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Kentucky’s Math And Reading Scores Show Improvement

Kentucky’s math and reading test scores show continued growth and, in some instances, exceed the national average, according to test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The scores released this week measure 4th and 8th graders nationwide and Kentucky shows promise when compared to its peers.

That may be attributed to the education reforms made in 1990, said University of Louisville professor Sam Stringfield. They were likely the most successful state reforms of the last 20 years, he said.

“And that the state has gone from being below the national average on all these measures, to virtually at or sometimes slightly above the national average, when you consider that we are still economically below the national average is really quite an accomplishment,” said Stringfield.

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Space Exploration Learning Center Opens At Shawnee

On the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, the Academy at Shawnee in Louisville celebrated the opening of an academic program inspired by the mission.

The Challenger Learning Center is intended to make science and math education more interesting by showing how the subjects are used in space exploration. Challenger astronaut Norman Thagard directed a learning center in Florida. He says the goal is not to inspire students to be astronauts, but to make them interested in science.

“The kids, if you ask them after they come through it, they’re all excited,” he says. “What they learn is science and engineering are fun and they may never have known that until they go through the experience. And they find out what it is and they go through it in an environment that excites them.”

This is the 48th Challenger Learning Center in the country. Mayor Greg Fischer says it’s an important step in improving students’ aptitude in math and science, since the United States has slipped in recent years.

“We used to be number one in everything,” he says. “Now we’re 10 or 20 or 30 and we say ‘How is this happening? ‘Well, sometimes it’s good old-fashioned things like we get outworked. Sometimes we don’t provide all the opportunities we should provide.”

Shawnee principal Keith Look says it’s one of several initiatives that will improve the school and the surrounding neighborhood.

“West Louisville is a special place. We now have a new anchor to the west Market Street corridor project. We have the future development of a science triangle between us and the Science Center and the planetarium. We have put all sorts of things on the map and new pictures,” he says.

A group of students at Shawnee has developed a project that will be sent into space on the last shuttle mission

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Two Local Schools Receive Grants For Math Education

Two Louisville schools have been awarded grants to improve math education.

With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence will provide seminars for math teachers at Iroquois and Doss High Schools. The seminars will help teachers learn to address student issues in understanding math.

Arthur Camins is executive director of Gheens Institute for Innovation at Jefferson County Public Schools. He says the seminars are in-line with an emphasis on better math instruction.

“This gives us the ability to take that work to the next step in terms of helping teachers to become really skilled at interpreting student work and using that,” he says.

The seminars will last for eight days and are valued at about 69 thousand dollars.

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JCPS Students Rank Among National Average in Math

Jefferson County Public Schools’ fourth and eighth graders rank even with the national average for many urban students in math. That’s according to a report released today called the Trial Urban District Assessment.

It’s the first time JCPS has been included in the assessment. Seventeen other urban school districts were measured in 2009.

While Jefferson County students rank among the national average, ten of the 18 urban school districts tested below the national average, says Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of Great City Schools.

“Urban schools in general, however, are getting better, and we are determined to make them better still,” says Casserly. “We are encouraged by the new results, but we are not satisfied with them. We know we need to accelerate and we know we need to close our achievement gaps.”

The report is produced every two years. This year, Washington, D.C. public schools were found to be among the most improved urban school districts in the country.

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Study Shows Test Scores Up Since NCLB

A study released today finds most state test scores have risen since No Child Left Behind while others have mixed results. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

In 2002, No Child Left Behind became law to improve the performance of primary and secondary schools. The Center for Education Policy has analyzed state test scores since then and found most students scored higher in reading and math.

The report from the non-profit research group analyses student test scores from 50 states.

The study was made to determine if students really know more since No Child Left Behind became law in 2002, says Jack Jennings, the center’s director. This study indicates most do.

“Across the board, there seem to be increases in test scores on state tests used for NCLB purposes,” Jennings says. “And we have not found any conclusive evidence that NCLB’s emphasis on achieving proficiency has been to the determent of students at the high end or the low end.”

Some have questioned if No Child Left Behind shortchanges students outside of the proficiency level the law specifically sets out to raise.

The study only used data collected on Kentucky since 2007, because of broad changes made in the state test. It was insufficient to determine any trends, says Jennings.

Indiana’s scores showed mixed results, which Jennings says could be a signal for the state.

“It might be time to revisit the standards in Indiana and revisit the tests,” he says.” And it might be time to think of putting in a greater effort to increase achievement in Indiana.”

Jennings says while most scores were up, there were areas for concern.

“Even though there are increases at all three grade levels — elementary, middle and high — the increases at the high school level were fewer than at the elementary or middle school level,” he says.

In many states, high school student test scores have declined or been stagnant since No Child Left Behind became law in 2002. The study shows scores in Indiana and Kentucky match that trend. However, Jennings warns data from Kentucky was too limited to make any conclusive assessments.

Jennings says No Child Left Behind has had a part in improved scores, but also credits 20 years of reform efforts made at the national, state and local levels.

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Science Center Gets Funds for Preschool Education

The Louisville Science Center received a grant today to bolster its education programs for preschoolers. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

The PNC Foundation announced it is giving a grant of more than $380,000 to the Science Center so it can provide science educational activities to young children, their teachers and their families.

The center’s executive director, Joanna Haas, says the grant comes as the organization prepares to open a new education wing this summer, which will be able to accommodate the new activities.

“We can serve more teachers, more students, more schools and certainly more families,” Haas says. “And I think we can provide services in, perhaps, a whole different way.”

Haas says the wing, which is in an adjacent building, will have classes and camps for children and teachers’ institutes this summer. The center purchased the building with help from the Louisville Metro Government and the Phoenix Hotel Development Company.

The Science Center’s new wing will accommodate many hands-on experiments for preschoolers, their teachers and their families, says Haas.

“The opportunity to mix colors and to see what happens when one color mixes with another — that’s basic science for a preschooler,” she says, “or to see the properties of water from a liquid to a solid and to make observations about what’s happening with that water.”

The PNC Foundation grant comes as many students in the United States are not faring as well in science and math as students in some other countries. The situation has caused concern among educators and businesses. It’s also created a role for other institutions, says Haas.

“Science centers all over the United States are trying to find ways to shore up those education statistics,” she says. “And Kentucky certainly needs that kind of support.”