Structures to Support Learning
Aldine Independent School District (Aldine ISD)
Academically Acceptable (2008−09)
BPC Year of Recognition:
2009–10 (2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education Winner)
BPC Evidence Type:
Established Best Practice
Purpose of Program:
To provide systematic support and interventions for all campuses and student groups
- Procedures to support continuous monitoring of student performance data
- Program directors and structures to support strong collaboration in planning and providing interventions
- Accelerated school model to support intensive district/campus intervention plans for schools in need of additional support
- Additional staffing, training, and intervention supports
Overview of Evidence:
Since 2004–05, the percentages of Aldine ISD economically disadvantaged, Limited English Proficient (LEP), and at-risk students passing TAKS (all tests) were consistently above those for similar student groups in terms of both state averages and peer district comparison group averages that included data from seven peer districts matched by size and type.1
For Aldine ISD students identified as economically disadvantaged, the percentage passing TAKS (all tests) increased from 58% in 2004–05, compared to the state average of 51%, to 73% passing in 2008–09, compared to the state average of 65%. For Aldine ISD students identified as LEP, the percentage passing increased from 53% in 2004–05, compared to the state average of 39%, to 70% passing in 2008–09, compared to the state average of 56%. For Aldine ISD students identified as at risk, the percentage passing increased from 45% in 2004–05, compared to the state average of 37%, to 63% passing in 2008–09, compared to the state average of 54%. Chart 1 shows trend data comparing the percentage of Aldine ISD economically disadvantaged, LEP, and at-risk students passing TAKS (all tests) to the state averages for similar student groups from 2004–05 to 2008–09.
For Aldine ISD students identified as economically disadvantaged, the percentage passing increased from 58% in 2004–05, compared to the peer district group average of 57%, to 73% passing in 2008–09, compared to the peer district group average 69%. For Aldine ISD students identified as LEP, the percentage passing increased from 53% in 2004–05, compared to the peer district group average of 46%, to 70% passing in 2008–09, compared to the peer district group average of 60%. For Aldine ISD students identified as at risk, the percentage passing increased from 45% in 2004–05, compared to the peer district group average of 45%, to 63% passing in 2008–09, compared to the peer district group average of 61%. Chart 2 shows trend data comparing the percentage of Aldine ISD economically disadvantaged, LEP, and at-risk students passing TAKS (all tests) compared to the peer district comparison group averages for similar student groups from 2004–05 to 2008–09.
The BPC compared the Aldine ISD student groups discussed above (economically disadvantaged, LEP, and at-risk) to similar student groups in the state. Each comparison across all student groups was statistically significant (p<.05). Effect sizes for the LEP student group were above .25 in each school year. Additionally, the effect sizes for economically disadvantaged (2006–07) and for at-risk (2006–07 to 2007–08) were above .25. This information indicates that the district demonstrated substantively higher TAKS passing rates compared to the state for the LEP student group across all years and for the economically disadvantaged and at-risk student groups in the specified years.
The BPC also compared identified student groups from Aldine ISD to similar students in the peer district comparison group. Each comparison was statistically significant (p<.05) across all student groups with the exception of the at-risk student group in 2004–05. Effect sizes were above .25 for the LEP student group in each school year except 2004–05, indicating that the district demonstrated substantively higher TAKS passing rates for the LEP student group compared to similar students in peer districts from 2005–06 to 2008–09.
Source: Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS)
- The district is organized in vertical feeder clusters of schools aligned with each of the district’s four senior high schools and headed by an area superintendent for the cluster. Leadership from the approximately 13 schools in each vertical team meets on a bi-monthly basis with the goal of aligning academic programming across all grades (PreK–12).
