TEA News Releases Online
April 30, 2010
Districts and campuses recognized for reducing dropouts and improving college readiness
AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Robert Scott today recognized five school districts and nine high schools that offer exceptional high school completion and college readiness programs implemented with High School Allotment funds.
The High School Allotment is an annual fund created by the Texas Legislature in 2006 that provides every Texas school district with $275 per student in grades 9-12 to improve high school graduation and college readiness rates. During the 2008-09 school year, school districts and charter schools were awarded $327 million in allotment funds statewide.
For the third year, the Texas Education Agency is recognizing districts or schools that used these funds to implement exceptional programs or strategies in the following areas:
- Preparing students for college;
- Increasing graduation rates;
- Improving curriculum alignment or preparing students for successful transition from middle school to high school or from high school to college; and
- Implementing innovative high school completion and success programs or strategies.
“These schools are clearly leading the way to prepare their students for post-secondary success,” Scott said.
School districts and charter schools were invited to nominate their programs for recognition for exceptional use of the allotment funds. Of the 27 districts and campuses submitting applications for consideration, the following applicants - representing large, medium, and small campuses and districts - were selected as examples of exceptional uses of the allotment.
Birdville Independent School District (ISD), Jefferson High School in Jefferson ISD, Mission High School and Veterans Memorial High School in Mission Consolidated ISD, and Paris High School in Paris ISD are recognized for strategies used in preparing students for college success.
Garland High School and Non-Traditional High School in Garland ISD, Palestine High School in Palestine ISD, and San Antonio’s North East ISD are receiving recognition for programs and strategies used to increase graduation rates.
Del Valle High School in Del Valle ISD near Austin and district wide programs in Azle ISD, Fort Worth’s Northwest ISD, and San Antonio’s North East ISD are recognized for improving curriculum alignment and preparing students for successful transitions from high school to college.
Skidmore-Tynan High School in Skidmore-Tynan ISD and Lewisville ISD are receiving recognition for the implementation of innovative high school completion and success programs and strategies.
Preparing Students for College Readiness
Birdville ISD used its allotment funds to target a diverse group of students, including students who are economically disadvantaged and would be first generation or historically underserved in colleges, for training to prepare them for the rigors of college. During the 2008-09 school year, the district implemented the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program and engaged students and their parents from three high schools in a learning process that challenged them to take the most rigorous course of study. Students were trained in essay writing, reading strategies, team building leadership skills, college success, study skills, note-taking, research writing, vocabulary building, college entrance applications and scholarship writing. Attendance rate for AVID students is 99 percent. In addition, the percentage of students taking advanced classes has improved. The rigors demanded in the advanced classes contributed to an increase in test scores in math, critical reading and writing. Because the AVID program has enhanced the district’s goals of improving college readiness, plans are under way to open the program up to four middle schools.
Jefferson High School in Jefferson ISD created the GO Zone with the use of allotment funds to assist all ninth-12th grade students in preparing for higher education. The GO Zoneis open before school, during lunch and after school to assist students with the application, scholarship and financial aid process. In addition, school leaders developed goals to increase the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) and dual credit courses. They also closely monitored data relating to academic performance to identify individual needs of students and determine interventions needed to increase college readiness. Their efforts have resulted in a 10 percent increase in advanced course enrollment. Tutorials and an increased emphasis on rigor and relevance are helping to close the gaps in performance levels between African-American males, economically disadvantaged students, and other student populations in the areas of math and science through relevant hands-on labs, technology and small group instruction. ACT, PLAN, PSAT and SAT scores are used to measure the impact of GO Zone. Overall, Jefferson High School increased state assessment scores and ACT scores. In addition, college/dual credit enrollment increased from 8 to 30 percent. With the help of allotment funds, the campus administration is building a strong college-going culture.
Mission High School and Veterans Memorial High School in Mission Consolidated ISD are receiving recognition for their use of allotment funds to promote and build a college-going culture, increase the completion rate and number of students graduating under the Recommended High School Program and Distinguished Achievement Program, as well as increase the number of students taking the ACT or SAT. In 2008, the schools improved and expanded a one-semester college readiness course to cover two semesters and target college entrance exams for high school juniors. The course helps students prepare for ACT, the Texas Higher Education Assessment (THEA) exams and teaches strategies to improve test scores. It also provides an opportunity for students to develop college and career goals, complete college applications, write scholarship essays and complete financial aid forms. Another initiative implemented at both schools was Operation College Bound, a partnership between the high schools, South Texas College and The University of Texas Pan American. The goal of the program is to ensure that all graduating seniors apply to an institution of higher education. Due to the targeted efforts of ensuring every student is college-bound, 98 percent of the 2009 senior class at Mission High School completed college applications and 62 percent continued their education beyond high school immediately upon graduation, compared to 53 percent in 2007. At Veterans Memorial, 98 percent of the 2009 class also completed college applications, while 65 percent proceeded to post-secondary institutions, compared to 55 percent in 2007. In addition to these initiatives, the high school allotment has allowed both schools to increase their dual enrollment programs and purchase textbooks for the dual enrollment classes to specifically target the lower socioeconomic and Hispanic students who will be first generation college-goers.
