Superintendent’s Spotlight: Roger Cook, Taylor County

Roger Cook
Roger Cook

The Taylor County school district, led by Superintendent Roger Cook, has developed a system of learning that has attracted national attention. The “Wagon Wheel of Learning” includes six different spokes for learning and performance-based education.

Taylor County is the state’s only pre-K through 12th-grade performance-based education campus and acts as a model for the rest of Kentucky and the nation. During the 2014-15 school year, Taylor County had more than 70 guests visit from more than 17 school districts and five states outside of Kentucky.

This model has led the district to six consecutive years with zero dropouts and a 100 percent graduation rate. In turn, the district often shares with other districts, in- and out-of-state, school boards, and state officials how to incorporate performance-based education in a district. Also, in 2013, Taylor County was designated a District of Innovation by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) making it one of the first four to be named.

In addition, for the 2014-15 school year, Taylor County implemented a cyber snow plan for the district. The plan enabled the district to use up to ten days designated as school days when snow prevented school from being in session. Students were given homework packets for all subjects before inclement weather arrived to be completed on these days. During the year, nine days were effectively used with a 97.5 percent participation rate.

The cyber snow plan and zero dropouts are due, in part, to the district’s emphasis on using technology. In 2012, Taylor County’s iPad initiative placed iPads in the hands of all high school students and provided an option for any student to rent or lease a device. In 2014, the district purchased 750 Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 laptops and moved the iPads to the middle school and upper elementary grades. Taylor County also partnered with a local business to establish a scholarship fund for students who could not afford to lease or rent a device. Having these devices in the hands of students is essential for performance-based education and to keep students competitive.

Just recently, District Administration Magazine recognized Taylor County as a “District of Distinction” and the district is looking forward to the release of Every Child, Every Day: Achieving Zero Dropouts through Performance-Based Education in January, which showcases Taylor County as a leader in this area.