- Aldine ISD’s online curriculum management system, Triand, provides scope-and-sequence documents in most subject areas and across all grade levels aligned with district-developed common six-week benchmark assessments and three- and six-weekformative assessments (for details, see www.mytriand.com). The system provides immediate results from assessments for district, campus, and teacher analysis. Teachers and district staff also share instructional resources through Triand, which provides a web-based lesson planning tool aligned with assessments. A comprehensive set of model lessons are vetted and shared by the district’s Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) Department. Teachers are allowed a high degree of autonomy in designing classroom instruction using these tools.The district planned to move to a new system called eduphoria! in 2010−11 (for details, see http://www.eduphoria.net/default.aspx).
- As the 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education winner (and a Broad Prize finalist in 2004, 2005, and 2008), Aldine ISD was one of five urban districts featured in Bringing School Reform to Scale (Zavadsky, 2009), which reports on comprehensive, large-scale strategies leading to student academic gains in Broad Prize-winning districts. For details, see http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/110/BringingSchoolReformToScale.
- Information and documents relating to the best practice strategies described below can be accessed through finalist and winner fact sheets (for details, see http://www.broadprize.org/past_winners/map.html) and the Best Practice Tools section of the Broad Prize website (for details, see http://www.broadprize.org/resources/tools/district/district.html).
- Many of the strategies included in this summary are long-standing practices that have evolved and been refined over time. A Broad Prize profile of Aldine ISD characterizes the district’s overall management approach as “loose-tight,” providing a high level of guidance but also a high degree of autonomy for decision making at every level based on rigorous data review procedures. This approach has resulted in a highly collaborative culture that provides consistency and flexibility districtwide (for details, seehttp://www.broadprize.org/asset/1177-tbp2008aldinefactsheet.pdf).
Demographics (2008-09)Source: Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS)
- Comprehensive districtwide professional development program designed to meet district/campus needs
- Training in data analysis
- Training in Response to Intervention (RtI)
- Campuses were recommended for or sought intervention support based on ongoing analysis of student performance data or if the principal was new to the campus or a new program had been implemented.
Procedures to support continuous monitoring of student performance data
- The Triand system provided immediate results from assessments for district, campus, and teacher analysis, allowing staff at all levels to regularly analyze student data to guide decision making.
- Reports provided analysis of results on benchmark assessments by student group. Assessment summary reports provided detailed item analysis by content areas and school levels to identify areas of strength and weakness.
- After six-week assessments, district staff reviewed data to identify programs, schools, and teachers having the most impact and to identify areas requiring intervention.
- Campus staff used district-provided data-review protocols during common planning periods for campus-level data analysis immediately after assessments.
- Each six weeks,the superintendent met with area superintendents from each vertical team to review all data for all campuses in the cluster.
- Some area superintendents and principals required teachers to complete TAKS and Common Assessment Test (CAT) reflection worksheets to help teachers identify strengths and weaknesses at the classroom level and reflect on interventions that worked and those that did not.
- Campus budget templates included a built-in needs assessment form to help campus staff identify school improvement priorities associated with data review. Principals were trained in how to assess campus needs, how to use data to evaluate success of school efforts, and how to incorporate stakeholder input and evaluation in making budget decisions. Principals managed budgets using a spreadsheet-based system called Automated Budget Coordination (ABC), and the district budget director carefully reviewed campus budgets for alignment with campus improvement plans.
- Sample documents associated with these strategies can be viewed at http://www.broadprize.org/resources/tools/district/district.html, Aldine―Analyzing Data to Improve Instruction.
Program directors and structures to support strong collaboration in planning and providing interventions
- The district organized benchmarking and common assessments, curriculum review and refinement, interventions at the district and campus level, and a comprehensive professional development program through program director positions. These staff served as a primary link for monitoring and intervention service delivery at the campus level.
- Each area that provided direct student services had assigned program directors who were responsible for providing support services to campuses. Program directors were identified for content areas and school levels, student groups (e.g., special education, multilingual), or other programs such as Title I and Career and Technical Education (CTE).
- The district identified a program director in each of the four core content areas as well as other content areas such as art for each school level (elementary/intermediate, middle, and high school).
