Structures to Support Learning
MacArthur Senior High School
Aldine Independent School District
The campus, which is primarily a Grade 10-12 school, serves a student population (total = 2,353) that is approximately 12% African American, 84% Hispanic, 4% White, 0.8% Asian/Pacific Islander, 83% economically disadvantaged, 7% limited English proficient (LEP), and 57% at risk.
The percentage of MacArthur Senior High School (MSHS) students passing TAKS (all tests) was below the state average when the programming began in 2004–05 but has exceeded the state average since 2007–08. Performance for the at-risk, economically disadvantaged, and LEP student groups also improved over that time. The campus also received and has sustained a Recognized accountability rating since 2006–07. Campus staff reported on a range of additional positive outcomes (see Supporting Evidence for more information).
In this summary, find out how the campus:
- Uses data review and goal setting to address student performance at all levels
- Provides free summer programming for students who failed ninth grade to move them to the next grade level
- Developed an extensive summer program for all students to provide credit recovery, immediate and timely support, and academic enrichment options
- Offers immediate “reteach” opportunities for struggling students through Saturday classes to minimize the number of students who fail courses
- Implemented a supervision structure and planning schedule to support collaborative improvement efforts
- Promotes student participation in extracurricular activities, college planning, and advanced courses/dual enrollment
- Employs professional development and hiring practices that focused on high expectations, enhanced curricular expertise, and providing additional student support
Strategies used by the campus that are aligned with research-based best practices in high school reform include (see Research Base for more information):
- Fostering a positive school climate, including enhancing school safety and promoting a respectful environment
- Assisting students who enter high school with poor academic skills
- Providing academic supports and extended learning opportunities, such as summer bridge programs, supplemental educational services, and Saturday academies
- Designing systems of support to address the needs of students who are “stretching” to take more rigorous coursework
- Incorporating time within the school day for teachers to collaborate on ways to address needs indicated by data and classroom observations
- Promoting distributed leadership and encouraging multiple roles for teacher leaders
- Providing increased opportunities to learn
- Because the district has ninth-grade campuses, enrollment at MSHS consists primarily of students in Grades 10−12, with a small percentage (4.3% in 2009–10) of repeat ninth graders who were not successful at the feeder ninth-grade campus, MacArthur Ninth Grade School (Mac9). The district provides funding for comprehensive high schools to offer free summer school programs for unsuccessful ninth graders to obtain the necessary credits to move into 10th grade.
- The district is organized in vertical feeder clusters of schools aligned with each of the district’s four comprehensive high schools 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 a goal of aligning academic programming across all grade levels (PreK–12).
- The district has built a strong culture of collaboration around continuous data review processes. Across the district, staff at all levels regularly analyzes student data to guide decision making using district-developed review, monitoring, and reporting processes.
- Staff reported that approximately two-thirds of the students at MSHS had participated in a bilingual/ESL program within the last four years and that currently approximately 130 students were actively participating in ESL programming.
- The current principal at MSHS, who has served in the district for almost 20 years, came to the campus in 2004–05.
- The district was the winner of the 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education.
Source: Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS)
Data review, goal setting, and improving school climate
Beginning in 2004–05, campus staff engaged in a process to implement improvement strategies that would simultaneously address student performance at all levels, from the lowest to the highest achievers. After a thorough analysis of campus data, staff worked to implement strategies to quickly improve outcomes for the lowest performing students (including reclassified ninth graders who had failed at Mac9), to move students performing in the middle to the next level, and to provide more advanced academic options for high performing students.
Aligned with this effort, campus staff identified the following focus areas for improvement:
- Summer school credit recovery for repeat ninth graders
- Improvement of TAKS passing rates
- Participation in advanced courses
- College-going plans for all students
- Staff met to disaggregate data and review progress once a month.
- The campus implemented policy to address safety and security issues with substantial consequences for behavioral infractions, allowing increased focus on classroom instruction.
- Staff also worked to get to know students by name and increase the sense of community at the campus. The principal provided a campus training for teachers on relationship building based on effective schools research (for details, see http://www.effectiveschools.com).
- The campus also provided team-building training for teachers from an external provider.
Extended week/year programming to provide credit recovery, immediate and timely support, and academic enrichment options
- The campus developed an extended-year program that included extensive offerings during the summer and throughout the year. Initial offerings included credit recovery classes in all core areas (free), ESL courses for newcomers (for credit), and SAT enrichment classes. Additional offerings added to the programming included Saturday classes targeting specific needs of students identified during the year, and enrichment programming to prepare students for the next grade level. The programming was offered free of charge.
- Free remediation/credit recovery for students who had failed ninth grade at Mac9 was a critical piece of summer programming to address student deficiencies and allow as many reclassified ninth graders as possible to progress to 10th grade.
