Category Archives: Kentucky

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Fundamental Education Reform in Kentucky: An Economic Imperative

I love being a Kentuckian. Our state has been blessed with unbelievable natural beauty and some of the friendliest, good-natured, hardworking people you could ever hope to meet. My wife and I thank God daily for the blessings of our Kentucky home, church family, and friends. But there remains tremendous untapped potential in our state. We have not yet become the state that we can be, that we should be. And central to our untapped potential is a public education system that while much better than it has been in generations past, is still in dire need of reform.

Kentucky has made significant strides in public education since the early 1990s. The passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) and other subsequent reforms have been good for Kentucky’s children. But the academic performance and employment and earnings outcomes for our low income children and children of color is drastically different from performance and outcomes for our middle income and White children. That reality is crippling our state.

Much work remains to be done to improve the education attainment, employment, and earnings outcomes for all of Kentucky’s students, but drastic improvement in performance and employment outcomes for our low income children and children of color is both a moral and economic imperative. We are a state that has for years ranked near the bottom in labor force participation. In 2015 we ranked 47th out of the 50 U.S. states and DC, with a labor force participation rate of 57.9%. We lead only Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia in labor force participation. While those are fine states, we can do better. In sum, not nearly enough Kentuckians are working, and a major factor contributing to our labor force woes is our failure to equip all of our students with the knowledge and skills needed for gainful employment. That failure has in turn led to our challenges with attracting companies with high wage jobs to Kentucky, jobs that require a pipeline of skilled workers. There is no doubt about it, we have to do better.

First, there must be acknowledgement by education leaders and policy makers that current academic and performance outcomes for our students are unacceptable. Period.

Second, leaders must acknowledge that what’s happened and what’s happening in Kentucky’s public schools contributes to the current racial and socioeconomic performance and outcomes gaps. Leaders and policy makers seem content with pointing to out-of-school factors which contribute to gaps, but most leaders seem unwilling to admit that school factors have contributed to the problem as well. While our schools are not wholly responsible for the gaps, our schools have played a role and continue to play a role in the maintenance and in some cases exacerbation of performance and outcomes gaps.

The frequently heard refrain that “we’re working to ensure that all kids learn” is meaningless when what we are doing doesn’t lead to all kids learning. Leaders have talked about public schooling working for all kids in Kentucky for a long time, but low income kids and kids of color continue to be left behind. It’s past time for state and school leaders to acknowledge that what we’ve been doing in the name of all kids hasn’t worked for all kids; and begin exploring what we can do different to ensure that low income kids are learning, that Black kids are learning, that Latino kids are learning, etc.

Third, leaders must commit to fundamental change; not tinkering here and there, but fundamental change in our state’s public education system. The magnitude of socioeconomic and racial performance and outcomes gaps in Kentucky are such that tinkering with the system will get us nowhere. Fundamental reform to Kentucky’s public education system is an absolute necessity. Reform is needed in every area, from the recruitment, selection, and training of teachers and leaders, all the way to the mechanisms we use for holding schools, leaders, and teachers accountable for student learning and outcomes, and everything in between. A system that produces such disparate outcomes for different groups of children is fundamentally broken, and nothing short of large scale reform is worthy of consideration.

We can and we must reform Kentucky’s public education system to be responsive to the needs of our most vulnerable children; reform is both a moral and an economic imperative. The health of our state’s economy is dependent on our ability to better prepare all of our children for success. We cannot afford to prepare only some of our children for gainful employment, and lives as civically responsible, tax-paying citizens of our state. All Kentuckians’ futures are inextricably bound together.

Hypocrites and Opposition to Charter Schools in Kentucky

I’ll start this post by telling you that I don’t care very much for hypocrites. I have no problems working with people whose opinions and beliefs are different than mine, sovaldi but if at all possible, buy cialis I try not to work with hypocrites, simply because they get under my skin. Hypocrites come in all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, and religious and political persuasions. Neither Republicans nor Democrats, Blacks nor Whites have a monopoly on hypocrisy.

