Mockingbird Education partners with WSD to strengthen teaching methods


WSD - Mockingbird Education

WSD - Mockingbird Education

fME-469Mockingbird Education and Windham School District (WSD) have partnered to conduct statewide training of all WSD staff, helping teachers better prepare offender learners for the rigorous requirements of the new GED test. WSD provides adult education programs to eligible offenders in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

“It is WSD’s responsibility as educators, not to prepare students for where they are now, but for where they are going in the future,” said WSD academic specialist Sumer Alexander. “With the increased demands of today’s workplace, it is necessary to provide WSD teachers with professional development training that will give them strategies to increase classroom rigor, while also accelerating reasoning skills and critical thinking skills. The district has joined with Mockingbird Education to help provide this training for our staff.”

Mockingbird Education SessionMockingbird is an educational consulting firm based in Frisco, Texas, that conducts educator training and helps build alternative education programs to specifically work with marginalized learning populations. The Mockingbird staff conducts workshops, writes curriculum and helps with implementation related to educational change.

“A good definition of marginalized learners would be vulnerable learning populations. There is no standardized list for at-risk learners; it is really any learner who is not fitting into the typical educational setting,” said Mockingbird Education CEO and facilitator Tamara Thompson. She said the types of clients Mockingbird serves include organizations that provide educational services to incarcerated learners, such as adults in the TDCJ.

WSD serves a population almost solely comprised of high risk learners, with many of the students coming from a background of generational poverty --and education may not have been valued. A lot of WSD students chose to drop out of school at an early age and others were kicked out of school due to disruptive behaviors. Therefore, for many WSD students, the first positive educational experience they have is in Windham classrooms.

“Mockingbird truly takes into consideration that we are teaching a high-risk population with individual learners who often have long histories of academic failure. These learners do not trust educators or the educational system,” Thompson said. “Windham students have an academic history where educational success has been either very limited or nonexistent. Learners bring this academic history with them to the classroom. This creates a very different dynamic of classroom interaction and demands special teaching skills.”

Mockingbird Education SessionMockingbird Education facilitators, present customized information and methods of teaching to WSD participants. They customize strategies to fit the contextual needs of serving high risk learners in a correctional setting.

“We have a partnership with WSD, and every alternative education program is different, so we continuously evaluate and make adjustments to adapt to the context of who WSD is,” Thompson said. “Our goal is to model what quality education looks like in a correctional setting.”

Mockingbird started WSD training in 2014. Eight initial groups within Windham are receiving two different training sessions. In between trainings, WSD support specialists
continue to work with teachers at the prison unit schools. There are 26 Mockingbird applications being taught to teachers, and each application will have a three-week cycle of implementation in the classroom. During this time, teachers will be practicing, working with their students and self-evaluating. Their principals will also be evaluating them.

Training for staff is highly energetic, fast-paced and physical, with visual and auditory strategies holding attention so learning can take place. Participants learn to apply strategies that will keep students actively and successfully engaged in the classrooms. These strategies in combination give students a greater opportunity to connect the content to memory, a process called active learning, according to Thompson.

“Imagery is a very important component in this process, and currently some of the classes already have visual aids in the classrooms,” she said. There will be more imagery, pictures and project-based student work appearing in WSD classrooms, according to Thompson.

fME-474“All of the Mockingbird research began from an academic perspective, and we progressively added behavior management strategy,” she said. “Implementation is the hardest part of the process of getting any methodology into practice. It takes really good leadership, people staying incredible focused, and continual progress to get the methods implemented successfully. With the progress at Windham, I do not see many barriers in our future.

“I have been incredibly gratified and pleased by just working with the Windham administration,” she said. “Everybody’s heart is absolutely in the right place, and everyone is really stepping up to the plate in the leadership perspective. Changes in the new GED 2014 put some urgency and timing on everyone to re-evaluate how educational services are presented to learners. GED 2014 demands more of the learner and the educator, and the implementation of Mockingbird allows us to meet those needs.

“I know students are in WSD classrooms because of their past, but we all know Windham is here for their future. It’s exciting to be part of this partnership of change!”



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