Iowa Education Director looks to Nixon Elementary as model - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Education Director looks to Nixon Elementary as model


Judy Bruns is a special education teacher at Nixon Elementary school in Hiawatha.

"We had people that were flexible enough to say I don't' know everything," Bruns said. 

Bruns and all other teachers in the building kept an open mind when the district created meetings called Professional Learning Communities for staff to attend..  School officials believe these PLC's have played a significant role in the student body's overall test improvements.

"Fifth grade math scores were at the 97th percentile nationally last year.  Who couldn't be proud of that?" Bruns said.

The Cedar Rapids district brings teachers together with an instructional coach once a week for forty minutes.

The group looks at data regarding how students have responded to what is being taught, and then identifies methods to tailor material to the students who have fallen behind and also challenge those who are excelling.

"We're doing research-based best practice in our Professional Learning Communities.  Our teachers are breaking down the historical isolation that they have always felt being classroom teachers and we're supporting them as a district," said Dr. Dave Benson, Cedar Rapids Schools Superintendent.

The school's success has caught the attention of the state's education director Jason Glass, who called Nixon a model for the way its applied these PLC's.

"The model that we saw here in Nixon Elementary and in the Cedar Rapids School District is something that we have to expand across the state of Iowa and this country," Glass said.

So while lawmakers work to push through sweeping changes to the education system, educators like Bruns are working together to improve as teachers, and are reaping the benefits within the district's budget.

An Education Reform bill is currently going through the legislative process in Des Moines.

Nothing in the bill addresses providing time and resources for teachers to work more together and set up a collaborative structures similar to the PLC's.

Glass says he hopes lawmakers will have that discussion in the years to come.

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