A man helps a table with multiple students as they're working on schoolwork

Bullitt County school district staff and students came together to implement their Community Contributors for Innovative Learning to prepare students for graduation. Submitted photo

During the pandemic, the Bullitt County school district joined an initiative to prepare students for graduation.

The initiative started with empathy interviews in the spring of 2021 and the work that has followed has been a process, said Assistant Superintendent Adrienne Usher. The district began to implement graduate profiles and review the way administrators and educators looked at the accountability systems at each grade level.

“We are focusing on how teachers are changing the school experience through our graduate profile cohorts,” said Usher.

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Center for Innovation in Education (C!E) and the Kentucky Board of Education have partnered to establish three cohorts of Local Laboratories of Learning (L3) involved in the design of a new assessment and accountability system and to pilot any newly-created systems.

The L3s have three transformative goals:

  • Redefine school success in a reciprocal partnership with communities;
  • Create tangible shifts in policy, mindsets and habits throughout the system; and
  • Develop new ways of seeing the truth about communities, students and schools.

Usher said Bullitt County has developed its own L3 initiative: Community Contributors for Innovative Learning. Over the years, district leaders have spent time laying the foundations for these changes and making sure educators and members of the community understand the importance of student experience.

“We are trying to inform our community on the traditional school experience versus what it needs to be now,” said Usher. “Talking and sharing ideas about vibrant experiences have been helpful because it is spreading throughout the community that these are the experiences we are working towards.”

Brandy Howard, chief academic officer for Bullitt County, said the district recently created a prototype to implement these vibrant learning experiences. She hopes this prototype will encourage and build a relationship between community members, educators, students and schools.

“This prototype is going to kind of be the hub of all things connected to the graduate profile as well as a space where community members can sign up to come in and be a part of learning experiences,” said Howard.

She hopes to use this prototype as a resource to gain feedback from the district related to the graduate profile and college and career readiness of students.

Still in the first few phases, Usher said, they are encouraging the district to shift their focus to look at the whole student versus solely assessment scores.

“We have been changing what our classroom pedagogy is, which has organically caused our teachers to start doing innovative assessment strategies,” said Usher.

Bullitt County has focused its instructional vision on various competencies to inspire and equip its students to succeed in the classroom and in life.

The instructional vision includes authentic learning experiences, student voice and agency, community partnerships, demonstrations of learning, and authentic assessment.

Through this vision, the district encourages focusing efforts on the student’s experience by creating a balance of traditional, transitional and transformational learning in and outside of the classroom.

“I think strategically working with our teacher’s cohort in combination with our graduate profile and most recently we added a transformational learning cohort has led to a part of our success so far,” said Usher.

In addition to the experience, Howard said district officials are empowering students to have a voice in their learning and school community, involving them in decision-making processes and co-creating opportunities for student-led initiatives and improvements.

Their instructional vision also includes creating this new type of learning environment by inviting and cultivating partnerships with local businesses, organizations and community members to provide students with connections and opportunities to bridge school life.

“We hope to teach our community, our teachers and principals how to truly create a mutually beneficial working relationship that will positively impact student outcomes,” said Usher.

As they continue their progress with these best practices, they also plan to focus on students showcasing their learning and personal growth through student-led conferences, exhibitions and defenses of learning.

They will give authentic assessments in which students explore and utilize innovative formative and summative assessment methods that may include project-based assessments, competency-based assessments, student-curated work or performance-based assessments that reflect authentic applications of knowledge and skills.

“Our teachers are changing the school experience for their students through our graduate profile cohorts and all the systems we have set up to train teachers.” said Usher “We are really focusing on our pedagogy and what that experience looks like for students.”

Bullitt County is just one of the 18 school districts involved in the L3 initiative. Schools looking for more information about the L3s, Portrait of a Learner and United We Learn can find resources within the Kentucky Innovation Guide.