ADVANCING RESEARCH, IMPROVING EDUCATION
A publication of the Texas Comprehensive Center at SEDL
Volume 3 Number 1
In this Issue
President Obama, in his recent speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, outlined six areas on which we need to focus our efforts to improve the American educational system. Those areas were early childhood education; teaching to world-class standards that include 21st Century skills; recruiting, preparing, and rewarding teachers to increase their effectiveness; stemming the tide of high school dropouts; improving our schools through a focus on innovation and excellence; and giving every American access to higher education. 1
(President Barack Obama gives remarks on education at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce gathering Tuesday, March 10, 2009, in Washington at the Washington Marriott Metro Center’s Grand Ballroom. White House Photo by Pete Souza)
With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), states, districts, and schools will soon receive an unprecedented influx of new funding to support work in these areas and others as we seek to reduce achievement gaps and improve overall student achievement. Within education, ARRA will provide an immediate stimulus to the economy by saving or creating hundreds of thousands of early childhood, K–12, and higher education jobs in states across America that are at risk of state and local budget cuts.2 It will further create thousands of additional construction jobs related to school modernization projects. In the long term, ARRA will strengthen the economy by helping more young people attend college.
We must make wise choices in deciding how to allocate these new resources. To make those choices, we must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment that includes examination of multiple types of data so that we can determine areas of greatest need. We must then continually monitor our progress in addressing those needs by frequently reexamining data and making adjustments as needed. By collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data we will be able to demonstrate that our decisions have been wise and have resulted in improvements in student outcomes.
This issue highlights a number of useful resources for assisting districts and schools in making decisions to target resources in ways that will result in long-term, positive effects on the system; a more effective teaching force; and, ultimately, improvement in student achievement. We return to a theme from one of our previous issues: collecting, analyzing, and using data. Reports and products from the content centers and highlights of work underway at the ESCs to help districts and schools work more systemically are also presented. We look forward to our continued work with you in this endeavor.
Vicki Dimock, PhD
Director, Texas CC
1 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2009, March 10). Remarks by the President to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on a complete and competitive American education. [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_oce/Remarks-of-the-President-to-the-
2 For more information see the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site at http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/index.html and the Texas Education Agency Web site at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=3873
Using Data to Support Continuous Improvement
"I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The following resources may be helpful in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to inform both a comprehensive needs assessment and an ongoing process of improvement.
Longitudinal Education Statistical Resource (LONESTAR)
Recently launched by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), LONESTAR provides fast, easy access to public education data about K–12 and higher education in Texas. Data for the 5 most recent years is displayed in easy-to-read charts and graphs for the state, region, school district, or legislative district. The site was designed with legislators, media, and the general public in mind, allowing quick interpretation of important educational data.
LONESTAR is developed and maintained by the Texas Public Education Information Resource (TPEIR) Unit in the Information Analysis Division of TEA. TPEIR is a collaborative project between the TEA and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. http://loving1.tea.state.tx.us/lonestar/home.aspx
Data Use for Continuous Quality Improvement
This Web site, developed by the Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center, contains four key components: a guide for the effective use of data to improve educational decision-making; a map of key capacities needed at each educational level to support effective data use; standards and criteria for evaluating data tools and selecting diagnostic assessments; and a comprehensive list of resources on research for effective data use. http://datause.cse.ucla.edu/
To support the use of the online tool, the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center (ARCC) hosted a webcast titled, Becoming Data Smart: A New Tool for Effective Data Use. The video archives from the webcast are available from the ARCC Web site.
Effective Use of Electronic Data Systems: A Readiness Guide for District and School Leaders
This free guide from Learning Point Associates, published in September 2006, discusses key issues for readiness, provides tools to conduct a needs assessment, and includes information for choosing and implementing a data system. The data-readiness tool is divided into three sections. Section 1, Tools for District and School Leaders, is aimed at district and school leaders who are just beginning to think about acquiring an electronic data system. Section 2, Tools for Facilitators, makes it possible to use the guide as a resource for a group process to ascertain readiness—a sort of needs assessment. Section 3, Resources, presents a variety of resources for data use and data systems.
