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Distrist 196 looks within for teaching advice

Assistant administrator Brad Schaffer speaks to a group during the district's first Curriculum-Instruction-Assessment Institute.

When the District 196 School Board voted last year to add three data analysis days to the calendar for the 2012-13 school year, the idea was to give teachers a chance to work together to figure out the best way to help students learn.

Last week, the district took that idea and made it even bigger. With its first Curriculum-Instruction-Assessment Institute, the district brought all of its teachers and administrators together and let them talk about what they do. About what works, what doesn't and what they can do better.

It was a professional seminar, but all of the presenters were district employees.

The CIA Institute, which took place Friday morning at Dakota Hills Middle School and Eagan High School, has been formally in the works since January, but the idea for the program goes back farther than that. Assessment coordinator Michelle DeMers said discussion of the project started five or six years ago in the district's curriculum, instruction and assessment committee.

"We knew that within five years we wanted to have a conference like this," DeMers said. "We wanted to do a conference that was our people learning from our people."

The addition of the data analysis days this year helped move that process along, DeMers said.

Last week's Institute featured three, hour-long sessions. There were 42 options for teachers and administrators during each of those sessions with topics that included ways of assessing students, use of technology and improving the literacy of the district's lowest-performing students, among others.

Rosemount Middle School administrators made a presentation on how they have implemented Irish Time -- a session that allows students who need help to get it, and students who don't to take on additional enrichment activities. Rosemount High School teacher chemistry teacher Brian Trussel talked about creating YouTube videos to help students learn.

"We wanted to kind of show our initiatives we've been working on," DeMers said. "We wanted to share effective instructional strategies."

RMS assistant principal Eric Hanson didn't get a chance to attend any of the sessions. He was busy preparing his own presentation during the first, and presenting it during the second and third. But he was happy with what he saw.

"I loved it," he said. "It's broadening our perspective on what's working."

Rosemount High School principal John Wollersheim was happy with what he saw, too. He has surveyed his teachers, and said feedback has been positive.

"I think the reason we have good public schools is because we have really good teachers," Wollersheim said. "If the best teachers we have are willing to work together in teams, that obviously is good news for kids. If those teams are willing to share with each other what they're doing, that's really good news."