pam Whitfield reads “I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863” a historical fiction book by Lauren Tarshis at Stopher Elementary School (Jefferson County). Photo by Amy Wallot, Jan. 28, 2015

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

On a recent morning a retired couple sat in the library of Joseph E. Stopher Elementary reading with students who need a little extra help. Down the hall, three parents worked in a room set aside for the school’s parent/teacher group.

That community and parent involvement is just one example of why the Jefferson County school is a Blue Ribbon School, said Principal Brigitte Owens.

“This is just a great school,” said Owens. “I believe our school was selected because of our consistently high test scores as well as the ability to narrow the achievement gap among certain groups.”

Stopher was one of four public schools in Kentucky to receive the award from the U.S. Department of Education in 2014. The school was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an Exemplary High-Performing School, based on student achievement and several other research-based indicators of school quality. Continue Reading

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Helping parents understand math helps students

Wearing the mathematician hat, preschool student Kaden Coons helps his teacher Donna Howard solve a math word problem at Whitesville Elementary School (Daviess County). Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 5, 2015

Wearing the mathematician hat, preschool student Kaden Coons helps his teacher Donna Howard solve a math word problem at Whitesville Elementary School (Daviess County).
Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 5, 2015

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

When her 4th-grade students at Camp Dick Robinson Elementary kept coming to school with their mathematics homework completed but not with the calculation methods she was teaching, Ruth Wall knew something had to change.

Instead of multiplying and dividing using the strategies called for in the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Math, such as equations, arrays or area models, the homework was done the way most of her students’ parents had learned to multiply and divide – using a formula.

“What happens is you show the children the new way,” Wall said, “Then in the homework the parents say ‘You must do it the way I know how to do it, because it’s the only way I can help you.’”

So Wall, who has taught at the Garrard County school for 27 years, started giving marks for not following directions.

“The parents were furious,” she said. “But if I don’t give students marks for it, I’m saying, ‘It’s OK if you never learn it.’”

The only way for her students to learn, she decided, was to teach their parents. Continue Reading

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Yearlong program focused on creating stronger school, district leaders

Peaks Mill Elementary School (Franklin County) principal Dana Blankenship is participating in LEAD-Kentucky. Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 6, 2015

Peaks Mill Elementary School (Franklin County) principal Dana Blankenship is participating in LEAD-Kentucky.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 6, 2015

By Mike Marsee
michael.marsee@education.ky.gov

Dana Blankenship isn’t done with LEAD-Kentucky, but she has done enough to know it works.

Blankenship, the principal at Peaks Mill Elementary in Franklin County, still has several months to go in the program that is providing leadership training to school and district leaders, but she said what she has learned has already impacted her and her school.

She said she has been incorporating the principles she has learned in the program, and she said Peaks Mill has begun to change as a result.

“I have to stop and think about how I’m going to do a staff meeting now, because I think about the whole process involved in it,” Blankenship said. “It just seems to come naturally, and you don’t realize it’s happening. The strategic thinking and the systems thinking, all of that is a big part of how we move in this building now.”

Blankenship is one of about 100 educators participating in LEAD-Kentucky (Leadership for Education and Development in Kentucky), a yearlong program begun last summer in which the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) hopes to develop stronger leaders for schools and districts that need them most. Continue Reading

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Learning better together

By Peter Mathews

There are Skittles on the cafeteria table at Hawthorne Elementary, but it isn’t food that’s on the 5th-graders’ minds. The pieces of candy are representing elements in a lesson about how to make chemical compounds.

What’s unusual about the lesson at the Jefferson County school is that it’s being taught not by the students’ teacher, Flora Martinez, but by teams of students from duPont Manual High School. And everyone’s speaking only in Spanish.

The class is a partnership between Hawthorne, the district’s only Spanish immersion program and one of only a handful in the state, and Manual teacher Ana Castro’s ­Spanish Conversation class.

Martinez said her students “love to work with kids who are older than them.”

Global competency and world language will become part of elementary and middle school’s program review in the 2016-17 school year. It will be part of the program review in high schools next school year. The effort is part of Senate Bill 1 (2009) which mandated new more rigorous standards to ensure Kentucky students are ready to compete in the 21st century economy and, in turn, strengthen the long-term economic health of the state.

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KSD teacher uses math program for instant feedback

Lee Alan Roher works with juniors Jeffery Carter and Brianna Jones on adding and subtracting complex numbers at the Kentucky School for the Deaf. Photo by Amy Wallot, Jan. 15, 2015

Lee Alan Roher works with juniors Jeffery Carter and Brianna Jones on adding and subtracting complex numbers at the Kentucky School for the Deaf.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Jan. 15, 2015

By Mike Marsee
michael.marsee@education.ky.gov

When students in a math class aren’t learning at the same pace, Lee Alan Roher has a way of bringing them all together.

Roher’s use of a web-based program in her high school mathematics classes at Kentucky School for the Deaf allows her to meet students at any point in their progress and to make sure they’re meeting state standards.

And while she didn’t create the program, she has had a role in its evolution and has surely become one of its biggest boosters.

“I use it whenever I possibly can,” Roher said. “Of course, I have time invested in it, using it for this long.”

Roher has sweat equity invested in it as well. She has been working with faculty members in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Mathematics since 2005 on MathClass, which offers interactive homework and diagnostic testing.

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