Picture of a young woman talking and another woman seated at a table.

Solyana Mesfin, the Kentucky Board of Education’s student member and a senior at Eastern High School (Jefferson County), spoke to the board about her experiences with a competency-based form of education. Jefferson County’s Backpack of Success is a digital platform for students to enter pictures, video and a written reflection of what they have learned in five key areas: prepared and resilient learner, globally and culturally competent citizen, emerging innovator, effective communicator, and productive collaborator.
Photo by Marvin Young, Feb. 9, 2022

The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) is taking steps to create a statewide Profile of a Graduate, which is a vision statement describing what a learner should know and be able to do before they graduate high school.

The board heard an update on building this statewide profile from David Cook, director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Division of Innovation, during its Feb. 9 meeting at the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB).

This effort to build a statewide profile began under then-Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt as part of revising Kentucky’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan in 2017. Pruitt formed the Educational Innovations Work Group, which recommended pursuing a competency-based education – an approach that gauges learning based on a student’s demonstration of understanding.

Pruitt directed the Division of Innovation to implement this recommendation and involve local school districts. The division formed the Kentucky Competency Education and Assessment Consortium (KCEAC), whose vision is to create a collaboration among districts committed to a systemic approach to competency education and assessment and, with the support of the Kentucky Department of Education, design and implement a competency education and assessment system.

Cook and his office opened an application for districts to apply to the consortium and two districts – Shelby and Trigg counties – met the evaluation criteria. Both districts already had a Profile of a Graduate and the two profiles had nearly identical key competencies. This helped KCEAC to create “Anchor Competencies” that formed the basis of their initial work.

After researching profiles across the country and bringing together teachers from throughout Shelby and Trigg counties, the consortium found five core competencies that every Profile of a Graduate has: critical thinker, communicator, empowered learner, collaborator and engaged citizen.

KBE Chair Lu S. Young expressed her strong support of the Profile of a Graduate.

“These measurable skills are the outcomes we want for all Kentucky kids,” said Young.

One of the KBE’s current goals is a desire to “promote the creation of a statewide profile of a learner/graduate, identifying the knowledge, skills and dispositions all Kentucky learners need to become successful citizens.”

“These (Profile of a Graduate) rubrics are as helpful to creating independent learners as they are documenting the outcomes of instruction and helping to scaffold instruction,” said KBE Vice Chair Sharon Porter Robinson.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the consortium had expanded to 11 school districts: Allen, Boone, Corbin Independent, Frankfort Independent, Jefferson, Logan, Mason, Metcalfe, Shelby, Trigg and Trimble.

“The intent now is to keep going with that work, adding more districts to think about it,” said Cook.

With the launch of the Local Laboratories of Learning (L3) work last fall, many L3 communities have an interest in furthering their work on their Profile of a Graduate. The L3 communities are local and inclusive coalitions that are piloting new assessment, accountability and learning approaches. Of the 15 districts participating in Cohort 1 or 2 of the L3 work, nine were members of the consortium.

“When you walk into a school that has an operationalized Profile of a Graduate, kids don’t just talk about their math score. They talk about, ‘This is what I did with my team the other day, we collaborated on this project.’” said Cook. “They know that they’re working towards being a collaborator, a communicator and a critical thinker.”

Solyana Mesfin, KBE’s student member and senior at Eastern High School (Jefferson County), has experienced first-hand a form of the Profile of a Graduate through Jefferson County Public School’s Backpack of Success Skills.

The Backpack of Success is a digital platform for students to enter pictures, videos and a written reflection of what they have learned in five key areas: prepared and resilient learner; globally and culturally competent citizen; emerging innovator; effective communicator; and productive collaborator.

“Being in this process now where you have to cultivate what you’ve learned, it’s really reflective,” said Mesfin.

The board voted to charge its curriculum committee with the development of a plan – possibly a taskforce appointed by the committee chair – for the purpose of further studying the Profile of a Graduate data information, engaging stakeholders for feedback and reporting back to the board with conclusions and recommendations.