- For students who had failed courses at MSHS, each year the campus issued invitations to students to participate in the campus’ summer program. The campus also sent contracts for parents and students to sign agreeing to participate.
- The campus also offered courses targeting English language learners (ELL) who were recent arrivals, with classes co-taught by a regular education teacher and a bilingual teacher.
- Saturday class programming was designed based on student needs. For example, because chemistry had been an ongoing problem area for 10th graders, staff looked at data from the first two six weeks of classes and identified struggling students for participation in a series of six, three-hour Saturday classes staffed by strong chemistry teachers to re-teach content from the first two six weeks. If students passed the course, based on pre- and post-testing results using different items from classroom benchmark tests, the campus officially changed student grades for the first two six weeks. This approach, staff reported, allowed students to effectively “retake” the first two six weeks of the course immediately without waiting to fail and retaking in the summer. (Staff reported that 59 of the 63 students taking the most recent offering of the Saturday chemistry course passed and were not going to be held back at the 10th grade level.)
- The campus also offered summer enrichment courses designed to give students performing in the middle a step up in moving to the next grade level and to prepare them to move into AP courses sooner. For example, ninth graders moving into Grade 10 were encouraged to enroll in a preparatory pre-AP chemistry enrichment course and 10th graders moving to Grade 11 were encouraged to enroll in a pre-calculus summer enrichment class. These types of enrichment courses were specifically designed for students who were not identified as honor-level students in the early grade levels and who needed some additional preparation to build their skills.
Supervision structure and planning schedule to support collaborative improvement efforts
- In 2005–06, the campus implemented a structure of supervision aimed at understanding students better, changing instructional strategies, and raising teacher expectations for student performance. The supervision structure included the following staff:
- Assistant principals
- Skills specialists in core content areas who provided department level support. (The campus currently has three skills specialists: one certified in both science and social studies, one for reading/English language arts (ELA), and one in mathematics.Skills specialists wrote curriculum, disaggregated data, modeled lessons, co-taught classes, did pull-out interventions, conducted peer observations and feedback sessions, and taught one course in the master schedule.)
- Department chairs in core content areas, Career and Technical Education (CTE), fine arts, and physical education
- Level leaders or teachers of key courses within departments, for example, geometry or chemistry, who provided support to other teachers
- The principal met with the campus’ assistant principals responsible for monitoring and support in a curriculum area every morning.
- The principal also met twice per month with a campus leadership team to discussion instruction for the month ahead. The team included three of the campus’ assistant principals, all department chairs, skill specialists, a library specialist, a lead counselor, a technology specialist, the testing coordinator, and the campus’ skills coach sponsor, who oversaw a program through which students provided in-class peer tutoring for struggling students, especially new arrivals.
- An academic steering committee that included counseling staff, skill specialists, and department chairs also met once per month to disaggregate data, share lesson plans to enhance co-curricular connections, demonstrate new technology, and design staff development for the summer. Skills specialists, department chairs, and level leaders then met once a week with the lead curriculum assistant principal to write curriculum, develop model lessons, and design staff development plans for campus teachers in their subject area. They also conducted teacher conferences (individual or group) as needed. A critical responsibility of this group was to prepare for daily departmental planning periods (see below).
- Based on a district requirement, the campus established daily 45-minute departmental planning periods in 2005–06. At MSHS, on Mondays, all teachers in the department met together with a 20-minute block dedicated to testing updates and other administrative business. Tuesday through Thursday, teachers met with level leaders to work together on lesson development for their specific course, review data for their course, and address other issues, such as, for example, review of student diagnostic benchmark scores for course placement the following year. During this time, teachers wrote curriculum and engaged in academic discussions about content and instruction. On Fridays, all teachers met as a department to review and finalize lesson plans for their classes and submit them into the district’s online curriculum management system.
- The campus identified a separate conference period for student/parent conferences to ensure that staff members were not having to schedule conferences during the time allocated for departmental planning.
Focus on participation in extracurricular activities, college planning, and dual enrollment
- The campus made special efforts to recruit students for participation in extracurricular activities. Staff reported that extracurricular activities were critical to student engagement, especially for students performing at the low and middle levels.
- A recently established and growing campus alumni association met monthly (and informally on an ongoing basis through Facebook) to organize campus support activities. For example, the alumni association sponsored an organizational round-up to promote participation in extracurricular activities for 10th graders and new students. Two students and the staff sponsor from all campus clubs, athletic teams, and other organizations staffed booths to recruit members. The event was organized like a job-fair/carnival with information and prizes for students. Staff reported that membership in extracurricular organizations increased significantly as a result.