- The Special Education Department had program directors assigned to every campus in the district.
- Program directors in the Multilingual Services Department were assigned to campuses by need/request.
- Title I program directors provided services districtwide and worked in close collaboration with other program directors. Title I program directors organized a popular districtwide professional development event called Super Saturday twice a year that provided training and strategies to address identified areas of need in all subject areas.
- The CTE Department had one director and three program directors who collaborated extensively with and received training from other program directors, for example, in multilingual services. The CTE Department also worked closely with special education program directors, with extensive training in identification as well as teaching strategies.
- Program directors were assigned to campuses based on needs identified through district data review processes. Area superintendents or principals could also request program director support for a specific school to support campus improvement initiatives.
- Content area program directors and departments or units addressing the needs of specific student groups or student programs, such as multilingual education, special education, CTE, and Title I, were either organizationally placed under the umbrella of C&I or were housed in the same building to facilitate collaboration. For example, Title I program directors worked functionally through C&I but also had some Title I requisition/accounting and grant reporting responsibilities through the Finance Department.
- Coordination of interventions provided by program directors and supported by supplementary educational funding through federal/state programs and other external grants was achieved through a series of meetings each year that provided a structured feedback and evaluation loop involving the district’s superintendent and assistant superintendents, curriculum program directors, area superintendents, and campus principals.
- To prioritize discretionary funding, in the spring and fall, directors of the various state and federal programs met with the district cabinet to discuss district needs and projected funding allocations and guidelines for the various programs (e.g., consolidated NCLB, state compensatory education, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or ARRA), usually based on the previous year’s funding and any state/federal communication about funding cuts or changes. The district cabinet included the superintendent, assistant superintendents (C&I, Finance, Community and Governmental Relations, Human Resources, and Administration) and the area superintendents.
- At this level, the district determined district priorities based on needs identified through analysis of district-level data. For example, the district supported a skills specialist in science at every campus to address science performance supported by state compensatory education funds. The district also funded two additional skills specialists at each high school and one skills specialist at middle and elementary campuses. Additionally, principals could hire additional skill specialists from campus budgets if indicated by their campus needs assessments.
- The directors of all grant programs met with area superintendents to discuss needs of campuses in feeder patterns, district-support priorities, and campus allocations associated with state and federal programs. Federal/state/special programs staff then conducted a meeting involving all principals to discuss district and campus priorities followed by individual meetings with campus principals to discuss specific campus allocations.
- At the campus level, in addition to the needs assessment form built into the overall school budgeting template allowing principals to articulate school improvement priorities, a district-developed online planning tool that included a salary calculator supported principals in making budgeting decisions for supplemental funding.
- As part of the budget analysis process, district staff and campus principals filled out detailed program evaluation forms by area of supplemental funding (e.g., Title I) to assess the effectiveness of implemented programs, including challenges and recommended changes. This data was used by staff at all levels to evaluate, modify, and share good practices and interventions.
- Federal/state/special program staff also attended program director meetings or directors from those areas funded by federal programs (special education, NCLB, and multilingual services) met regularly with the director of federal/state/special programs.
- All district departments used a peer review process to frequently survey school personnel about the quality of services departments offered.
Accelerated school model to support intensive district/campus intervention plans for schools in need of additional support
- Each year, after analyzing TAKS data in the summer, the C&I Department identified “accelerated” schools (typically three) for intensive improvement support from the district. Accelerated schools were identified based on recommendations from area superintendents and also program directors (described above). Recommendations were based on poor TAKS or AYP performance for a campus or a student group at the campus, or, proactively, if a new principal was assigned to a school or a campus had higher than normal turnover and had hired many new teachers.
- A program director in the appropriate area/department was assigned to each identified accelerated campus to work directly with the school in developing an intensive action plan to address the specific improvement needs for the campus. The program director conducted an initial planning meeting with the campus leadership team to discuss specific actions to address the area of need and provided a detailed follow-up summary memo and schedule documenting the plan.
