Murray: the most scholastic city in the state

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Column by Stephanie Elder Anderson, adviser of The Murray State News

They may be one of your instructors. They might be your former principal or superintendent. They may be your younger sister’s middle school math teacher. No, I am not talking about the creepy clowns lurking in the city park. I am talking about doctoral students in the new Ed.D. program.

I know this because I am one of them. Two years ago, Murray State added its second doctoral program. The College of Education and Human Services now offers a doctorate of education in P20 and Community Leadership. So, now you are asking yourself, what is P20? You’re in luck. I just wrote a 25-page paper on it.

You have probably heard of P12 or P16. P20 takes those concepts a step further. The focus of P16 is on education for preschool aged students through the completion of high school. The Ed.D. program extends that through a career. In education we tend to form silos preventing us from creating a seamless transition from one level of education to another. Murray State is leading the way in this innovative concept of P20, being one of the handful of institutions in the United States specializing in P20.

It’s done in a cohort model, meaning the doctoral students attend classes one weekend a month while still working full-time. Cohort 3 was just welcomed into this program this semester. Meanwhile, the first cohort, my cohort, is nearing the finish line.

If you see your instructor, former principal or superintendent, your sister’s math teacher or myself looking as if we haven’t slept in weeks, carrying around a stack of journal articles, or attached to our APA manuals, don’t be alarmed. It’s because we are writing our dissertations or as my husband refers to it, “the D-word.”

Sure, doctoral students have been writing dissertations for decades, however, our dissertations are unique, particularly to Murray State. Why, you ask? It’s because we are the first students at Murray State to ever write the 100 plus page paper (give or take a few pages).

The first doctoral program, which is in nursing practice, requires a capstone project, not a dissertation. Not that a capstone project is any easier, especially in nursing. I am a journalist. I wouldn’t attempt to take an undergraduate course in nursing, let alone try my hand at a doctorate in it. The capstone requires students to develop a project that focuses on using evidence to affect change in health care. Students have to disseminate the project through publication, presentation or something similar.

Having these two doctoral programs adds to the already prestigious academia at Murray State. And there’s good news – a third doctoral program just began over the summer. This time, it’s a doctorate of English, Pedagogy and Technology. Murray State is the first and only university in Kentucky to offer a D.A. degree. This is also the only program in the nation to embed support for National Board Certification for teachers.

So what does this have to do with P20? In the words of my good friend, Jimmy Buffett, “here we go, I’ll tell ya.”

Murray State provides a high quality education, one that students can’t get anywhere else in the state. We as faculty and administrators are not looking to just place students in a job after graduation, we want to help them find a career.

Many of those careers are available right here in West Kentucky. Yet, despite all the opportunities that Murray State offers for extending our higher education, the P20 process doesn’t start at Murray State. It starts with P12.

The Kentucky Department of Education just released the latest round of test scores and rankings for schools and districts throughout the Commonwealth. Drum roll please…the number one school district in the state was none other than the Murray Independent School District. The district had an overall score of 85.6. That’s impressive! It was also named a “distinguished” district, one of only 7 in West Kentucky. Congratulations to the Tigers!

Guess which other district also received the distinction of being a “distinguished district” for the third year in a row? Calloway County School District (CCSD). Yes, that’s correct. Both P12 school districts in Murray/Calloway County received the highest honor possible. Southwest Elementary in the CCSD was also just named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2016, one of 329 across the country and the only school in West Kentucky to receive the honor. I could list accolades all day for these two districts but I will get to the point.

Having such strong academic opportunities in this county and state provides an easier transition from a P16 to P20 mindset. We are giving students access to the best schools in the state at all levels and then developing the relationships with businesses in the region that will provide the careers for our students. It’s a win-win-win for our schools, our community and our economy.

Sure, we all know by now that Murray is the friendliest small town in America, but if you take the top school district in the state, another “distinguished district”, the only National Blue Ribbon School in West Kentucky and combine those with the exceptional opportunities at Murray State, you get the top city/county in the state for educational advancement.

No, I am not the US News & World Report or the Kentucky Department of Education making this claim, but I am an employee and a student, who is working on my third (yes, I just said THIRD) degree from Murray State. I am a Racer and I am proud of the academic achievements of this entire city and county. So, join me in giving Murray/Calloway County a new title: “The Most Scholastic in the State.”

Now, back to writing that dissertation…