kathryn.mikeska@commit2dallas.org

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So far Kathryn Mikeska has created 6 blog entries.

Tackle Summer Slide Program Results Show Over Half of Students Gained Two Months’ Reading Ability

Nationally, low-income students experience an average summer learning loss in reading achievement of more than two months every year. This summer, Istation initiated its 3rd annual Tackle Summer Slide program. The program is an effort to reverse summer reading loss by providing children with access to online curriculum, instruction from trained reading specialists, and learning incentives. Istation is an interactive computer-delivered program that provides every student with the individualized instruction she or he needs for continual success. Educators and parents can access online reports that track student progress and provide links to supplemental lessons. The collaborative effort between Dallas ISD, Dallas Afterschool, IStation, Dallas City of Learning, and The Commit! Partnership included 411 kindergarten through 3rd grade Dallas ISD students at eight community sites across the city. More than 30 literacy specialists worked with these students to prevent the trend of low-income students losing two months of reading achievement every summer. The results have been incredible. 72% of the students experienced no summer slide at all (up 8% from last summer), and 53% of students increased their literacy by two months. This significantly exceeds results from last year. Additionally, costs were cut in half this year by leveraging existing resources, such as sharing literacy specialists across sites. For the Tackle Summer Slide program’s fourth year, the involved organizations have already begun putting more supports and resources in place to hopefully help even more students overcome summer reading loss in 2018.

Strengthening Cultures of Continuous Improvement in College Advising

College advisors from Cedar Hill ISD, DeSoto ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Education is Freedom, and Academic Success Program came together as an Impact & Improvement Network to strengthen their continuous improvement skills and impact postsecondary enrollment through growing the number of seniors completing FAFSA applications. Communities achieve results more quickly when they have a chance to work together and learn from each other. Collectively, the districts participating helped 1,686 seniors complete FAFSA applications by July 1, 2017. This represents a collective 63% FAFSA completion rate (compared to a 55% completion rate by non-participating districts) and is up from 48% last year. True continuous improvement means you are tracking the data, identifying whether or not an intervention was successful or not and folding that information back into what you do. The Impact & Improvement Network participants shifted their use of FAFSA data from reporting to identifying practices and strategies that move outcomes. In partnership with Commit!'s postsecondary team, participants practiced: Identifying which step in the financial aid process causes themost challenges for the most students using their experience and student and parent input Refining strategies to help students overcome those challenges Charting FAFSA data bi-weekly to see how effective their strategies were Actively adjusting practices based on strategy efficacy Those who attended the Dallas County College Completion Alignment Council meeting on August 30, 2017 collaborated on effective FAFSA/TASFA completion practices with participants and college advisors. The meeting included a FAFSA/TASFA Showcase with resources, tools, and an "effective practice" gallery walk from ocal campuses with high year-over-year growth in FAFSA completion rates. The Alignment Council meeting also included space to learn and discuss effective practices for supporting DREAMer/DACAmented students from local college bound advisor, Ann Marano, and the North Texas Dream Team.

Dallas County Students Show Significant Improvement on Key Academic Indicators

The recently released State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) data from the Texas Education Agency indicates noteworthy improvement for Dallas County students. The 4th Grade Math indicator, which contributes to showing if Dallas County students are on a postsecondary pace, is the largest gain from 2016 to 2017, raising seven percentage points. Since 2012, all indicators have increased considerably (3rd Grade Reading up five percentage points, 4th Grade Math up 14 percentage points, 8th Grade Science up 11 percentage points, and Algebra 1 up 11 percentage points). Overall, 24,000 more Dallas County students are meeting The Partnership’s four STAAR benchmarks today than in 2012. Since 2016, 8,900 more Dallas County students are meeting indicators that show they are on a postsecondary pace (1,241 more students meeting 3rd Grade Reading, 3,957 more students meeting 4th Grade Math, 1,068 more students meeting 8th Grade Science, and 2,590 more students meeting Algebra 1). While STAAR results cannot be the sole predictor for student success, the significant improvement for Dallas County students is encouraging overall. With more students meeting key academic benchmarks this year, we are one step closer to the state’s 60x30 goal: By 2030, at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 will have a certificate or degree.

Irving ISD Receives Commit! Bright Spot Award: 5-Year Improvement

Irving Independent School District was recognized at our Annual Community Achievement Scorecard event in March with the first annual Commit! Bright Spot Award: 5-Year Improvement. Recognized for the best performance over the five years that Commit! has been measuring academic success across the county, Irving ISD has seen a 12% gain across Commit!’s ‘Cradle-to-Career indicators’ , and a 3% decline in income-based achievement gaps. In total, 2,161 more students are meeting key benchmarks from kindergarten readiness through high school graduation rate in Irving ISD. Irving ISD’s growth in the last year-and-a-half, in absolute and in relative terms, has been quite significant. Using the Level 2 Final Recommended (postsecondary readiness) passing rate, Irving ISD outgrew state performance on 17 of 21 STAAR exams from 2014 to 2015 — closing its gap with the state by more than 8% on the English I and II and 4th Grade Math exams, respectively. Moreover, Irving ISD continues to shine nationally in Advanced Placement (“AP”) exam participation and success rates. Irving ISD 2017 Bright Spot Award from Commit2Dallas on Vimeo. Irving ISD Superintendent Jose Parra attributes the district’s success to a clear set of guiding principles across the organization, a concentration on collaborative leadership, a prioritization of attendance growth and dropout prevention, a student-centered focus, and a data-driven, continuous improvement of the curriculum. “Irving ISD had the highest growth rate of student achievement across our indicators ranging from Kindergarten readiness to high school graduation.” explained Sagar Desai, Chief Operating Officer of The Commit! Partnership. “The other key factor was Irving’s success in helping low-income students achieve at levels commensurate with their peers.” Only one other school district in Dallas County matched Irving ISD’s performance since the inception of The Partnership, and that was Lancaster ISD. The cradle-to-career indicators included in this measurement are: kindergarten readiness, 3rd grade reading, 4th grade math, 8th grade science, algebra 1, college readiness, and high school graduation. These indicators were determined based on best practices and input from community leaders across the country as the key measures for student success across their K-12 academic career.     A key goal of The Commit! Partnership is to use data to help identify outlier success in Dallas County schools. To learn more about best practices across Dallas County as they are published, follow The Commit Partnership on both Twitter and on Facebook.

