Teachers Advisory Council graphic.The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is “unashamed” and moving forward with its equity work, Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass told the department’s Teachers Advisory Council (TAC) during its June 17 virtual meeting.

An instrumental piece of this work will be the Kentucky Academy for Equity in Teaching (KAET), which was relaunched earlier this year.

KAET is a partnership between KDE, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet that aims to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce of teachers.

Diversity in the profession can lead to increased student achievement, lower dropout rates and other positive outcomes, including increased aspirations to attend a postsecondary institution. All students benefit socially when they have role models from an array of backgrounds, making them better local and global citizens.

“We want to make sure our students have teachers or role models … who look like them and have backgrounds like them,” Glass said. “That helps our young people see role models they can aspire toward being like and emulating, and we think that’s really important.”

Additionally, Glass said the department has no interest in limiting what is taught in classrooms throughout the Commonwealth.

“We support educators having academic freedom within your classrooms,” he said. “… We intend to move forward with our work around equity and diversity. We think that’s really important.”

Another element of the department’s equity work is the ongoing Kentucky Equity Project, spearheaded by members of KDE’s Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council (SAC).

Led by Thomas Woods-Tucker, KDE deputy commissioner and chief equity officer, and Anastasia Panaretos, a rising junior at South Oldham High School (Oldham County), the students have created a video about what equity means to them. The video provides ways viewers can help ensure equity in education, such as providing mentorship and internship programs for minorities, encouraging school and district accountability systems, and providing resources on ways to implement an equitable curriculum.

As the project continues, the students plan to incorporate a podcast and newspaper articles that will include personal stories from Kentuckians about inequities they faced and how it has affected them. The articles and podcasts will come out later this year.

Though the project currently is being worked on by current SAC members and recent alumni, Panaretos said students in the state will be invited to participate by sharing their stories.

“We definitely want to target personal experiences,” added Anna Williams, a recent graduate of Anderson County High School and former SAC member who also is working on the project. “I think that’s the best way to really allow people to care. When they care, it encourages them to advocate for this kind of thing.”

The equity project will be introduced each year to new SAC members to ensure it continues after members have graduated, Panaretos said.

“Every year we’re going to introduce it because I know that every year there is going to be someone who is going to continue to be interested in the project,” she said. “We’re just going to pass the torch along.”

Impact Kentucky Survey

The second iteration of the Impact Kentucky Survey will launch in November, and teacher participation will be vital to improving the working environment for educators across the state, said Veda Stewart, director of KDE’s Division of Educator Recruitment and Development.

“Your input is valuable to us,” she said. “It is very crucial that we have your feedback.”

The biennial survey administered by KDE and Panorama Education offers every certified educator in Kentucky the opportunity to provide anonymous input on teaching conditions. This critical data can inform school, district and state improvements and allows parents to see what the culture and climate are like for their children’s teachers.

During the Kentucky Continuous Improvement Summit, Panorama will provide a learning opportunity to support the use of survey results. The summit will be held Sept. 22-23 at the new Central Bank Convention Center, adjacent to Rupp Arena in Lexington. Registration is available on the Cognia website.

In other business, the council:

  • Welcomed its 14 new members;
  • Analyzed actions teachers may consider to accelerate student learning as they head into the 2021-2022 school year with Micki Ray, director of KDE’s Division of Program Standards, and Misty Higgins, professional learning coordinator from KDE’s Office of Teaching and Learning; and
  • Selected Susan Cintra, an English teacher at Madison Central High School (Madison County), as the council’s chair.

The TAC will meet again on Sept. 21.