To celebrate his freshman year at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass returned to his alma mater, Meade County High School, on September 17 to co-teach Grade 9 science with Jonathan Mangin.
âThere was an attempt to teach me math in the same room we are working in today,â he told the students. “This was my 4th grade class and I insist there was an attempt because I struggled with it.”
Glass began the lesson with a hypothetical story of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurring on the New Madrid Fault near Arkansas. The story continued by describing the effects of the earthquake waves on Brandenburg, Ky. The class was asked to investigate whether the story could ever be factual or remain fictional.
Students organized themselves into small groups to work to answer the four questions guiding the discussion on the content of knowledge about plate tectonics, geological processes, and earthquakes. Four to five different roles were divided among the small groups: 2-3 researchers, 1 writer, 1 presenter and 1 project manager.
Using their Chromebooks to create Google Docs to share their findings, the students worked quickly to sort through the information and resource links provided by Mangin and Glass. Co-teachers toured the room to help guide students’ questions and monitor their teamwork. At the end of the 20-minute research phase, the groups presented their results to the class.
This teaching method uses a problem-based and project-based approach. This practice helps students develop universal skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication.
Glass was delighted to introduce the class to a new approach to teaching. This type of teaching style focuses on âauthentic demonstration of learning,â he said.
âThey reacted well to this style, really like this kind of learning and want to do more. I think our experience was a success, âhe said.
Mangin said he was delighted to have the Commissioner in his class for the day and the opportunity for the students to learn from him.
âI am excited about how the students will benefit from the lesson, and not just in the science class. The lesson focuses on inferences and the use of verifiable facts to form an answer. Students can use it in any classroom and in real life applications, âhe said.
Six-year-old educator Mangin has been teaching science in grade 9 at Meade County High School for four years. Mangin and Glass attended high school together – Glass was two years early – and even lived in the same residential complex when they attended the University of Kentucky. The couple have stayed in touch over the years and have become lifelong friends.
Glass spent the whole day in Meade County, celebrating school reunion week and even attended the football game later that evening.
It was Glass’s second visit to Meade County this school year. At the Meade County Schools Opening Ceremony, he presented middle school and high school choir teacher Shirley Jones with the Greenwave Legacy Award for her 20-year career in education.
Glass said he developed his belief that âschools are the heart of communitiesâ while growing up in Meade County.
âThis community is the one that taught me how schools support community and communities support schools. There is this reciprocal relationship where they work together and support each other, âhe said.
Year in review
September 14 marked the first anniversary of the start of Glass’s work as curator at KDE. Glass was identified on July 10, 2020 by the Kentucky Board of Education as the next commissioner following extensive national research.
Glass said his first year back in Kentucky and as Commissioner “has been amazing, despite all the challenges.”
âIt is an honor – personally and professionally – to be able to serve in the state in which I grew up and which has given me so much,â he said.
When he first became commissioner, Glass set three goals: reopening and safely operating Kentucky schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic; engage in work to combat racism and equity; and managing the fiscal fallout from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
Glass said KDE has done an “exceptional” job in handling the state’s response to COVID. He said schools were able to reopen last spring thanks to âclear and encouragingâ advice provided by KDE on how to keep schools running safely.
âI am proud of the position we have taken as a department and the Kentucky Board of Education has taken in trying to keep school operations safe. Schools in Kentucky have done this as well as any school in the United States, âhe said.
Providing a meaningful and quality educational experience continues through KDE’s fairness work, an area where he says âgreat stridesâ have been made over the past year.
A milestone in this work was the hiring of Thomas Woods-Tucker, KDE’s first equity manager and deputy commissioner in the Office of Teaching and Learning. Glass said KDE is also working on three tools focused on equity in the Commonwealth.
An equity dashboard will serve as a data analysis tool to provide schools and districts with a way to assess differences in student performance and achievement. An equity toolkit will describe several areas where schools might consider changes to increase equity in education. An equity handbook will provide five strategic steps a school or district can take to make a difference for students from disadvantaged or historically underserved backgrounds.
As he contemplates his second year as a commissioner, Glass said he is excited about the work that “looks beyond the horizon” for Kentucky’s public education system, and ready to open up ” the next chapter in Kentucky education history. “
The commissioner carried out a virtual listening tour from April 6 to May 6. At nine âstops,â one in each co-op region and one in Louisville, stakeholders shared their comments on the long-term aspirations of the Commonwealth education system. Feedback from the 1,200 Kentuckians who took part in the tour will serve as a springboard for the Kentucky Education Summit 2021.
Scheduled Nov. 1-2 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, the statewide summit will focus on the future of K-12 education in the Commonwealth. The event will bring together some of the country’s leading education reform leaders to help start a discussion on how to build a stronger education system with high standards in the state.
âWe hope to build an educational experience that prepares students for the rapidly changing, globally interconnected, highly technical and automated world they inherit,â he said.