Improving Education Practice Through Data Use: Data-Driven Decision-Making
This Web site provides a report by Dr. Jeffrey Wayman (from the University of Texas at Austin’s Public School Executive Leadership Program) titled "The Data-Informed District: A District-Wide Evaluation of Data Use in the Natrona County School District." The site also contains a variety of resources for helping educators and researchers advance the practice of data-driven decision making, including reviews of software for analyzing student data and reports on data systems, student data analysis, and current research.
Listening to Student Voices Self-Study Toolkit
The Social Change Collaborative at Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL) developed a set of tools to involve students in the school improvement process, including "Data in a Day" (DIAD) and "Analyzing Surveys with Kids" (ASK). DIAD involves students and staff in a one-day data collection and analysis of some aspect of the school, such as classroom observations. ASK is a step-by-step process for actively engaging students through analyzing survey data and formulating recommendations. The Listening to Student Voices home page includes additional tools to engage students in the school improvement/data analysis process. http://www.nwrel.org/scpd/scc/studentvoices/index.html
Data Use and Teacher Collaboration: One School’s Success Story
This site hosts a webinar featuring Michael Gulden, former principal of Barbara Comstock Morse Elementary School, along with two additional school staff members. They discuss strategies from the school’s successful data use and teacher collaboration process. Participants suggest practices for cultivating a positive teacher attitude toward collaboration. An audio file and a PowerPoint presentation from the event are available; membership is required, but it is free. http://www.schoolsmovingup.net/cs/smu/view/e/2405
Tools for Assessing the Needs of Special Populations
By Ada Muoneke, PhD
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act increased national attention on issues concerning the instruction and assessment of English language learners (ELLs). There has been a shift from exclusion to inclusion of ELLs in assessment and accountability systems (Abedi, Courtney, Mirocha, Leon, & Goldberg, 2005). States and local education agencies need guidance and research-based information to ensure that the tests developed to evaluate the academic achievement and performance of this population meet technical quality requirements as mandated by NCLB. According to the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA, APA, & NCME, 1999) there are multiple elements that contribute to the technical aspects of high-quality assessments. The key elements include validity, reliability, and freedom from bias. As state education agencies (SEAs) design ELL assessments, particular attention must be paid to issues relevant to the technical quality of the assessments.
Another special population impacted by NCLB’s achievement and accountability mandates is that of students with disabilities. The regulations allow states to develop alternate standards and assessments linked to the state’s general education content standards for students with disabilities (Rabinowitz, Sato, Case, Benitez, & Jordan, 2008). In keeping with general education assessments, NCLB established technical quality requirements for alternate assessments. SEAs need information to guide the design and implementation of technically sound alternate assessments that are reliable and valid for assessing the needs of students with disabilities.
Below are some useful resources that the Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center suggests for use in designing assessments to evaluate the progress of ELLs and students with disabilities.
Guidelines for Ensuring the Technical Quality of Assessments Affecting English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities: Development and Implementation of Regulations.
Research-based information on key issues relevant to the technical quality of assessments; updated periodically
The Technical Adequacy of Assessments for Alternate Student Populations
Guidelines to assist developers and users of assessments for ELLs and special student populations; provides help in evaluating the technical quality of assessments used to meet Title I and Title III requirements of NCLB
Alternate Assessments Based on Modified Academic Achievement Standards (AA-MAS): Critical Considerations and Implications for Implementation http://www.aacompcenter.org/cs/aacc/print/htdocs/aacc/resources_sp.htm
Information about assessments based on modified academic achievement standards (a.k.a., 2% assessments for students with disabilities), including key information about 2% assessments, critical issues concerning the development and implementation of 2% assessments, and approaches states have taken in developing and implementing the 2% assessments (At the time of this publication, the document is not yet available.)
