Fwisd focus – Learning Networks boost student focus

Applying lessons learned as a lifelong educator, Superintendent Walter Dansby has built a team and a game plan – “A Singleness of Purpose” – to put into play when the Fort Worth Independent School District kicks off the school year on Aug. 27.

The goal, Dansby said, focuses on reorganized commitment to exceptional education for the district’s 80,000 students and 142 schools. “FWISD always prided itself in being among the top-performing school districts in the state,” he said. “We need to return to that level and show people that children can get an excellent, life-serving education in the Fort Worth ISD.”

Getting there requires Singleness of Purpose – “everyone working together to succeed,” he said, with student achievement as the top priority.

“The Chamber applauds Superintendent Dansby and the entire school district for such extensive, inventive commitment to students’ success,” said Chamber CEO and President Bill Thornton.

Three Learning Networks comprise a cornerstone of FWISD’s plan.

Each network has been assigned to specific schools and is made up of school leadership directors, liaisons from nearly every district department and content specialists – degreed professionals in specific academic areas such as math, English, social studies and science.

“Learning network teams will be on campuses each and every day, working with and backing up teachers who may be challenged or even struggling,” Dansby said. “These teams are equipped with the latest technology to move the District forward. They will refocus on instructional technology and enhance the online and distance learning for our students.”

Team members are not volunteers, he said. “This is their only job, and they had to apply for it and be selected as being the right fit.”

Network members polished their skills in June at the Learning Network Academy for Educators

(LNAE) and at the Fort Worth Professional Development Center.

Training aimed at exploring new ways to work with principals and teachers, Associate Superintendent Sherry Breed said in a district online report. Breed will lead one of the networks.

“Everything is focused on student achievement and student success,” she said.

The academy underscored Singleness of Purpose, Dansby said. “It is important for all of us – teachers, staff and students – to be on the same page, to have the same focus. The Learning Networks provide a clear understanding of where we are and where we are headed. It helps place us all squarely in the middle of the same methodology.”

A number of measures will gauge the degree of progress, he said.

“There are nationally recognized standards,” he said, such as SAT, ACT and PSAT scores. “Additionally, our graduation rates and dropout rates are important measurements. We must close the achievement gap, and we have ways of measuring that performance.

“Finally, we will enter our second year of the new STAAR/End of Course testing program from the state, and that will provide us with valuable information.”

Another bottom line already reflects value in the Learning Networks and other initiatives, Dansby noted.

With a combined $725 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, FWISD’s Singleness of Purpose mission meets a need for prudent spending, officials note.

“We’ve found a way to do this without additional cost to the budget,” Dansby said in a recent memo to staff, “And, in fact, streamlining our resources in a way that mirrors best practices in high-performing urban districts.”

Thornton added, “The Chamber shares FWISD’s commitment and for the same reason: Our students are Fort Worth’s future. The business community’s investment in Fort Worth students’ education is an essential investment in Fort Worth’s future vitality and quality of life.”

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