Kentucky School Co-op Named ‘Race to the Top’ Finalist

Another group of Kentucky schools is one of 31 finalists for federal Race to the Top grant funding and winner could be announced by the end of the year.

The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative serves over 40,000 students in 17 eastern Kentucky rural school districts.

It was a finalist last year too, but not a winner.

The new application has now built off last year’s requests and would use the $30 million its asking for to support college-and-career ready initiatives, teacher development, and new partnerships that are needed in the rural parts of the state, says Jeff Hawkins, executive director of KVEC.

“It is difficult, especially in a rural area to have the wide range of resources necessary to educate kids for the 21st century,” he says.

For the first time last year the U.S. Department of Education offered local school districts the chance to apply for Race to the Top. The grants have traditionally been available only to states.

While KVEC lost out on the opportunity last year, the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative that serves 23 central Kentucky school districts did win.

Several initiatives outlined in KVEC’s new application were also in the old application, Hawkins says. And KVEC has already begun to implement some of those initiatives.

“We chose to move forward with that work,” says Hawkins.

This includes the Students Transforming Appalachia with Real Solutions (STARS) challenge that asks students to solve community-based problems. KVEC also moved forward with training for the state’s new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System that highlights what good leadership looks like.

KVEC has also started to implement more cross district collaboration among its member schools that focuses on growing leadership and quality teaching. Teachers will visit schools and observe classrooms and provide immediate feedback to their peers, Hawkins says.

Important to both applications are the partnerships that KVEC is already developing and finding ways to continue growing those, he says.

“Having limited funding to accomplish the significant goals that our state has, which are all right and good for kids, we have to figure out more creative ways to collaborate, ways to leverage resources. So we look for partnerships,” he says.

The grant would also provide more access and improvements to a program that helps guide students to certain career pathways (building off the career readiness that has become important to Kentucky’s education system).

The new application also says each school will have daily access to health care and mental health care providers.

Kentucky won $17 million in Race to the Top money in 2011. 

(Image via Shutterstock)

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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