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BPC News  April 2011, Volume 2, Issue 2

Hot Topics

Algebra Readiness Webinar
May 5, 2011, 11:30 a.m. Central Time (CT) 
Join us for a BPC webinar focused on Algebra Readiness featuring Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy in Dallas ISD, a campus identified by TEA as an Algebra Readiness Exemplar Campus. Greiner staff will discuss the campus’ approach to improving algebra readiness for all students. See this issue’s Featured Best Practice for more information about Greiner's efforts to prepare students for success in algebra.  Webinar registration information.

Texas Recognized for College and Career Readiness Policies
In its sixth annual report, Closing the Expectations Gap 2011, Achieve, Inc., identified Texas as the only state in the country to implement all key college and career readiness policies graded by the organization—alignment of curriculum standards, graduation requirements, assessments, P–20 data systems, and accountability systems. Specifically, Texas was recognized for:

  • publicly reporting school performance information, setting state performance goals, providing school-level incentives, and employing measurements weighted heavily towards college and career readiness indicators 
  • adopting English language arts and mathematics standards that reflect college-ready knowledge and skills
  • establishing college-ready graduation requirements that include Algebra II and English IV
  • administering college-readiness tests in English and mathematics
  • providing a data system that allows public schools and universities to match longitudinal student-level data

For more information and to view key results by state, read the full report on Closing the Expectations Gap. Achieve is a national bipartisan education reform group. Each year, on the anniversary of the 2005 National Education Summit on High Schools, Achieve releases a 50-state progress report on the alignment of high school policies with the demands of college and careers.

New Research and Resources
Project Share
Project Share is a new initiative designed to support the development and delivery of high quality professional development in an interactive and engaging learning environment. Project Share uses a collection of Web 2.0 tools and applications to provide training resources for teachers across the state. Project Share also gives educators the ability to join professional learning communities (PLC), explore content repositories, and use online instructional materials. Visit to learn more and view an online course catalog.

For comments and suggestions…

For comments or suggestions on the BPC newsletter, please contact TEA Statewide Policy and Programs at 512-463-9451.

Spotlight On

Texas Algebra Ready

The Texas Algebra Readiness Initiative provides 1) materials and diagnostics to allow teachers to target and assess specific curriculum focal points; 2) professional development for teachers in elementary, middle, and high school; and 3) grant opportunities to prepare Texas students to be algebra ready. Descriptions and/or links to key components of the Algebra Readiness Initiative are provided below.

Texas Response to Curriculum Focal Points (TxRCFP) (K8)—organizes the TEKS around key conceptual ideas that emphasize integration of concepts across the strands/skills and lead naturally to mathematical connections and higher-level thinking. The TxRCFP is available at

Middle School Students in Texas Algebra Ready (MSTAR) Universal Screener—a formative assessment system administered to students in Grades 5–8 to support instructional decisions, with content based on algebra readiness skills as identified in the Texas Response to the Curriculum Focal Points (TxRCFP). Results can help teachers identify students who might not be ready for algebra and are in need of additional instructional support. Teachers will be able to monitor students' risk status by administering comparable forms of the MSTAR Universal Screener in fall, winter, and early spring. Administrations dates will be sent out on the mathematics listserv and will be posted on the Texas Math and Science Diagnostic System (TMSDS). Teachers, students, and administrators can use their 201011 TMSDS usernames and passwords to access the MSTAR Universal Screener. To find out how to upload students into TMSDS, visit or contact the TMSDS representative at your educational service center (ESC). You may contact if you have any questions. Online training focused on interpreting reports and making instructional decisions based on the data is available on Project Share through an online course called “MSTAR Universal Screener Overview.”

Algebra Readiness Academies — TEA provides a number of professional development opportunities to help teachers prepare students for success in algebra. Visit Project Share and the Texas Algebra Ready website to find out more about these training opportunities.

Upcoming summer 2011 professional development opportunities include:

MSTAR Academy 1 Part B Completion — will engage participants in the use of data-driven decision-making within the MSTAR Lesson Study model to plan, review, and refine Tier I mathematics instruction.

MSTAR Academy II — emphasizes research-based Tier II strategies from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Practice Guide for students struggling in mathematics and provides guidance for participants in identification of students needing Tier II support in mathematics and on strategies to meet their instructional needs.

Algebra II EOCS — will allow participants to examine the concepts in the Algebra II TEKS and learn strategies through the exploration of hands-on, student-centered lessons designed to provide connections to and strengthen participants’ knowledge of College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS), and Response to Intervention (RtI).

Geometry EOCS ­— will allow participants to examine the concepts in the Geometry TEKS and learn strategies through the exploration of hands-on, student-centered lessons designed to provide connections to and strengthen participants’ knowledge of College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS), and Response to Intervention (RtI).

