A third grade teacher at J.B. Atkinson Academy for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Fuller was one of more than a dozen Louisvillians, including UofL President James Ramsey and Ralph Fitzpatrick, associate vice president for community engagement, who talked with Duncan during his stop at The Academy at Shawnee High School. 

Fuller’s comments echoed those of Atkinson’s former principal, Dewey Hensley, who sang the praises of UofL’s Signature Partnership. Its commitment of social workers, counselors and training at Atkinson has contributed to skyrocketing test scores.

Fuller said she loves the fact that UofL classes take place inside Atkinson and that college students welcome her pupils to their classes on Belknap Campus. The interaction gives her young students a bird’s eye view inside college life, making them less intimidated and more likely to pursue higher education, she said.

Atkinson and Shawnee are two of the Jefferson County Public Schools the Signature Partnership has “adopted.” The partnership seeks to enhance the quality of life and economic opportunity for residents of western Louisville. Signature Partnership works with community residents, JCPS, Louisville Metro Government, local nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups and others to meet its goals.

UofL understands the role churches, barber shops and community groups play in west Louisville and getting at-risk children to stay in school and think about college, Ramsey told the education secretary.

Louisville, as a city, also is doing a good job of collaborating and leveraging federal dollars to improve troubled schools and their students’ chances of going to college, Fitzpatrick said.

Duncan was in Louisville to give the keynote address at the Association for Middle Level Education’s annual conference. He also talked about the need for education reform at the Improving Productivity in Kentucky Schools and Districts Conference.

At Shawnee, Duncan praised the school’s turnaround, telling the group and media members that great principals and great teachers are the overriding key to improving schools in high poverty areas.

Shawnee is one of several low-achieving JCPS schools that are receiving federal school-improvement grants. It has seen an increase this year in students scoring proficient or better in reading (23 percent to 45 percent) and in math (5 percent to 25 percent).