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:
- Using data to uncover effective practices:
After reviewing achievement trends in Dallas County, we visited eight elementary schools across the county that achieved top quartile math performance in Grades 3-5 while serving a significant proportion of economically disadvantaged students. Through the leadership of district partners and subject matter experts, we uncovered themes around quality instruction, data-driven culture, student engagement, school environment, and family engagement.
- Building a partnership:
The next step was identifying districts that (a) were ready, willing, and able to execute on a data-driven partnership and (b) demonstrated an opportunity to improve student outcomes. We built district-specific math data packets that compared performance relative to expectations and relative to other districts in the County. Using what we learned from our tour of over-performing campuses, we proposed a partnership structure with regular data-dives and targeted “early win” projects to help impact math achievement.
- Learning from the schools in the partnership:
Over the summer, we visited with all 15 participating elementary schools to understand their ongoing efforts and goals for the upcoming school year and to document key needs for support around data, professional development, blended learning resources, and school culture.
We are currently in the process of working with principals to analyze disaggregated data and set goals for Year 1. Thus far, principals have been enthused about the focus on math education and have started to develop some innovative ideas. We’re excited to be working with two forward-thinking districts dedicated to improving achievement for its students, and we look forward to sharing more as this network develops.