Yesterday I was in Prestonsburg, out in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, working with Floyd County Schools, a district that has been part of our Next Generation Leadership Academy over the last year. They are laying the foundation for the launch of a very ambitious initiative, the details of which will be released over the course of the next few months, but one that will change the future of that community.
As we were driving back through the beautiful Spring air and greening forests this new sense came over me ... the revolution has started, at least in Kentucky. Exponential changes have been triggered, the result of which will be a revolution of our formal learning system for children. Of that, I am positive.
During my time here in Kentucky, we have been on a journey to lay the foundation for this change. We have journeyed from initial conversations between major stakeholders (I still remember fondly our dinners in the basement wine cellar of Portofino's restaurant with the still very new education commissioner at the time) to now a district like the team at Floyd County blowing me away, somewhat out of the blue. Concepts like mastery learning, performance assessments, standards-based grading, project driven instruction, 1:1 schools, blended learning, and personalized learning were rarely mentioned and not systemically understood by many folks, let alone under active implementation across the state. Now, I am so deeply pleased to report that not only are these concepts being talked about across Kentucky, but these concepts are going wild. If you think of those concepts as plants, we (many of us) have been busy laying the seeds of those concepts and nurturing some plants with a great deal of care and feeding to assure they bloom. But, I am confident that we are reaching the stage now that the seeds are spreading on their own. The ideas are bigger than anything we can control at this point. What a beautiful thought ... and one that will proudly serve the children of Kentucky for generations to come (brings tears to my eyes, honestly).
Now, the work is still mostly ahead of us. Mastering mastery learning is a far way in our future yet and it will take years of struggle to get there. Technology, while much more of it is entering schools, is still a toy and not a tool in many places. Understanding and accounting for all the implications of these changes, from assessment to course credits to higher education to how to pay for it all, will take decades of additional work. Further, our arguments over petty things will continue to frequently get in the way and we must continue to fight to overcome the massive amount of turbulence we will face along the way (as a pioneer that is joining our team would say).
An "efficient system of common schools" is a goal, laid by our fore-fathers in 1891, that we have yet to obtain for every child. It is a goal, though, to which I am confident we are now undertaking a major new step toward achieving. A new Spring has sprung in Kentucky.