Dr. Cone’s Perspective

To continue the conversation of being a learning organization, our Academic Services Department provides an extensive amount of learning opportunities to improve the teaching and learning process in our district. I would like to share information about teacher learning that has happened through the voice of Dr. Stewart and Lori Robinson who do a great job of supporting the learning of our teachers.
Natalia ISD has three central goals to the success of educating our students; (a) Literacy, (b) Numeracy and (c) College and Career readiness. To ensure that we are able to meet those goals with all of our students, it is important that we provide and require all Teachers and Support Staff to possess current and innovative professional learning that fosters student success. Over the years, the expectations for student performance has increased in both depth and complexity concerning the content students are expected to master in a school year. Therefore, teacher quality is vital to the overall success of each classroom.
The Academic Services team at Natalia ISD has taken the lead on increasing professional learning opportunities based on the needs of our students and teachers to ensure that each day our classrooms reflect a learner centered environment. We have adopted a Backwards by Design model of lesson planning. This model allows teachers to begin planning lessons around their learning targets and to employ instructional strategies and activities that engage students in the learning process. Natalia ISD also uses the Gradual Release model where students and teachers share the learning time in a manner that allows students to engage in multiple methods of learning during the day, ensuring that the classroom environment is not limited to the teacher doing most of the talking and students are passive in their learning experience. Lastly, to increase the rigor inside the classrooms as well as increase our students advocacy in their learning we have implemented AVID district wide. AVID provides teachers to access hundreds of different strategies that focus on the core principles of writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. Based on these new initiatives, instruction and learning are the keys to our student success.
The initiatives spoken about above do not merely happen by saying we are adopting this model or method. On the contrary a lot of Professional Development must take place to ensure that each of these initiatives are implemented with fidelity and that we are using routine data checkpoints to ensure that our students are making progress based on the classroom effectiveness. That is where Academic Services steps in.
Natalia ISD Academic Services focuses each day on the teaching and learning of all students in all classrooms. Therefore the professional learning needed for staff begins in this office. Over the past three years there has been a consistent offering of professional learning for teachers in the areas of understanding and planning lessons directly aligned to the state standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). We began this process in Fall of 2016 and continued focusing on that skill set for all teachers in the summer and fall of 2017. Once this information has been widely practiced we had to begin focusing on the need to make quality assessments for all students based on the state standards. At this time we also began using highly qualified Teachers as Instructional Coaches to work alongside the District Instructional Facilitator to assist with in-class support for all teachers throughout Natalia ISD. By doing so, our Teachers are able to get routine assistance and advice while lesson planning and assessing the mastery of our students toward the expected learning targets. Lastly, we invested in our Teachers attending AVID training due to the ability to attend a national professional learning event with teachers from all over the country who also teach the same subjects as our teachers. Through the AVID instructional professional learning we have received over 1600 hours of quality learning time for staff members.