- The principal and counselors “hand” scheduled students involved in some extracurricular activities to avoid conflicts and ensure student success, reporting that activities such as band, athletics, JROTC, and participation in fine arts groups were important to the campus culture.
- The campus also offered several college support programs, and counselors were critical in providing extra support to students and families.
- Each year, counselors identified a group of students at the beginning of their junior year who were in the 25th-60th percentile in their class and held meetings with those students to encourage them to participate in the campus’ “Jump Start” program. Interested students applied to participate in visits to colleges and to hear speakers from college campuses. Counselors provided ongoing support in college advising and the application process.
- All 10th graders at the campus were required to take the PSAT, and all students registered for an online SAT preparation course through CTE courses and/or foreign language courses beginning in Grade 10. Fees were waived for those students eligible for free or reduced price lunch. The campus administered the SAT (and ACT) exam on campus to make it more convenient for students to participate. Extracurricular sponsors monitored registration and participation of students participating in extracurricular activities.
- The principal emphasized that while the campus promoted four-year college plans, counselors and other campus staff also encouraged students to develop two-year plans that allowed them to attend community college and work, as many students did not have the financial resources to attend four-year colleges.
- The campus also operated a successful Upward Bound program in coordination with the area community college (for details, see http://www.lonestar.edu/upward-bound.htm). Two community college staff members served as Upward Bound advisors and were on campus every day working with groups of students participating in the program.
- The campus also created multiple programs to provide support for seniors, including an Adopt-a-Senior program through which every staff member “adopted” 2-3 seniors to “watch” throughout the school year, meet and talk with them, and make sure they were on the right track and not experiencing difficulties. Two staff sponsors coordinated the program, and all activities for student/teacher meetings were pre-designed by the principal and sponsors. The principal provided guidelines and training to staff involved in the program.
- The campus provided ongoing college-planning counseling for all students, and three meetings a year for parents, with regular mailings and announcements about college planning support and deadlines.
- The principal met with counselors weekly and teachers monthly to ensure that staff was getting out college-related information and providing opportunities for students to work on college applications. In 2009−10, the campus included a college essay as part of a required benchmark exam in English IV to give students practice in applying for scholarships and college admittance. This requirement provided a draft essay that students could use to complete applications.
- Staff also reported that counselors worked one-on-one with students and families to fill out financial aid, scholarship, and college applications. This effort was especially critical for families who did not have computers at home.
- Dual enrollment courses in government and economics were offered through a partnership with the community college system. The campus provided transportation and support with books as needed. A campus counselor went to the college campus every Wednesday to advise MSHS dual credit students. The campus also had staff qualified to offer English III and IV for dual-enrollment credit. Staff reported that large numbers of students took dual credit classes. The campus also planned to soon offer dual credit courses in Spanish, art, and government.
- In addition, the campus’ alumni association had begun to organize a range of additional student support activities. For example, alumni teachers worked with repeat ninth graders, organized special recognitions for students who performed at the Commended level on TAKS, and arranged for alumni to speak to students at assemblies about college and career opportunities. Alumni also organized support through materials, scholarships, and booster organizations.
Professional development and hiring practices to focus on high expectations, enhance curricular expertise, and provide additional student support
- All teachers were required to complete 40 hours of professional development each year.1 Campus departments designed staff development plans that addressed teacher and student needs. Within these plans, all teachers were required to participate in several hours of Gifted and Talented (G/T) level training to increase the rigor of instruction and raise expectations for student learning. The principal also encouraged all teachers to participate in pre-AP/AP training.
- Each year, teachers signed up for activities to provide extra time, attention, and support for students, which staff reported contributed to positive teacher-student relationships.
- Staff also emphasized that hiring practices were a critical consideration to ensure curricular expertise and commitment to providing additional student support. For example:
- Assistant principals were hired based on core curriculum background with less emphasis on disciplinary experience.
- Department chairs were required to have teaching experience at the middle and high school levels.
- Skills specialists were required to have composite certification with specific core curriculum knowledge.
- The campus identified interview teams to participate in hiring decisions, usually involving the principal and two teachers from the relevant department and usually an additional teacher.
- Interview teams developed questions collaboratively and participated in interviews with applicants. One emphasis during the interview was asking applicants what activities they were interested in participating in to provide additional support for students beyond regular classroom teaching, tutorials, and staff development.
- Staff also said that assessing applicants’ willingness to grow and work as a team were key in hiring decisions.
