A learning opportunity

Change is always difficult because when it occurs there are always different levels of uncertainties. Many of the changes we are dealing with in Rockdale ISD is how do we educate our students with less resources, how do we prepare our students for the future in which they will exist, and how do we prepare them for the new assessment (STAAR) that is more rigorous than TAKS and requires them to use critical thinking skills?

One of the changes that meets the challenge of preparing our students for the future and for the critical thinking requirements on the STAAR is the implementation of Project Based Learning at Rockdale High School.

Project Based Learning is not a new concept in education, but it is new to students and parents at Rockdale High School. It has been a learning method for several decades and is used all over the nation in many schools. Rockdale High School has included this model because the level of knowledge that students are required to understand has increased over the past decade. With the need to prepare students for the future they will face and the rigor of the new assessment system (STAAR), it is not enough to ask students to only read and understand a textbook, complete a worksheet, or listen to a teacher stand in front of a classroom and lecture to them.

For students to be successful in life, they must move past the knowledge and comprehension level of understanding to a level of creation, innovation, analyzing, and evaluation. Rockdale ISD has a responsibility to educate students to exist in their future. Preparing students through Project Based Learning includes skills that students are expected to have for success in the 21st Century.

Project Based Learning uses real world applications to build college readiness and life skills. It also develops skills that are necessary for the work force such as collaboration through group work, time management, and leadership. This type of approach to learning develops self discipline, self responsibility, collaboration skills, and understanding content knowledge at a high level of thinking. Within the Project Based Learning framework, students are expected to ask and refine ideas, design plans or experiments, collect and analyze data, debate ideas, draw conclusions, create products, ask new questions, and present their findings to others. The grade level content found in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) is included in each project and are the same standards that will be assessed in the End of Course exams (STAAR).

At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, the high school will conduct a Ninth Grade Academy Open House for parents and community members. The Open House will explain the lesson cycle requirements of a project, provide opportunities to hear from students and leaders from a school district that has been using Project Based Learning for several years, see how the Texas Education Agency is promoting a 21st Century education model, and offer a time for questions and answers. This invitation is open to parents of ninth graders, the parents of current eighth graders, and anyone that is interested in finding out about Project Based Learning.

Like with any change, there are things that must be worked out as we progress through the implementation of a different, but innovative approach to meet our students’ needs. Project Based Learning is new to students at Rockdale High School and as they move through the process, they will become more comfortable with the expectations. We are committed to evaluating how we educate students, communicating those expectations to our community, and making necessary modifications to ensure the success of our students. If you have a question about the Ninth Grade Academy or Project Based Learning, please contact high school principal Joey Geletka, Gena Helton or ninth grade core teachers. The teachers are an excellent source to explain how Project Based Learning works.

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2011-10-27 digital edition

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