Idea-sharing time energizes teachers

DALLAS -- School Superintendent Christy Perry was given one overriding goal this year: To make sure every student learns.

DALLAS -- School Superintendent Christy Perry was given one overriding goal this year: To make sure every student learns.

Instead of getting wrapped up in teaching, "We need to reshift our focus to learning," Perry told the Dallas Chamber of Commerce this week.

She explained that this doesn't mean top students are held up while slower students catch up. Rather, it means that children who are struggling are given extra attention outside of class until they have mastered what is necessary to succeed.

First, administrators and teachers had to figure out what, in the myriad of mandates and benchmarks, was really necessary.

"It's a hard concept for us, because we have been driven by these mandates for so long," Perry said.

One of the ways the school district will achieve this goal of learning over teaching is by putting power back in the hands of what Perry called "the experts."

"Our district is full of experts - our teachers are experts, and it's time we gave them the space and support it takes for them to succeed," Perry said.

The most noticeable change for parents and community members has been the early dismissal of students on Mondays. That has opened up time for teachers to meet with their teams.

Those teams are broken up by grade level in the elementary schools and by subject matter at the middle and high schools.

The team meetings serve as mini-inservice days where teachers trade information and ideas on students and teaching techniques.

"The inservice days of the past were a shot in the arm. Everyone left on Friday really excited, but then had to come back on Monday morning to the same group of students and the same issues, and no time to implement new programs or techniques.

"These team meetings give them that time and act as a source of encouragement throughout the week," Perry said.

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