TAYLOR COUNTY’S TRANSFORMATION BEGAN WITH ONE BIG IDEA: “One size definitely does not fit all.” Learners don’t all learn at the same pace or in the same way. Educators don’t all teach in the same way either. And why would we expect them to?
Freedom and flexibility characterize every aspect of Kentucky’s Taylor County School District. Learners choose where, how, what, and with whom they learn. It all comes down to this: They are simply expected to learn. Educators and learners work together to create individualized learning plans (ILPs) guided by a set of standards. Personalized and relevant, these reflect the unique needs, interests, and potential career paths of each child. This allows learners to move at their own pace, giving them agency over their learning. There are no limits to how many courses they can attempt or how far beyond the “classroom” they can explore.
This competency-based, or as they call it—performance-based, system takes the shape of a six-spoked wagon wheel of learning:
Online Learning: Learners log in to learn, participating in a virtual academy with the support of on-site educator guides.
Project-based Learning: Learners’ context shapes their learning. They tackle curriculum through authentic, real-world projects with support from local businesses and organizations.
Self-paced Learning: In a personalized, blended learning approach, learners access teacher-created video lessons. They then move at their own pace, while educators play a facilitator role. Learners’ understanding is formatively assessed on a daily basis through partner activities, projects, online simulations and exercises, whole group activities, and one-on-one instruction.
Peer-led Instruction: >Learners learn from each other, with educators serving as facilitators.
Cardinal Academy: Learners direct their own learning plan, path, and progress. With the guidance of an advisor, these high schoolers choose their own subjects and timelines and often take advantage of off-campus opportunities and internships.
Traditional Learning: For those who prefer the teacher-led model, the 176-day, direct instruction option remains available.
And guess what? Kids are moving at amazing rates through Taylor’s innovative model. They bus hundreds of elementary schoolers to the middle school daily. Middle schoolers are doing high school-level work. Many finish their core requirements by their sophomore or mid-junior year–and they move on to earning college credits.
The traditional lines are blurred, assumptions about what kids are capable of are being shattered, and innovations just keep emerging. The results speak for themselves. Taylor has had no drop outs in the last six years and, in the last three, has had a 100% graduation rate. As Superintendent Roger Cook says, “Bottom line: we don’t give up on our kids–not a single one!”