George Sumner admits there is unrest in some circles when teachers are taken out of the classroom for training.

But, staff development, such as recent training sessions involving the Learning-Focused Strategies program, is important, he feels.

One of the county’s curriculum coaches, Sumner, a teacher at Midland Trail High School, oversaw one of the recent days of training at the central office involving 45 middle and elementary school teachers from around the county. The teachers were exposed to four days of Learning-Focused Strategies instruction outside of the classroom environment, but follow-up training will not force them to leave their schools.

“Fayette County is trying to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Sumner. “It’s an ongoing, sustainable and pervasive movement to try to modernize education in Fayette County.”

While Sumner admits one of the main goals is to improve test scores, he says it goes much deeper. The teachers will take the techniques they learn and pass them on to their students.

“It should raise the bar for the kids. Their scores will be higher and they will be more prepared for the future. They’ll start thinking on a higher level.”

He says some teachers are skeptical at first, but, once they see the scope of the training, they warm to the idea. “They start to get curious,” he said. “And it dawns on them that these are things they’ve been doing.”

Among the program’s goals are to prioritize curriculum, map the content, and writing acquisition lesson plans, Sumner said. Another key is to stress activities that aren’t traditional.

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In the past, members of the Fayette County Board of Education and others have expressed concerns that teachers are taken out of the classrooms on a too-frequent basis, leaving schools to scramble to find substitutes in their place.

Sumner said he realizes there is concern when teachers are taken away from their students, but he feels it is worth it in the long run.

Teachers will be trained “as rapidly as possible.” Since the county is still implementing the process, more teachers have been out of their classes in the past several months than normal, but that will decrease, Sumner said. Once they complete the four-day session, further training won’t take them away from their schools.

“We just trained so many people last year,” he said. “We’re trying to bring them up to modern times.”

After this training, “their time out will be much less,” says Sumner.

Teachers, who are paid a small stipend, have participated in summer training, as well as after-school sessions.

Board member David Arritt recently offered an amendment to a motion supporting a staff development policy. The amendment, which would have prevented teachers from missing classroom time for training, failed.

“Students learn more when they have their regular teachers in the classroom,” Arritt said.

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