Knox partners with University of Kentucky to innovate and improve schools

The Knox County Public Schools have joined a unique partnership with the University of Kentucky College of Education to innovate and improve schools in its district.

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The Next Generation Leadership (NxGL) Academy, a component of Kentucky P20 Innovative Labs, will be working with Knox County leaders to facilitate the design of new systems of learning that will improve and deepen learning for all students and increase the percentage of graduates ready for college and career.

“We are very fortunate to be one of only 12 districts across the state partnering with UK on this project,” said Marion Sowders, assistant superintendent.

“The ability to network with innovative districts is a major win for our students as we continue to challenge our thinking and adjust our practices to ensure students are next generation leaders.”

Council of Chief State School Officers Executive Director Gene Wilhoitt and Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday addressed academy participants during the first meeting in July and pledged their support to districts.

“I think the promise of this is unbelievable,” Wilhoit said. “I’ve seen it happen in many schools in isolated ways, but the problem is we’re not doing it across the board.”

The NxGL Academy’s focus is around the Council of Chief State School Officer’s six critical attributes of next generation learning, which include:

Personalized Learning that is data-driven with goals and progress assessment;
Comprehensive Systems of Learning Support which addresses social, economic, physical and cognitive development;
World-Class Knowledge and Skills required for success in a global marketplace;
Performance-based Learning that puts the student in the center of the learning process and leads to mastery;
Anytime, Anywhere Learning that promotes learning beyond the classroom and typical school day;
And Student Voice/Agency which deeps student engagement by encouraging them to direct and own their own individual learning.

Kim Bullard, curriculum coach at Lynn Camp Schools, feels that the innovative work with UK and other participating districts will serve as a springboard for 21st century learning in Knox County.

“As innovative districts, state and national leaders, and researchers participate in the next generation academy, we become more effective communicators, collaborators, and educators,” said Bullard.

“The academy will increase our creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills as it relates to changing traditional education.”

The need to change traditional education is supported by data released by the University of Kentucky. Current statistics show that 83.91% of students complete high school and only 32% of Kentuckians ages 25-34 have a college degree. As a result, routine jobs are disappearing to low wage countries or automated systems.

“The academy will help us focus on preparing today’s students for jobs that may not exist yet and to ensure our students are next generation leaders,” said Sowders.

Districts participating in the academy will meet several times throughout the year, with much of the work taking place during online meetings between the districts and UK faculty. Once districts have completed the academy, they will have the opportunity to work with the UK College of Education to develop Innovation Zones (iZones) in their schools.