12 October 2019 - Northern Kentucky Tribune
Gov. Matt Bevin and Jacqueline Coleman, who is the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, addressed the Prichard Committee’s annual meeting.
Bevin noted that the purpose of public education from the earliest days of the nation was to create virtuous citizens, and that needs to remain a central focus. He emphasized that education has been a priority in his family, with several family members choosing to be teachers.
“If we’re not reinventing ourselves, challenging ourselves, or holding ourselves to high standards, what are we doing?” he asked. “Have we made great strides since KERA? Of course, we have. But we are seeing how that, while more kids are succeeding, more kids are also falling behind,” and the gap between those groups is growing. Although the average might look good, it isn’t, he added. (Link to full address here.)
Coleman, an assistant principal at Nelson County High School and basketball coach, said schools are dealing with every issue that is a challenge for the state and that morale has suffered from a lack of support shown to teachers and schools.
Addressing the issues of children facing cycles of poverty, addiction and low attainment, she said: “We need to lift these kids up. The most efficient way is through education. Every challenge we face in Kentucky, we face in our classrooms.”
Budget cuts in education not only create class size and academic issues but also increase school safety issues, she said. Funding education “is so much more than content and instruction. It impacts caring about and lifting up kids and delivering wrap-around services for families.” (Link to full address here.)
The final two days of meetings focused on building strong partnerships among parents, communities, and schools to improve students’ learning.
Dr. Karen Mapp of the Harvard Graduate School of Education was among several presenters who shared information with the committee about the positive impact productive partnerships have on students and families and on schools’ ability to make the right – if sometimes difficult – decisions on programs and funding.
Mapp pointed out that research has shown the student impact of powerful partnerships includes:
• Faster rates of literacy acquisition
• Higher grades and test scores
• Enrollment in higher-level programs
• More promotions and credits earned
• Better social skills and behavior
• Better school attendance
• Graduation and enrollment in higher education.
Family engagement is defined as a full, equal and equitable partnership among families, educators and community partners to promote children’s learning and development from birth through college and career, she said. It is a core part of a school’s performance, “a practice, not a program, not an add-on.”
Too often, families and educators have not had the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills they need to engage in effective partnerships, she said. That’s why targeted programs, such as the Prichard Committee’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership, are so important.
Nate Levenson, founder and managing partner of District Management Group of Boston, told the committee that, while having more money helps, “what you do with it matters immensely,” and there is no one right way to spend resources.
Schools use money best if they have strong community relationships, he said, but communities can also present obstacles if the right partnerships are not developed. Focus is critical on funding decisions.
“Budgeting becomes easier and more effective if schools and communities come together to set – and limit – priorities,” he said.
The committee also heard presentations on:
• Recently released research detailing the factors, particularly effective teaching, that help schools perform at levels higher than expected because of socio-economic factors. The committee supported the “Bright Spots” research by the University of Kentucky Center for Business Economic Research.
• The importance of community engagement in supporting the work of local school boards.
The statewide citizens’ group also recognized Warren County parent Melissa Mefford with the Beverly Nickell Raimondo Leadership Award. Mefford was described as modeling “parent leadership that is focused on helping students, staff and parents become the best they can be.”
The award is named in honor and memory of Raimondo, who was instrumental in the development of the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership in 1997. Since its founding, the institute has trained and supported hundreds of parents as advocates for educational excellence.