Kentucky editorial roundup
Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:
The State Journal on declining college enrollment rates in Kentucky:
The good news is that a record number of Kentucky college and university students are receiving undergraduate degrees. The bad news, according to state Council on Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson, is that a five-year trend of declining college enrollment continues.
Data indicates that 76,380 degrees and credentials were earned at the state’s public and independent colleges and universities during the 2018-19 year — a 4.7% jump from the previous year. While those numbers keep Kentucky on track to meet its goal of 60% of the population with a postsecondary credential by 2030, a decrease in the number of students enrolling at higher education institutions is worrisome.
In fact, preliminary fall semester enrollment figures indicate a 2% decline in the number of students — continuing a tumble that began in the 2014-15 academic year.
That is the case at Thompson’s former stomping grounds Kentucky State University, where he served a one-year stint as interim president. Student enrollment dropped 7.5% — or 145 students — from 2017-18 to last year.
However, unlike the majority of state schools, KSU has also seen a reduction in the number of degrees and credentials it has awarded during the past two academic years. After reaching a plateau of 401 degrees issued in 2016-17, that number plummeted 14.2% to 344 the following year and an additional 12.8% to 300 last school year.
The enrollment problem stems largely from a school’s retention rate, as students are more likely to drop out during the first year than any other time. Implementing policies that increase retention rates, whether at the schools or through a transfer to another institution, will equally raise the likelihood that students will graduate.
Of the eight Kentucky public four-year colleges, the University of Kentucky has the highest six-year graduation rate with 65.8%. K-State has the lowest six-year graduation rate with a measly 16.3%. The next closest school to KSU is Northern Kentucky University with 43.8%.
We agree with Thompson that higher learning institutions must be dedicated to supporting students, guiding them and ensuring they complete their programs with the skills for workforce success.
“That is when,” he continued, “we can truly say we are successful.”
The News-Enterprise on the impact of a donation to the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame:
It’s not easy to answer the telephone at the Dr. Mark and Carol Lynn Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
It already was a long name before naming rights were awarded to the Louisville philanthropists thanks to their $300,000 contribution to the former church building which serves as a temple to the state’s signature sport.
At the ceremony celebrating their gift, Elizabethtown Mayor Jeff Gregory clearly expressed its importance when he said it “allows us to have the funds here for this thing to continue for many, many more years and hopefully for eternity.”
Since its inception, the basketball hall has been a rich idea with precarious finances. It’s clear that admission alone won’t pay the way. This tourism attraction’s immediate future is much more secure thanks to the Lynns.
The Lynns made a mark in Kentucky sports circles before embracing this project. The University of Louisville soccer complex and the new home for Louisville City FC professional soccer team also bear their names.
It was a connection to their hometown of Owensboro that led the Lynns to Elizabethtown and the hall of fame.
Wayne Chapman, who now works for the hall’s primary fundraising arm Mike Pollio Enterprises, was basketball coach at Apollo High School when the Lynns graduated there. Chapman’s son, Rex, a basketball legend in the state and one of the hall’s 112 inductees, also was part of their early lives.
Carol Lynn was one of the Chapman family’s babysitters when Rex was small. Mark Lynn said as a teenager being beaten playing hoops against 6-year-old Rex convinced him to invest his time away from the court.
In addition to that humorous aside, Lynn described the values and life lesson taught by team sports and said that educational element was a key reason he and his wife decided to help the hall.
An optometrist, Lynn owns 90 Visionworks eyecare operations in six states and said the teamwork and resourcefulness learned in sports is vital to the success of his business interests.
The hall of fame can celebrate many partners. Round plaques on the outside walls and smaller markers on the sidewalk entryway note key givers who led to its opening in August 2017. But as various presenters attested at the Oct. 15 recognition event, the Lynns’ donation was sorely needed and deeply appreciated.
It provides the hall of fame with time to build new revenue streams and develop a business plan to find and grow its audience. Hopefully, it can fulfill the vision of its founders to preserve the past and build a brighter future while celebrating the essence of the game.
The gift provides the breathing room the hall of fame needs — even if it does take a lot of breath to pronounce this new, longer name.
The Bowling Green Daily News on a task force created to address how to help students achieve proficiency in reading and math:
When he’s described the level of students performing on the novice level on state assessments — indicating a minimal understanding of grade-level standards — Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has been correct to cast the situation as an academic emergency.
While the recent release of assessment results for the 2018-19 school year did show some student growth, we still have work to do when it comes to helping students achieve proficiency in reading and math. Novice reading and mathematics levels for elementary students have increased by almost a full percentage point since 2015, and the gaps between student groups are even more disturbing.
In elementary reading, only about 16 percent of white students statewide are scoring at the novice level, while about 40 percent of African American students fell into that category. There’s a similar gap in elementary math as well, with just about 11 percent of white students scoring novice, while for black students, that number is about 32 percent.
Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate the work educators are doing every day in our schools. Increasingly, our culture looks to them to solve social problems — poverty, drug abuse, and hunger — despite the limited resources they’re working with.
Still, we cannot allow this to become an excuse. These gap students only have one shot at an education, and teachers no doubt understand that better than anyone.
That’s why we applaud the commissioner’s efforts to assemble a group of stakeholders — several of whom are teachers — to revisit school curriculum across Kentucky and make sure it meets the highest standards.
According to the Kentucky Department of Education, the task force will study the state’s current curriculum strengths and weaknesses, consider solutions for policy, practice and school equity and make recommendations for improvement.
We believe Lewis put it best when he described the task force’s scope in a recent interview with the Daily News.
“This task force is intended to take a look at where we are as a state with curriculum, how we make curriculum decisions and thinking about how we can better ensure that every kid, regardless of district, has access to high-quality curriculum that’s aligned to our new academic standards,” Lewis said.