Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday visited Danville High School on Friday to discuss the school’s increased focus on project-based learning.
About a dozen teachers, administrators and students started Holliday’s visit with a roundtable discussion. The commissioner then visited several classrooms to see learning in action.
“What we want for all kids is to prepare them for the next step — to make them college or career ready,” Holliday said.
DHS Principal Aaron Etherington, in his first year leading the campus but not in his first year working at the school, said Holliday visited last year and that local educators are always excited about any opportunity to interact with the commissioner.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, center, talked to Danville Superintendent Carmen Coleman.
“Today, I’m most interested in sharing all the innovative instruction at DHS and the manner in which we are engaging our students with authentic instruction,” Etherington said.
During the roundtable, the DHS community shared experiences with hands-on learning projects such as literally building classroom desks and constructing working electronic games.
Teachers and students alike said they think educational standards have forced many people to experience “teaching to the test” in an effort to improve school test scores.
Danville school Superintendent Dr. Carmen Coleman said she realizes the district’s ‘test scores do need improvement, but that high test scores will not necessarily make students find jobs once they finish high school or college.
“If I was a business owner hiring employees, I would hire kids who can display an electronic portfolio of sorts that show what they can actually do for the company rather than hiring students who can only show me high test scores,” Coleman said.
Emma Jackson, a DHS junior who recently worked with C-SPAN on the day of the vice-presidential debate at Centre College, said she had never really felt engaged in schoolwork until being exposed to project-based learning as a DHS freshman.
“I got to go into what I was most passionate about,” Jackson said. “The more passionate you are, the more you learn on your own.”
Jackson said project-based learning rather than multiple-choice tests helped her and classmates learn trigonometry skills tested on the ACT and prepared her for an Advanced Placement Physics class.
“I feel project-based learning needs to be taken more seriously by a lot more people,” she said.
After the visit, Coleman said Holliday asked thoughtful questions of teachers and students.
“It was so good for us to have a chance to sit down with Dr. Holliday and talk about where we’ve been as well as where we plan to go,” she said.
“We were already excited about our work. However, after the conversation ... we are more excited than ever.”