JCPS is one of the largest consolidated school districts in the country and constitutes about 45% of all P-12 students in the Commonwealth. That alone should make many wonder how can you make the change and how long should it take? Additionally, If this takeover is being used to push a new competitive public education program with a mix of public and private charters what model should be used? Nashville is currently investigating the use of private family data, the misappropriation of funds by several charter schools, and disillusionment by parents. Indiana still is having trouble maintaining a balance between functioning charter schools and public schools, to the point of shutting down several. So, what will be the new answer to an old problem?
Ted Dintersmith recently published his book, What Schools Could Be. At its core, the book revels in the idea of schools as incubators for the future success of students. It doesn’t look to the failings but the successes of the public education system throughout the nation. Granted he does take some time with school systems that are a bit unorthodox and outside the box, as far as how to accommodate students, but I think something must be said for his ideas and findings. Of course, what I am saying, as a stakeholder and teacher, is that we should push for change. If, this is a big if, JCPS is failing students across the board then change is necessary to stop the academic fabric of Lousiville and its core institutions from collapsing. Second, it is going to take a huge effort and not simply a top-down approach to developing a new system of schools and ideas. Testing and rote memorization testing is not the key to a future workforce ready for 21C workplace.
When DC schools began their journey of re-birth during the early days of NCLB a small handful of academics, politicians, and advocates began the journey. It failed. It failed on a national stage and still to this day is experiencing limited recovery compared to the affluent suburbs that surround the nation’s capital. People walked away. Investors and for-profit companies made their shot and it ended when the outcome was noticeably not in reach. My challenge to the Governor and the KY Board of Ed is not to be tempted by the silver plater posing as a silver bullet. Kids need a long-term deep investment for their futures. Teachers need security in knowing that their jobs will be theirs; so that, they can put investment into themselves and in-turn into their classrooms.
If you want to start somewhere, start by bringing in Ted Dintersmith and Tony Wagner to do some real vision casting and development of their work from the Most Likely to Succeed documentary. Make JCPS an epicenter for change and innovation in the classroom. Next, tap Dr. Justin Bathon of UK and others working with the UK Next Generation leadership cadres to generate sustainable educational leadership. Pull the educational leadership of KY to JCPS to help build those new programs. Those teachers can, in turn, go back home and bring what they have learned while working alongside other Master Teachers. Then bring in Marty Park, Jeff Sebulsky, and Heather Warrell from the KDE STLP and KYGoDigital programs to build connections into classrooms that are meaningful in a 21C technology-based workspace. Alongside the KDE teams, bring in Chris Salyers and his team from TLC at Linlee to see how a modified school day can bring students from the brink of collapse to the cusp of graduation. Invite the teachers/professors of my school, Model Lab, to come and work with others showing how we have developed the bridge between pre-service educators so that less leave teaching in the first three years. Last, read the Fryer Report by the Hamilton Project to see what traps and real success limits are within the system.
This is not going to be easy and the Commonwealth is watching.