Picture of a man wearing a suit, sitting at a table with his right hand raised.

Steve Trimble was sworn in as the newest member of the Kentucky Board of Education at its Feb. 9 regular meeting at the Kentucky School for the Blind.
Photo by Marvin Young, Feb. 9, 2022

Kentucky School for the Blind Special Presentation
Students from the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) joined the KBE meeting to provide a history lesson on KSB and share what makes the school special. The school has served blind and visually impaired students for 180 years. Leanna Lewis, a senior cheerleader at KSB, said she appreciates the independence the school teaches.

“Being at the school for the past four years has taught me and a lot of other people about not just being independent, but being confident in being independent and being confident to go out on your own and do things on your own, even though you are blind or visually impaired,” she said.

Lewis said KSB was the third state-supported school for the blind in the United States. Founder Bryce Patten became interested in the education of blind children because of his brother, Otis, who was visually impaired and a student of Samuel Howe, a noted pioneer in the education of the visually impaired.

Student Tamyah Jordan has a shared placement between KSB and Central High School (Jefferson County). She has been at KSB for about one and a half years and participates in track and cheerleading.

“One thing that is special about KSB is the friendships that you’ll make and that your friends will always be there when you need them,” said Jordan.

Jordan said in addition to students being taught the standard curriculum to meet graduation requirements, they are taught other experiences and concepts, known as the expanded core curriculum. These skills empower students with disabilities to expand their education and make their own choices throughout life.

The expanded core curriculum consists of nine education areas: compensatory and functional academic skills, including communication modes; orientation and mobility; social interaction skills; independent living skills; recreation and leisure; career education; assistive technology; sensory efficiency skills; and self-determination.

Landon Smith, another student who has a shared placement between Central High School and KSB, has been at KSB for about 10 years.

“The core of KSB’s full-time, career-based programs is academics,” he said.

After the presentation, the KBE announced it was gifting KSB’s library with 32 new children’s books from the National Braille Press. The school also received a year-long membership in the National Braille Press’ Children’s Braille Book Club.

“We hope that you all will enjoy those new books in your wonderful library,” said Young.

In other business, the board:

  • Presented the 2021 Kevin C. Brown Strategic Priority Award to the Goodfellows Club of Owensboro;
  • Swore in new KBE member Steve Trimble;
  • Heard a report from the Council on Postsecondary Education;
  • Heard a report from Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman on the Education and Labor Cabinet
  • Heard Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass present the commissioner’s report and an update on Western Kentucky tornado relief efforts;
  • Approved the recipient of the 2022 Robinson Award for Diversity and Equity in Public Education, which will be presented at the next regularly scheduled meeting in April;
  • Selected the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) committee member and approved KBE member participation in the 2022 NASBE Legislative Conference;
  • Heard an update on the Commonwealth Education Continuum;
  • Approved consent agenda items, including:
    • New district facility plans;
    • Certification for 702 KAR 3:320, Finance Officer Certification Requirements;
    • Intended expiration of 705 KAR 4:250, Energy Technology Engineering Career Pathway;
    • Certification for 705 KAR 4:041, Work-Based Learning Program Standards;
  • Approved the amended district facility plan for the Nelson County School District, during which Superintendent Wes Bradley spoke to the board;
  • Approved waiver requests from Washington County and Garrard County school districts related to 702 KAR 4:180;
  • Approved amendments to 702 KAR 3:090, Depository of Bond, Collateral;
  • Approved amendments to 780 KAR 3:020, Kentucky Tech Compensation Plan;
  • Heard an update from KDE Chief Performance Officer Karen Dodd on the KDE strategic plan;
  • Heard an update on Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library expansion across Kentucky;
  • Heard an update on the 2022-2024 biennial budget and legislation;
  • Heard an update on the Facilities Task Force and facilities process review; and
  • Heard from student member Solyana Mesfin and teacher member Allison Slone on the open applications for the next student and teacher member of KBE.