With another round of STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) and EOC (End of Course) tests on the horizon, Denison ISD school officials and teachers say students are once again well-prepared and eager to succeed.
What drives the optimism and continued success? According to Shonda Cannon, DISD’s Director of Instruction, it’s an ever-changing mix of best practices that is 100% student-focused: collaboration among educators and aligned instruction on all nine DISD campuses; innovations in methodology designed to meet the diverse learning styles of today’s students; and engaged learning in stimulating environments that encourage creativity and help hone critical thinking skills.
“We offer unique staff development training sessions every summer that give our teachers an arsenal of creative tools that challenge, motivate and engage our gifted students as well as students who may be struggling in certain areas,” said Cannon. “The goal is to help ALL students reach their full potential and do as well as possible on all the state-mandated tests. Our teachers and counselors also use a wide variety of research-proven programs, like AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), which has experienced phenomenal growth and produced great success over the past several years.”
According to Cannon, AVID is a college readiness program designed to help students develop the skills they need to be successful in college, with an emphasis on improving writing skills, critical thinking, teamwork, organization and reading skills. “
“At Denison High School, it also involves a lot of mentoring and support for students who need extra help with the fundamental skills that facilitate long-term success in general, like organizing and actually planning for success, goal-setting, developing good study habits, keeping up with assignments and having a positive attitude,” said Cannon. “AVID teachers help students realize their full potential, gain confidence in their abilities, and actually get excited about a successful future that includes college. I just can’t praise our teachers and staff enough for the incredible jobs they do every day…keeping our kids on task and on schedule, making sure they’re interested, involved, focused and moving forward.”
DISD Superintendent Henry Scott also gives credit to the district’s support staff, parents, friends and community volunteers who help educate and grow the whole child – mind, body and spirit. “There are so many great people in our schools and community who make sure our students have necessary school supplies, clothing and nutritious food to eat, ample time to exercise and play, adequate rest and proper health care…and people in their lives who care about them. As a school district and community, we work hard every day to create a positive learning environment where every child feels safe, respected and valued. We’re so proud of what we’re accomplishing in our Denison schools. It’s why we keep improving.”
Aiding those efforts are a wealth of computers, tablets, robots, makerspace programs, apps, games, puzzles, books and volumes of software that engage students’ minds and senses, enabling them to see and experience learning in real-life situations. Periodic benchmark exams give teachers an accurate look at where kids are on the learning curve, where they need to be, and who needs additional help. Multi-tasking and a willingness to work overtime are an accepted way of life for Denison teachers.
“Campus Improvement Plans based on input from school personnel, parents and community members are implemented every year on all our campuses,” said Scott. “Tutoring, remediation and intervention programs are also in place, with many teachers and students coming in early and staying late. Our high school’s Prime Time Tutoring program has proved tremendously effective in helping many students master difficult subject matter like calculus, physics and chemistry. Our schools have consistently earned high state and national rankings and awards, and we expect that to continue.”
With spring STAAR tests right around the corner, school officials advise parents and students to begin establishing good study habits, nutrition and sleep habits now, so students will be at their best on test days. Among the research-proven suggestions: get eight hours of sleep each night, eat a healthy diet, stay organized, complete assignments on time, don’t schedule appointments on test days; maintain a positive attitude, stay focused, and always read directions and follow instructions carefully.
“Last but certainly not least: listen, learn, work hard to meet goals…and always ask questions when you need help,” said Cannon. “We’re all here to help each and every student be successful.”
Steven Doss, Denison’s Planning and Zoning Manager, is one of many community partners who bring real-life learning experiences into Denison classrooms throughout the school year. “There are so many great people in our schools and community who help our kids learn…who make sure their basic needs are met and that there are people in their lives who care about them,” said DISD Superintendent Henry Scott.
Denison High School offers many programs, including AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), that prepare students to be successful in college and careers. “We offer unique staff development training sessions every summer that give our teachers an arsenal of creative tools that challenge, motivate and engage our gifted students as well as students who may be struggling in certain areas,” said DISD Director of Instruction Shonda Cannon.
Denison Performing Arts and other local organizations provide young learners with field trips that offer interactive hands-on learning opportunities.
Fourth graders in Haleigh Hahn’s Hyde Park classroom work in groups designed to facilitate exploration, discovery, and the development of critical thinking skills needed for success on rigorous STAAR tests.