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 Foundation’s support of education, please contact Gail Chandler. If you know of an outlier educational achievement, a ‘bright spot,’ in Dallas County please contact Carissa Grisham of the Commit! Partnership.

To automatically recieve the next installment in this series, fill out the form below or check on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag “#DallasBrightSpots”.