I have seen blatant hypocrisy recently in the position some prominent Kentucky leaders and scholars have taken to oppose to the passage of charter school legislation in Kentucky. For those of you who live outside of Kentucky, Kentucky is one of the handful of remaining states in the U.S. where there is no charter school legislation. First of all, to be clear, I am not saying that anyone who opposes the passage of charter school legislation in Kentucky is a hypocrite. I am saying, however, that there are hypocrites in Kentucky who oppose the passage of charter school legislation. I am aware that I am not being politically correct, but political correctness has to take a backseat when our children’s futures are at stake. High quality public school options for low-income and minority families could mean the difference between a career and gainful employment or joblessness, prison, and poverty. For some of our children it is not a stretch to say that having high quality public school options could be the difference between life and death.

So I get upset when hypocrites demand that our most under-served children remain in failing schools and stand in the way of reform that would benefit under-served children, while at the same time they use all their resources to keep their own children out of failing schools and get them into select magnet programs or private and parochial schools. For those hypocrites, school choice is good for parents like them who have the social, political, and financial capital to get their kids into schools that serve them well. But when it’s time to talk about high quality public school options for low-income families, options that are outside of the traditional public school district, they cry foul, arguing that we must protect local school districts at all costs from school choice advocates, or that allowing parents to send their children to a charter school would take needed funds away from the traditional public school.

Well, I have a few questions for the hypocrites: When you relocate outside of Jefferson County (Louisville, KY) into Oldham County or Shelby County or across the river to Indiana so that your child can attend a school that meets her needs, don’t the tax dollars that used to follow your child to Jefferson County now follow your child to their new school? Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) no longer receives SEEK funds for your child when you move to Oldham County. But you don’t make the argument that Oldham County is robbing JCPS of needed funds, do you? Do you argue that it’s unethical that families relocate outside of Jefferson County so that their children can attend a school that  meets their needs? No, you don’t make that argument because it is understood that school districts have to compete to keep the children of middle class and affluent parents-parents like you.

And what about the hypocrites who oppose policies that would give low income families choice, but they reside in Jefferson County and choose to send their children to Louisville Collegiate School, Trinity, or Saint Xavier? How many dollars for your kids does the state send to JCPS?  Are Trinity and Louisville Collegiate responsible for ruining JCPS? And why doesn’t the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) lobby the legislature to have private and parochial schools in Jefferson County shut down because those schools rob JCPS of much needed revenue. Surely, if every child attending a private or parochial school in Jefferson County had no option other than attending a JCPS school, the JCPS bottom line would improve drastically overnight.

But here’s the secret those hypocrites don’t want you to know about: they actually support school choice, but they only support it for their children. As long as the hypocrites can get their children into the schools they want them to attend, they are perfectly content to hold hands and march in solidarity with JCTA to prevent the passage of legislation that would result in additional high quality public school options for low income families and families of color.Those hypocrites make speeches, and give talks, and give appearances in which they claim to fight for the interests of under-served families, but in reality they fight for their own interests. The truth is that local school districts can continue to fail the children of low income parents and parents of color for generations to come, and all those hypocrites will ever do is give a speech about it or talk about it in a radio or television interview. But here is the best part, the hypocritical elected officials will count on low-income families and families of color to continue to support them on election day, even when they have done absolutely nothing to improve educational option for low income children.

So what do I expect of these hypocritical leaders? I expect them to (a) continue to fight to get their own children into select public and private schools, (b) back their teachers union buddies by trying to prevent the passage of charter school policy in Kentucky, and (c) think little about actually improving educational opportunities for the communities and families they claim to serve.

What do I expect of low income families and families of color in Kentucky? I expect those families to hold their leaders accountable for what they say they will do when they walk door-to-door asking for votes. I expect low income families and families of color to make sure their leaders are being who they say they are. I expect low income families and families of color in Kentucky to demand high quality public school options for their children, and demand that their elected officials support legislation that would provide additional high quality options for their children. I expect low income families and families of color to hold their elected officials directly accountable to them, and not just to the teachers unions. I expect low-income families and families of color in Kentucky to get down right mad about the education achievement of their children and demand that the Kentucky General Assembly, the Governor, and their local school board do something to change it right now.

