- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspaper:


Oct. 6

Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader on what Kentucky’s new education commission must do to teach kids:

Kentucky’s new Education Commissioner Stephen L. Pruitt should move quickly to reignite a sense of urgency about teaching all youngsters well.

The latest round of test scores and accountability measures, released last week, were not particularly good news, though we admit the welter of data that now makes up Kentucky’s school accountability system usually leaves us more befuddled than enlightened. (Maybe it’s just us, but we doubt that we are alone in our puzzlement.)

A few things did stand out:

-The annual improvement goals are painfully modest, yet fewer schools achieved their goals in 2014-15 than in the previous year.

-The overall score for high schools rose 1.5 points from the previous year, but the overall scores for elementary and middle schools declined 1.4 points and 2.1 points respectively.

-Students in groups that have historically had achievement gaps - minorities, low income and those with disabilities or limited English proficiency - continue to lag behind their peers across multiple content areas and grade levels.

Analyzing the achievement gaps, Susan Weston, reporting on the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence’s blog, found that Kentucky’s high schools delivered academic proficiency for the students they serve best, those outside gap groups, at more than twice the rate that they delivered proficiency for black students, more than four times the rate for students with disabilities and more than six times the rate for students with limited English skills.

Thirteen years ago, Kentucky lawmakers shone a bright light on student groups trapped in perpetual underachievement. The legislature enacted a requirement that the Department of Education scrutinize and approve improvement plans for schools that twice miss targets for narrowing achievement gaps. That law and the scrutiny seem to have been forgotten.

Under the current accountability system, now in its third year, the scores schools give themselves for programs in which students no longer take state tests, such as the arts and writing, count as much or more than schools’ success in teaching students in the gap groups.

The consequences of such incentives are hardly surprising: Schools are quickly moving toward giving themselves perfect program-review scores; it’s as if the teacher handed out the test key and told students to grade their own exams. Meanwhile, the system that’s supposed to hold schools accountable isn’t delivering enough pressure to improve teaching for students in gap groups.

Anything that Pruitt and the state school board that finalized his contract Tuesday can do to push schools to close achievement gaps would be a great service to Kentucky’s future. Likewise, for making the accountability system less convoluted.

The new data also provide some bright spots. The percent of high school graduates who tested ready for college or careers has risen from 47.2 in 2012, the first year for this measure, to 66.8 percent in 2015. (That’s still about a third of graduates who leave with a diploma but under-prepared for the next phase of their lives.)

The number of districts and schools performing at the highest level is up.

And, as always, some schools in poor places are performing at high levels, debunking the notion that low-income kids can’t be taught.

Kentucky can be proud that it has not dumbed down its testing to create an illusion of improvement as some states have.

And, in Lexington, Williams Wells Brown Elementary, branded last year as the state’s lowest-performing elementary school, achieved a 19.2 point gain on a 100-point scale and was rated a “high progress” school.

Congratulations to all the students and educators who are working hard to do better.




Oct. 4

Bowling Green (Kentucky) Daily News on the state’s ‘uninspiring’ gubernatorial race:

The governor’s race in Kentucky is, quite simply, uninspiring.

The three candidates don’t bring much excitement to the race. Republican candidate Matt Bevin is an outsider from the Northeast, who - after being beaten soundly by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the 2014 Senate primary - never congratulated McConnell on his victory and never endorsed his candidacy afterwards. These were classless moves by Bevin that have haunted him in this election, as McConnell has not gone out of his way to back Bevin in the governor’s race.

Who could blame the Senate majority leader? We certainly don’t.

Bevin obviously didn’t learn a lesson from how he treated McConnell. During a radio debate Wednesday morning, Bevin was asked who he’d support in the upcoming presidential race if the vote were held today. Bevin said not U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green, but neurosurgeon Ben Carson.


Mr. Bevin, Paul is your home state senator, a tea party man like you who is running for president and has backed your candidacy, yet you have the audacity to say you wouldn’t vote for him, even when Paul has actively campaigned for you and was expected to headline a rally for you Saturday.

This was a rookie, and again classless, mistake to say the least, and a total show of disrespect towards Paul.

After much outrage, Bevin said he would vote for Paul, but the damage was already done.

These examples show a flawed candidate who alienates those who might propel him to the governor’s mansion, but by his own decisions chooses to snub them.

