An Eventful Year Continues
In one sense, it seems like school just began yesterday, but in another way, it feels as if it has gone on a very long time. Rather than waiting for the end of the year to recap, since so much has happened, this month I’ll devote to a little review.
The best news is that our progress continues and that Bullitt County was named a Proficient school district after a number of years of climbing in the rankings. We are very proud of our students for helping us clear that bar, because we know that success breeds success and that achievement will bring others.
While most attention has been on the terrible weather and extraordinary number of days that school had to be closed, the calendar committee recommended and the Board approved a calendar that reflects our maturing needs for instructional training and collaboration and hopefully better responds to family needs by replacing two before school planning days and the eight 2-hour early release days with seven full instructional collaboration days. These are scheduled for Mondays throughout the year so families can plan ahead for full day care or take the occasional long weekend. The Early Release Days definitely served their purpose and made a difference in the implementation of more aligned instruction and our professional learning community process, but now, these instructional collaboration days will be of more benefit because subject or role specific meetings can be held across the district.
The Kentucky General Assembly heard the voices of parents and teachers and approved a budget that reversed many of the very difficult cuts that have been occurring since 2008. Our schools are not back to 2008 levels, and Kentucky remains well below the national average in providing funding for our schools (meaning opportunities for our kids), but the decline has been reversed. School districts are very “labor intensive” in that about 82% of the budget goes to salary and benefit expenses, so the big cuts our schools has sustained have meaning for the services we can provide for our students. In an environment where teachers and schools are often demonized, our community has a strong and positive tendency to support our schools. Working with our families and business community, rather than being insulated, helps everyone work together to create economic opportunity that benefits us all in the long term. State spending cuts are sometimes required, but the old phrase about eating your seed corn holds true. If we don’t invest in our kids, they will not have the tools to compete in their future world.
All of us have been behind the scenes preparing for a tremendous mandatory change in the way that teachers are developed and evaluated. The new system is called the Professional Growth and Effectiveness System and when the kinks are worked out, I believe it may have a profound impact on how instruction is delivered. Without getting too complicated, teaching is part “art,” but there is also a great deal of scientific research about how to effectively provide instruction that leads to higher levels of student understanding and achievement. Kentucky has adapted the work of a renowned researcher named Charlotte Danielson centered around four domains: planning & preparation; the classroom environment; instruction; and professional responsibilities. Added to those domains will be a measure of student academic growth, teacher reflection, peer observation, and even student perception. You will probably hear a lot about this over the course of the next year, and I wanted to give you a short summary in advance.
There is much more, but it will have to wait until later. This year has been great so far, but the best is yet to come. Be proud of your students and your kids’ teachers, principals, and support staff – they are doing great work at moving this county forward.