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.
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.
What happens when a group of committed district administrators, education experts and a multi-national technology company’s foundation decide that a district truly can prepare students for success in STEM careers that will be essential to the future of the North Texas region? For Lancaster ISD (“LISD”), Educate Texas and the Texas Instruments (TI) Foundation, the answer is implementing 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. “What adults do matters more than economics, and the right actions can mitigate the negative impact economics can have”, according to LISD Superintendent Dr. Michael D. McFarland, words that ring true in context of the impressive STEM gains made by the district’s middle school students: LISD is in the 95th percentile in its 8th grade science STAAR Level 2 Final Recommended (Postsecondary Readiness) improvement from 2012 to 2015 among Texas ISDs with 1,000 or more students. Science scores grew 19 percentage points over the period whereas Dallas County and the state grew by 4 points. LISD economically disadvantaged (“eco dis”) students outperform the state average for like students by 8 percent in 8th grade science, a notable accomplishment given that the district’s eco dis population is greater than 85 percent. LISD saw double digit gains in 7th and 8th grade math scores and a 78 percent increase in the number of middle schoolers taking the advanced Algebra 1 STAAR test from 2012 to 2015 (11 percent and 18 percent respectively). What led to these impressive gains at LISD’s 7th and 8th grade campus, Elsie Robertson Lancaster STEM Middle School? Research to understand the inputs that impact important student outcomes New curriculum that develops students’ critical thinking skills for today’s workplace Continuous evaluation and iteration on new and existing STEM learning initiatives Enthusiastic support from district leaders, partner organizations and teachers ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ You can download this complete Lancaster ISD Bright Spots PDF here. A key goal of the Commit! Partnership is to use data to help identify outlier success in Dallas-County schools. Analyzing the past three-year growth in middle school STEM, Lancaster ISD’s impressive gains in 7th and 8th grade math, 8th grade science and 8th grade Algebra 1 are surely something to be celebrated, as these middle school students will enter high school more prepared for post-secondary education and a great awareness of career pathways. To learn more about best practices across Dallas County as they are published, follow the Commit Partnership on both Twitter and on Facebook. To learn more about Educate Texas’s innovative work in STEM education you may contact Dr. Reo Pruiett. To learn more about Lancaster ISD please contact Sonya Cole-Hamilton, the Chief Communications Officer. For more information about TI’s and the TI [...]
In September, representatives from six partnership schools of education (UNT, UNT Dallas, UTA, SMU, TAMUC, TWU), two school districts (Dallas ISD and Uplift) and Commit! staff attended the 4-day “Excellence at Scale” conference at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Together, we learned about the iTeachAZ program, which shares the common mission of all partners in ensuring all children have good teachers, with unique emphasis on deep, authentic school-university partnerships. ASU certifies approximately 1000 teachers annually, in partnership with 26 districts across Arizona (70% of which are Title 1 schools). Several hallmarks of the iTeachAZ program emerged as particularly exciting for our North Texas institutions as we explore opportunities to learn from and share best practices: 1. Teacher candidates complete classroom internships during the junior year, and a 2-semester Senior Year Residency conducted in a co-teaching model with district mentor teachers 2. ASU faculty members are embedded in the districts 5 days a week to act as liaison and ensure quality of the residency experience for teacher candidates, and collaborate with the district mentor teachers on feedback and coaching for the teacher candidate 3. Teacher candidate assessments are standardized, rigorously normed and assess demonstrated student learning as result of the teacher candidate’s practices The team at ASU Inspire has very generously opened up their curriculum resources and on-demand Professional Learning Library to the broader educator prep community. As context, the Sanford Inspire Program is a gift-funded project within the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU. They "work to ensure that each child has an inspirational teacher, one with excellent teaching and relationship building skills. To that end, we create On-Demand Modules: 60-minute micro-courses that develop teachers’ knowledge, skills, and mindsets around specific elements of inspirational teaching.” Take a look and consider how you might be able to use these available tools in your own networks and practice! Links to Resources · On-Demand Module Overview Video · Sanford Inspire Program Curriculum Resource Catalog o A description of all our available resources and documents to support use of the resources. · Sanford Inspire Program Website · SanfordInspireProgram@asu.edu Upcoming ASU Webinars · https://connect.asu.edu/personalizedpd/ · Wednesday, October 14th at 4pm MST (7pm EST) · Thursday, October 29th at 4pm MST (7pm EST)
Each month the Commit! Partnership visits communities across the region to speak with and learn from organizations doing important work. Following previous months’ visits to the Margaret H. Cone Head Start Center, Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation, Concord Church and others, in November we visited Trinity River Mission (TRM). The common thread we always see is the unrelenting dedication to students and their families demonstrated by each host organization. TRM’s programming serves more than 500 students grades K-12 with a mission to improve student achievement. Along with staff and volunteer dedication, small details are aligned to keep student achievement as a top priority. Even the wall color is selected to provide the ideal learning environments, orange and purple for younger students and green and blue for older students. Offering homework help, a top-notch computer lab utilizing online blended learning and tutoring tools and a place for FAFSA completion, TRM provides a comprehensive approach to supporting students outside of school time. It’s no surprise that TRM is one of only three sites quality certified by Dallas Afterschool. We found three aspects of their program to be particularly noteworthy: Parent engagement: Parents of students in the program are highly engaged, at times for multiple generations; mothers and fathers give a range of 60-300 hours of volunteer service a year. Volunteer engagement: Volunteer tenures range from 9 months to 20+ years; in fact, the average tutor stays 7 years, transitioning from serving