Forest Lane Academy TEA Grade Rises to B as ACE Program Takes Root

In 2018, RISD leaders decided to change the culture at some of the district’s lowest-performing schools, and the latest state accountability ratings indicate the fix is working.

RISD Deputy Superintendent Tabitha Branum and Executive Director of Accountability and Continuous Improvement Jacob Cortez presented this year’s state ratings to the Board of Trustees at a work session in late August.

Overall, the Texas Education Agency gave Richardson ISD a scaled score of 88 for an accountability grade of B.

This is the first year of the state’s A to F accountability rating system for schools and the second year the state assigned letter grades to school districts. The TEA’s complex formula weighs student achievement, school progress and educators’ abilities to close demographic gaps to arrive at a scaled score the state believes is indicative of a school’s or district’s rating.

RISD has nine campuses rated A for 2019 with 22 campuses at B and 17 scoring a C. Four schools received a D, including Bukhair Elementary, which saw its grade climb to a 62 from a 51 in 2018. Three other RISD elementary campuses that received a D grade from the TEA for 2019 include and Audelia Creek (68), Northrich (66) and Wallace (68).

Branum said RISD staffers have identified specific practices that improve student performance at various campuses and there are plans already in action to transfer and apply these routines and processes at some under-performing schools.

Texas rates schools using a formula based on the number of students who are approaching, meet and master grade-level STAAR tests; but RISD believes the state grades only tell part of the story of student performance.

Last year, the TEA chose RISD to participate in its System of Great Schools network, which seeks to develop a locally designed system-level innovation and problem-solving approach to improve student performance.

RISD plans to increase student, staff and community surveys to better gather the most up-to-date information from campuses. This data should help RISD administrators identify areas of particular need and then allocate proper resources to rectify the situation, creating a more accurate measure of school performance.

Richardson ISD expects to roll out its new School Performance Framework later this fall.

The state score of the four campuses leaders chose to transform into ACE schools ahead of the 2018–19 school year all improved. In addition to the 11-point gain at Bukhair, RISD Academy’s 2019 rating rose to 73 or C from 59 and Improvement Needed the prior year. Thurgood Marshall Elementary’s grade of 75 is up slightly from the year earlier.

And Forest Lane Academy rose to an 82 up from a 66 a year ago.

RISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone attributed the gains at Forest Lane — which serves a student population that is nearly 94% economically disadvantaged — to the culture shift that is taking root.

“We took the bold step to invest the money and energy to have the ACE campus structure, and these scores are the evidence of the work of that decision. We needed that to send out the message that it’s not about the kids, it’s not about the economically disadvantaged percentage. It’s about the new practices being done at those campuses. We needed that kind of disruption, that kind of statement to say that this can be done if you implement the curriculum with fidelity, if you have the intervention system in place, if you have the systems, practices and commitment. The kids will learn, grow and succeed as long as we give all of them the instruction they need.”

RISD Executive Director of School Improvement Joe Miniscalco said if one campus can do it, then every campus can do it.

Forest Lane Academy “applied the fix,” he said. “They understood the systems their teachers needed, and the campus leaders allowed them to do the work they needed to do. They created very tight student culture routines, held frequent data meetings and provided detailed instruction. Then they were able to have collaborative discussion about what each individual child needed. The teachers didn’t stop teaching it until the kid got it.”

Forest Lane Academy TEA Grade Rises to B as ACE Takes Root was originally published in Richardson ISD Newsdesk on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.