- The program director then supported the campus in a variety of ways, and each campus received individualized, unique support tailored to its needs. For example, the program director might meet with the grade-level teachers to plan lessons, model lessons, observe classrooms, and give feedback on instruction and instructional strategies. In addition, the program director met with campus administrators to target individual teachers in need of more support.
- Targeted professional development was often a key component of the program. Professional development attendance and follow-up assignments were carefully documented in a staff development summary linked to the intervention plan.
- Intensive ongoing monitoring was conducted through regular observations by principals and program directors.
- After each six-week assessment, the program director met with the targeted grade level or department at the campus to analyze the data, using the district‘s data analysis protocol. Based on this data, individual student interventions were planned, students were placed in flexible groups for re-teaching, and plans to extend and enrich instruction for students who mastered target concepts were made.
- Also at the end of each six weeks, program directors met with the assistant superintendent or executive director for C&I, the area superintendent, and principal, and the campus team to review accelerated campus data. At this meeting, the program director shared campus progress as well as any continuing concerns. Plans were made at the district level to modify the approach for each accelerated campus, as needed.
- Sample documents associated with these strategies can be viewed at http://www.broadprize.org/resources/tools/district/district.html, Aldine―Intervening in Low Performing Schools.
Additional staffing, training, and intervention supports
- Skills specialists at each campus were funded by the district and chosen by the principal. The district provided funding to support two skills specialists at the high school level and one at the middle and elementary levels. The principal identified the areas in which the campus needed a specialist, for example, 4th grade mathematics, or special education, or ESL, and hired the specialist. The principal also had the discretion to hire additional skills specialists in areas of need using campus funds and based on campus needs assessments.
- Each campus also had a trained campus early intervention team consisting of a chair (usually the principal or an assistant principal), a counselor, a classroom teacher, and a campus interventionist or skills specialist.
- The district developed a comprehensive in-house professional development system that was constantly updated to address district and campus needs. Registration and participation in professional development were automated so that staff could see who had attended professional development.
- For sample documents on the district’s professional development program please visit http://www.broadprize.org/resources/tools/district/district.html Aldine―Designing a Comprehensive Professional Development Program.
- Since 2007, the district was also in the process of implementing a Response to Intervention (RtI) program. Key district and campus staff received training from an external consultant. Tier I interventions were incorporated into the districtwide professional development program to ensure that key instructional strategies such as grouping or differentiated instruction were being used in all classrooms.
- To support a final push toward full RtI implementation, the district used ARRA funds to provide an RtI teacher at each campus for two years to get all RtI processes in place (e.g., protocols and processes for entry/exit into tier structure, monitoring.)
Resources, Cost Components, and Sources of Funding:
Funding sources include district funds and supplemental funding through federal, state, and special programs, including, but not limited to, NCLB Title programs, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding, ARRA, state compensatory education, High School Allotment (HSA), and a variety of other state and externally funded special initiatives.
- Agullard, K., & Goughnour, D. S. (2006). Central office inquiry: Assessing organization, roles, and actions to support school improvement. WestEd: San Francisco.
- Honig, M. I., & Hatch, T. C. (2004) Crafting coherence: How schools strategically manage multiple, external demands. Educational Researcher (33)8, 16-30. Retrieved from http://edr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/33/8/16
- Rorrer, A. K., Skrla, L., & Scheurich, J. J. (2008). Districts as institutional actors in educational reform. Educational Administration Quarterly (44)3, 307–357. Retrieved from http://eaq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/44/3/307
- The district’s culture and organizational strategies promoted strong relationships and professional collaboration. In addition, even with a high degree of accountability and guidance, staff members at every level enjoyed flexibility and autonomy in making professional decisions and were encouraged to take risks in meeting campus and district goals.
- Through continuous training and implementation of RtI structures, staff reported there had been a steady decline in referrals of students for special education.