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It has been an amazing journey for Eminence Independent Schools since the birth of the School on F.I.R.E. (Framework of Innovation for Reinventing Education) on May 1st. We have had the opportunity to see our school, our students, our staff, and our community transformed by the innovation occurring in our classrooms from Kindergarten to Seniors. We feel we are a full year ahead of schedule thanks to the courageous, committed teachers that are embracing the School on F.I.R.E. vision. Our staff have worked tirelessly in their efforts of embedding both “best practice” and “next practice” into their daily instruction.
The most surprising affect of the start of the School on F.I.R.E. model is not how warmly it’s been received at Eminence, but by how fast the rest of the state has embraced it. We have been bombarded by over 100 educator visit requests and numerous media visits. We have had the privilege to share our framework to almost every district in Kentucky, and their response to it has been astounding. It is very humbling that Eminence is quickly becoming one of the models of innovation for schools in Kentucky. Again this is a direct tribute to the willingness of our staff to implement these vital changes at the classroom level. Their efforts are fanning the flames of F.I.R.E. into almost every region in the state. We are seeing districts taking many of the core elements of our model, such as Next Generation skills, Surprise and Delight, 1:1 technology program, student led learning, standards based grading, personalization, student agency, teacher voice, excellence continuum, I.C.E., and our early college model to name a few, and starting to adopt them at their own districts.
However, I’ve developed a new fear as the F.I.R.E. has just began to spread. My fear is that the release of the new accountability data will extinguish many of the efforts currently underway to adopt innovation in Kentucky. I fear what I heard a fellow superintendent share in a large group this week, “we are about to play the testing game AGAIN once we know all the rules.” This comment made me realize that one of the reasons for innovation’s exponential growth, in Kentucky, over the past couple of years is that there has been a sense of reprieve for accountability as we have been in the “interim” between the KCCT and our new model. With the upcoming release of the new rankings of all schools statewide, I fear that districts will lose their “vision” of innovation for the sake of “playing the accountability game”. I feel that schools and districts don’t fully understand the value of true next generation learning. Many educational leaders still view accountability and innovation as “either / ors” instead of “both / ands”. I sincerely hope that other districts, like ours, will stay the course of innovative educational excellence despite their rankings, whether good or bad. With all my heart, I believe that eventually statistical success will follow these innovative initiatives to create successful students for and beyond college. If it’s not in this first round of data, it will come in the future for those that persist in our quest to reinvent the instructional process. So here’s to those that will continue to fan into flames the F.I.R.E. our schools so desperately need!