The Framework for High-Quality English Language Proficiency Standards and Assessments
The framework that states will use to ensure that their ELLs achieve English language proficiency (ELP) and also achieve at high levels academically; based on knowledge from relevant research and practice, the framework provides criteria for high-quality ELP standards and aligned assessments
Abedi, J., Courtney, M., Mirocha, J., Leon, S., & Goldberg, J. (2005). Language modifications for English language learners in large-scale assessments: Bilingual dictionaries and linguistic accommodations. Los Angeles: National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST)/University of California.
American Educational Research Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), & National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME). (1999). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Washington, DC: AERA Publications.
Rabinowitz, S., Sato, E., Case, B. J., Benitez, D., & Jordan K. (2008). Alternate assessments for special education students in the southwest region states (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2008–No. 044). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs.
"Something magical happens when you bring together a group of people from different disciplines with a common purpose."
Mark Stefik, Palo Alto Research Centre Fellow
School Support Team Training
A large part of the Texas School Support Team (SST) Training manual focuses on helping the district and school conduct a comprehensive needs assessment (function i). At the March 25, 2009, NCLB TEA/ESC meeting, the TXCC provided additional materials and updates to help the education service centers (ESCs) implement the SST training. These were the materials included:
- A flowchart of the work of the SST and Working Systemically specialists. This flowchart helps to illustrate connections between these two efforts led by the TXCC and how the work moves from the TXCC and TEA to the ESCs and, finally, to the schools.
- A packet of materials for photocopying and distribution at the training of SST members. This Participant Packet is arranged by each day of the training. It contains all the handouts that ESC staff will use in the three-day training of teams that will be working directly with schools.
- A packet of materials that SSTs may use in working with schools. This packet, called the School Packet, is arranged by SST function. It contains handouts that SST members may find useful in helping schools in the improvement process.
- A TXCC Web site where the SST materials can be accessed for downloading. This password-protected Web site (http://txcc.sedl.org/orc/tea_menu.php) makes available the latest FAQs and resources for team training, as well as the resources for working with schools that request the services of an SST.
- A set SST training organizers that summarize the training sessions’ focus, time allotments, questions, resources, and materials needed. The organizers provide a quick reference for SST trainers/facilitators in planning each day of the training.
- The updated Working Systemically Content Area Survey. The updated survey, as well as the survey reports, feature more attractive and useable formatting of questions and results. The graphs provided in the survey report will help SST members report perceptual data collected for SST function i.
- An update version of Principal’s Planning Guide: Improving Campus Planning to replace the one in the original training materials (Session 14, Handout 7).
We hope that these additions and upgrades will aid in successful implementation of SST training and support to schools. ESCs are encouraged to contact their TXCC liaisons for further information.
Systemic School Improvement at the ESCs — Highlights
Many of the ESCs have been working over the past two years with districts and schools in their regions to implement the Working Systemically approach. The work of two of those ESCs is highlighted below.
By: Cynthia Stone, Region 20 ESC
Staff from Region 20 ESC in San Antonio has been working with South San Antonio ISD for the past two years to implement the Working Systemically approach. A partnership began when Dr. Cynthia Stone (the TXCC-trained Working Systemically specialist from Region 20), Ron Durbon (Superintendent of Schools, South San Antonio ISD), and Robert Flores (Executive Director for Secondary Curriculum and Instruction, South San Antonio ISD) agreed to form district and campus leadership teams to build systemwide capacity in the competencies of the Working Systemically approach: collecting, analyzing, and using data to make decisions; creating coherence within the district and its schools; ensuring continuous professional learning; building relationships; and responding to changing conditions.
The work began with the district leadership team examining a variety of data, identifying critical issues, creating a problem statement, envisioning their “ideal state,” and developing a plan of action. The team believed that certain issues at the district level needed to be addressed before individual campus teams could join in the systemic effort. One of the issues that surfaced was the need to provide opportunities for leadership development; this led the team to create principal and vice-principal academies. The team also noted the need for a guaranteed, viable curriculum, which the district addressed by purchasing CSCOPE. In addition, the need for classroom support for teachers led the district to hire academic coaches who were assigned to struggling campuses.
