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Kentucky’s lowest-performing schools making gains

Kentucky Board of Education member Leo Calderon asks about a priority schools update during the KBE meeting in Frankfort, Ky. Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 5, 2013

Kentucky Board of Education member Leo Calderon asks about a priority schools update during the KBE meeting in Frankfort, Ky.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Feb. 5, 2013

Kentucky’s lowest-performing schools are making promising progress on increasing student achievement, the Kentucky Board of Education learned at its meeting yesterday.

Based on 2012-13 Unbridled Learning Assessment and Accountability System results, of the 41 schools named as Priority or Persistently Low-Achieving (PLA) Schools — identified as being in the bottom 5 percent of schools in the Commonwealth:

• 6 schools scored in the Distinguished category, the highest of all performance categories
• 8 schools scored in the Proficient category
• 19 schools were categorized as Progressing (met annual measurable objective, student participation rate and graduation rate)

Other highlights include:

• 11 of the 41 schools had overall scores above the state average
• 36 of 41 schools met their Annual Measureable Objective
• 21 of 41 schools achieved their College- and Career-Readiness (CCR) targets
• One school (Leslie County High School) progressed out of Priority status

“The results show it is possible to turnaround low-achieving schools,” said Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday. “These schools are focused on doing what is best for kids and ensuring their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be college- and career-ready. The improvement we’re seeing is a testament to the outstanding leadership and diligent work of teachers, principals, students and parents,” Holliday said.

While Holliday is positive about the gains being made, he acknowledged there are still a number of Priority Schools that continue to need assistance. The Kentucky Department of Education is currently performing diagnostic reviews in the lowest-performing schools to determine what needs to happen to turn the schools around. Staff reported that several schools have recently replaced their principals and are starting to see results.

“Leadership makes a difference,” Holliday said “These schools need strong leadership, a strong council and on-site support for math and literacy,” he said.

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Kentucky teachers support Core Academic Standards

Kentucky teachers, like those in a nationwide poll, are enthusiastic about teaching the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) according to data released by the Kentucky Department of Education.

The data stem from the Primary Sources survey of 20,000 public school teachers nationwide last summer. The survey, conducted by the Harrison Group, asked teachers across the country their thoughts on implementing the Common Core State Standards — a set of clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do for success after graduation. Results of that survey showed:

  • 97 percent of teachers are aware of the new English/language arts and mathematics standards
  •  73 percent are enthusiastic about implementing the new standards in their classroom
  •  73 percent believe implementing the standards is or will be challenging
  • 74 percent believe implementing the standards will require them to make changes in their teaching practice
  • 73 percent felt they were prepared to teach the new standards in their classrooms
  • 76 percent believe the standards will have a positive impact on students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills

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Half of incoming kindergarten students ready to succeed in school

Terry Tolan, executive director of the GovernorÕs Office of Early Childhood, center, has a group of student demonstrate a sample of the kindergarten readiness screener, like identifying where your ear is located, during a press conference with Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, left, and Gov. Steve Beshear, right, at the Capitol. Photo by Amy Wallot, Jan. 30, 2013

Terry Tolan, executive director of the GovernorÕs Office of Early Childhood, center, has a group of student demonstrate a sample of the kindergarten readiness screener, like identifying where your ear is located, during a press conference with Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, left, and Gov. Steve Beshear, right, at the Capitol.
Photo by Amy Wallot, Jan. 30, 2013

Nearly half of students who started kindergarten this school year ready to learn and succeed. However, nearly 26,000 students entered school unprepared for kindergarten work, according to results of the first statewide implementation of the common Kindergarten Readiness Screener.

“From day one, these students may be at a disadvantage; they are behind, and some lack the foundational skills on which to build,” Gov. Steve Beshear said. “Too often, they don’t catch up with their peers. As a result, these students may face years of poor grades and negative school experiences that usually only end when they drop out or graduate from high school unprepared for college or career.”

Beshear announced the results at a news conference with Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Terry Tolan, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood.

Teachers administered the BRIGANCE K Screener to 50, 532 kindergarten students in all 173 school districts at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. The screener measures how well a child is prepared to succeed in school at the time the screener is administered. Students are asked their name and age, to recite the alphabet and to count to 30, among other tasks.

The common kindergarten screener provides teachers with key information early in the school year that they can use to guide instruction to meet the individual needs of all students. Continue Reading

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‘Let’s Move’ encourages students, schools to get active

More Kentucky students are kicking their sedentary habits and getting active thanks to the “Let’s Move!” Active Schools initiative.

The physical education program empowers teachers, principals, administrators and parents to create active environments that enable all students to get moving; helps promote physical activity before, during and after school; and encourages parent and community involvement in helping students become healthier.

