Summer break is nearly finished for school kids in both the Logan County and Russellville schools systems.
Students in the Logan County district will return to school on Wednesday, Aug. 1, while Russellville students get an extra week, going back on Tuesday, Aug. 7.
This will be the first school year for both district to participate in AdvanceKentucky, a program which has a goal of getting more students signed up for and taking advanced placement (AP) courses, which will better prepare them for college.
“We’re going to have some AP classes that haven’t been offered before,” said Russellville superintendent Leon Smith. “And we are going to start more AP prep work in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. We’re going to be providing some rigorous classes for our students.”
There will also be a big push for more students in AP classes at Logan County High School thanks to the AdvanceKentucky program.
“That’s the big thing at the high school for this upcoming school year,” said Logan County superintendent Marshall Kemp. “Hopefully that will encourage more students to take those classes, which will get them even more prepared for post-secondary education.”
AdvanceKentucky is a statewide math-science initiative dedicated to helping Kentucky’s students reach new heights in rigorous academic achievement. Begun in 2007, this is a six-year partnership between Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC) and the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). Under conditions of matching over the six years, NMSI has committed $13.2 million to AdvanceKentucky through funding from Exxon Mobil Corporation and the Dell and Gates Foundations.
Interrelated elements of success comprise the NMSI Model that is premised on a philosophy of inclusiveness and high expectations for each student. The model expands access to, preparation for and participate in academically rigorous coursework, i.e., the Advanced Placement (AP) Program. This includes extensive Pre-AP preparation strategies.
The eligible math, science and English (MSE) AP courses include: Calculus (AB, BC), Computer Science A, Statistics, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physics (B, C: Electricity and Magnetism, C: Mechanics), English Language and English Literature.
Success is measured by growth in students’ participation in AP courses both in terms of enrollments and of Qualifying Scores (three and above on a five-point scale) in eligible AP courses, which typically are taken by juniors and seniors.
There were 16 new schools added to the program this year - including Logan County and Russellville - bringing the total number up to 80.
This is the second year for the school districts to have to meet the new core content standards.
Last year teachers and administrators had to cram a lot of training in before the school year in order to get ready.
That training is continuing this year, but not at such a hectic rate.
“I think the teachers are getting more used to having to deal with that,” Kemp said. “Much of their their professional development will be about that again this year. The core standards are challenging for everyone and that is a good move in the right direction.”
One of the most important issues that has been addressed for Russellville is the closing of content gaps created by the new standards.
“The teachers know what they need to be teaching. We’ve gone through the standards very thoroughly,” Smith said. “We’re very confident that we are teaching specific content when it needs to be taught and don’t have gaps in our program. We feel really, really good about that.”
Also new for Russellville this year is the expanded middle school wing at RHS.
When students start back on Aug. 7, sixth graders will be with the seventh and eighth graders at the middle school.
“We’ve had very few staff changes in the district, but we’ve added several teachers for the middle school and I parents will be excited about our 6-8 center” Smith said.
One thing parents needs to be aware of, Smith said, is that sixth grade students will now be riding on the high school bus routes. That may also allow the district to have kindergarten students ride on the regular buses, rather than riding along with the preschoolers.
“If we are able to do that, it will save the district some money,” Smith said.