At the beginning of the second year of work, teams from each of the district’s 15 campuses came together and reviewed campus data, identifying root causes of student failure and creating campus improvement plans. More than 80 individuals—including district personnel, school board members, and the superintendent—met with Dr. Stone and other ESC staff members during this collaborative process. The plans focused on identifying a few key strategies that would result in the greatest gains for students. The work has continued with teams learning to implement the Professional Teaching and Learning Cycle (PTLC), with the expectation by administrators that PTLCs will be conducted on school campuses. By using the PTLC, teachers are beginning to increase the alignment of curriculum, assessment, and instruction to the state standards, and they are learning to depend on collaboration with colleagues to solve challenges
South San Antonio ISD superintendent, district-level administrators, and school board members analyze data to uncover root causes for student failure.
The Working Systemically approach could not have been initiated or sustained, nor been as powerful, had it not been for the continued support and presence of district leadership. Mr. Durbon and Mr. Flores, along with Robert Zamora (Associate Superintendent) and Evelyn Trinidad (Executive Director for Elementary Curriculum and Instruction), have been instrumental in the success associated with Working Systemically. Simply by attending all meetings with district and campus leadership teams and communicating clearly what their expectations are for these improvement efforts, they have demonstrated the importance of the leadership skills set forth in the Working Systemically approach. From the beginning, the district leaders have recognized the need to work differently from how they had in the past if they truly wanted different results.
We are once again reminded of the roles of district and campus leaders in systemic improvement: communicating clear expectations, building capacity, and monitoring and reviewing progress. Those involved in the improvement work realize that there is still much to be done but the processes are in place for the district to continue their growth in Working Systemically to meet their intended goals. Way to Go(als), South San Antonio!
The Journey to Professional Learning Communities in Region XI
By: Renee Agent, Region XI ESC
One district’s journey to Professional Learning Communities began in 2007–2008 when the Region XI ESC staff introduced the Working Systemically approach to their site’s district leadership team (DLT). This team consists of one administrator, usually the principal, and one instructional specialist from each campus in the district; the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction; and the directors of elementary education, bilingual/ESL, and special education. Working with the ESC staff, the DLT reviewed multiple measures of data, including the district’s student achievement data, demographic data, and program and process data (e.g., staffing patterns and perceptual data). The team then developed a problem statement to describe some of the gaps identified during data analysis.
The greatest need that the district identified during this step in the process was to increase student achievement in math. The DLT wrote a statement to describe their ideal state and set the path for the improvement work. Region XI staff then went to the school district to conduct a deep alignment of the district and campus plans. The team made decisions based on the data, the alignment of plans, and their desire to provide professional development that would build the capacity of district leaders and build coherence among administrators and teachers. In May of 2008, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction and the director of elementary education were provided publications about Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and SEDL’s Professional Teaching and Learning Cycle (PTLC). During the summer of 2008, the DLT decided that through the use of both PLCs and the PTLC they could work to get Working Systemically down to the classroom level where they felt it would have the greatest impact on student learning.
Region XI staff members and the DLT came to a joint decision to work with two concurrent strands on the implementation. One strand would be for the DLT and the other would be for a team of math teachers in grades K–12. This second team became known as the “math vertical team.” The plan developed by the DLT called for the ESC staff to provide professional development on the foundational elements of PLCs during 2008–2009, with full implementation at the campus level facilitated by the math vertical team during the 2009–2010 school year. To move this process along and to build capacity for facilitating the process at the ESC level, additional Region XI consultants in the areas of math, school improvement, and English language learners were added to the professional development team.
In August 2008, Region XI staff reviewed the district plan from the previous year with the leadership team and began to work with them on the foundational elements of moving toward implementation of PLCs. This professional development continued through the fall and was completed in January of 2009. Concurrently, in October of 2008, work with the math vertical team began. This group of teachers validated the leadership’s plan to begin working with PLCs as well as with the professional development needs that had been identified by the DLT.
