A bold choice: not reinventing the wheel

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An ambitious Dallas ISD plan to bring seven schools out of “Improvement Required” (IR) status, Texas’ current accountability rating that indicates the need to raise academic achievement, is coming soon to four schools in Richardson ISD. The program, called Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE), is in its third year in Dallas and has proven to be a critical step toward better schools for all students.

ACE has five components aimed at driving improvement, each of which has correlated objectives. The previous two years of data show us what’s working and what still needs to be figured out:

  1. Effective principals and teachers: District leaders are utilizing their teacher evaluation and compensation system, TEI, to identify effective teachers and provide incentives to move to ACE schools. Though retention rates have not climbed to the 90% goal set by district leaders, ACE campuses have three times more “exemplary” teachers than the district as a whole. In addition, ACE schools’ percentage of teachers “below proficient” is nearly half the percentage at non-ACE IR schools.
  2. Instructional excellence: By focusing on teacher quality, the district hopes to improve instruction. In grades K-2, ACE schools outpaced the district average for students reading on grade level. On the district’s standardized final exams (ACPs), ACE students outpaced non-ACE IR schools on all elementary tests and 37.5% of middle school tests. STAAR passing rates for elementary students surpassed non-ACE IR schools on all tests, while middle schoolers’ rates were comparable or worse than non-ACE IR schools.
  3. Extended learning: ACE schools have longer school days, build in more time for tutoring and support, and provide more meals to students. To determine if this strategy is working, the district is tracking course grades. Though ACE schools have not met their performance targets from the district, approximately the same percentage of their students are passing courses compared to those in non-IR schools.
  4. Social-emotional support: Comprehensive supports have led to an 85% reduction in discipline referrals over the span of two years. In addition, student perception surveys are now above the district average.
  5. Parent and community partnership: To increase attendance rates, ACE schools seek to involve parents and the community in schools. Though their 96% attendance rate has not been met at every school, none dropped below 90% in any six-week period last year.

The bottom line is six out of seven Dallas ACE campuses shed their IR status in year one. Literacy rates more than doubled. Students became happier with their schools and are more likely to show up every day. Those are big wins, and it’s not surprising Richardson is interested in the ACE program. We are thrilled to see these districts working together to share lessons learned and get ACE up and running next year.

If you would like to learn more about school turnaround and the roles districts and the state can take in the work, join us for our 2018 Impact Summit where we will have a rock star panel of researchers and practitioners discussing the issue!

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