as a tutor to becoming even more of a mentor along a child’s educational journey. Partnerships: TRM partners successfully with a diverse group of organizations to further its mission of promoting academic success; additionally, TRM partners with the North Texas Food Bank to provide full dinners for its participants after school and with CitySquare during summer months. It took time and dedication for TRM to get to where it is now. Building trust and relationships in the community and across the city was essential, and the success of the program early on created a pipeline for further support and leadership, including the current Program Director, Gloria Lopez. Gloria remarked that 97% of children in the program stay from Grade K through 12, a testament to the quality and trust TRM has grown throughout the years. Partner Spotlight: Trinity River Mission By the Numbers: Years in operation: 50+ (founded in the 1960’s, independent in 1988) Geography served/location(s): West Dallas # staff: 21 # volunteers: 400+ # clients served: 508, growing to 550 Annual operating budget: $1.0M Connect: Website: Trinityrivermission.org Facebook: Facebook.com/TutorReadMentor Twitter: Twitter.com/TutorReadMentor How can volunteers plug-in? Visit http://www.trinityrivermission.org/get-involved/become-a-volunteer/ or contact Deisy Martinez at email@example.com or 214-744-6774 ext. 116.
Our high school, college, and post-graduate interns have been a vital part of our impact and culture at the Commit! Partnership, and we’re seeking a new intern starting this January. We look for passionate, hard-working, and fun interns interested in learning about and rolling up their sleeves to help more kids across Dallas County. Our staff enables interns to take leading roles in ongoing projects and offers visibility, networking, and impactful experiences in education change. The intern should expect: To work hard and be challenged in a fast-paced, dynamic environment To work with people of all personalities and backgrounds To have fun Our internship is a $10/hr, 10-week program (some tasks can be completed remotely). You will help drive one or more key projects scoped out based on your interests and Commit!’s needs. Planned projects for the spring are expected to focus on marketing and communications in the following areas: Coordinating a student- and campus-focused workshop series that will help more high school students to complete financial aid applications (FAFSA) for college Supporting execution and follow-up related to a community-based campaign to help more parents become aware of Early Childhood enrollment options and register their children for Pre-Kindergarten in the spring Qualifications we seek: Undergraduate junior or senior or graduate student with a strong academic record Self-starter who can multitask and manage time effectively Excellent oral and written communication skills; excellent quantitative skills a plus Flexibility to take on a variety of projects—including those involving data, writing, and research Comfort with all Microsoft Office products (especially PowerPoint); InDesign a plus Ability to work independently and collaboratively on a team Humor, integrity, and patience Belief in education’s power to improve odds for all children in service of Commit!’s mission We are asking for a commitment of 12 hours a week minimum; some tasks can be completed remotely. For a detailed description of this position click here. To apply, please submit a resume, a cover letter detailing your interest and qualification for the role, and a copy of your unofficial college transcript to Sarah.Jensen@commit2dallas.org. The deadline to apply is December 31; we will be interviewing on a rolling basis. We look forward to hearing from you!
Several members of the Commit! Partnership team had the pleasure of attending StriveTogether’s annual National Convening, this year held in sunny San Diego October 15-17. Coming off last year’s convening right here in the Big D, the theme for this year was “Making Waves” to move outcomes. With more than 50 communities in attendance representing more than 5.5 million children, the convening provided an ideal opportunity to learn what’s working elsewhere and surface ways we can continue to improve our work to help drive student achievement in Dallas County. A few key areas of action came out of the convening: Modeling the Courage Needed to Focus AND Act on Equity: A big theme emerged around equity, with a diverse panel and several workshops centered on “the head, heart, and hand” of addressing race and equity in education collaboration. We learned about communities disaggregating data further to identify key local challenges (e.g., White students with non-college-educated parents achieving higher than Hispanic students with college-educated parents) and reviewing school suspension data disparities by race with district superintendents and key community leaders together. We return committed to continue making equity even more of a focal point back home—and will seek to learn from the application of concrete tools that have helped partnerships address equity in a way that respects community readiness. We look forward to continuing this learning as Dallas hosts the national Facing Race conference November 13-15. Using Data to Improve Action Every Day: The description of continuous improvement - adopting processes that ensure we meet and exceed the expectations of those we serve - really hit home for us, particularly given the partnerships we’ve established focused on early grades literacy and math. In particular, Superintendent Pat Greco of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, led a riveting workshop speaking to the rigorous change management she’s helped lead in her district to reinforce excellence in instructional process at her schools. We hope to use this learning not just to identify what works, but to improve those best practices over time – in other words, to become “the best at getting better.” Building Ownership among Partners for Change: Another theme focused on keeping partners fully engaged, especially as the work matures and roles and responsibilities change. Several communities shared themes around ensuring voice is valued with follow-up, getting neighborhood-level input to expand opportunities for new partners to engage, and innovating to reach new constituents (e.g., creating performances by parents and for parents to act out the difficulty of getting student to read at home). Given the common challenges heard across communities, the StriveTogether network is committed to providing actionable tools and identifying and lifting up ways to build broader ownership with partners to create lasting change. In addition to engaging in convening workshops, Commit! staff facilitated three well-attended workshops respectively around the IQ and EQ of continuous improvement at the action network level, creating and using a Giving Profile to engage funders in collective impact, and collaborative action towards Kindergarten Readiness. Dallas was also represented by [...]
Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist Connect with me via. LinkedIn Election day occurs the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Yeah...Thank goodness, it's just words we have to decipher and not a complicated calculus equation. Regardless, on that day, voters report to pre-determined polling locations and cast their ballot for various public officials. Now remember, United States is a constitutional federal republic, meaning that U.S. citizens elect public officials and these officials represent U.S. citizens' needs and concerns. That's kind of a big deal if you can't tell. So naturally, people aren't waking up on Election Day thinking "yeah I'll bubble in C all the way down" or "I'll just copy the ballot choices from the guy next to me" or "I will choose the longest name because it's more likely the correct answer". Don't send villagers with pitchforks after me, but this may be something that high school and college students may be doing on exams, while choosing majors, etc. Ahem...so without further ado, here are some lessons students can learn from Election Day: The importance of Deadlines. Not sure if you know, but you have to register to vote. If you are registered to vote in Dallas, Texas, then that is the only place where you can vote as that's how your precinct and polling location is determined. Obviously, there is a deadline to register. If you don't register by that deadline, then you will have to wait until the next Election Day. Similarly, high school students have college application deadlines, scholarship deadlines, assignment and exam deadlines. College students have internship application deadlines, FAFSA deadlines, classes registration deadlines, and of course, assignment and exam deadlines. You must plan accordingly to meet and/or beat these deadlines. Otherwise, you missed your chance and will have to wait until next time. And, that's a bummer! The importance of Researching and Making Informed Decisions. Voters must do their research on the candidates that are running for office. They must consider the issues that the candidates are challenging, as well as the candidate's party platform. Then, in accordance to their research, voters cast their ballots. Similarly, high school and college students must do their research prior to "casting a vote" for which college to attend or for what loans and financial aid to accept. They must also do their research on what major to study- finding the job outlook for that major, industry trends, soft and hard skills needed, the length of time in school for a certain profession, etc. There's a quote I recently read that sums up the which-major-to-choose-pandemonium: "choose a major you love and you'll never work a day in your life because that field probably isn't hiring". As explicated, you must do your research when choosing a major if you want to get a job upon graduation. Students must also do their research when applying for internships and jobs- research about the company and the position. Only then can students write well-crafted resumes and do well on interviews. [...]
On October 9, the Commit! Partnership had the opportunity to attend the Changing the Odds Conference put on by Momentous Institute, powered by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. The conference brought together hundreds of educators, mental health professionals and others who work with children to collaborate and share innovative ideas to help reach thousands of children across the state. Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times best-selling author, focused his opening talk on the concept of “capitalization rate,” the percentage of people who actually end up achieving their full potential. Gladwell argued the capitalization rate is the best measure of a nation’s health, yet compared to other developed nations, America rates consistently low by this measure. Gladwell gave three main reasons for this: 1) we make the mistake of thinking that talent is scarce; 2) we mistakenly believe that talent is innate; and 3) our view of how talent is developed is far too narrow. Gladwell ended with a call to action to change how we approach the development of talent because that is how future generations will judge our impact on the nation and the world. Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, built off of Gladwell’s call to action by discussing the importance of teaching students to be innovators. Wagner pointed out three challenges for education in today’s world: 1) knowledge is no longer a commodity because of the internet; 2) we are preparing students for a changing workplace and workforce; and 3) we must encourage students to be more motivated to learn. Wagner argued that teaching students to use the available knowledge to innovatively solve problems can address all of these challenges. Wagner also gave actionable implications for teachers and schools. He called for educators to teach and assess the skills that matter most, like problem solving, by allowing students to keep digital portfolios that show the progress of their work. Classes could be taken as credit/no credit to encourage students to build skills instead of focusing on grades. Additionally, Wagner stated that we should fund educational R&D that allows teachers to innovate together in a collaborative setting. Finally, he encouraged teachers to bring structured “Google Time” into classrooms that would allow students to explore projects of their own choosing. Ron Berger, Chief Academic Officer for Expeditionary Learning, then gave examples of schools that are implementing some of the suggestions Wagner offered. Berger stated that students need to have a mission, which allows them to contribute value to their community and school. This builds the idea that you become smarter so that you can do good, which gives students a life-long motivation to continue their education. Berger gave multiple examples of schools that allowed students to explore content in ways that impacted the community around them. He charged us to stop just thinking about the capacity kids have to do great things when they grow up and start realizing kids have the capacity to do great things right now with our support. Expeditionary Learning publishes all [...]