Paris High School in Paris ISD is recognized for efforts undertaken to improve college readiness for student populations qualifying as economically disadvantaged, African American, and first- time college students. With the help of allotment funds, Paris High School pays for two dual credit classes and two Advanced Placement tests for each student, and the THEA Quick test to qualify college bound students as needed. Scores on the exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test have shown positive gains in 14 of 16 areas. The scores were higher than the state average in 13 areas, tied in two areas and slightly below the state average in only one area. The rigor of the college readiness program raised the bar for all student populations. Paris High School plans to monitor students through the first year of college to evaluate the success of their college readiness programs. School leaders believe their graduation goals and college readiness efforts are money and time well spent.
Increasing Graduation Rates
Garland High School in Garland ISD is recognized for strategies and programs implemented to improve student success and completion rates. With the use of allotment funds, campus leaders implemented a Completion Rate Improvement Plan that focused on closing high school completion gaps between all student populations. Programs included a Saturday school program called the Achievement Academy that offered TAKS prep classes in English, math, science and social studies, and provided opportunities for students to research information on applying for college and financial aid. The school also implemented credit restoration and recovery programs to assist students in graduating. While completion rates for all student populations improved (3.1 percent increase), significant gains were made in the African-American (7.2 percent increase) and economically disadvantaged (4.8 percent increase) student populations in 2008.
Non-Traditional High School in Garland ISD receives recognition for focusing its allotment efforts on providing additional academic support to students in need of recovering high school credits. To ensure successful completion of high school and preparedness for college and other post-secondary opportunities, the high school serves 11th and 12th graders who are at least 16 years of age and have a minimum of 10 credits with at least one at-risk indicator defined by the Texas Education Agency. The high school offers 10 content area classrooms, containing 15 computers each. Three 4-hour session options are offered along with TAKS tutoring. In addition, individual graduation plans are created and coach mentors are assigned to each student. The school exposes students to weekly celebrations of course completions, and career and motivational speakers. School leaders instill a need for students to graduate from high school, attend college, and seek job training or a military career. However, in placing special focus on a college-going culture, they have developed a strong partnership with Dallas County Community College District.
North East ISD is recognized for implementing strategies focused on maintaining rigor in academic programs while ensuring that at-risk students graduate from high school within four years. The district provided campus-developed programs and activities to meet the individual needs of various student populations. They offered credit protection and recovery programs, including extended-year instruction for all high school campuses and free or low-cost summer school for any ninth-grade student who failed a core subject. They also offered a reading acceleration program and other instructional interventions designed to help students acquire more advanced reading skills and prepare them for TAKS and standardized tests. In addition, the district hired extra math and science teachers at the ninth-grade level for each high school campus. School leaders believe the tiered interventions established using allotment funds supported steady progress toward the district’s 90 percent graduation rate.
Palestine High School in Palestine ISD receives recognition for efforts to expand learning opportunities and reduce achievement gaps between student subgroups. With the use of allotment funds, Palestine High School hired additional staff to create smaller math and science classes and provide after-school instruction. They also recognized students and teachers for outstanding achievements and instituted the “I Can Go to College” campaign. Activities included organizing college trips for students and placing signs from various colleges around campus to highlight information about postsecondary opportunities. While many of the school’s efforts targeted at-risk and economically disadvantaged students, all students were allowed to participate in programs made possible by the allotment. Additional resources enabled the high school to raise its state accountability rating to the level of Recognized for the first time in school history. Other successes included double digit gains in math and science, an above state average Texas Growth Index (TGI) in all subjects, 10th grade students meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the first time in five years, and 50 percent less discipline referrals due to smaller class sizes.