Grand Prairie ISD Receives Commit! Bright Spot Award: Year Over Year Growth

Grand Prairie Independent School District (GPISD) has become a leader among Dallas County’s 14 traditional school districts in overall student enrollment growth while closing achievement gaps with the state. And GPISD has done so with one of the region’s higher economically disadvantaged student populations (72% vs. 59% for the state) and one of its lower operating revenues (~$5,600 per student). In March, GPISD was awarded the first annual Commit! Bright Spot Award: Year Over Year Growth at the Commit! Partnership Annual Dallas County Scorecard Achievement event. Recognized for the best performance over the prior year, Grand Prairie ISD has seen a 7 percent gain across Commit!’s ‘Cradle-to-Career indicators’ of academic proficiency, and a 2 percent decline in income-based achievement gaps. In total, 1,800 more students are meeting key benchmarks from kindergarten readiness through high school graduation rate in Grand Prairie ISD. Grand Prairie ISD 2017 Bright Spot Award from Commit2Dallas on Vimeo. Grand Prairie ISD Superintendent Susan Hull attributes the district’s success to a relentless focus on student achievement, an innovative and substantial expansion of school choice, growing relational capacity throughout by including parents, and data-driven decision making. “Grand Prairie ISD had the highest growth rate of student achievement across our indicators ranging from Kindergarten Readiness to High School Graduation in the last year,” explained Sagar Desai, Chief Operating Officer at Commit!. “The other key factor was Grand Prairie’s success in helping low-income students achieve at levels commensurate with their peers.” The cradle-to-career indicators included in this measurement are: kindergarten readiness, 3rd grade reading, 4th grade math, 8th grade science, algebra 1, college readiness, and high school graduation. These indicators were determined based on best practices and input from community leaders across the country as the key measures for student success across their K-12 academic career.     A key goal of The Commit! Partnership is to use data to help identify outlier success in Dallas County schools. To learn more about best practices across Dallas County as they are published, follow The Commit Partnership on both Twitter and on Facebook.

Lancaster ISD Receives Commit! Bright Spot Award: 5-Year Improvement

In March, Lancaster Independent School District was recognized with the first annual Commit! Bright Spot Award: 5-Year Improvement at our Annual Community Achievement Scorecard event. In Dallas County, Lancaster ISD has made impressive student achievement gains by using research to understand the inputs that impact important student outcomes, creating new curriculum that develops students’ critical thinking skills for today’s workplace, and enthusiastic support from district leaders, partner organizations and teachers. Recognized for the best performance over the five years that Commit! has been measuring academic success across the county, Lancaster ISD has seen a 12 percentage point gain across Commit!’s ‘Cradle-to-Career indicators’ and a 3 percentage point decline in income-based achievement gaps. In total, 614 more students are meeting key benchmarks from Kindergarten readiness through high school graduation rate in Lancaster ISD. Lancaster ISD 2017 Bright Spot Award from Commit2Dallas on Vimeo. Lancaster ISD Superintendent Michael McFarland attributes the district’s success to a culture of student achievement originating from the board of trustees, an intentional focus on getting the right campus leaders, targeted STEM efforts, and a continual focus on data to drive to student growth. “Lancaster ISD had the highest growth rate of student achievement across our indicators ranging from Kindergarten Readiness to High School Graduation,” explained Sagar Desai, Chief Operating Officer of The Commit! Partnership. “The other key factor was Lancaster’s success in helping low-income students achieve at levels commensurate with their peers.” Lancaster ISD recently implemented a first-of-its-kind, district-wide STEM initiative; designing, planning and iterating on curriculum and culture. The journey to close the college and career-readiness gap between Lancaster ISD and wealthier districts accelerated in 2012 when the district received a $4.8 million-dollar grant from Educate Texas and the Texas Instruments Foundation to implement the initiative—with the potential to identify effective practices other districts could integrate into the learning environment. Only one other school district in Dallas County matched Lancaster ISD’s performance since the inception of The Partnership, and that was Irving ISD.     The cradle-to-career indicators included in this measurement are kindergarten readiness, 3rd grade reading, 4th grade math, 8th grade science, algebra 1, college readiness, and high school graduation. These indicators were determined based on effective practices and input from community leaders across the country as the key measures for student success across their K-12 academic career. A key goal of The Commit! Partnership is to use data to help identify outlier success in Dallas County schools. To learn more about best practices across Dallas County as they are published, follow The Commit Partnership on both Twitter and on Facebook.