Teachers in the Arlington Independent School District are not just teaching students, they are also teaching each other.
Under a new program called Professional Learning Communities, teachers of specific departments regularly meet to talk about what is and is not working in the classroom, how students are responding and to analyze data - everything from quiz scores to parent and student surveys.
“They’ll review data, analyze that data and make very specific plans for improvement,” said Dr. Marcelo Cavazos, AISD Superintendent of schools.
“We collaborate together but we each get to be our own individual teacher in our classroom, even though we're covering the same subject matter. But we can borrow ideas from each other,” said Duane Forson, an 8th grade science teacher at Shackelford Jr. High.
Like most departments, Shackleford’s 7th and 8th grade science teachers used to spend six weeks teaching students, then they would grade them at the end of that term.
Now, they have weekly assessments with flexible lesson plans that can be adjusted daily - based on collaborations and data collected from other teachers in their department.
“So, we're not waiting to until the end of the six weeks to realize, ‘Oh my gosh, the kids don't understand the difference between density, mass and volume.’ We can address that on the fly as we go,” said Michael Allen, who teaches 7th and 8th grade science at Shackelford.
Dr. Cavazos agreed. “That's critical because we know that the improvement of student’s performance or the improvement of a department or a system needs to be very frequent.”
Not to mention, across all levels. Teachers now look at trends among all science students, for example, as opposed to just one class.
“In the 8th grade we can go, 'Hey, remember in the 7th grade learning this?' So, it allows a lot of dialog between the levels but also among the 8th grade teachers, what's working for you, what's not working, what do we need to go back and reteach?” said Allen.
Shackelford Principal Andrew Hagman said that allows not only students to do their best, but teachers to do theirs too.
“It allows them to get the best out of each other and it allows them to get the best for the kids out of each other.”