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Personalized learning at Trigg in spotlight at state

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - Updated: 2:10 AM
BY MARY GARRISON MINYARD Contributing writer

Trigg County schools have stepped into the spotlight for its competency-based learning efforts at the state level.

Trigg County Superintendent Travis Hamby, along with Assistant Superintendent Beth Sumner, middle school Principal Amy Breckel, high school Principal Shannon Burcham and next-generation learning coach Mary Jones, attended a regularly-scheduled meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education last Wednesday in Frankfort. The group conducted a presentation on the district's shift to a more personalized learning experience for students and the successes and failures along the way. It was an experience each said they found to be "affirming" in the direction the district has taken.

"There's already been contact about coming to visit our district to see the things that are happening from a state board member and the council for postsecondary education executive director," Sumner said. "It was a really wonderful experience, and I think everybody was able to add something to the conversation â ¦ we could have talked all day."

The group discussed initiatives Trigg County has implemented since becoming a state-designated "District of Innovation" and the growth process therein.

Since 2015, the district has identified five core values in its educational mission: mastery learning, personalized learning, authentic learning, continuous improvement and relationships.Those values, as outlined in the Trigg County's District of Innovation application, play a critical role in student development and the educational experience.

n Mastery Learning: A commitment to support ALL students in mastering world class knowledge and skills; regular ongoing formative assessment by teachers, and high quality corrective instruction (interventions).

n Personalized Learning: A commitment to be learner centered allowing for student voice; pacing is driven by individual student needs, tailored to learning preferences and customized to the specific interests of different learners.

n Authentic Learning: A commitment to immerse students in authentic and meaningful applications of the world class knowledge and skills with a variety of assignments, projects, tasks, experiences, and assessments; connecting what students are taught in school to real­world issues and problems.

n Continuous Improvement: A commitment to excellence which requires us to embrace a growth mindset that encompasses ongoing learning, reflection, risk taking, and innovation, for students and staff.

n Relationships: A commitment to know and be known as demonstrated through trusting interactions, investing time, and taking a personal interest with and among students, teachers, and community members to ensure every individual feels valued.

The district has since implemented Summit Basecamp and Personalized Learning Classrooms, based on key strategy recommendations developed last year by a panel of six teachers devoted to exploring the personalized learning experience for students.

The district has also adopted standards-based grading procedures to better assess progress in content mastery.

In all, state board members were impressed with what they saw.

"I am just thrilled to hear what you're doing," said Robert King, board president. "This is something I've been following for over a decade. Frankly I think the model that you're implementing is what we should be using everywhere. â ¦ My immediate interest is how we can better prepare teachers to work in schools that use this model. But â ¦ I'm just thrilled you're doing this."

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt said he understood the difficulties associated with changing the culture and putting concepts into practice. Still, Pruitt said he felt the District of Innovation pilot, of which Trigg County is a part, was the right course of action for students across the state.

"It's time to recognize that the old way of doing things isn't quite good enough anymore," Pruitt said.

It was validation for sometimes messy work, according to group members.

"It was amazing," Hamby said. "Words cannot describe adequately the feeling that was in the room. The opportunity that we had, and then the comments from the commissioner were amazing as well. I have to say. It was very, very humbling to hear those words come out of his mouth."

To view the Kentucky Board of Education webcast, which includes the district's presentation, visit mediaportal.education.ky.gov.

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