Amid a week that saw the start of this year’s legislative session, violence in the nation’s Capitol and a budget address from Gov. Andy Beshear, a nonpartisan education advocacy group is calling for increased investment in high-quality training for Kentucky’s teachers.

Brigitte Blom Ramsey, who leads the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, said one of the group’s top priorities for this year’s General Assembly is the establishment of a three-year pilot program that would support 100 teachers each year in the pursuit of national board certification.

Ramsey said the $1 million investment needed to underwrite the program would be a small price to beef up instruction and students’ academic achievement.

“Only 35% of Kentucky’s public school fourth graders scored proficient or above” on the National Assessment for Educational Progress in 2018, Ramsey said. NAEP defines “proficient” not as being on grade-level in a content area, like a state test, but as demonstrating “solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter.”

Compared to other states, Ramsey said, Kentucky has been steadily losing ground since 2015, falling from eighth in the nation to 26th.

“Now is the time, I think, for the legislature to seize the moment and put a little money behind their commitment to increasing outcomes in education as a way to increase quality of life and economic development in our state,” Ramsey told the Daily News.

When it comes to boosting students’ academic achievement, Ramsey said the quality of instruction the teacher can offer is the most influential factor.

“A teacher has two to three times the impact of any other school factor on student achievement, according to the Rand Corp.,” Ramsey said, adding that increasing teacher quality is a “small investment for a mighty return.”

“Research supports that high-quality teachers get an extra year of learning from their students,” she said. “So increasing the quality of teaching and learning is critical to increasing our outcomes in Kentucky.”

State funding for teacher training has dwindled in recent years. Ramsey called an initial investment of $3 million for the three-year pilot project a move to “reinvest in professional learning” in a way that “we can evaluate over the next few years” for measurable improvements to student achievement.

Through national board certification, teachers are trained in a national set of teaching standards and get the support of a master teacher as their mentor along the way, Ramsey said.

The Prichard Committee is targeting the project at kindergarten through third grade teachers throughout the state, and “all along the way, measuring the increased quality in teaching and learning and the increased outcomes in third grade reading and math.”

In administering the program, Ramsey said the advocacy group wants to ensure that “we have teachers coming from schools where we have disproportionate outcomes” to make sure the program serves to “increase outcomes for students who are most significantly behind, to close achievement gaps for students of color, students from poverty, students in rural areas of our state where teachers have not had those high-quality supports.”

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.