by Amanda Nelson
The University of Kentucky has committed $1.5 million over the next three years to launch the Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab: A Partnership for Next Generation Learning, housed in the UK College of Education.
In a global economy fueled by ever-evolving technology, the partnership aims to spark powerful, broad-based transformation of public education and address the heightened need to prepare Kentucky students to thrive in higher education and the workforce.
“The Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab will provide the missing link between cutting-edge innovation that exists at a major research university and the P-12 setting,” said UK College of Education Dean Mary John O’Hair. “We want to break down barriers to collaboration and promote a two-way generation of knowledge so that innovation supports educators and reaches students. When you walk the halls of any school you see some kids who seem disengaged. We need to enrich curriculum to energize and empower students born into a digital age and provide pathways that will lead to a love of learning.”
Under the leadership of O’Hair, the College of Education is partnering with Kentucky schools, businesses, community leaders, higher education, industry and government to transform classrooms to engage learners at an early age and create a pipeline of students well-prepared to go to college and obtain careers matching their skills and interests.
“The Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab is precisely the type of creative, collaborative effort that must be a hallmark of a Top 20 public research university,” said UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. “It is not good enough to simply conduct world-class research on our campus. We must seek ways to make sure our campus breakthroughs hit the ground in Kentucky and change lives in every Kentucky community. This lab will help us to do that. It provides us a unique vehicle to deliver cutting-edge discoveries from UK’s 17 colleges into schools across the Commonwealth.”
P20 leaders say pre-existing networks such as Kentucky’s regional educational cooperatives provide a climate conducive to collaboration among schools. UK will partner with these leadership groups to develop a relevant framework for the Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab and ensure its work is targeted to meet schools’ needs.
“We are simply delighted with UK’s leadership to seek broad collaboration and forge relationships with educational partners, including teachers who can develop best practices and innovations. This initiative is very consistent with our work to implement Senate Bill 1 which will improve educational outcomes for all Kentucky students,” said Bob King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education.
UK is taking first steps to partner with school leaders during an initial planning committee meeting Feb. 4. The group will develop innovation-focused mentorship and dialogue within schools and the communities they serve. The new partnerships between UK, P-12 schools and other universities in the state will lead to new professional development opportunities to elevate higher-order thinking in the classroom. It will be important, leaders say, to convene Kentucky schools, businesses, community leaders, higher education, industry and government in frequent innovation summits.
“This collaborative effort will lead to high-quality learning opportunities throughout the entire school experience for Kentucky’s students,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “The focus on strong professional development for educators is fundamental and corresponds with the discussions and plans already underway among the Kentucky Department of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Education Professional Standards Board.”
The Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab model will take cues from the University of Oklahoma’s K20 Center, yet will be broader in scope. The Oklahoma center began development in 1995 and grew over the past 14 years under the leadership of O’Hair, who served as vice provost for school and community partnerships at Oklahoma State before being named dean of the UK College of Education in August 2009.
Over the past five years, schools participating in the Oklahoma K-20 Center have consistently seen increases in student learning by 74 percent more than the state’s average increase on the Oklahoma Academic Performance Index (API), which includes standardized tests, ACT scores, and dropout rates.
“UK’s commitment to the development of a P20 Innovation Lab is a timely, bold, and important step to assist in bringing the all- important component of relevancy to Kentucky’s classrooms,” said Phillip Rogers, executive director, Education Professional Standards Board. “This effort, combined with the Education Professional Standards Board’s redesign of teacher preparation programs, will allow for real and practical collaborations that bring added value to classroom instruction.”
In Oklahoma, it was discovered that a whole-school philosophy, supporting not just teachers and students, but also bringing superintendents, principals, parents and community leaders into the fold, helped to ensure that transformation launched successfully and is sustained over time, O’Hair said.
High school students who receive proposed P20 Innovation Scholarships will add to the longevity of the Innovation Lab’s impact. Building off the college’s existing student scholarships (which are partially covering tuition for 53 students this academic year), P20 Innovation Scholarships will help create opportunities to enroll in college for students at high schools participating in the Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab. The scholars, who can choose any of UK’s majors, return to their hometowns during college to develop projects to meet unmet needs. The program, leaders say, will help bring the Kentucky P20 Innovation Lab full-circle and enhance students’ understanding of how they, as future professionals, can support P-12 education.