Kentucky Teachers Unite



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Kentucky State Capital Building, Teacher Unity, standing with my friend and fellow Franklin County Teacher Kristy Standifer. 

This week Kentucky Teachers stood together making their voices heard regarding bills in our Legislature affecting the future of Education in Kentucky.  I was there at the Capital Building in Kentucky along with five other teachers from my district, Franklin County. Here is a brief synopsis of the issues concerning us at this time as they were developing.

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Photo courtesy of State Representative Chris Harris 

The latest update from Adam Hyatt, Franklin Co. Public School teacher at Capital Thurs. March 7 with KEA Franklin County Teachers:

Below is a description of the major issues before the legislature that may be of interest to you. Feel free to pass this along.

Colleagues, 
There has been very little movement on bills in the state House of Representatives today, but I wanted to provide some information since many are likely wondering what is going on with this legislative session. This email is not intended to elicit support or opposition, just to inform folks on the policies impacting education that could be passed before the end of the session. There are three items of particular interest to us as educators.

The first is the policy change presented in HB 525. This bill proposes to change the makeup of the teachers pension oversight board. The current board is made up of four appointees by the governor and seven members who are elected by active and retired teachers. This bill proposes change the way those seven members of the board are chosen. Under the proposed bill, these seven members will be chosen by the members of six different organizations: KEA (one active, one retired), KY School Board Assoc, Jefferson County Teachers Assoc, KY Assoc of School Adminsitrators, KY Retired Teachers Assoc, and KY Assoc of Professional Educators. The concerns over this change center on the increased representation of administrators on the board, as well as a seat being given to KAPE, an organization that represents roughly 2% of teachers in KY.

The second policy deals with the creation of tax credits for those who make donations for private school scholarships. This bill is currently presented in the form of HB 205 and SB 118, but the language of the bill may be added to another bill through amendment. The concern over this bill is that it will reduce tax revenue to the general fund and serve as an equivalency to tuition vouchers, which are specifically forbidden by the state constitution. The legislature has stated a desire to simplify the tax code by eliminating existing tax credits, and this bill would add another credit to the state tax code.

The third issue before the legislature that impacts us regards the increased power of superintendents in the selection of principals. There are several different proposals that address this, so the specific bill number is not essential. Under the proposal, final approval of hiring a school principal would be in the hands of the district superintendent, not the SBDM council of that school. If passes this would decrease the voice and influence of teachers and parents in the selection of their principal.

I hope this information is helpful to everyone and provides the basics on the issues of concern to us as educators.

Sincerely,
Adam Hyatt

Tell your legislators to support public education funding and oppose HB 205 and SB 118. Courtesy The Action Network.

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Art Makes You Smart


CreditAlain Pilon

FOR many education advocates, the arts are a panacea: They supposedly increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools. Most of the supporting evidence, though, does little more than establish correlations between exposure to the arts and certain outcomes. Research that demonstrates a causal relationship has been virtually nonexistent.

A few years ago, however, we had a rare opportunity to explore such relationships when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Ark. Through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the museum, we were able to determine that strong causal relationships do in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes.

Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.

Crystal Bridges, which opened in November 2011, was founded by Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. It is impressive, with 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment of more than $800 million.

Thanks to a generous private gift, the museum has a program that allows school groups to visit at no cost to students or schools. museum visits

Before the opening, we were contacted by the museum’s education department. They recognized that the opening of a major museum in an area that had never had one before was an unusual event that ought to be studied. But they also had a problem. Because the school tours were being offered free, in an area where most children had very little prior exposure to cultural institutions, demand for visits far exceeded available slots. In the first year alone, the museum received applications from 525 school groups requesting tours for more than 38,000 students.

As social scientists, we knew exactly how to solve this problem. We partnered with the museum and conducted a lottery to fill the available slots. By randomly assigning school tours, we were able to allocate spots fairly. Doing so also created a natural experiment to study the effects of museum visits on students, the results of which we published in the journals Education Next and Educational Researcher.

Over the course of the following year, nearly 11,000 students and almost 500 teachers participated in our study, roughly half of whom had been selected by lottery to visit the museum. Applicant groups who won the lottery constituted our treatment group, while those who did not win an immediate tour served as our control group.

Several weeks after the students in the treatment group visited the museum, we administered surveys to all of the students. The surveys included multiple items that assessed knowledge about art, as well as measures of tolerance, historical empathy and sustained interest in visiting art museums and other cultural institutions. We also asked them to write an essay in response to a work of art that was unfamiliar to them.

These essays were then coded using a critical-thinking-skills assessment program developed by researchers working with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Further, we directly measured whether students are more likely to return to Crystal Bridges as a result of going on a school tour. Students who participated in the study were given a coupon that gave them and their families free entry to a special exhibit at the museum. The coupons were coded so that we could determine the group to which students belonged. Students in the treatment group were 18 percent more likely to attend the exhibit than students in the control group.

Moreover, most of the benefits we observed are significantly larger for minority students, low-income students and students from rural schools — typically two to three times larger than for white, middle-class, suburban students — owing perhaps to the fact that the tour was the first time they had visited an art museum.

Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes. How important is the structure of the tour? The size of the group? The type of art presented?

Clearly, however, we can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition. Expanding access to art, whether through programs in schools or through visits to area museums and galleries, should be a central part of any school’s curriculum.