[Audio] Prichard Committee Refocuses on Post-Secondary Education

Aug 24, 2015

Credit Prichard Committee, Facebook

Kentucky's Prichard committee for Academic Excellence, a nationally recognized education advocacy organization, sees a leadership change when Executive Director Dr. Stu Silberman's retirement is effective September 4th. This past April, the Prichard Board selected Brigitte Blom Ramsey to move into the directorship. This month, Prichard has highlighted its intentions to focus on post-secondary education and affordability. Last Monday, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence was among educational organizations hosting a news briefing and discussion on college going in Kentucky. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte begins her conversation with Ramsey on this topic.

Recently released data charts school districts in Kentucky, tracking students from middle school to 8th grade in math performance, ACT performance, their college going rate and first-year persistence in college. This report helps better understand how we're preparing kids for high school and then, if they are adequately prepared, taking the next step to college, Ramsey says. This trend information can help educators and the community understand how we're supporting kids and what they're doing as a result.

One of the conclusions shows that the college going rate is much lower than the college readiness rate. This means some students choose not to go to college when they are adequately prepared to do so and some choose not to persist after their first year. Ramsey says this is of concern. We know we're doing a better job getting kids ready for college, she says, and we need to keep doing a better job but we also need to be better at equipping students for the move once they graduate high school.

The Prichard Committee's Student Voice team did some focus group work to better understand the challenges that students face as they think about moving from high school to college. They found students need additional counseling work, help filling out financial aid documents, help understanding the opportunities for them after high school (two-year and four-year options and what is a good fit for them. They also found that students in deep rural areas, where universities aren't nearby, are less likely to go to college largely due to lack of exposure. When students are adequately supported, they are enabled to make a good decision about post-secondary opportunities, she says. If communities across Kentucky can look at the data for their own high schools they can better understand their kids and provide better support.

With the recent bringing on of Perry Papka, the Committee is renewing their focus on the needs of post-secondary education. They've spent many years focusing on K-12 issues and are shifting focus to the post-secondary system over the next few years, looking at issues, college-going rates, quality, persistence, funding issues, etc. "My focus is definitely to refresh, reinvigorate and reconnect with the next generation of parents and community members who are looking at the quality of schools all across the state of Kentucky," Ramsey says.

Brigitte Blom Ramsey is the incoming Executive Director of the Kentucky's Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. In 1980, a state-appointed Committee on Higher Education in Kentucky's Future made recommendations in a report titled In Pursuit of Excellence, but the recommendations resulted in no governmental action. Frustrated committee members created the independent Prichard Committee in 1983 to advocate for improved education at all levels.

More on the Prichard Committee website