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Keith Bryant, Superintendent of the Lubbock-Cooper school district, shared insights and innovations that will serve as a model for other districts state and nationwide. See full article by Superintendent Bryant below:

Keith Bryant
Author: Keith Bryant is superintendent of the Lubbock-Cooper school district.

Like every other aspect of life as we knew it, education was turned upside down in March 2020.

Teachers reworked their classrooms, creating a virtual space where students could learn and thrive; parents reworked their households, turning them into makeshift classrooms and doing their best to supervise learning for their children while balancing health and employment needs. We learned what we are capable of, and we learned what we do not want to lose. Our children, families, and communities struggled. We missed one another, we missed social interaction, and we missed school.

This year, we are experiencing a notable decline in STAAR scores. Educators knew this was coming. We lost learning ground and we will be making it up for semesters to come. We didn’t need a state-issued rating to tell us that many students fell behind during a global pandemic. Collectively, educators gave their best efforts. We provided the curriculum. We provided online instruction. We taught what was required, and we attempted to maintain grade level standards. So, what happened?

The obvious answer is that shifting from classroom to online instruction over the course of one week is an insurmountable task. It required a near-immediate turnaround and completely upended the learning environment. Students weren’t prepared; teachers weren’t prepared. However, I posit that there is more to it. The educational experience is meant to offer far more than what is measured by a single test on a single day. A child’s academic success is multi-faceted. What we could not provide in the face of the pandemic were the hundreds of opportunities our children need to shine.

We could not give them the extracurricular activities, the service projects, the leadership opportunities, and those activities that keep them interested and allow them a creative, expressive outlet. We could not give them the career and technical classes they are using to build paths to their futures. We could not give them the daily high fives, the after-class check-ins, and the in-person interaction with teachers who have dedicated their careers to honing innovative strategies to reach every child at every level. We could not give them peer collaboration. Your stories live here. Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

Like adults, children have a variety of interests and talents. In order to thrive, they need channels to discover what inspires and intrigues them. Some children are fascinated by research, music, or mechanics. Some of them want to play soccer, others, chess. Some of them enjoy caring for animals, and some enjoy programming or preparing gourmet meals. While not all of these avenues meet the criteria of traditional academia, these are the interests and activities that keep a child engaged in learning. These opportunities allow students to apply their lessons in ways that simply cannot be reflected on the STAAR test.

Also like adults, children have a need for community. They respond better to social interaction than isolation. They learn better when they are presented materials in an engaging way by educators with extensive training and a heart for helping students succeed.

Face-to-face instruction from high quality educators is an invaluable resource, as are cooperative learning environments with peers expressing diverse and unique thoughts. Collaborative learning facilitated by innovative teachers cannot be measured on the STAAR test, but is crucial training for 21st century leaders and our future workforce.

While I respect the need for measurements of student performance, the STAAR system is a single-data-point gauge that fails to assess the many components of a successful school. Scores matter, but so do fine arts, career and technical classes, extracurricular activities, qualified educators, collaborative learning, and creative methods of instruction. Now, more than ever, we see the importance of measuring the quality of a school by the multitude of opportunities it offers students and the innovative techniques used to prepare students for their futures. 

Community-based accountability is a system of measurement developed locally that is customizable and provides parents with comprehensive and cumulative school reporting covering far more than a single test on a single day. This type of gauge is critical to student success; students deserve opportunities outside of test preparation, and they deserve to attend schools where learning is planned strategically to meet their individual needs and interests. In the coming months, Lubbock-Cooper ISD will unveil a community-based accountability system developed by our own stakeholders, people with a vested interest in the success of our students. 

It is time we do away with the one-dimensional STAAR method and introduce an accountability system that empowers our communities to determine their own priorities and vision for their youth.  

Original article: https://buff.ly/3iiWJev

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