Liz Schlemmer

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.

She has previously served as a temporary Morning Edition producer and intern at WUNC and as a news intern at St. Louis Public Radio. Liz is originally from Indiana, where she grew up with a large extended family of educators.

 

Creative Commons

A new study conducted by a University of Louisville researcher has found a link between racial disparities on student test scores and racial disparities in school discipline between black and white students. The findings could mean that any successful effort to reduce one gap will likely help narrow the other.

The fact that black and Hispanic students are suspended and disciplined at higher rates than white students is well-established by past research. And many schools show significant “achievement gaps” in which white students tend to score better on standardized tests than their black and Latino peers. Those patterns hold true in Jefferson County Public Schools too.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis says it is not within the Kentucky Department of Education’s authority to investigate political emails sent from a private individual to teachers’ professional email accounts.

On Wednesday, the Kentucky Education Association called for Lewis or the Kentucky Board of Education to lead a state investigation into political emails teachers in several rural Kentucky school districts received at work. 

The teachers in at least eight districts received emails criticizing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear over the last two weeks. The emails went to the teachers’ public school email addresses and were sent from an unknown supporter of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Bevin has said that his campaign was not behind the effort.

Pike Central High School

A high school in Eastern Kentucky is removing so-called prayer lockers from its hallways after receiving a complaint from a national organization that advocates for the separation of church and state.

Signs on the lockers at Pike Central High say students can slip in pieces of paper with confidential requests for other students to pray for them. The school’s art department and a student posted photos of two prayer lockers on Facebook. One of the posts says the locker is sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The post’s caption also thanks someone who appears to be a teacher at the school for giving students the idea for the prayer locker.

 


Liz Schlemmer

The University of Louisville has received a $1 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to improve gender and racial equity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Professor Olfa Nasraoui led the grant writing team. For her, helping to secure the grant was personal — something she’ll remember as her legacy. She is the only woman professor in U of L’s computer science department in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

“And before there was no woman, so that’s an improvement of one, right?” Nasraoui said. “This is an issue that’s national, nation-wide; it’s not just UofL.”

Fons Cervera

Boyle County student Brooklyn Rockhold and her mother and brother endured abuse from her biological father for years. This week, she testified in front of Kentucky legislators, urging them to pass legislation to require child abuse education in schools so that children like her will be able to identify when they are being abused and report it.

“As I’ve gotten older and become more aware of what child abuse is, I’ve realized that things he did to my brother and I were abusive,” Rockhold testified. “If the schools had this legislation back then, I would not have grown up thinking this thing was normal.”


FleursAvenue | Flickr

The day report cards go home in backpacks is an important moment for students, who will show their families just how well things are going at school. But in an era of school accountability, students aren’t the only ones who receive grades. The Kentucky Department of Education will soon release its annual report cards that score individual public schools. And this year’s school report cards will include a new feature — a final grade.

Well, it’s not exactly a grade, like in neighboring Indiana where schools get an A to F score just like their students. In Kentucky, schools will receive one to five stars. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis said this will improve the state’s school report cards, which in the past have offered lots of data about schools, but no final score.


Bart Everson

On the first day of August, just two weeks before most Kentucky schools start class, there were 2,974 vacancies posted for public school educators across the state. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis says that’s a serious problem. 

“We see more districts, that begin the academic year — where kids are showing up in classrooms — and they have not filled positions,” Lewis said.

And in some cases, he says students may even finish the school year with a long term substitute or a teacher who is not fully certified.


Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

Policymakers across Kentucky — and the nation — have grappled with how to best prevent mass school shootings committed by children, like those in Parkland, Florida and Marshall County, Kentucky.

In Kentucky, lawmakers’ best efforts have resulted in a new school safety law that schools will have to begin implementing in 2022. Many districts are already beginning to assess their compliance and make plans to meet the new requirements. The Jefferson County School Board will meet Tuesday night to discuss the district’s efforts to comply with the new law.

Creative Commons

Life expectancy in the United States has declined for the third year in a row, driven in part by a rise in mortality among working-aged white Americans.

A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sought to pinpoint where mortality was worsening, and why. Researchers found higher rates of mortality among rural white women who live in Kentucky, as well as in Appalachia and other states across the south and central part of the country.

 


Liz Schlemmer

One seat on the Jefferson County Board of Education will soon be up for grabs after Board member Benjamin Gies announced his resignation Monday.

The board will get to exercise a new right to select the next person to fill the seat, based on a recent change in state law. A law passed this spring shifts the decision to fill vacancies from the Kentucky Commissioner of Education to a majority vote by the school board. Any school board vacancy in the state announced after June 27 this year is subject to that change.

Liz Schlemmer

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear took another jab at Governor Matt Bevin Friday, one day after scoring a win in their on-going battle over whether the state will discipline teachers for participating in “sickouts” that closed Jefferson County Public Schools six days this spring.

Beshear’s challenge is the latest highlight in his campaign to unseat Bevin as governor.

In a campaign appearance Friday, Beshear said Bevin should “do something right” and fire his Labor Secretary David Dickerson for pursuing an investigation into teachers who called in sick to protest education bills at the Capitol. 

education.ky.gov

In his monthly report to the Kentucky Board of Education Wednesday, Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis gave an impassioned argument that overall school funding would not solve all the problems schools face. Instead, Lewis called for “additional strategic funding” to address inequities in education. Among that targeted funding, Lewis suggested that performance-based pay for teachers could be an effective strategy for improving Kentucky schools.

“If we’re honest about it, there is no incentive currently to be a great teacher,” Lewis told the Board of Education.

Lewis argued better incentives for teachers would help teacher retention overall, and specifically attract more experienced educators to serve in high need schools. Lewis said currently, the schools with the greatest need are frequently heavily staffed by first year teachers.

Nicole Erwin I Ohio Valley ReSource

Kentucky’s incumbent Commissioner of Agriculture has won the Republican nomination in his bid for reelection.

Ryan Quarles was the first winner to be called in Tuesday night’s primary election. Quarles received than 82 percent of the votes with 92 percent of precincts reporting. He defeated challenger Bill Polyniak, a cannabis farmer from Fayette County.

Quarles has supported the rise of hemp as an agricultural product in Kentucky, and his administration led a statewide initiative to study and address hunger. He has also worked to expand Kentucky’s international export market, by resuming live equine exports to China.

Liz Schlemmer

School choice is a big buzzword in education policy, and in many parts of the country, opinions on it usually run along party lines. Republicans tend to be for school choice, and Democrats against — however, that’s not the case among all of Kentucky’s candidates for governor.

School choice covers a wide range of policies that all do one thing: give students more support to attend schools outside the realm of traditional public education. Relative to other states in the South and Midwest, Kentucky has been slow to adopt school choice measures like charter schools and scholarship tax credits.


Liz Schlemmer

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet filed a notice of removal Thursday, seeking to move a lawsuit Attorney General Andy Beshear and the Jefferson County Teachers Association filed in state court to federal court.

The lawsuit sought to block subpoenas the Kentucky Labor Cabinet issued to 10 school districts to seek attendance records that could identify school employees who called in sick to protest during the last legislative session.

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