“The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is committed to improving the health and wellness of Kentucky’s students,” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “‘Let’s Move!’ helps schools create active environments that get students moving every day and supports their success in school.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), students need at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Since young people spend an average of six to seven hours in school each day, the school environment is an ideal place to help students achieve the recommended amount of physical activity. Studies show that students who participate in regular physical activity also perform better in school. Continue Reading

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State board lauds governor’s spending plan

Members of the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) commend Governor Steve Beshear for his courage and wisdom in making education the top priority in his 2014-16 proposed budget.
“The Governor had to make some really hard choices, many at the expense of other state agencies,” said KBE Chairman Roger Marcum. “The state board and I are extremely appreciative that the Governor saw the need to fund education at a higher level than in the previous few years.”
Marcum said the state board is thankful for both the Governor’s and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday’s leadership on behalf of Kentucky’s school children.
The Kentucky Board of Education had made the restoration of P-12 funding to pre-recession levels, or greater, its primary goal for this legislative session.
In its 2014-16 biennial budget request, the board asked for the:
• restoration of Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding to 2009 levels
• restoration of Flexible Focus Funds for professional development, safe schools, extended school
services, textbooks and preschool to 2008 levels Continue Reading

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Commissoner praises Governor’s proposed budget

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday praised Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed 2015-16 biennial budget and the Governor’s commitment to reinvesting in education.

“I am proud the Governor has recognized education as a key investment for the future of Kentucky,” Holliday said. “It will mean a better prepared workforce that can attract higher paying jobs and support the economic development of our state, which will benefit all Kentuckians.

“Reinvesting in education will ensure that we will not backslide and can continue to build on the progress we’ve made to date raising the high school graduation rate and improving the college/career-readiness of our students,” Holliday said.

A reinvestment in education is necessary, the commissioner said, because of cuts in funding over the past several years.

The General Assembly has allocated $64 million less in basic Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding at a time when the Average Daily Attendance increased by more than 10,000 students, effectively cutting per pupil spending. At a time when educators have been implementing Senate Bill 1 (2009) and raising the bar on education in our state, flexible focus funds that pay for professional Continue Reading

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Kentucky holds steady in national education report

Kentucky high school students on campus at Morehead State University for the Insight program. Photo by Amy Wallot, June 13, 2013

Kentucky high school students on campus at Morehead State University for the Insight program.
Photo by Amy Wallot, June 13, 2013

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday praised Kentucky teachers, administrators, parents, students, business and community members recently following the release of an annual assessment of all states on key education indicators.

Each year, Education Week (a national publication that focuses on P-12 education) produces a special issue, “Quality Counts.” The report tracks key education indicators and grades states on their policy efforts and outcomes. Last year, Kentucky ranked 10th in the nation. This year, due to changes such as the Common Core State Standards and Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers and the impact they might have on the report’s indicators and grading framework, the report did not provide overall rankings but did assign specific grades and state rankings in six categories. The state showed modest improvement.

“Kentucky’s efforts to educate our young people, create a stronger workforce and improve the quality of life for all the people of the Commonwealth are paying off,” said Commissioner Holliday. “This ‘Quality Counts’ report validates all the hard work that has taken place over the past two and a half decades to reform our public school system and provide Kentucky students with a world class educational experience from cradle to career.” Continue Reading

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Federal grant targets improved school health

Kentucky students and staff will benefit from a new federal grant to fund health and wellness initiatives aimed at reducing risk factors associated with childhood and adult obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Earlier this week, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) a $1.7 million grant that, in part, focuses on healthy environments and prevention activities in schools to improve management of chronic diseases. Kentucky was one of only 32 states to receive additional funding to achieve even greater reach and impact.

The grant cultivates a partnership between the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and DPH to focus on school health issues such as nutrition standards and policies, physical education and physical activity policies, and school staff wellness policies.

“KDE is committed to work with our partners to continuously improve the health and wellness of Kentucky’s students and school staff,” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “Healthy students miss fewer days of school and are better able to learn and succeed,” he Continue Reading

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Holliday named president of state school chiefs

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has assumed the role of president of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). For the past year he served as the group’s president-elect.

“I am proud and very humbled to serve this outstanding organization,” Holliday said. “If you look at the accomplishments of CCSSO over the last five to six years, you see an organization that is certainly a strong leader in public education.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses its views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

Holliday said as president of CCSSO, he will continue to push for action on education issues of importance.  During the upcoming year, he intends to focus on communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation and career-readiness.

  • Communication and Collaboration – The diversity of context and opinions among states is a strength of the organization, according to Holliday.
    “CCSSO must continue to look for ways that all state voices are heard and valued and reach out to other national organizations,” Holliday said. “Our voice needs to be heard in administrative and teacher organizations and we must in turn listen and act on the feedback we receive from these organizations.” Continue Reading

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Kentucky wins national child nutrition award

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service has selected the Kentucky Department of Education’s Division of School and Community Nutrition to receive an award for outstanding service in child nutrition.

The Direct Certification Performance Award, established under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, goes to states for outstanding performance in directly certifying children for free school meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). To be eligible for the award, states had to meet the federally mandated 90 percent benchmark for direct certification in the 2012-13 school year, be among those with the highest direct certification performance rates for the year and no longer use presentation of a letter as a method for direct certification.

“This award means one of the most basic needs of Kentucky’s school children is being met,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “Hungry children can’t learn, and we have an obligation to ensure that all children who qualify receive free meals through the school lunch program.”

Children from households with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for free school meals. In addition, children who are migrants, runaways or homeless, who are in foster care or who are enrolled in Head Start or Even Start are categorically eligible for free meals. Student eligibility must be verified by application or direct certification.

The 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants And Children) Reauthorization Act required state education agencies to establish systems to directly certify children from households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits without the need for paper applications. Continue Reading

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