Bevin appears to simply want to be elected to something. As a candidate, he doesn’t inspire confidence because of the aforementioned lapses in judgment.

Meanwhile, trounced in a race for a Senate seat by Paul, Democratic candidate Jack Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general, has bided his time waiting for another shot at higher office. Conway had practiced very little law before he was elected attorney general eight years ago. He is a weak candidate of little substance, who, if elected, will not take the necessary action to address critical problems in our state that cry out for solutions. Conway has been a weak attorney general who was derelict in his duties by not honoring his oath to defend the laws of this state when he declined to defend this state’s same-sex marriage ban before the U.S. Supreme Court. Conway simply offers our state more of the status quo that won’t move our state forward.

Independent candidate Drew Curtis has no chance of winning and, if anything, will be nothing but a spoiler for the two major party candidates on Election Day.

Kentucky faces too many major problems to not have stronger candidates running for governor. Too often, Kentucky is ranked near the bottom in national rankings, especially when it comes to cancer rates, obesity, heart disease and poverty. We need to fix unfunded pension liabilities that are negatively affecting our state’s credit rating. Our tax code is outdated and in dire need of an overhaul. Our coal industry is on life support and needs help. We need better performing schools, especially in Jefferson and Fayette counties. Our state needs a legislature that puts partisan politics aside and works together to move this state forward, not backwards.

We urge the General Assembly to finally come together, no matter who is elected governor, and get the people’s business done. Their chambers can address these problems if they have the will. They have that power, and come January, when the General Assembly convenes, we hope legislators use that power to seriously engage the problems we mentioned.

Those problems transcend this year’s governor’s race, and because neither party appears to have nominated its best or brightest, this newspaper will not endorse a candidate for governor this year.




Oct. 2

The Kentucky New Era on why academic gaps diminish education:

Our country’s promise of an equal start in life through public education for all children is consistently at odds with a problem that American educators have been trying to remedy for many years. It is the achievement gap - and in our community it has been the focus of numerous school board efforts, community panels and even state inquiries.

Fifteen years ago, the Christian County Board of Education approved the implementation of an initiative called Closing the Achievement Gap that had the backing of the state’s Minority Student Achievement Task Force. A few years later, the Study Circles effort, which dealt with racial division in Hopkinsville and Christian County, tried to heighten awareness about the achievement gap between African-American and white students. And in 2008, the state Board of Education leaned hard on Christian County for failing to make more progress to close the achievement gap. This, in part, led to a shake-up in the central office and appointment of a new superintendent. More recently, during a teacher appreciation breakfast at the start of the 2011-12 school year, a guest speaker from Lexington offended some educators when he used that forum to challenge schools to deal with the achievement gap.

There’s no doubt the achievement gap is a tough and persistent problem for Christian County. Now a local panel of public education supporters is preparing for a forum to outline some new efforts at closing the gap.

The Christian County Achievement Gap Committee and the school system will use the forum - set for 5:30 until 7:30 p.m., Oct. 12 at the Christian County Cooperative Extension office, 2850 Pembroke Road - to discuss opportunities to help students succeed. The emphasis will be on helping black male students in the middle and high schools.

The committee’s plan includes recruiting 100 African-American men to be mentors in the schools, said Charles Turner, the volunteer resource, conservation and development coordinator.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Department of Education renewed its focus on closing achievement gaps. Commenting on the priority, Department of Education Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd told state school board members, “This is not only about compliance, but it is an ethical imperative about reaching each child. By focusing on the individual needs of students, we will not only reduce achievement gaps but also improve achievement of all students.”

These efforts are not unique to Hopkinsville or Kentucky. Communities across the country are trying to close achievement gaps. But it will take a solution unique to Hopkinsville and Christian County to close the gap - and no one is better able to find and implement those solutions than local people.

The Christian County Achievement Gap Committee, along with an advisory committee to Superintendent Mary Ann Gemmill, could use the genuine interest and enthusiastic support of the community.

A weeknight meeting about closing the academic achievement gap might not sound like the hottest ticket in town - but the topic for the Oct. 12 forum outranks just about anything we can imagine in terms of its weight to Hopkinsville and Christian County.

If you have a stake in this community through family ties, through affection or through a personal or business investment, this is a meeting that ought to have your attention.

Let’s hope the room is packed. It’s time to deal with the achievement gap and realize the promise of equal opportunity through a good education.



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