Kilgore ISD educators will return to Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia this year for training and lessons on how to increase student engagement and achievement.

KISD Assistant Superintendent Richard Nash announced the trip at Monday’s board meeting.

“This will be the second year that we’re sending teachers to Ron Clark Academy. We’re really working with this. It’s a chance for getting our teachers and staff to a nationally recognized model school and bringing in some of the things that help our campuses identify ways to increase our student engagement and ensure our academic rigor,” Nash told board trustees.

Ron Clark Academy is a nonprofit middle school founded in southeast Atlanta by educators Ron Clark and Kim Bearden.

The school has garnered national attention for viral music videos created by its students and for the innovative teaching style of Clark, who often leaps onto school desks while teaching lessons. RCA students are held to high academic and behavioral standards and are encouraged to greet teachers and peers with a handshake, speak up in class and actively engage with lessons.

Last year, KISD adopted the “house system” from RCA, in which students and teachers are sorted into houses, each with its own name, color and chant. Students wear the distinctive shirt of their house to school and can earn points for academic successes and proper behavior. Houses with the most points are awarded prizes throughout the school year.

“This year we’re going to be able to send 24 teachers using our federal funds, our Title I and Title II grant funds. On October 3-4, we’re sending 14 teachers and administrations. Nov. 7-8 we’ll be sending 10,” Nash said.

After this year’s group of teachers and administrators attend RCA, KISD will have sent 65 teachers and 12 administrators since first attending last year.

Nash said teachers who have attended previously have returned to KISD to teach and mentor other educators using the skills they learned at RCA. Students have also been participating in “The Amazing Shake”, which is “a competition that places an emphasis on teaching students manners, discipline, respect, and professional conduct,” according to the RCA website.

“There’s a lot of cool things that we’re doing at our elementary campuses. Kids are debating in class. Some highly engaging stuff is happening so it’s pretty exciting that that’s coming up,” Nash said.

Teachers are chosen to attend the academy by either an application process supervised by campus principals or are nominated by campus administrators. Not every KISD teacher will attend but Nash said the hope is those who do attend are able to train their peers.

Nash said the results of the training efforts are already paying dividends, particularly in the classrooms of teachers who have been implementing their training since last year.

“We hear a lot of success stories from the teachers. We get great feedback. There’s some superstars that are coming through with it. It’s exciting what we’re measuring because when we’re using title funds, we always have to evaluate. Honestly, those classes that we’ve seen, the engagement level is up and the scores and performance of those students are up.”

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