For more information about TEA Algebra Readiness grant opportunities, see

Featured Best Practice

Teacher Collaboration to Support Algebra Readiness—Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy (Dallas ISD)
Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy has, in a relatively short time, refined a model for preparing more students for success in mathematics and was identified by TEA as one of eight exemplar campuses implementing key practices in Algebra Readiness. The campus serves a student population that is approximately 87% Hispanic, 86% economically disadvantaged, and 48% at risk. Since 2006–07, the campus has increased participation in Pre-AP math in Grades 6–7 and in Grade 8 Algebra I from 20% to almost 50% of students, while maintaining a high level of rigor in both courses. Campuswide TAKS performance in mathematics has also improved from 74% passing in 2005–06 to 89% passing in 2009–10, with an increase in the percentage of students performing at the Commended level, from 12% in 2005–06 to 32% in 2009–10.  

To realize these gains, the campus implemented rigorous expectations for collaborative planning time for grade-level and departmental teams. Each teacher is expected to conduct systematic research and share expertise to guide lesson planning and curriculum development on an ongoing basis. Each summer, teachers review data and create an annual master plan for mathematics instruction that is continuously enhanced and modified throughout the year based on data review and teacher research. Across grade levels, teachers demonstrate lessons on key concepts/strands to ensure that strategies, concept presentation, vocabulary, and scaffolding are aligned vertically and provide coherence. Multiple extended learning opportunities, such as tutoring, Saturday school, and enrichment courses are also offered by the campus. Student, teacher, and departmental profiles based on performance results are generated regularly to pinpoint student support and teacher professional development needs. While the campus does not have a designated mathematics coach, the mathematics department has implemented a peer coaching model, pairing teachers (new and veteran alike) with master teachers or teachers skilled in the area of need to ensure continuous professional growth.

Please view Greiner's best practice summary here. The campus will be featured in an upcoming BPC webinar to be held at 11:30 a.m. Central Time, May 5, 2011. For registration details, visit the BPC webinars page .

New Best Practices

Mastering the Grade-Level TEKS to Improve Algebra Readiness at Lufkin Middle School
Another TEA-identified Algebra Readiness Exemplar Campus, Lufkin Middle School in Lufkin ISD, engaged in a long-term effort to reorient and reinvigorate mathematics instruction through teacher training and curriculum development. Using a curricular approach based on strict adherence to teaching the grade-level TEKS in depth, teachers plan together on a daily basis and share activities and common assessments to align instruction and facilitate data review. Teachers also use a variety of strategies, including use of manipulatives, technology, and website resources, to help students visualize content concepts and to increase student engagement. Mathematics Parents Nights are held to demonstrate how key concepts are taught so parents can support students with homework. Over the last five years, mathematics TAKS performance has been consistently above state averages and increased from 80% to 89% passing. Performance for the African American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged student groups at the campus have also exceeded state averages for similar students, with performance gains of over 10 percentage points for each group since 2005

MSTAR Grantee Hogg Middle School engages students with 90-minute, technology-based math course
Hogg Middle School (Tyler ISD) implemented new algebra readiness programming in Grades 7–8 with support from a Middle School Students in Texas: Algebra Ready (MSTAR) Pilot grant in 2009–10. The campus piloted a double-blocked mathematics course for targeted groups of students struggling in mathematics to provide problem-based instruction, lesson extensions using a supplemental technology-based curriculum package, and extended learning time. As part of the MSTAR Pilot, the campus implemented the nine key research-based Algebra Readiness practices identified by TEA in alignment with recommendations from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, (see MSTAR Pilot for more information). After the first year, over 40% of Grade 7 students participating in the program—almost all of whom had previously failed mathematics TAKS—passed in 2010; similarly more than 60% of Grade 8 participants passed. The campus has since implemented the program at Grade 6 and now offers extended learning time in mathematics to more students needing extra support.

Early Intervention Model at Houston ISD’s Lantrip Elementary Shows Dramatic Gains
Lantrip Elementary in Houston ISD, a 2009 Blue Ribbon School and a Title I Distinguished School (200910), has seen student achievement in reading and mathematics improve from at or below state averages to 95% of students passing TAKS in both subject areas in 2009–10. Using professional learning communities to align instruction, create common assessments, review data, and collaborate to address student needs, the campus also implemented a 3-tiered intervention process that emphasizes early reading and literacy development in PreK through Grade 1. A campus intervention team monitors support and student progress using a case management approach. Emphasis campuswide is on academic skill building and creating a college-going culture, with trips to colleges and universities beginning in Grade 3.

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