McLean County Public Schools Superintendent Terry Hayes says a year of unusually high test scores at his district was not enough and that teachers should turn some of their focus toward performance-based learning needs.
Hayes addressed the school board during a regularly scheduled meeting late last week. His comments suggest that the district should avoid focusing too much attention on test scores, when those evaluative measures were exactly what made headlines through much of the new school year.
In October, The Kentucky Department of Education named McLean a district of distinction and recognized the high school and Marie Gatton Philips-Sacramento Elementary School for outstanding growth in standardized testing last year. Hayes said he was proud of those schools and the district's entire faculty, staff and students for their excellent work. Certainly, he said, that distinction is something for which the district should always strive, but he stressed that learning can and should be so much more.
Hayes made his comments after schools closed for the winter break last week, marking the end to his first full semester as McLean's superintendent. The board elected to hire Hayes after Superintendent Tres Settle left the district for Calloway County Schools in early June. The board praised Hayes for his connection to education decision makers in Frankfort and his willingness to take a unique approach to student learning.
Hayes said he was not advancing any policy changes to the district's education plan, but he was saddened to see students unengaged when he would make classroom visits.
"When I visit our schools and visit classrooms, I really see a lack of student engagement," he said. "Now, they're engaged in their homework — their schoolwork —but I don't really see student engagement where they're working together, using the soft skills of working through processes of elimination."
Those are the kinds of skills, Hayes said, that make for productive members of society once students graduate and move on from the school district.
IN order to promote more student engagement, Hayes endorsed what he called a perforamnce-based learning model that shifts the educational focus from what students know to what students are able to down with their knowledge. Hayes said this was a more accurate evaluative measure of student growth.
"I think there is more to it than just knowing the content, "Hayes said. "Sometimes, I'll be honest, I think our kids are bogged down with standardized tests. That's just my personal thought."
Lessons in agriculture classes, which are particularly popular at McLean County High School, are good examples of the performance-based model, he said. Teachers should be encouraged to apply the same kids of concepts to stagnate subjects. History and government classes could give students opportunities to participate in mock elections, while English classes could benefit from miniature Shakespeare productions. Hayes told the principals they should consider encouraging teachers to use ideas like that to make 2016 a more performance-based year of learning for McLean County Public Schools.
As part of his effort, Hayes will be leading a team of educators to Marshall County Schools in far western Kentucky in late January to learn how that district is engaging students.
Hayes also used last week's board meeting as an opportunity to announce an estate donation of more than half a million dollars to the school district.
Lucy Ann Griffin, kin to board member Otis Griffin, left property valued at about $750,000 to McLean County Public Schools for the purposed of student scholarships. The donation will significantly impact the district's asset fund, and Hayes said he will be forming a special committee to design the scholarship specific to Lucy Ann Griffin's wishes Board members called the donations "significant," and a "wonderful gift " to McLean County's students.