Kentucky Board of Education hosts student showcase of defenses of learning

Meeting notice graphic featuring the Kentucky Department of Education and United We Learn logos

News Release

Media Contact: Jennifer Ginn

Director of Communications

Office: (502) 564-2000, ext. 4601

Advisory 24-153


June 6, 2024

Navaeh Acklin talking in a board room with her presentation showing on a screen behind her.

Naveah Acklin, a senior at Shelby County High School, presents her defense of learning and talks about how her experience in athletics will help her become a lifelong learner in the spirit of the school’s Portrait of a Graduate. She was one of several students who presented to members of the Kentucky Board of Education during its June 5 meeting. Photo by Joe Ragusa, Kentucky Department of Education, June 5, 2024

Kentucky Board of Education hosts student showcase of defenses of learning

(FRANKFORT, KY) – The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Office of Continuous Improvement and Support hosted a showcase of student defenses of learning during the KBE regular meeting on June 5-6.

Student defenses mimic real-life situations – such as work presentations – and provide an authentic deadline and audience. Typically, students discuss several aspects of their education, ranging from details about their lives to what they’ve accomplished in school. The presentations are centered around competencies, which are skills and other qualities the districts and their communities determine are important for graduates to have, presented in a way that’s modeled after the Kentucky Portrait of a Learner.

Students from 5th grade, 8th grade and 12th grade in the Shelby County school district and 5th-grade students from William Wells Brown Elementary (Fayette County) participated in the showcase, where students shared a portfolio or project and reflected on how they achieved their intended learning outcomes.

Ebony Hutchinson, principal of William Wells Brown Elementary, said her school started doing defenses of learning presentations last year.

“The students are able to reflect on their learning, their growth and ability to apply academics taught in the classroom to their everyday life and beyond. It's important for us to emphasize the students’ deep understanding and ownership of their learning,” said Hutchinson. “Through the defense of learning, students are able to showcase themselves as (being) more than a score, while reflecting on what they've learned and their growth through the process. The process of a formal presentation and project development will last with them far beyond William Wells Brown."

Adam Hicks, assistant superintendent of curriculum with Shelby County, said it was a tremendous honor to be asked to present the students’ defenses of learning.

“Shelby County’s student defense system, and our Profile of a Graduate, allows all students – regardless of background, situation or circumstance – an opportunity to demonstrate their learning at high levels,” said Hicks. “When we say that every child defends their learning, we truly mean every child. From our multi-language learners having the opportunity to present in their native language, to our students with exceptional needs getting to display their learning in nontraditional formats, our defenses allow every Shelby County Public School student to shine.”

Sharon Porter Robinson shakes a child's hand.

Kentucky Board of Education Chair Sharon Porter Robinson shakes the hand of Alex Butler, a 5th-grade student at William Wells Brown Elementary School (Fayette County), during his defense of learning presentation. Photo by Joe Ragusa, Kentucky Department of Education, June 5, 2024

Panels made up of KBE members and KDE staff asked questions and provided feedback on the students’ presentations. KBE Vice Chair Lu S. Young said she was excited for the KBE members to participate in the showcase.

“It’s like having dessert all day long, to go to these defenses,” said Young.

Outgoing Nonvoting Board Members

KBE members celebrated nonvoting teacher member Alissa Riley and nonvoting student member Ronald “R.J.” Osborne.

Riley, who has been teaching for 15 years in Christian County, currently teaches 9th-12th grades at Gateway Academy to Innovation and Technology. She said she is a better person for her experience on the board.

“I’ve always been made to feel like an equal and have always felt that you’ve listened to my voice and my perspective,” Riley said.

Osborne, a senior at Whitley County High School, is a member of the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council along with several other extracurricular activities at school, such as Future Farmers of America and varsity baseball. In a statement, he thanked the board for allowing him to serve.

“Although there were several transitions during the year, the commitment of the board in keeping the students of Kentucky first was obvious,” he said. “This experience has taught me much about establishing a vision and aligning policies to make that vision a reality.

“It has also been enlightening to see the widely varied roles of people working throughout the state to ensure that each Kentucky student has the opportunity to succeed,” he continued. “I am extremely proud to have been a small part of this important work.”

The nonvoting teacher and student KBE members each serve a one-year term that expires June 30.

Kentucky Teacher of the Year Update

Kevin Dailey updated KBE members on his work while serving as the 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.

One of Dailey’s main initiatives during his six-month ambassadorship with KDE has been The Imperfect Classroom, a series of profiles on teachers in school districts across Kentucky.

“I’ve always had this idea that I wanted to be perfect as a teacher, and I realized I can’t be perfect,” said Dailey. “As a teacher, I can’t do all of the things that are required to be perfect as a teacher, but I can be perfectly myself, and that comes with all the imperfections that we all have.”

Dailey said the most interesting and engaging classrooms are those where the teacher creates a space and environment that is an expression of themselves, so he sought out teachers throughout the Commonwealth to highlight the “magic” they bring to the classroom.

“I interviewed the teachers themselves. I interviewed the students, and most importantly, I got to feel what it was like to be in their space; to feel what the students feel when they walk into those rooms,” he said. “And my God, was it incredible. It was amazing, and it was wildly different in every single place.”

Dailey said he received more than 100 teacher recommendations from a wide variety of grade levels and academic disciplines. He has visited 20 classrooms so far and he says his work isn’t over.

Dailey said he learned three important lessons when it came to teachers, administrators and the community:

  • Teachers: You can’t prioritize everything all the time, so prioritize your time and energy in the parts of you that serve you and your students best. You are the magic of the classroom.
  • Administrators: Classrooms, and by extension students, are the most successful when teachers feel trusted as professionals and valued for what they bring to the table.
  • Community: There are incredible things happening in your school. Teachers are going above and beyond to support your child and community. Right now, they need your support.

Dailey also shared his experiences meeting with various education stakeholders, including government officials at the local, state and federal levels. In May, Dailey attended the first-ever State Dinner for educators at the White House.

In other business, the board: