Gagnon outlines plans to improve Manatee County academic performance

kbergen@bradenton.comDecember 12, 2012 

MANATEE -- Academic performance must improve, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Bob Gagnon told school board members at a workshop Tuesday night.

Only about 50 percent of third- and 10th-graders in the district are FCAT-proficient. The district is attempting to slowly change that by shifting away from "reactive" philosophies of the past, teaching the specific standards kids need to graduate and aligning resources. Here's how, according to Gagnon:

n In the past, a focus has been on whether principals

gave benchmark tests, not what they did with the information. No more.

"We are moving away from that pacing, where everyone's together," Teaching and Learning Executive Director Robin Thompson said.

n The district wants to move to high-level complex lessons which require analysis and problem-solving skills over memorization and reading. A new rubric for principals and schools should help get teachers to incorporate the same standards that are on state tests. For example, now a student has to mathematically prove that a triangle is congruent, not just identify that it is.

n You can't champion standards without giving teachers the right tools to implement them, Gagnon said. New computer tools allow teachers to see how their students have tested on certain standards and compare it to other schools or teachers. Now, teachers and staff can communicate through those tools as well, discussing how complex lessons really are.

"Teachers will have to teach the standard, because they have to grade by the standards," Gagnon said.

And when teacher get the results of benchmark tests back, the systems suggest lesson plans, video and practice assessments for each particularly standard for a teacher to utilize.

n Confused by complexity? Gagnon offers a basketball analogy. "It's like only practicing lay-ups when 80 percent of the time a kid is required to make 3-pointers."

n Interactive spreadsheets allow teachers to see the specific factors that need to come together to improve school grades or student performance. "If everybody maintained what they had now, and each teacher moved one student in one category, we'd be an A district like that," Gagnon says.

n "We don't plan with resources collaboratively," Gagnon said. Resources are scattered and not maximized. If schools streamline their goals than the district can work together to leverage grants, which might allow the district, for example, to pay reading teachers through grants instead of the general fund.

n The district plans to launch a massive campaign to educate the community on the Common Core Standards, which are already implemented in K-1 and will be implemented in all grades in the future.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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