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Take a Deeper Dive into Education in Louisville at #AACTE19

As AACTE plans a lineup of dynamic presenters and content for its 2019 Annual Meeting in Louisville, local school officials from Jefferson County took time to share insights about what’s happening in education in the city and throughout Kentucky on topics related to AACTE’s Deeper Dive sessions. In response to questions regarding social justice issues and shaping the future of education in Louisville, Jimmy Adams, Chief of Human Resources for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), provided the following comments:

What does Louisville have to offer education leaders from across the country in their work to shape the future of education in America?

Jefferson County Public Schools, the 28th largest district in the United States, recently went through both internal and external reviews. The outcome of these reviews is the reorganization of the entire district leadership, a new superintendent, a new administrative cabinet, and a renewed commitment to our Vision 2020 of Culture and Climate, Improving Student Learning, and Organizational Coherence. This has led to the development of our Backpack of Success Skills [initiative].

Students will have access to a virtual backpack through Google, where they can place their projects and videos to support what they have learned throughout their Success Skill development. There are five success skills in the graduate profile—being a prepared and resilient learner, globally and culturally competent citizen, emerging innovator, effective communicator, and productive collaborator—as evidence of their accomplishments. This is an ambitious and unique plan that other districts are watching and could look to model in the future.

In May, students from Bloom Elementary School took a trip in a 15-passenger white limousine. It wasn’t to a field trip or even a dance but to a whole new journey to help them prepare for the future. One by one, they filed out of the stretch limo, confident and prepared for what was about to happen next. As they walked into the doors at Bellarmine University, they learned a life skill that will help them in middle school and beyond.

“Although I have grown a lot in both innovation and confidence, I still have room to grow in citizenship,” said fifth-grade student Gracie. She is one of dozens of fifth graders from Bloom who presented what’s known as their “defense” to a panel at Bellarmine. The purpose of the students’ defense was to demonstrate all they have learned and that they are ready to move on to sixth grade. This is not unique to Bloom; soon every fifth, eighth, and twelfth grader in JCPS will be doing the same thing at the end of the school year. It is a part of the district’s new plan to take learning to the next level and redefine success for students.

“Even if they have straight As, are they really ready? And those power skills we are looking at—confidence, innovation, can they eloquently tell they have worked on them?” said Bloom Elementary Principal Jack Jacobs. “Some of the students are doing cartwheels that tie into their introduction. Some are playing musical instruments, and some are using quotes or poems that they have written.” Jacobs says those power skills are something the community is looking for, and those skills will be reinforced at all grade levels starting this school year.

Chief Academic Officer Carmen Coleman has been working to help spearhead this plan. Coleman says test scores are one piece of the puzzle to determine student success, but she says so much more goes into making kids truly prepared for the next level. “Rather than just be successful academically, we are making a much broader definition of success,” said Coleman. Superintendent Marty Pollio says this will be a dramatic change for this district. “Our students, teachers, and families will see a transformation in our classrooms with our new Backpack of Success Skills. For the first time, students districtwide will fill their virtual backpacks with examples of their work and defend that work during the school year.”

For all those who have said testing isn’t everything, the district is listening and working to help our kids achieve in additional ways. Bloom fifth grader Amira was able to show collaboration, communication, and citizenship in a way that spoke to her. “We did a bunch of skits where you had two people who would act like they had a conflict and try to resolve it,” said Amira. “Engaging every student, every day, in meaningful learning is the goal. This is a chance for students to fill their virtual backpack and go on a whole new adventure through the classroom.”

How are Louisville leaders working together to advance education and diversity, equity, and inclusion for all in the city and state?

Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) recently adopted an aggressive Racial Equity Policy. The adoption and implementation of this policy shows that the JCBE is committed to a world-class school system that supports educational excellence regardless of ethnicity, race, color, national origin, age, different abilities, religion, marital or parental status, political affiliations or beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Equitable academic programs and services that respond to the needs of a diverse student population and prepare all students for a changing workplace within a global economy are essential.

The Board defines multicultural education as that which recognizes, values, and affirms diversity in a pluralistic environment. Education that is multicultural fosters

  • Intergroup understanding, awareness, and appreciation by students and staff of diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic groups represented in JCPS
  • Positive attitudes toward cultural diversity, especially in early grades, by dispelling misconceptions, stereotypes, and negative beliefs about themselves and others
  • Dialogue about the impact of racism and other barriers to acceptance of our common humanity
  • Development of positive, productive interaction among people and experiences of diverse cultural groups
  • Understanding of historical, political, and economic bases of current inequities

The Board believes that multicultural education has an immediate and direct connection to student learning and staff development that cultivates high expectations for all students, especially students from low-income families and students of color.

The Board recognizes that multicultural education is not a limited experience but a continuous process that embraces and accepts the interdependence of national and global groups. The JCBE also recognizes that multicultural education is an integral reform necessary in transforming the educational process to sustain an environment where diversity is valued and the commitment to multicultural education is evident.

Learn more about these topics and more at AACTE’s six Deeper Dive sessions designed to provide inspiring content to apply in your daily work that will delve into the practices and dispositions crucial to educator preparation today. Scheduled in pairs during dedicated time slots, the Deeper Dives take the place of AACTE’s former Major Forums and provide higher levels of audience engagement in an expert-facilitated exploration of a key topic. The session topics reflect work that is central to AACTE’s mission and its ongoing initiatives, including presentations from collaborating institutions, affiliate organizations, government agencies, think tanks, and thought leaders from the field.

Today is the Early Bird registration deadline for the AACTE 2019 Annual Meeting, February 22-24 in Louisville, Kentucky! Get the lowest registration rates when you register by 12:00 midnight EDT.

Register now


Jerrica Thurman

Director of Marketing & Communications, AACTE