Thanks to landmark legislation enacted in 2012 (House Bill 37), every district in Kentucky had the opportunity to apply to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to become a District of Innovation. The legislation, which was modeled after charter school laws in other states, promised districts relief from a number of regulatory and legislative barriers in exchange for an innovative proposal to reimagine teaching and learning. Of the 16 districts that applied to the Kentucky Department of Education, four winners emerged: Danville Independent, Eminence Independent, Jefferson County Public Schools, and the Taylor County School District.
Here is a snapshot of each district’s provocative vision. I look forward to following each of these districts as they begin implementation in the fall. I commend their willingness to take risks and am anxious to see how the state begins to refine and scale these ideas.
Danville will create a customized series of courses beginning in sixth grade to ensure all students are college-and-career-ready by the 10th grade so students can use the remaining two years of high school to engage in deeper mastery of academic content and skills. The district will develop new staffing roles to develop unique pathways for students such as a skilled learning designer who will develop courses aligned to student interests and styles. All instruction will align to the Danville Diploma which identifies the skills and experiences students deserve throughout their studies. (Click here to learn more about the Danville Diploma from my colleague Jesse Moyer’s recent blog post).
Eminence plans to blur all lines of secondary and postsecondary learning. Students will not progress based on what “year” they are in school, but on what competencies they have met. Students will chart their learning with the assistance of Student Parent Advisors Readiness Consultation Teams. Pathways will include access to full-time university programs, virtual or blended courses, and career and technical education programs leading to industry certifications.
Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS)
JCPS will give its persistently low-achieving schools the opportunity to re-think what a school might look like by incorporating non-traditional approaches to curriculum, instruction, assessment and governance. The district will use four strategies in implementation: 1) Creating Equal access to highly effective instruction through professional collaboration; 2) Extending learning opportunities so students can learn anywhere/anytime they have access to instructional materials; 3) Creating Schools of Innovation; and 4) Creating a system of support for each student to be successful.
Taylor County School District
Taylor County will implement a 10-year plan to become a public school environment that mirrors a college campus. Students will be responsible for their personal education and goal setting, but with a system of remediation, intervention, and acceleration to lay the foundation for college and career success. There will be no bells and no schedules. Students will move freely with a set of standards to complete. They will select teachers that fit their preferred learning style. Business and industry professionals will be allowed to teach students useable, real world skills.