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Education Commissioner Creates Student Council For Feedback

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is forming an 11-member student council that will provide the education department with feedback on issues affecting students.

The Next-Generation Student Council is inviting 10th and 11th grade public school students to apply for membership to the year-long program. Students will meet with Holliday and department staff both in person and digitally from around the commonwealth. They’ll discuss how decisions made at the state level affect the education of the students and how student achievement can be improved.

Applications will be accepted through Nov. 30. A committee of department representatives will review the applications make their decision based on an applicant’s ideas and goals. Students will serve during the 2011-2012 school year.

The application and answers to certain questions can be found here.

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Education Commissioner Denies Free Trips Influenced Contract Decision, Rand Paul to Release GOP Jobs Plan, UK President Says Schools Must Modernize, Occupy Louisville Continues: Afternoon Review

  • Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says international trips paid for by an education foundation did not lead to the decision to contract with its business arm. The New York Times reported several states entered into agreements with Pearson after it gave them free trips. Holliday says there were no ethical violations.
  • Offering an alternative to President Obama and his American Jobs Act, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, John McCain of Arizona, and Rob Portman of Ohio have drafted and released a “Real American Jobs Act.”
  • University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto says the state’s economy and the proposed super-region between Louisville and Lexington relies in part on upgrades to public universities.
  • A week and a half in, the Occupy Louisville protest continues in Jefferson Square Park downtown, but the protest’s size and location change throughout the day.
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Education Commissioners Raise Ethical Concerns With Free Trips

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says international trips paid for by an education foundation did not lead to the decision to contract with its business arm.

The New York Times reported several states entered into agreements with Pearson after taking trips on its foundation’s dime and this raises ethical questions, said Times reporter Mike Winerip.

Pearson’s bid in Kentucky was $2 million more than the lowest bidder, but KDE officials said the decision to contract with Pearson was based on its value, not on its price. Winerip contacted tax experts to help explain the relationship between a business and its foundation.

“I then started calling tax people to get them to explain to me where the line was, where the wall had to be between a foundation and the for-profit arm of Pearson and Pearson Foundation,” he said.

The foundation’s tax forms omitted payments for travel and entertainment expenses to any government officials and the non-profit could be in violation of federal tax-code if it pushes any business interests, said Winerip.

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Education Commissioner Appointed to National Assessment Governing Board

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has appointed Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Commissioner Terry Holliday to the National Assessment Governing Board.

“The governing board my make decisions about which types of test NAEP will provide. NAEP tests things like reading and math and science and writing,” said Lisa Gross, Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman.

Holliday will serve in the category of chief state school officer, which “sets policy for the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), known as the National Report Card.” NAEP is the country’s only nationally representative assessment of student achievement in various subjects. It’s an independent organization in association with the U.S. Department of Education.

“I’m excited about serving and representing Kentucky on this very important board. I look forward to influencing the national assessment of our educational programs,” said Holliday.

Holliday has been the KDE commissioner since 2009. In his new job, he will help oversee how all states are tested and compared, said Gross. NAEP’s initiatives are in line with what Kentucky has begun to implement with students being prepared for college, she said.

“What they’re looking at now, these major developments, are really in line with what Kentucky is doing, particularly when we look at career and college readiness,” said Gross.

Holliday will also be responsible for overseeing research on college and job training readiness and oversee a new ad hoc committee on engaging parents with the goal of increasing student performance, said Stephaan Harris, public affairs specialist with the National Assessment Governing Board.

The position is unpaid and will bring Holliday to Washington for quarterly meetings. The 26-member board is made up of governors, state legislators, local and state officials, educators and the general public. Six other appointees were announced on Tuesday.

The four-year term begins Oct. 1. Holliday can be reappointed and serve up to eight years.

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Statewide End-of-Course Exams Begin Next Year

End-of-course assessments were authorized in education reforms approved by Kentucky lawmakers in 2009.

The statewide tests measure student achievement in graduation-required courses of English, Algebra, Biology and U.S. History.

Rhonda Sims of the Education Department says districts are also being encouraged to base up to 20 percent of a student’s final course grade on assessment test results.

“It does allow the course work and the assessment to blend together, so the students have some ownership into this.”

State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says districts are being encouraged to base up to 20 percent of a student’s final course grade on assessment test results.

“We wanted a requirement, but our legal staff felt like we didn’t have the authority. There’s some site-based council issues here. So, we strongly worded 20 percent because teachers all over the commonwealth told me kids need to have some accountability for this.”

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Kentucky Officials Praise Teach for America Expansion

Praise is pouring in for an initiative to place top-flight college graduates in teaching positions in three Eastern Kentucky counties.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo, who grew up in Hazard, is excited about Teach for America’s decision to expand into Eastern Kentucky. Mongiardo says the program, which is recruiting top college graduates to teach in schools in Knox, Floyd and Martin counties, will be a boon for the area.

“We exchange our ideas with them, and they exchange their ideas with us. And we both, I believe, become better because of that. And I think this for Kentucky, especially eastern Kentucky, is going to be a starting point for big things in education,” he says.

