21st Century Education: Coppell, Texas High Performance Schools Consortium developing new system of learning
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Coppell Independent School District has joined 23 other school districts across the State to form the Texas High Performance School Consortium to transform the old 19th Century system of teaching and testing into a 21st Century system that will allow student participation and engagement with authentic assessment. That was the topic of a brown bag meeting led by Coppell ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeff Turner at Coppell High School Nov. 14.
“We’ve got (our students) in an old system,” Turner said. “We’re giving them a test that requires bubble-in answers and not creative, innovative thinking, and we’re expecting them to be world critical thinkers. It’s not going to work, and we’ve got to do something about that.”
CISD’s vision tries to align the district with the future and to get students more ready for the future by emphasizing things like:
Engagement, with the curriculum and content, not just talking to kids.
Giving kids choice in learning: how they learn, what they learn, or choice about how they are assessed to show what they know.
Raising the rigor on all students by having more students get into the advanced classes and providing support for them if they have difficulty.
Integration of more technology. The community has donated $3 million in technology. All schools are wireless with wireless devices in every classroom.
Teachers are becoming designers rather than instructors.
As part of the North Texas Regional Consortium, Coppell ISD worked to pass House Bill 1557, which resulted in the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium including 23 school districts across the State.
“They make up about four percent of the population in the State of Texas,” Turner said. “The schools represent the State demographically: small schools, large schools, urban, suburban, and rural, all ethnicities, and schools from poverty areas, school with high wealth.”
Turner is co-chairman of the consortium along with Highland Park Superintendent Dr. Dawson Orr.
“We are working together to create a pilot program for the State of Texas,” Turner said. “Our intention in this is that we would ask for waivers of the legislative session that starts in January to get out of a lot of their systems, including accountability and assessment.
“Teachers are taking up to 30 percent (of the school year) on testing, worrying about testing, practicing testing, benchmarking for testing. We think we can recapture that time and work with our teachers to create innovative, creative projects and ideas to help our kids engage more in in their content and be better in the end for that.”
The group is not asking to be free of accountability.
“We are working on an accountability system that would replace the State’s,” Turner said. “We are looking at things that would be more authentic and show that students can use the information and not just regurgitate it back on a test.”
The district is also looking into some diagnostic tests that would show whether the students are successful or not. Turner said the STAAR and the EOCs are not diagnostic in nature.
“They are not giving us the information we need whether the students have mastery of the objectives or not because of the way they were designed,” Turner said. .
“Forty to 45 of our 180 days are taken up with some sort of State testing during the school year, and that doesn’t account for the practicing and things we are doing to prep for those practices,” Turner said. “It’s a crazy system, and we believe if they will allow us out of their system, we can come up with assessments that better inform parents with some authentic measures including portfolios and things like that that you can actually see student growth.”
Turner said he believes Coppell will outperform the State the first year and that all the schools in the consortium will outperform the State in five years.
“If we can get that time back into the school year that we use for testing and can use some really great, innovative 21st Century teaching methods with our kids, our kids will soar and be higher on every measure (the State requires).”
Turner said the district is providing teachers with the training, technology, and the tools necessary to help students in the new system.
Bill 1557 just allowed the creation of the pilot program.
“Now we need a bill that allows us to implement, and we propose to do that in (2013-2014),” Turner said. “So this session, we will be proposing several bills with the list of waivers that we need, and there will be an explanations of the type of accountability system that we hope to use, and we will be presenting it here in Coppell so that parents can understand completely what we are doing and what we are getting involved in.
“In 2013 we would, with the consortium, get into our own system of 21st Century learning for all kids. We’re calling the system CBAAS, Community Based Assessment Accountability System, because we believe that we should be more accountable to the community, to you as parents, than we are to Austin or Washington. The system is upside-down.”
The district has formed a parent group and more information can be found on the district’s website.
The other school districts in the consortium include Anderson-Shiro, Clear Creek, College Station, Duncanville, Ennis, Glen Rose, Guthrie, Harlingen, Highland Park, Irving, Klein, Lake Travis, Lancaster, Lewisville, McAllen, McKinney, Northwest, Prosper, Richardson, Roscoe, Round Rock and White Oak.