"Race to the Top" grant money to improve rural Ky. schools - WDRB 41 Louisville News

"Race to the Top" grant money to improve rural Ky. schools

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's rural schools have received a windfall of federal cash to teach teachers how to do their jobs better.

Today we're breaking down where the "Race to the Top" grant money is being used and how parents may see a difference at home.

As Abby Thurman put her third graders to work on reading comprehension, Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear offered quite the math lesson in the gym. It's all part of the kick-off celebration for the 116 Kentucky schools splitting $41 million from the U.S. Department of Education.

Simpsonville Elementary will get its "Race to the Top" dollars.

"By developing plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps and prepare every student to achieve in college and their careers," Gov. Beshear said.

Twenty-two school districts will launch a program called Kid-FRIENDLy (Kid Focused, Responsible, Imaginative, Engaged, and Determined to Learn). They will hire staff to work with daycares, churches and Head Start programs in high-poverty rural communities, so students don't start kindergarten behind.

Also new is the "Leader In Me," program, which trains teachers how to include life skills in instruction. Twenty-four college and career counselors are being hired.

WDRB's Gilbert Corsey asked "How is a student in the classroom going to notice the difference in these dollars coming into these school districts?" Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said, "Mom and Dad will see a big difference. Kids will come home and say, Look here guys, this is my goal in reading. This is my goal in math. Here's what I'm working on to sharpen the saw."

Kentucky was once shut out of Race to the Top dollars for its lack of charter schools. With our federal lawmakers reigniting the debate just last week, Gov. Beshear is digging in.

"I really don't think we need additional legislation," he said. "I think we have what we need on the books right now."

It all comes back to raising Kentucky's test scores and varying opinions on how to do it.

"I want more strategies to help the kids," said Abby Thurman, a 3rd grade teacher at Simpsonville Elementary.

Thurman will soon go into professional development to learn these new programs, and she says that as she grows, so will her students.

"Our job is to grow thinkers and to have a wonderful future for every single child," Thurman said.

JCPS, which has 18 of the state's lowest-performing schools, did not apply and was not eligible for this grant. The award went to districts that formed the Green River and Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, specifically for rural schools.

Copyright 2013 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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