- G/T and pre-AP/AP training for all teachers
- Training provided by principal in relationship building
- Team building training for teachers
Resources, Cost Components, and Sources of Funding:
Funding sources included a TEA Ninth Grade Transition and Intervention Program grant. Extended-year programming (enrichment and on-grade-level/credit recovery courses) was offered to students free of charge with district funding from Title I and state compensatory education funds. In addition, district/campus funds from the state’s Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Incentive Program were used to purchase books for students participating in AP or dual credit courses who could not afford them.
Cost components included the following:
- Staffing for summer program and Saturday classes
- Staff development and materials
- Staff reported that the initial focus on increased safety and security decreased distractions and discipline issues, which resulted in higher student engagement and the opportunity to provide higher quality instruction.
- Staff reported that the organizational structure and staff development expectations had been effectively embedded into the campus culture, and the campus was seeing results including a significant decrease in the number of repeat ninth graders and a large increase in the number of students taking advanced courses. Staff emphasized that the complex nature of high schools meant that “everything affects everything else” and comprehensive, not isolated, strategies needed to be undertaken.
- A reported challenge was convincing staff to change and do things differently. The principal reported that because the emphasis in teacher training for certification at the high school level was on content, professional development opportunities needed to be provided that allowed teachers to develop instructional skills and techniques (such as grouping, differentiation). The campus’ G/T and AP training expectations also supported teacher professional growth.
- Staff also emphasized that ensuring that staff placed in leadership roles had the appropriate knowledge and experience was critical for team structures.
Established Best Practice
Overview of Evidence:
The campus began implementation of strategies associated with the practice in 2004−05. Since that time, the percentage of MSHS students (all students) passing TAKS (all tests) improved above the state average2 and averages of a peer campus comparison group that included 40 peer campuses.3 The performance of MSHS student groups also improved and was above both state and peer campus group averages for similar students.
The percentage of MSHS students passing TAKS (all tests) increased from 56% passing in 2005–06, compared to the state average of 57% and the peer campus group average of 45%, to 77% passing in 2009–10, compared to the state average of 72% and the peer campus group average of 67%. The percentage of MSHS at-risk students passing all TAKS increased from 43% passing in 2005–06, compared to the state at-risk student average of 38% and the peer campus group at-risk student average of 30%, to 65% passing in 2009–10, compared to the state average of 54% and the peer campus group average of 54%. All comparisons were statistically significant (p<.05). Chart 1 shows trend data comparing the percentage of all MSHS students and the at-risk student group passing all TAKS to the state and peer campus group averages from 2005–06 to 2009–10.
The percentage of MSHS economically disadvantaged students passing TAKS (all tests) increased from 53% passing in 2005–06, compared to the state average for economically disadvantaged students of 41% and the peer campus group average for economically disadvantaged students of 42%, to 77% passing in 2009–10, compared to the state average of 63% and the peer campus group average of 65%. All comparisons were statistically significant (p>.05). The percentage of MSHS LEP students passing TAKS (all tests) increased from 17% passing in 2005–06, compared to the state average for LEP students of 12%, and the peer campus group average for LEP students of 12%, to 33% passing in 2009–10, compared to the state average of 31%, and the peer campus group average of 30%. Comparisons with similar students in the state were statistically significant (p>.05) in 2005–06, 2006–07, and 2008–09. Comparisons with similar students in the peer campus group were statistically significant (p>.05) in 2005–06, 2007–08, and 2008–09. Chart 2 shows trend data comparing the percentage of economically disadvantaged and LEP students passing TAKS to the state and peer campus group averages from 2005–06 to 2009–10.
Campus staff reported additional positive outcomes. Efforts to help students who had failed ninth grade at the MacArthur Ninth Grade School (Mac9) meet the requirements to move into 10th grade at MSHS through intensive credit recovery options in the campus’ free summer school program had been effective, and the number of repeat ninth graders served by the campus had decreased. In addition, though still below the state average, the campus had increased advanced course/dual enrollment from 14.3% in 2004–05, compared to the state average of 20.5%, to 19.8% in 2008–09 (the most current year for which data were available) compared to the state average of 24.6%.
Source: Texas Assessment Management System
Source: Texas Assessment Management System
MacArthur Senior High School
Aldine Independent School District
4400 Aldine Mail Route
Houston, TX 77039
1The TEA Office of Educator Standards encourages teachers to take a minimum of 30 clock hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) annually (for details, see http://www.sbec.state.tx.us/SBECOnline/certinfo/classteach.pdf.)
2Campus and state averages are weighted averages based on the grade level(s) of the practice. Enrollment at MSHS consists primarily of students in Grades 10−12, with a small percentage (4.3% in 2009–10) of repeat ninth graders who were not successful at the ninth grade campus.
3Peer campuses were identified using the campus groups used in Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) reporting. For more information on how campus groups are identified, see the AEIS Glossary, http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/aeis/2009/glossary.html.