Department to improve performance in schools

TUPELO – A new team of Tupelo educators will focus on improving the district’s curriculum, providing training opportunities for district teachers and helping them use new technology.
The Tupelo Public School District created its new Department of School Improvement for the current school year, which began last week.
The eight-member department is led by Glenda Scott, the district’s executive director of school improvement.
It features four curriculum specialists and three instructional technology specialists.
“The goal is to improve student performance,” Superintendent Randy Shaver said.
Shaver created the department after the district received a curriculum audit in the spring that said it needed more consistency in what it teaches across different schools.
It also noted that district should eliminate gaps and overlaps in what is being required from grade to grade and should make classes more rigorous in higher grades.
“When I came here, I was a little surprised we did not have a designated curriculum and instruction department,” Shaver said. “I don’t think we can improve as a school district if we don’t have alignment from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade with our curriculum.”
The department’s initial tasks will be to:
n Align the district’s curriculum.
n Write curriculum where none exists.
n Work with teachers and principals at all grade levels to develop pacing guides to help teachers delivering that curriculum.
n Work with teachers to write lesson plans and develop a repository of lesson plans that teachers can access.
n Design assessments to measure student progress throughout the year.
“The Department of School Improvement will be the quality control of all the pieces,” Scott said. “We want to standardize all the curriculum documents in the district.”
The district’s new curriculum will follow both the state frameworks and the national recommendations made in the Common Core Standards, which provides a guideline for a nationally standardized curriculum.
Mississippi’s Department of Education has adopted those standards, developed by the National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs. It has not yet required school districts to implement them.
“We will be teaching above what is tested,” Scott said.
Currently, curriculum differs from school to school.
The group will begin by writing a TPSD curriculum for all tested areas and grade levels. It will extend to other subjects in the future.
While curriculum specialists develop the new curriculum, instructional technology specialists will work beside them to include ways that new technology can be used to better teach those standards. They will provide tips for teachers navigating the district’s new technology initiative, in which every sixth- through 12th-grade student now has a district-issued laptop computer and all grades are using technology like interactive white boards, iPods and iPads.
The department will focus on more than written curriculum. It will develop and analyze teacher assessments to learn where the curriculum needs to be strengthened.
The Department of School Improvement also will help Deputy Superintendent Diana Ezell in implementing staff development. Team members will spend much time on campus to offer training as requested.
They will also meet with teacher leadership teams to get input on what is needed both with curriculum and staff development.
They will not have any supervisory authority over teachers, but are designed to provide support as requested.
“It is my hope that principals and teachers view the department as supportive,” Scott said. “We are all about instructional coaching and encouraging teachers to take risks and not be afraid of the technology.
“We will be there to help them transition from a traditional learning environment to a digital learning environment.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer / NEMS Daily Journal