The Case for a Black & Latino Male Success Initiative at the University of Kentucky

The University System of Georgia’s (USG) 2002 study of factors related to the challenges its campuses faced with the enrollment retention, cialis and graduation of African American male students revealed that: (a) African American males students felt isolated and alienated on their campuses; (b)  most schools had failed to engage African American males students, viagra both inside and outside of classrooms; and (c) African-American male students longed for the ability to talk to faculty, staff, and peers on their campuses that could related to their racial and gender experiences. Based on those findings the USG invested in pilot programs targeting African American male students at the middle school, high school, and higher education levels across the state, with the explicit goals of increasing the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of African-American male students within the system. USG’s Initiative is a testament to the resolve of its leaders to intentionally and strategically do something about the troubling statistics associated with African American male students’ experiences on its campuses.

The commonwealth of Kentucky is different than Georgia in a few significant ways. First, Georgia is a much larger and much more racially diverse state than Kentucky. At the time of the 2010 U.S. Census, Georgia boasted a state population of 9,687,653 residents, which was an 18% increase over the state’s population at the 2000 U.S. Census. In 2010, 59.7% of Georgia’s residents identified themselves as White, 30.5% as Black or African American, 0.3% as American Indian and Alaskan Native, 3.2% as Asian, 0.1% as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 4% as some other race, 2.1% as two or more races, and 8.8% as Hispanic or Latino of any race. Kentucky, however, is only about half the size of Georgia in terms of population and is significantly less diverse. In 2010, Kentucky had a state population of 4,339,367 residents. Kentucky is also one of the Whitest states in the U.S. In 2010, 86.3% of residents identified themselves as White, 7.8% as Black or African American, 1.1% as Asian, 0.2% as American Indian and Alaskan Native, 0.1% as Pacific Islander, and 3.1% as Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Given the differences in number of state residents and the differences in racial/ethnic composition of the states, one would expect to see differences in student enrollment patterns between higher education institutions in Georgia and Kentucky, and those differences are in fact there. In raw numbers, UK enrolls fewer male students of color than comparable institutions in the University System of Georgia. The University of Kentucky’s Black male enrollment (and Black female enrollment) in bachelors’ degree program has, however, been relatively stagnant since the 2008-2009 academic year. Total undergraduate enrollment at the University of Kentucky for the 2012-2013 academic year is 20,878 students.  Black students account for approximately 7.5% of the undergraduate student enrollment at the University. Black male undergraduate students account for just under 46% of the University’s total Black undergraduate enrollment. Hispanic or Latino students comprise about 2.7% of the University’s enrollment, and Hispanic or Latino males account for just over 47% of the University’s total Hispanic or Latino student population.  But overall, African American and Hispanic or Latino male student enrollment at UK comes pretty close to mirroring the racial and ethnic profile of the state.

Outside of enrollment, however, the University of Kentucky faces many of the same challenges that USG institutions faced in 2002; namely, retention, achievement, and graduation rates for undergraduate male students of color, particularly Black male students. University of Kentucky Institutional Research data show clearly that achievement (GPA), retention, and graduation rates for Black male undergraduate students fall significantly behind those fore Black females, Hispanic or Latino students, White males, and White females. Even as much work remains to be done with improving the University graduation rate for all students, the graduation rate for Black male students at UK shamefully falls significantly below that of any other subgroup of students. The six-year graduation rate for the 2006 cohort of Hispanic or Latino first-year, first-time students at UK was 52.6%; for Black female students it was 54.7%; for Black male students it was 42.6%; for White female students it was 60.8%; and for White male students it was 55.5%. Strongly related to graduation rates, the first fall to fourth fall retention rates for Black male students are abysmal. For the 2009 cohort, the first fall to fourth fall retention rate for first-time, first-year Black male students was 45.6%; for Black female students it was 53.1%; for White male students it was 65.5%; and for White female students it was 70.1%. Also related, academic achievement for Black male students at UK falls significantly below the achievement of other subgroups of students. The first year UK GPA for Black male students for the 2011 cohort of first-year, first-time freshmen was 2.25; for Black female students it was 2.56; for White males it was 2.79; and for White female students it was 3.09. 

Further, many of the findings of USG’s study of Black male students hold true for Black male undergraduates at the University of Kentucky. Exploratory research conducted in 2009 by the University Office for Institutional Diversity indicated that Black male students at UK also experience feelings of isolation and alienation, and that the University campus can be a hostile place for them. Institutional research data and exploratory research findings make it pretty clear that if the University desires to improve the quality of experience for Black male undergraduate students and in-turn improve retention and graduation rates, intentional and strategic interventions must be put into place. The University of Kentucky has both the talent and resources to improve educational outcomes for its Black male students. It is my sincere hope that the University leadership make a decision to build and support an Initiative aimed at supporting the success of male students  of color.

