State’s school superintendents share ‘...

State’s school superintendents share ‘different ways of thinking’

Leaders from about 30 school districts from across Tennessee gathered May 7 on the campus of MTSU for a two-day conference to share ideas on ways to improve student performance.

Donna Wright, left, assistant superintendent for Knox County schools, and Cheryl Harris, assistant superintendent for Bedford County schools, chat with MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee at a reception for visiting school district leaders at the President'€™s Residence May 7. (MTSU photo by Rob Janson)

The Tennessee Superintendents’ Colloquium featured discussions on Professional Learning Communities, a concept advanced by MTSU’s College of Education that has helped several districts improve test scores and student comprehension.

The PLC concept has been described as a process through which administrators and teachers work collaboratively to raise student performance. It encourages teachers and schools to develop best practices, then share the ideas with classrooms and colleagues throughout the district.

“We wanted to provide superintendents with some different ways of thinking,” said presenter Robert Eaker, former MTSU education dean and a nationally known expert on the concept. “The idea is to make sure students learn, rather than being simply taught.”

“It’s easy sometimes for teachers to stay in their silos in the classrooms,” said Dr. Lana Seivers, dean of MTSU’s College of Education. “We’re exploring ways to bring teachers closer together, as a faculty, so we can be more collaborative.”

Cannon County School Superintendent Barbara Parker said she liked what she heard.

“Teachers can become their own little islands sometimes when they shut their classroom doors,” she said. “This is about breaking down walls and sharing ideas.”

Glenn James, CEO of Wisconsin-based Renaissance Learning, an educational software and hardware company, said he was impressed by the discussion.

“The people driving the improvements in education are in this building right now,” he said. “It starts with effective leadership.”

Seivers and Eaker said the colloquium was a priority for MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, who has encouraged the education college’s statewide outreach efforts. McPhee hosted a reception for the education leaders at the President’s Residence.

McPhee said the University has made teacher training its top priority for more than a century, citing MTSU’s origins as one of the state’s first three normal schools.

“We wanted these district leaders to see our campus facilities first-hand and know that MTSU is available as a resource,” he said.

The colloquium ends May 8.