Dr. Lyle Ailshie
Kingsport City Schools, serving approximately 7,100 students, comprises 13 learning-centered campuses with state-of-the-art technology and innovative programs. Considered one of the top school systems in Tennessee and the nation, it was a finalist for the Tennessee SCORE Prize, which recognizes exemplary leadership in learning among schools and districts.
Kingsport is overseen by Dr. Ailshie, whose array of honors and achievements would make any education leader proud: Tennessee Superintendent of the Year in 2005; founding member/chair of the Eastern States Consortium for Learning and School System Excellence in 2006; and first and only recipient of the Tennessee Education Technology Association’s Honorary Lifetime Member Award in 2008.
But it’s his role in creating an “innovation rubric” that is driving real change in the school district these days - a tool that helps administrators, instructors and staff target creativity, focus on goals and aim for a research-based approach to education. The rubric has 10 criteria, among which are elements such as embedded professional development, effective and creative uses of time, strategies for student engagement, and, notably, technology.
“Particularly as resources become more scarce, accountability has become more focused,” Ailshie says. “When looking at our system vision, we evaluate our ideas against our new rubric. An important piece of that is the effective use of technology. It should be a part of all that we do, if we’re to make teaching and learning as effective as we can.”
Though technology has played a big part in Ailshie’s career as an education policymaker - he has implemented BYOD and 1:1 initiatives in two school systems and established a digital library of technology resources for Kingsport teachers - he insists that it’s not really been about technology in and of itself, it’s about educating and learning. “Technology simply makes the teaching and learning process more efficient and engaging, amplifying students’ reach and making them more globally competitive,” he says.
Ailshie says he is driven by a passion for providing students with the most engaging instruction possible. “I have great faith in teachers,” he says. “We must provide teachers the tools and supports needed for them to do their jobs in the most effective and efficient way, based on best practices and research. This is not about doing something cool, it’s about being focused on a vision and doing what it takes to accomplish that vision.”
In offering advice to schools interested in emulating Kingsport’s model, Ailshie advises that being systematic is the best practice: “Start with a vision of what learning should look like based on research and best practices - students taking ownership of their own learning or a collaborative environment. Surround yourself with good people, school leaders and empowered teachers who share your passion, because it takes a synergistic relationship among all educators to be truly successful.”