 

ACT Scores Show Black Students in Kentucky are in Serious Trouble

Last week the ACT Scores for Kentucky’s high school class of 2012 were released. The results show that while their composite average has increased slightly from a 19.2 for last year’s class to a 19.5 for this year’s class, no rx Kentucky seniors’ scores still lag behind the national average composite score of 21.1. But possibly of even greater concern for this audience is that the gap between White and Black students in Kentucky has increased.

Average scores for White children in Kentucky have increased from from 22.1 in 2008 to 22.4 in 2012. Average scores for Asian students have risen from 22.9 to 23.6. Average scores for Hispanic students have risen from 18.7 to 18.9. The average scores for Black children in Kentucky since 2008 have been substantially lower than any other group of students. Black students in 2008 had an average composite score of 16.9, check and in the last four years has increased by only one tenth of a point to 17.0  That means the gap between White and Black students’ scores has increased from 5.2 points in 2008 to 5.4 points in 2012.

 To put those numbers into perspective for you, buy  that means in Kentucky’s class of 2012 only 5% of Black students have met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas. That is compared to 42% of Asian students, 32% of White students, and 13% of Hispanic students who met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas. To be clear, none of those percentages are particularly good, but the fact that such a small percentage of Black students have met college-readiness standards in Kentucky in 2012 is pretty scary to me. 

Students and parents should understand that many of the jobs that existed in previous generations do not and will not exist in the US for today’s students. The impact of globalization and technology have greatly changed the opportunities that will be available for students. Understanding that, it troubles me how often I still hear adults debating whether or not children need to on to college to lead productive lives. I may upset some folks here but I don’t care. The truth is that if students do not go on to pursue some type of post-secondary education, either earning a degree in a field where they will be able to get a job paying a living wage, or going on to a community or technical college to learn a skill or trade, they will be left on the outside looking in on the 21st Century US economy. If anyone tells you anything different, they are either uninformed about these changes or they are choosing to mislead you. Previous generations of students may not have gone to college and everything may have worked out just fine for them, but the American economy has changed.

The just of all this is simple; unless we can make some pretty significant changes in a lot of areas quickly, Black children in Kentucky are going to be in a whole lot of trouble.

Remember, change begins with you. Be empowered my friends!

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Black Male Academy Induction-The Importance of Expectations

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the induction ceremony for young men who will be the first students at Carter G. Woodson Academy, here  a new program in Lexington, Kentucky which comes as a result of the collaborative efforts of the Black Males Working (BMW) Program at First Baptist Church Bracktown and the Fayette County Public Schools. With the explicit mission of helping young Black men to achieve at high levels, store the program has enrolled students in grades six through nine and promises to offer educational experiences designed to have them realize their full academic potential.

The induction ceremony was a special one. Each young man was individually recognized and called to the front of the standing room-only sanctuary of First Baptist Church Bracktown where his parent(s) or grandparent(s) presented him with his official academy blazer. Additionally, as a token of the expectation that each student would graduate from high school, each young man was presented with a symbolic high school diploma.

There are lots of things that I think are special about what this program, the church, and school district leaders are planning and doing with Carter G. Woodson Academy, and I expect to have conversations here about its approach and accomplishments for years to come. For the moment, however, I’ll touch on just one thing that I believe to be crucial; that is the importance of having and articulating high expectations for the achievement of young Black men. Unfortunately, too many young Black men have heard neither their teachers nor their parents articulate and hold them to the expectation that they will achieve academically at high levels. If we are to change the educational and life outcomes for young Black men in our homes, schools, and communities, this must change. Parents, family members, church family members, and community members must first begin to believe for themselves that young Black men can compete academically with anyone. Personally, I think having high expectations for a child ought to be a prerequisite for having any dealings with him/her. The sad truth of the matter, however, is that if that prerequisite were enforced, there would be lots of adults that would not be able to work with Black children anymore.

I applaud the leaders of the Woodson Academy for making the expectation of academic achievement clear from the outset, and making that expectation known not only to the young men and their families, but to the larger community as well.