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Commissioner of Education

United We Learn

Published: 2/23/2022 5:14 PM

​​​​​​​​​Investing in Kentucky’s Future, One Student at a Time​​

200220_TT_SharonPorterRobinson_ShawneeAcademy-12.jpgStudents across Kentucky are growing up in a globally interconnected world, and one that is accelerating in competitiveness and opportunity. For our students to thrive in the world they are inheriting, it is up to us to create learning experiences that prepare them for this future.

While every student has the potential for success in this new world, we know that learning opportunities and outcomes have been uneven. Although many students and school districts are thriving, others are struggling, especially those in our traditionally underserved communities and groups. Kentucky’s public schools will only fully realize their potential if we can ensure a quality and equitable learning experience for all students. 

As educators, students, families, businesses and community members, we must come together around a new, student-centered education system that works for everyone.

To meet this exciting future, we need a bold and forward-thinking direction to give our students the learning experiences they need and deserve. This collective effort is called United We Learn: Investing in Kentucky’s Future, One Student at a Time.

United We Learn represents what is needed now and in the short-term, as we emerge from the pandemic, and the bigger shifts necessary to get us where we need to be in the future. It also pays homage to our state motto – United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

Some may read the words “Investing in Kentucky’s Future, One Student At a Time” and think all we are talking about is funding. Although adequate and equitable funding for our public education system is critical, the investments and changes we need go much deeper. 

Investing in Kentucky’s Future means everyone in our Commonwealth - educators, families,  community leaders, and business leaders - working to support our public schools in bringing about deep and authentic learning experiences for our students. 

The change we need is not surface or superficial. We need profound shifts in what students experience in our schools so they are prepared and have the opportunity to develop the skills that will make them successful workers, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and citizens in their future. 

We invite you to join in this journey, sharing examples of meaningful learning and engagement in your community and our schools by using our hashtag #UnitedWeLearnKY and following @UnitedWeLearnKY on Twitter and Instagram.

How We Got Here

In the spring of 2021, Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education and Chief Learner Jason E. Glass staged a series of listening tours across the Commonwealth to hear from Kentuckians about what was going well in our schools, and what needed to be different. These meetings culminated in the formation of the Kentucky Coalition for Advancing Education, a group with diverse perspectives from across the Commonwealth whose goal was to bring together the lessons learned from the listening tours.

The coalition includes students, families, teachers, school administrators and community leaders from across Kentucky. The group is intentionally diverse, and brings together voices and participants who have not always been at the table when decisions are made about Kentucky’s schools.

In an effort to create a vision for education in Kentucky, the coalition developed the United We Learn: Hearing Kentucky’s Voices on the Future of Education report that lays out how education can be transformed into an enriching experience that prepares students for life in this rapidly changing world. 

Where We Go Next

​To bring this bold vision for Kentucky’s schools to life, we need a united effort that engages every community and school in the Commonwealth. Our kids cannot wait for political action for our work to begin. Although lawmakers and policymakers will hopefully significantly help this effort, the changes we need will happen in communities and classrooms and should begin today. We do not need permission to begin improving learning experiences for Kentucky’s children.

Our work already has begun with Kentucky’s Innovative Learning Network. Seven districts – Allen, Fleming, Frankfort Independent, Jefferson, Johnson, Logan and Shelby – currently serve as full Local Laboratories of Learning (L3s), where they are piloting new assessment, accountability and learning approaches. These districts also have formed local and inclusive coalitions to guide their work. We will learn from their experiences and help to bring about the large-scale changes for our entire state.

Beyond these leading districts, opportunities to engage communities and create deep and meaningful learning experiences for students abound in our Commonwealth. We call upon every district, school and community to engage with this United We Learn effort and help us bring about a bold new era of education in Kentucky.​

United We Learn: Hearing Kentucky’s Voices on the Future of Education

JUNTOS APRENDEMOS: Escuchando las vocesde Kentucky sobre el futuro de la educación

United We Learn: Hearing Kentucky’s Voices on the Future of Education (Executive Summary)​

JUNTOS APRENDEMOS: Escuchando las voces de Kentucky sobre el futuro de la educación (Resumen ejecutivo)​

United We Learn: A New Vision for Education in Kentucky Department of Education​

JUNTOS APRENDEMOS: Una Nueva Visión para la ​Educación en Kentucky​​

United We Learn

200306_submitted_Patrice McCrary_Jennings Creek El-3.jpgKentucky’s Vision for the Future

The following vision for Kentucky’s public schools was created by the thousands of Kentuckians who participated in the process. It is a vision for Kentuckians, by Kentuckians. 
  • A lot of good things are happening in Kentucky’s public schools, but often they are not done in a systematic way. We will use common vision, and local and statewide partnerships to organize and expand high-quality opportunities for each and every student. 
  • Schools are central to their communities, but there are obstacles to creating trusting, collaborative relationships. We will listen to each other and intentionally work together to better serve Kentucky’s students and communities. 
  • Education has been focusing more on meeting accountability rules, which makes it harder to take chances and create new partnerships. We will move from focusing on the narrow rules of accountability to be more responsive to the needs and desires of students and local communities, especially those who have been historically underserved. 
  • There still are inequities both in the opportunities students have and the outcomes they achieve. To make a real difference, we will move from a standardized approach to learning to one that recognizes and values the uniqueness of students and communities. 
  • Very few people feel seen or heard in the current education system. We will have a system where students are more than statistics and where students, families and teachers feel known and valued beyond their test scores. 
  • It’s important to know where we need to improve and to be accountable, but it’s also important to recognize both the strengths and challenges of local conditions and work together to find ways to succeed. We will create a system that shares information in a way that supports everyone in being partners in improvement, rather than “shaming and blaming.” 
  • By asking teachers and students to work in a standardized way, the current system of education does not recognize the complexities of modern life and its effects on the classroom. We will create conditions where everyone feels safe to try new things and improve by learning from one another, instead of competing. 
  • Schools need everyone to learn about and value a broader set of career goals and pathways to success. We will build a system that goes beyond a narrow set of subjects and expands what students imagine they could do to find individual fulfillment AND contribute to community prosperity. 
  • There is a widespread desire for an assessment and accountability system that goes beyond a narrow picture of student success. We will develop local and state accountability systems that work together to learn about and share a fuller picture of how communities are supporting student growth. 
  • Kentucky’s schools should not go “back to normal” and forget all of the lessons learned during the COVID pandemic. We will create a culture that doesn’t shy away from addressing tough issues and works to answer them as united communities. ​​

Toni Konz Tatman
Chief Communications Officer
Office of the Commissioner
Division of Communications
300 Sower Blvd., 5th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-2000 ext. 4602
Fax (502) 564-3049 

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