JCPS unpacks the Digital Backpack


Phoebe Monsour

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio, and Dr. Carmen Coleman have partnered with Google to roll out the Digital Backpack, an online platform where students must upload “evidence” that they show efficiency in five areas of a successful student. These areas include “prepared and resilient learner,” “globally and culturally competent citizen,” “emerging innovator,” “effective communicator” and “productive collaborator.”

Coleman said that her and Pollio want the Digital Backpack to give everyone in the district, regardless of school, zip code, gender or race the equal opportunity to excel in their school and explore their passions.

JCPS sent out this pamphlet to teachers and administrators to help explain the Digital Backpack. Click the image for the PDF.

“I was talking to a fourth grader at Cochran Elementary about what he likes to do and he was telling me he likes to make videos. I asked him if his teachers knew this about him and he said ‘I don’t think they do.’ This is what we want to see with the backpacks, what we want to bring out,” Coleman said.

Coleman and Pollio noticed the need for a way to monitor students’ progress and make sure they are on the right path to success without feeling left behind.

In an article published by the Courier Journal, Pollio said that the District learned too late if a child was behind and did not have enough data on why the students were failing to help them.

Similar to Google Classroom, students access their Digital Backpack through their JCPS-issued email accounts.

JCPS will be acting as a pilot before Google rolls this program out to the rest of the country.

At key transition periods, such as 5th, 8th and 12th grade, students must defend their readiness by going before a panel of administrators and showing the work or evidence in their backpack. In addition, seniors will need to show evidence of having a plan for adulthood which may include a job offer or college acceptance letter.

Selective schools will use rising middle school and high school students’ Backpacks as another deciding factor in their admissions process.

Assistant Principal Vicki Lete said that the Backpack is like “one-stop shopping,” because everything is there in one place.

The first training for administrators and counselors was on August 10, and August 13 for teachers. Faculty still does not fully understand the Backpack, but Lete said that it would be cleared up more during their second training on October 8, the next “Gold Day.”

The team working on this at Manual includes Lete, Counselor Amy Medley, Librarian Christina Causey, Student Technology Coordinator David Dallmann and science teacher Jennifer Powell.

“There’s a lot of hiccups at first” because it is new, “but later it’s going to be awesome,” Lete said.

While the majority of the Backpack will be the same throughout JCPS, schools have the option to customize their students’ experience. Such customization includes adding a signature to represent a sixth “Success Skill.”

This plan comes after 10 months of development, which began after a beta version in Danville Schools, where Coleman previously worked.

“I think it’s really cool and innovative,” Yahaira Castillo (10, YPAS) said. “We’re so used to getting out the folders and all our papers we’ve made throughout the year, but now it’s all in one place and online. It’s the future.”