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House Committee Approves Bill to Raise Dropout Age

The Kentucky House Education Committee has approved legislation raising Kentucky’s dropout age to 18 by 2016.  It’s the first bill to get a committee vote during a special session in Frankfort that’s primarily focused on balancing the state’s Medicaid budget. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says the dropout bill would send a message to educators that the state’s serious about keeping kids in school.

“There’s so many different ways that alternative education can meet the needs of children,” says Holliday. “But again, to get people thinking outside of their traditional approach to alternative ed, I need just a little push.  And this legislation would do that.”

The committee vote was 21-4, and all of the opponents were Republicans, including Representative Ben Waide of Madisonville.

“I’ve had broad-based opposition to this from the teachers in my district,” says Waide. “They’re contacting me and letting me know – and they’re the ones that have a heart for the kids, they’re the ones who care about the kids in their school – they’re saying this won’t work.  This isn’t the answer.”

The measure won approval in the Democratic-controlled House in this year’s regular session, but died in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Education Commissioner Receives Positive Review

A year ago, he was the 2009 North Carolina Superintendent of the Year.  Now, after one year on the job as Kentucky’s Education Commissioner, Terry Holliday is getting rave reviews from the State School Board.  But Chairman David Karem says in the current economy, the board isn’t able to give Holliday a raise.

“I don’t think he would take a pay raise at this point in time,” says Karem. “And I frankly admire him for that, because while we’re not staffing up as much as we like, and we’re having furlough days and things of that sort, I think he feels, and we all feel, that would not be appropriate at this time.”

Holliday has a four-year contract that pays him $225,000 per year.  Holliday replaced former Commissioner Jon Draud who resigned for health reasons.

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Kentucky-In; Indiana-Out for Race to the Top Funds

Kentucky was on the list of 16 finalists the U.S. Department of Education announced today in the running for more than $4 billion in Race to the Top funds. But Indiana is out. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement Thursday and said the department would interview representatives from the 16 finalists in mid March and announce the eventual winners in April.

Kentucky has applied for $200 million in Race to the Top funds. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says his department is already preparing for its presentation.

“What we’re doing is trying to make sure that we have all the right team members,” Holliday says. “And we’re looking at all the other applications and saying, what’s different about Kentucky that we can make sure to reinforce at the presentation, and just making sure that we have good, clear deployment plans ready to go to work.”

Holliday says the state’s application included a lot of work that is already underway.

“We have a very comprehensive reform package that was led pretty much by our reform legislation in 2009 called Senate Bill 1,” he says. “And it pretty much mirrored exactly what Race to the Top was looking for.”

Last year, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1 to revamp the state’s K-12 education system.

Some political observers and education experts had doubted that Kentucky would make the cut given that it doesn’t have a law allowing charter schools. Holliday says he didn’t see that as an obstacle.

“Our Kentucky Reform Act of 1990 actually created 1.200 charter schools in Kentucky,” he says. “All of our schools have site-based councils that are composed of parents and they make curriculum decisions. They hire the principal. We could find nothing that a charter school does that our site-based councils couldn’t already do.”

Holliday says the news is encouraging at a time when education is facing budget cuts.

Indiana, however, did not make the cut. Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett says he got the news via e-mail and Twitter messages. He says it was disappointing, especially after the state worked to meet criteria the federal education department gave states that applied. It included having charter schools and policies linking student data to teacher evaluations.

Bennett says the news doesn’t mean the Indiana plan is dead.

“We have told school corporations across the state of Indiana that we will implement this reform plan whether we are funded or not,” he says. “And the fact is we don’t believe money will solve the problem. What will solve the problem is for us to have the political courage, the political will to truly reform education in this state and we’re going to implement our reform agenda as we have planned.”

Bennett says he’s not sure how Indiana will handle its application in a second contest for funds due in June.

“We’re going to wait and see what we get back from the federal government, what feedback we get back from our technical advisors,” he says. “Obviously our interests will always be to pursue this reform money, but again, I’ll always back that up and say I don’t believe this is about money.”

Nearby states also on the list include Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois.

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New Education Commissioner Starts Work

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Today is the first day on the job for Kentucky’s new Commissioner of Education.

Almost three weeks ago, the state school board hired North Carolina educator Terry Holliday as Kentucky’s new education commissioner. The board meets again Wednesday, and Holliday will be there.

“I plan on being on the road quite a bit and visiting schools and opening schools,” he says. “But I need to sit down with superintendents. I think we may have some summer conferences coming up and some summer meetings that I can get to work with superintendents. Because no matter what we do here in Frankfort, they’ve got to make it work.”

Holliday has been offered a four-year contract at 225-thousand dollars a year. Also today, the school board could elect new officers. Joe Brothers of Elizabethtown has served as board chairman since August 2007. During that time, the board has hired two commissioners. Jon Draud, who preceded Holliday, resigned late last year for health reasons.