A substantial component of the professional development was building a deep understanding of the PTLC. As the leadership team moved through the cycle and learned more about its possible benefits, several additional professional development needs emerged. The team realized that teachers needed to know how to build their own knowledge of the TEKS, look closely at multiple forms of data, look purposefully at student work, and learn to identify intervention points for students. Although the district is well on its way to working systemically, the journey has just begun.
Resource for School Restructuring
Public Impact has released Competencies for Turnaround Success. The Web site states that for turnaround efforts to succeed, nothing is more important than making sure that the leaders and teachers who are selected to guide the process have the capacity and the will to make a turnaround happen. "The four resources in the… series clarify the most critical competencies that enable people to be successful in attempts to transform schools from failure to excellence quickly and dramatically." Two companion toolkits are included.
High Schools: Increasing graduation rates and reducing dropouts
Texas Ninth Grade Transition and Intervention Program
The Texas Ninth Grade Transition and Intervention (TNGTI) Program office recently released this year‘s application for 2008–2010 funding. Over fifty school districts in the state are eligible to apply for funding that ranges from $35,742 to $425,000. The funding is intended to support an initiative designed to transition students successfully from the eighth grade into high school and to increase the number of students moving from ninth to tenth grade on time. The program provides a summer transition program from the eighth to the ninth grade for students at risk of low performance and/or failure. The program also offers interventions to students, if needed, during their ninth grade year to support them in moving on time to the tenth grade. Program components include a summer transition program, an early warning data system, and interventions.
School districts and open-enrollment charters are eligible to apply if all of the following criteria are met: 1) served 75% or more economically disadvantaged students in each of the 2006, 2007, and 2008 school years; 2) had a population of at least 25 eighth graders in 2007–2008; and 3) had a ninth grade retention rate for 2007–2008 that placed them in the highest three school districts or open-enrollment charter schools within a comparable size category.
Applications and more information about the grant are available at on the TEA website http://burleson.tea.state.tx.us/GrantOpportunities/forms/GrantProgramSearch.aspx
Go to the Select Search Options field titled “Program/Subject Area” and select “Drop-out Prevention” from the drop-down list.
From the National High School Center
The National High School Center is housed at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in Washington, DC.
Identifying Students At-Risk for Dropping Out of High School: Overview of a Tool for Developing Early Warning Systems
The National High School Center hosted Identifying Students At-Risk for Dropping Out of High School: Overview of a Tool for Developing Early Warning Systems, an interactive webinar, on January 28, 2009. The session provided a tour of the Early Warning System Tool (please maximize the document’s screen in Excel in order to access all the spreadsheet tabs in the tool) and Early Warning Systems Guide, along with information about how these resources can be used as part of a dropout prevention strategy to keep students in school.
High School Literacy: A Quick Stats Fact Sheet
High School Literacy: A Quick Stats Fact Sheet, from AIR, looks at the NAEP data showing that literacy often begins to decline in eighth grade. The report suggests an approach that includes continuing high school literacy generally and for particular subgroups.
From the Center on Instruction
The Center on Instruction is housed at the RMC Research Corporation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Assessments to Guide Adolescent Literacy Instruction
This guide was prepared by the Florida Center for Reading Research and is a companion to two other publications from the Center on Instruction: Academic Literacy Instruction for Adolescents and Improving Literacy Instruction in Middle and High Schools: A Guide for Principals. The new publication offers guidance on using assessment to improve literacy instruction for adolescents and provides examples of assessments and assessment systems for students in grades 4–12.
Free download available at
May 3–9, 2009
2009 National Migrant Education Conference
San Antonio, Texas
The 2009 National Migrant Education Conference will be held in San Antonio, Texas this year at the Marriott Rivercenter during Cinco de Mayo week. The conference will feature keynote presentations; information on the identification and recruitment of students; workshops on federal program requirements, best classroom practices, and interstate coordination; and numerous networking opportunities.
