front page Spring 2014 - page 3

Dr. Willis Mackey
Over the past year Judson ISD has seen some remarkable academic
progress that is very encouraging. You may have heard that every one of
Judson ISD’s campuses…elementary, middle and high school met state
academic standards. That is something that only two other school districts
in the Bexar County area could say. That was soon followed by news that
our schools also met all federal academic standards. While this
achievement is not an end, I want to thank our teachers and
administrators for believing in systems that were put in place that I believe are making a difference. The strategy is
essentially three systems that fit and work together to create strong schools with ongoing support for teaching and
learning.
The first system deals with what is called “vertical alignment.” This just means that what is taught in kindergarten, for
example, will prepare each student for what they will need to know going into first grade. It’s like a set of stairs…what a
student is learning in one grade should lead up, at the end of the year, to what they will need to be successful at the next
grade. Each grade is academically connected to the next so there is a building of the skills and knowledge needed to be
ready for the next year. This connection from one grade to the next is established as teachers from each grade level
communicate to each other the standards students need to know to be successful as they move on. This puts all teachers
on the “same page” so to speak, so the staircase is solidly built with as few gaps as possible.
The second system is “collaborative planning.” This is where our teachers sit down to plan out the lessons together. Our
teachers are working with a well thought out curriculum that is helping our students walk through each concept in an
understandable way. This planning and executing of lessons for our students is like the nuts, bolts and nails that construct
the staircase that will build their learning progress. Our teachers also realize that each student is different, so their
creativity is needed in addressing individual learning needs and even the culture from which they are coming. This can be
critical in reaching kids from all different backgrounds. When we see the students as “our students” and approach them
where they are, instead of making them come to us, we have a better chance of helping them reach their potential.
The third and last system is a “reflective practice model.” RPM, as it is sometimes called, is a process where teachers
objectively look at student work and student data to make adjustments in their lesson plans. By looking at information
like students’ daily work, their classroom tests and even state assessment test scores, we can better detect where there
are gaps in understanding. From there, teachers can, as a group, know how to adjust their approach to produce better
understanding and mastery of concepts and skills for all students. Going back to the staircase idea, this practice shows
where the learning structure may be weak and where there are gaps from one step to the next so they can tighten up and
become a more solid continuous structure.
While I believe that these systems are solid, they are only as good as the teachers and administrators that put them in
practice on a daily basis. I want to thank them for their dedication and perseverance in helping our kids climb their
staircase to reach their potential and success.
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