Kentucky Board of Education members talk during a meeting.

The Kentucky Board of Education met on June 6-7 in Frankfort. (Photo by Joe Ragusa, June 6, 2023)

The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) focused discussion on the state’s Portrait of a Learner during its meeting June 6-7.

Approved by the KBE at its October 2022 meeting, Kentucky’s Portrait of a Learner is an agreed-upon set of aspirations for what every learner should know and be able to do when they graduate.

By the time a student graduates, the KBE said they should be:

  • A critical thinker;
  • An effective communicator;
  • An empowered learner;
  • A productive collaborator;
  • An engaged citizen; and
  • A creative contributor.

“High-stakes assessment and accountability, as it currently exists, often drives the wrong kinds of practices in our schools,” said KBE Chair Lu S. Young. “And it causes teachers a lot of internal professional conflict about what to do and what’s best for kids.”

Young said she doesn’t have an expectation for where the conversation will lead, but it’s a conversation that needs to happen.

“I think we are irresponsible if we don’t stop and have a conversation about the fact that folks right now are mired in the system,” she said.

Several board members voiced their own concerns about what is happening with assessment and accountability.

Board member Randy Poe said he wants to see community standards play a bigger role.

“I hope that with our assessment and accountability, we look at access and opportunity and what school districts are doing for their children to increase academic performance, and just not looking at a test score because a test score doesn’t show everything that a district is doing,” said Poe.

KBE Vice Chair Sharon Porter Robinson said community discussion needs to drive what leaders at the state and federal level are doing.

“It’s complicated, but you know it’s not complicated to the moms and the dads and the business leaders and the kids,” she said. “The more personal and local it gets, the better and clearer it gets.”

Robinson also said those discussions need to help the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) provide a clearly articulated vision for assessment and accountability.

“I think that clear articulation will help us hold ourselves accountable for supporting the work of the department and getting it done,” she said.

The discussion during the board meeting on June 6 led to the approval of the draft KBE Call to Action. The document was drafted following meetings of three workgroups the KBE created with board members, KDE employees, educators and students in May.

The discussions were centered on the inclusive learner experience, which focuses on how to create a prepared graduate by supporting learning experiences, assessment practices, accountability mindset and accountability structures. The Call to Action document includes several value statements that came out of those meetings.

Young pointed out one of the value statements in the assessment practices section involves fostering a system that encourages shared responsibility for the success of all learners.

“How do we build a system that shares the responsibility so that everyone is engaged?” asked Young.

The Kentucky United We Learn Council has used the statewide Portrait of a Learner as a jumping-off point for discussions around the council’s goal of reshaping the state’s vision of public education in Kentucky. The draft will be shared with the Kentucky United We Learn Council and other shareholders for refinement over the summer in advance of final review by the KBE in August.

Final Meeting for Current Teacher, Student KBE Members

June 7 marked the final board meeting for Joanna Stevens and Joud Dahleh, the nonvoting teacher and student members of the KBE. Their terms expire at the end of the month.

Stevens, a math teacher in Garrard County Schools, said she felt like she was part of something bigger while she served on the board.

“As the teacher representative on the Kentucky Board of Education, I was a part of something bigger than me,” she said, “bigger than my classroom, bigger than my school and I would argue, bigger than my state.”

Stevens said she hopes the United We Learn vision will help Kentucky turn into a “trailblazer in education.”

Dahleh, who will be a senior next year at Ignite Institute (Boone County), said her time on the KBE has opened up several opportunities for her.

“This year has been the most fulfilling of my life,” said Dahleh.

She said she valued opportunities she got from her time on the KBE, but the connections and conversations are what she values the most, and each board member has a special place in her heart.

Alissa Riley and R.J. Osborne have been named the new teacher and student members of the KBE. They will officially take over the roles in July.

In other business:

  • The KBE discussed several additional budget requests from various KDE offices.
  • 2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Mandy Perez presented her Year in Review to the board.
  • Sarah Vivian and Jeremy Camron were awarded the 2023 Karem Award for Excellence in Education Policy.
  • Viembre Nicholson was awarded the 2023 Teresa Perry Compassion Award.
  • The board recognized the 2022-2023 content area educators of the year.
  • The board announced the recipient of the Grissom Award for Innovation in Special Education. The winner will be announced during the next KBE meeting.
  • KDE Chief Performance Officer Karen Dodd and Kentucky United We Learn Council Chair Audrey Gilbert provided an update on the council’s April convening and the new process map which explains how the council works with districts, KDE, KBE and legislators.
  • The board heard an update on a Spanish immersion program in Shelby County Public Schools.
  • The board approved revisions to 702 KAR 7:065 (interscholastic athletics) and 703 KAR 5:270 (school accountability) following legislation passed during the 2023 legislative session.