Dallas ISD is proud to be home to outstanding neighborhood schools like Tatum Elementary. Find out more about our neighborhood campuses at the Discover Neighborhood Schools events on April 9 and 23. Learn more here.
The students sit together with their eyes glued to their teacher, watching and listening intently as she explains today’s goal: They learn the sound of letters. Their eyes follow his movements as they show how they will succeed. They listen carefully, then repeat after her. Now she asks them to turn to a partner and explain, with a masquerade-like movement, what they are going to learn and how. They move and talk in unison.
In this kindergarten class at Tatum Elementary School, the teacher engages her students through movement and peer collaboration to help them understand and master their learning task. They use this learning clarity as a springboard to ask each other questions as they work together. This is formative assessment at work – monitoring student learning to provide ongoing feedback.
Tatum Elementary is Dallas ISD’s model school for this teaching method, also known as assessment for learning, said Kierstan Barbee, district AFL program manager. “When people want to see an example of formative assessment practices, or assessment for learning, we take them to Tatum to see it in action. It is a process used by teachers and students to recognize and respond to student learning in order to improve learning during learning.”
The instructional model is used in kindergarten through fifth grade at Tatum, one of 16 district campuses — elementary, middle and high schools — that are AFL campuses, Barbee said.
Tatum, a neighborhood school in the heart of Pleasant Grove, is 50 percent African American and 50 percent Hispanic, with 98 percent of its 430 students classified as economically disadvantaged. The school is a one-way bilingual school, which means that Spanish speakers are in bilingual classes.
Principal Enrique Rodriguez says he has seen positive changes in the school’s classrooms since implementing AFL in the 2020-2021 school year: “Some of the changes come down to the ‘student agency,’ he said. noted. “It means students know what they are learning for the day, know the concepts they need to master to achieve a level of rigor in learning for the day. Student voice is a very important factor – students discuss with each other, seek feedback, give feedback to peers and teachers, collaborate with each other, are truly agents of their own learning. This is ultimately what we want.
“We want the teacher to be a facilitator, not just the students to sit down and take instruction, which has been the model for many years. When you enter our classrooms, you will hear students working on their own learning under the guidance of the teacher. It was definitely a change for us that favored the student agency.
Thanks to this way of learning, students are more engaged and motivated, said the director. “They know what to do when they put on’don’t know what to do, they turn to their peers or teachers. They have a learning objective and certain criteria that help them in their learning. They are excited.
Principal Rodriguez was selected by its Executive Director, Danielle Petters, to lead this initiative and work began with a group of high performing teachers who experienced success that spread to the rest of the school.
“These teachers started trying the practices in their classrooms and they started seeing the benefits. Once that took off, we rolled it out to the rest of the school and teachers really saw the value, the changes in how classrooms look and sound. We began to see the success of our students and the voice given to them in their teaching. It’s really about equipping teachers with the tools to succeed and making them see the benefits and success of their students. »
Barbee credits campus management for the success of the practice at Tatum. “Principal Rodriguez, his assistant principal Norman McNeal and their two coaches have a very good understanding of teaching and are able to communicate it to teachers,” she says. “Because of teachers’ willingness to take risks and try new practices and leaders’ willingness to engage and learn alongside teachers, when you go to Tatum, teaching and learning are different. That’s basically why they’re the model right now.
She notes that Tatum was able to progress even during the height of the pandemic. “When distance learning was difficult, when we were in concurrent learning, they were still able to work with it and pilot it with their teachers in grades three through five. They began presenting their data and showing videos to the leadership team in the spring of 2021. This school year, they continued to grow and excel.
Tatum consulted Corwin, a publisher of professional development books, and John Hattie, a professor from Melbourne, Australia, renowned for his work on Visible Learning, which is the world’s largest educational database of what really works in education. “So Tatum is in a cycle of continuous improvement that refines its processes so that its students receive the best education,” Barbee said.
Tatum hopes to become a Visible Learning+ certified school, Principal Rodriguez said. “There are three levels in the certification process. This year we hope to reach the first level and, in the coming years, the other two. And we hope to continue to be the model for other schools that would also like to follow this process.
Only a handful of schools worldwide have received the certification distinction. “Tatum would be the first urban school in Texas to receive this award,” Barbee said. “They would then be used as a model for other campuses and schools across the country.”
But for Tatum students, what matters most is to succeed in their learning. Atara, a second-grader, illustrates this perhaps best in a diagram she drew to show plot elements in a story. When the director asks her how she knows she will succeed today, she replies: “Because I can identify the plot structure and I can identify the main elements, and I can identify the resolution.” When asked to explain the word resolutionshe defines it as “the end of the story, when they figure out how to solve the problem”.