Contact: NASDME Conference Coordination Office
June 10–12, 2009
TEPSA Summer Conference (Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association)
Austin Renaissance Hotel
The theme of this year’s conference is “rejuvenate.” The Web site suggests that you will have the opportunity to renew your passion for education, connect with new and former TEPSA colleagues, and take home some great learning for a fantastic 2009–2010 school year. The strands offered this year include the following:
- Campus Culture
- Communication & Community Relations
- Curriculum Development
- Human Resources & Leadership Management
- Instructional Leadership
- Organizational Leadership
- Values & Ethics
Contact: Kirsten Hund
June 10-12, 2009
Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP) Summer Workshop
Austin Convention Center
This year’s workshop provides opportunities for principals to collaborate with peers through region meetings. By seeking more effective ways to help students be successful, principals and assistant principals live the mission of TASSP: “Above All, Students First.” Building a collegial spirit by learning together empowers principals to be intellectually and instructionally physical as leaders. Participating in the TASSP Summer Workshop provides the quality professional development principals need to be effective leaders.
Contact: Cindy Kirby
Phone: 512-443-2100, Extension 225
June 21–24, 2009
2009 National Conference on Student Assessment
Westin Bonaventure Hotel
Los Angeles, California
The National Conference on Student Assessment (NCSA) features what is actually happening in educational assessment and what works (and doesn’t work). It is the place to find new direction, new ideas, new technologies, and the very latest research in the field.
Contact: CCSSO Staff
June 26-28, 2009
ASCD Summer Conference
Registration is now open for the 2009 Summer Conference on Differentiated Instruction, Understanding by Design, and What Works in Schools. You
- select up to eight ticketed sessions over the three-day conference;
- reserve a seat in a range of 2- and 3-hour ticketed sessions;
- tailor your conference experience by choosing from more than 80 unique sessions on a variety of topics based on Differentiated Instruction, Understanding by Design, and What Works in Schools.
Contact: ASCD Service Center
June 28-30, 2009
Texas Association of School Administrators Summer Conference
Austin Renaissance Hotel
Watch the Web site for information on this summer’s conference. Preregistration ends June 19.
Contact: Mark Pyeatt
Phone: 800-725-8272 ext. 149
For other TXCC related calendar events see the TXCC Events page at
Links to Important information on TEA's Web Site
Texas Education Agency’s Web site for information about ARRA:
NCLB E-mail List
If you haven't already, visit this page to subscribe to TEA's NCLB e-mail list. Get the latest information as soon as it is released! Published weekly by Cory Green, senior director for the Division of NCLB Program Coordination.
Due Dates and Deadlines
Don't be late! You'll find the deadlines for NCLB forms and reports on this page.
Student Assessment Data
Here you can view and/or download results for the state, regions, districts, and campuses.
2008–2009 Schools in Need of Improvement
Available here will be the final list of campuses in Title I School Improvement for the 2008-2009 school year. Additional information regarding requirements for schools at the different stages of school improvement and a sample parent notification letter may also be found on this page.
Distinguished Performance Schools
Access information about the 129 schools in Texas that earned the Distinguished Performance Award and the 13 campuses that earned the Distinguished Progress Award.
NCLB Staff Contacts by Region
Need help? You can find the e-mail address for your NCLB program contact on this page.
Public School Choice, Non-Regulatory Guidance
This guidance, released on January 14, 2009, updates the Public School Choice Non-Regulatory Guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education on February 6, 2004. It includes new and modified questions that address issues related to the October 29, 2008, Title I regulations as well as other major policy decisions that the department has made regarding the public school choice provisions since their initiation.
Supplemental Educational Services (SES), Non-Regulatory Guidance
This guidance updates and expands on the SES guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education on June 13, 2005. It includes a number of questions that address issues related to the October 2008 Title I regulations, as well as other major policy guidance the department has issued since 2005.
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