New K-12 effort preparing students for higher education

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Kentucky college professors recently learned about new approaches to teaching public school students mathematics, literacy and writing skills at a conference organized by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Faculty members from 25 state universities, private institutions and community colleges heard from Kentucky teachers from Kenton and Fayette counties who are working with the Mathematics Design Collaborative and Literacy Design Collaborative, piloting efforts to improve teaching and learning.

The Prichard Committee has worked to coordinate the districts piloting these new mathematics and literacy efforts in Kentucky, which were funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“These new strategies have shown great promise for giving students a deeper understanding of math concepts and connecting writing to challenging thinking in science, social studies and language arts classes,” said Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

The seminar, funded by the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is part of a state-backed program to update postsecondary leaders and educators on the impact of overhauled academic standards that K-12 students are expected to learn as part of Senate Bill 1.

The Council on Postsecondary Education has funded a collaborative initiative involving all higher education institutions in the state, as part of a larger effort undertaken by the council to provide continued professional development to college and university faculty to support the implementation of Senate Bill 1 requirements in higher education courses.

According to Cathy Gunn, dean of education at Morehead State University, part of the “effort

involves not only discussing the standards themselves but recognizing how teaching and learning is changing in Kentucky schools.”

“It’s important to see some of the progressive ideas taking shape in high schools,” she said. “Colleges want to be part of the discussion about how we take the idea of higher standards and operationalize it in classrooms. Getting general-education college faculty thinking about standards and assessment for learning can keep this moving from schools to colleges.”

Earlier this year, the Gates Foundation awarded the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) a grant to spread implementation of the mathematics and literacy collaboratives across the state.

KDE is doing that work through its regional leadership networks, which bring together selected educators from each Kentucky school district to learn about standards, assessments, accountability and effective implementation. Pilot sites in the mathematics and literacy collaboratives also are continuing to spread and refine their own efforts while other states also join this work.

The Daviess, Jessamine and Kenton county school districts are part of both efforts. Other districts in the mathematics collaborative are Boone, Jefferson and Warren counties. Other districts in the literacy collaborative are Boyle, Fayette and Rockcastle counties.

College professors who attended the Lexington seminar said they were impressed with the work underway in high school and look forward to the opportunity to more closely link college and K-12 work.

 “I came to understand the process that’s going on,” said Clovis Perry Jr., an associate professor of geography at the Danville campus of Bluegrass Community and Technical College. “The examples we saw would be excellent to guide what we are doing at the college level. We all want to see students engaged in finding and sharing information.”

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