Improving Curriculum Alignment or Preparing Students for Successful Transition from Middle School to High School or from High School to College
Del Valle High School is recognized for initiatives designed to support successful transitions from secondary school to college for a student population that is 70 percent economically disadvantaged and at risk of dropping out of school. With the use of allotment funds, the school employed a 12th grade counselor whose job responsibilities are focused solely on assisting students in identifying college opportunities and taking the steps necessary to make successful transitions to college. Allotment funds are also used to support Senior Project. The project is a year-long rigorous research and writing project on a topic selected by each high school senior, culminating in some form of final presentation. In addition, allotment funds support the Path To Success (PTS) initiative for the Ninth Grade Academy at the school. The academy is a school-within-a-school program designed to improve math performance for all ninth-grade students. PTS is a multi-tiered system of academic and behavioral support that is based on the principles of response-to-intervention. This initiative has resulted in continued performance gains for ninth graders and allowed the failure rate of one or more classes at the end of the first semester to decrease for three consecutive years. The impact of efforts to support and encourage college readiness has been significant. The number of graduating seniors who began college the following fall increased nearly 16 percent from the Class of 2007 to the Class of 2008. This increase earned special recognition from the Austin Chamber of Commerce for demonstrating the greatest improvement in the rate of students enrolling directly in college out of any high school in the Central Texas area.
Azle ISD receives recognition for strategies implemented to align curriculum and improve student performance in math and science. Through a contract with the University of Texas Dana Center, intensive training in test score analysis, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) analysis and innovative classroom lessons helped the school improve math TAKS scores in all grades. In addition, the school received a Recognized accountabilityrating and Gold Performance measure in math for the first time. The alignment initiative facilitated collaboration and communication between grade levels, especially between junior high and high school teachers. By aligning math curriculum, campus leaders believe students are now able to move from junior high to high school with a solid foundation for math success. In addition to alignment activities, the campus added one science teacher and one math teacher at the freshman level to decrease class size and allow more individualized instruction to improve the course passing rate.
North East ISD in San Antonio has focused its allotment efforts on aligning curriculum to address 4 x 4 graduation requirements and improving the quality of Pre-AP/AP programs. As part of its efforts, the district sought research-based professional development and curriculum support to promote teacher efficacy and effectiveness in the classroom. In addition to adding a math and science teacher at the ninth-grade level, the district provided supplemental pay and instructional materials for content coach positions. The content coaches worked together on district and campus teams to provide support to each other, develop rigorous lessons aligned with state and national standards, create TAKS intervention resources, and share best practices. The curriculum alignment initiative has resulted in eight of the district’s 14 middle schools achieving TEA’s Recognized accountabilityrating and three campuses being rated Exemplary. In addition, one high school achieved an Exemplary rating. Overall, administrators believe that North East ISD TAKS Commended scores indicate that district curricula have increasingly produced students who are prepared for the rigor of post-secondary coursework.
Northwest ISD in Fort Worth launched strategies to help ninth-grade students improve Algebra I performance. Strategies included hiring additional faculty in order to reduce class size to 15; transforming traditional classrooms into high-tech learning spaces; and providing specialized training for teachers on updated Algebra I curriculum that would engage students in participatory learning and Socratic questioning methodology. In addition, the district placed additional focus on collaboration among Algebra I teachers in their professional learning communities. Laptop computers and other technological enhancements were also made for classrooms to create equitable access to quality curriculum. The district reports that strategies and innovations in mathematics instruction made possible through allotment spending have resulted in considerable improvements in student achievement. Passing rates for all ninth-grade students improved from 76 to 85 percent between 2008 and 2009. Achievement gaps also improved among student groups. The ninth-grade passing rate increased from 50 to 70 percent for African-American students, from 66 to 79 percent for Hispanic students, and from 61 to 78 percent for the economically disadvantaged student population.
Implementing Innovative High School Completion and Success Programs or Strategies
Under the expectation that failure is not an option, Skidmore-Tynan High School in Skidmore-Tynan ISD used its allotment funds to employ an additional math teacher to allow for smaller class sizes for ninth-grade students taking Algebra I. While regular class instruction was provided, TAKS math classes and after-school tutorials were also provided for students who needed additional instruction. In addition, Study Island, a computer assisted instructional tool with math skills practice and built-in tutorials, was used to supplement classroom teaching in a supervised setting. Skidmore-Tynan High School attributes a number of its academic recognitions to its innovative math approach, including receiving Gold Performance recognitions for College Ready Graduates, Texas Success Initiative Math and Comparable Improvement in math. In addition, the school has also been rated a Recognized campus for the past two years.
Lewisville ISD is recognized for its continued support of innovative programs designed to increase high school completion and success, increase college readiness and foster a college-going culture. The district targeted high school students who missed academic credits by implementing accelerated credit recovery on each of its traditional high school campuses, the ninth-grade center and the Lewisville Learning Center. Emphasis was placed on meeting the challenges associated with growth in culturally and linguistically diverse student groups. In addition to successful credit recovery efforts and TAKS tutoring, the district provided access to Gizmos, a web-based math and science simulation program. Student usage of the online tool doubled from the previous school year. The district also experienced a 39 percent increase of student participation in the AVID program. The district reports that its efforts have resulted in closing achievement gaps through improved TAKS performance and further reduction in school dropout rates.