Summertime is when the opportunity gap grows widest; some children have access to summer learning experiences while far too many do not. And these hours of learning loss add up, year after year. In Dallas, however, there is a growing movement to reverse this trend. Powered by Dallas City of Learning, hundreds of partners are providing in-person and online educational experiences to our most underserved neighborhoods. The Tackle Summer Slide initiative, piloted last summer in South Oak Cliff, is part of this movement focused specifically on preventing summer reading loss among students entering grades K-3. The initiative combines small group instruction from an experienced reading specialist twice a week and individualized support through Istation’s online reading curriculum, along with incentives to encourage consistent participation. The following organizations/sites are participating this summer: • Boys & Girls Club (Oak Cliff and Roseland Clubs) • Catholic Charities (Santa Clara Community Center) • Circle of Support • Dallas Park & Rec (Cummings, Nash-Davis and Samuell Grand Recreation Centers) • Frazier Revitalization Inc. • Heart House • Jubilee Park & Community Center • Readers 2 Leaders • Trinity River Mission Two of these sites, Circle of Support and Readers 2 Leaders, are also piloting a parent workshop series this summer. Parents are invited to attend weekly hour-long workshops where they learn how to better support reading at home. Each workshop features a different content expert from the following organizations: Tackle Tomorrow, Istation, SMU Simmons School of Education, and The Concilio. The Tackle Summer Slide initiative is a collaborative effort convened by Commit! and Dallas Afterschool, managed by Istation, and supported by Dallas ISD and Big Thought.
During the 2014-2015 school year, the Commit! Partnership began working with 7 elementary campuses in DeSoto ISD to increase student math achievement. As part of the partnership, principals reviewed data, visited high-performing outlier schools, and connected community partners with school needs. While visiting high-performing schools, principals credited much of the success they observed to mentorship and collaboration between teachers. As a result, DeSoto ISD principals have embraced collaborative, data-based Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) and initiated an Early Reading Academy and Math PLC’s. DeSoto ISD Math PLC’s Last year, principals voiced concerns over the new rigorous math standards, especially because many elementary campuses only had one math teacher per grade in grades 2-5. With that feedback, Commit! and DeSoto ISD now convene monthly cross-campus math PLC’s for 2nd-5th grade math teachers with the help of the Fluor Foundation. Teachers use Common Assessment and STAAR data to identify student learning gaps and are then provided with sample activities to address these learning gaps by DeSoto ISD math specialists. According to one 2nd grade teacher, “Reviewing the common assessment and talking with other grade level teachers about things that help in the areas the students have been struggling has been the most helpful aspect of the PLC.” Partnership With Dallas ISD and DeSoto ISD on Early Reading Academies In partnership with Dallas ISD, the “South Oak Cliff (SOC) Reading Academy” was launched last year with the goal of providing Kindergarten-3rd grade teachers with quality professional development in reading and writing instruction. 100% of teachers agreed the SOC Reading Academy improved their teaching and more of their colleagues would benefit from meaningful participation. 15 of 19 participating teachers had students exceeding the feeder pattern percentage of students on grade level in May 2015 or growing 10 percentile points or more from September to May. This year, the Commit! Partnership is refining and re-launching the SOC Reading Academy with ~25 Kindergarten – 2nd grade teachers reaching ~500 students. Additionally, Dallas ISD is expanding a similar Reading Academy model that will reach an additional 300 K-2 teachers serving over 6,000 students and DeSoto ISD is bringing the model to 20 Kindergarten-2nd Grade teachers, led by Dr. Clarissa Plair, who has over 30 years of literacy education and leadership experience. In DeSoto, teachers meet voluntarily each week and cover topics such as reading block schedules, running records, guided reading, phonemic awareness, phonics, word work and writer’s workshop. Teachers across campuses share from their classrooms what worked well, what didn’t, and how they plan to implement what they’re learning in the Reading Academy. From the first eight sessions, 91% of participants responded that the sessions are very helpful. One teacher commented, “They are short sessions, I'm able to focus, pay attention, and apply what I'm learning while at the same time having conversations with other Kinder teachers from other schools.” Reading academy participants also receive support from Commit! through student level data reports that help monitor student progress and a DonorsChoose campaign for up to $500 of resources [...]
The Commit! Partnership believes poverty is not destiny. While students at schools with high levels of poverty generally perform lower on standardized assessments than their high-income peers, there are schools across Dallas-Fort Worth with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students succeeding academically and even outperforming their high-income peers.
With our fifteen Early Math Network principals from DeSoto and Grand Prairie ISDs, we set out to learn what practices from these high-performing outlier schools could be shared and implemented across Dallas County. During the past two months, over 25 campus leaders, district administrators, and teachers visited seven elementary schools in four districts: Fort Worth ISD (Briscoe Elementary, Peak Elementary, Moore Elementary), Dallas ISD (John Adams Elementary, Knight Elementary), Lancaster ISD (Lancaster Elementary), and Uplift Education (Peak Preparatory).
Six months ago, the Partnership began working with 15 elementary schools in DeSoto ISD and Grand Prairie ISD to improve early grades math achievement for over 8,900 students. Since then, principals have formed learning communities and connected in new ways with partners like SMU and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
Principal Learning Communities: Monthly principal meetings have emerged as a discussion space for principals to learn from each other’s challenges and successes. One principal shared that the most helpful part of these meetings is the “collaboration of best practices from campus to campus.” This collaboration, with guidance from SMU, comes from different data-driven conversations around common assessments, new math standards, and early grades math achievement.
Beginning this school year, the Partnership will be working with 15 elementary schools in DeSoto ISD and Grand Prairie ISD to improve early math outcomes for 8,900 elementary school students. Nationally, employers stress the importance of basic math skills in any career, not only those with a traditional STEM classification. A look at 2013 achievement data shows that Dallas County students trail the Texas average in Math across Grades 3-8 and Algebra I, with fewer than one in three students achieving the college-readiness equivalent on the STAAR assessment (Level II Final Recommended). Further, national research shows that knowledge of fractions and division uniquely predicts subsequent knowledge of Algebra and overall math achievement more than four years later.
With the strategic guidance of the Grades 4-12 Support Council over the last six months, Commit! has worked with Grand Prairie and DeSoto to lay the groundwork for a successful partnership by:
The Commit! team has started a new tradition of sorts; once a month, our staff arranges a lunch-hour visit to learn more about a partner organization, neighborhood or initiative. The purpose is simple: to listen, learn and break bread together.
Thus far, we’ve been hosted by some great organizations: Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation, Dallas Urban Debate Alliance, Concord Church, Vogel Alcove and, most recently, Jubilee Park & Community Center.
Panelists represent AVANCE, Workforce Solutions Dallas, Dallas ISD, and The Concilio. Event will take place September 23; RSVP here. Need more content so it will take up the whole space. Need more content so it will take up the whole space. Need more content so it will take up the whole space. Need more content so it will take up the whole space.