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Mountainview Teachers Turn Learning Over To Students

June 9, 2011

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Mountainview Elementary principal Dr. Bill Shepard marches proudly into a classroom at his school where the students aren't having their subjects dictated to them by their teacher. They're not neatly in rows, with their teacher lecturing at the front as they follow along with their books. In fact, teacher Tricia Morgan says they don't even use books.

It's part of the International Baccalaureate's Primary Year Program, a model of learning for elementary school students that only a select few schools receive accreditation from. They stretch from coast to coast, and there are a few dozen of them in Texas. Mountainview is now one of them, having laid the groundwork for the program in prior years before receiving that accreditation last month. In this program, lessons constantly change, teachers become more facilitators than lecturers, and students are empowered to learn about what they want to. In yesterday's story, we looked at 6 tenets that provide the framework to create educated students who become citizens that understand the world around them. It's a bold vision, but is turning the power over to students effective? How do the things they want to learn impact the things they HAVE to learn.

Nicole Fanning teaches second grade at Mountainview. She's taught traditionally, and like her fellow Mountainview instructors, has shifted to the International Baccalaureate's PYP method. Her students have "wonderings" and inquiry learning leeway to tell her what they want to study. She says it's an adjustment worth making.

You cannot spend very long talking about education in Texas without mentioning the required standardized testing, like the TAKS test. Specifically as it relates to Mountainview, can students effectively prepare for these tests and specific skills, like math, when they're creating their own lesson plans? Fanning says yes.

The students like it. Fourth-graders Esmerelda Houston and Paige DuPuy move around the room with their friends from station to station, and offer their endorsement.

Principal Bill Shepard's endorsement for PYP is based on what he's seen it do for his students.

Next year will be Mountainview's first official year as an International Baccalaureate school, a feather in the cap for a school's moment years in the making. You can hear yesterday's story about the premise behind the program online at KWBU.org and this Sunday at 3 on KWBU Rewind. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.



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