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CISD Moving Forward – Elementary Students?

January 9, 2010

Coppell Independent School District is entering the 21st Century as a leader.  Gone are the days solely influenced by TAKS and Texas standards of education? Yes, I believe so – at least in our secondary schools.   

Over the past five years Coppell ISD has met and exceeded the district’s five-year strategic goals and objectives and created a new five-year strategic plan. CISD welcomed a New Tech High School (still frequented by visitors and in demand by many older students and their parents), an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and an Engineering Academy (highly respected by top national universities).  Our gifted middle school and high school students have seen an expansion of gifted courses and support into the core subject areas of math, science, and social studies where previously only gifted language arts programming was available.   

Coppell students are responding to the changes as evidenced by TAKS scores of course, but more importantly by SAT scores, ACT scores, and the number of National Merit Semi-Finalists and Finalists – a record 20 Semi-Finalists this year (nearly four times the average from our district just five years ago).  Move over Highland Park and North Hills.  Our secondary schools aren’t perfect but they do offer a gifted student many choices. 

Our district administrators are enthusiastic, visionary and have a drive to prepare students for success unmatched by any previous administration in our short history.  Other school districts are using Coppell as an example in the important decisions they are making about education.   Superintendent Jeff Turner is holding MONTHLY public forums to get our input on big ideas for improvements facing our schools and students.  Our school board members are also forward thinking and excited about the progress being made in our district.  Just ask them.

Looking forward, it is certain that at some point we will see amazing opportunities for our gifted elementary students.  But for real progress to be made, we (especially parents of gifted kids) need to take a close look at what is going on in elementary education.  Current curriculum and instruction is the number line (math) and learning to read, spell and write.  Status quo for decades – after all, isn’t that what we learned in school? And our children are even tested to make sure they reach the minimum standards – ensuring progress will be stagnated for years to come.  The minimum (TAKS) has become the goal and expectation.  The gifted kids get 100’s with no effort until they get bored with that or until they reach middle school where learning expectations are higher.  Ninety percent of them score “commended” on all TAKS tests – whoopee. 

So why is our district able to continue improving education in our secondary schools but not our elementary schools?  I think our administrators drive change, and on the whole, teachers and parents maintain status quo.  Teachers and parents are HUGE influences in elementary schools – in secondary schools, where the roles of teachers and parents change, not so much.  The world and the students influence secondary schools – just listen to the buzzwords “relevance and rigor.”  To whom is the curriculum relevant or rigorous? Not to the teachers or parents.

Make time to attend monthly district updates the first Wednesday of each month at 12:30 pm or 7:00 pm.  Our district is looking at EXCELLENT options available for elementary programming such as Primary Years IB (a great option for gifted learners), STEM, Vertical Learning, Project Based Learning, etc.  Our young gifted students deserve to become life long learners – they need a realistic education today to better prepare them for the excellent middle school and high school program choices they will soon encounter. 

Please don’t misunderstand, lots of GREAT THINGS do happen right now in our elementary schools because of our wonderful teachers and parent volunteers. But we should also be considering what is possible and how to BEST prepare our bright students for middle school and beyond where the bars have been and will continue to be raised. 

Hope to see you at the Coppell High School Lecture Hall beginning on February 3, 2010 – bring your lunch (12:30-1:00 pm) or come after dinner (7:00-8:00 pm).  Get involved and see the potential for your young children BEFORE they are in middle school!

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