Completed Projects 2012-2016

Accountability System for Educator Preparation (ASEP)

The Need

Texas policymakers’ desire to raise standards for teacher preparation programs and to find new and improved ways to train better teachers resulted in legislation (S.B. 174) in 2009 that amended the Texas Education Code as well as Chapter 229 of the Texas Administrative Code to create the Accountability System for Educator Preparation (ASEP). Although the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) sought to implement these recommendations and improve performance standards for educator preparation programs (EPPs), system constraints resulted in piecemeal changes. TEA recognized the need for assistance to address these challenges and partnered with TXCC to implement and sustain a systemic approach to ASEP.

TXCC Response

ASEP builds on prior TXCC work with TEA implementing a broad teacher preparation accountability system that reports on how well EPPs are preparing future teachers to enter the classroom and remain in the profession. TXCC continues to support TEA with a number of tasks, facilitating the implementation and sustainability of ASEP. This work includes identifying data and other stress points in the reporting process; working to address issues through troubleshooting, developing protocols, and documenting processes for replication; and establishing a regular annual report as part of ASEP. TXCC also builds TEA’s capacity to apply ASEP data to understand and inform decision-making processes and provide transparent, reliable reporting to consumers, EPPs, and policymakers. TXCC encourages the use of best practices for data analyses and reporting, implementation, and long-term sustainability of ASEP as well as to create a reporting system that is useful to a broad audience.

Communities in Schools (CIS) Program and Executive Directors’ Support

The Need

In the 2015-16 school year, the Texas Education Agency calculated 50 percent of students were considered at risk in Texas, and 59 percent of students were classified as economically disadvantaged. Without additional supports and systems before, during, and outside of the school day to keep these students engaged, they are more likely to drop out. Communities in Schools (CIS) is a dropout prevention program partially funded by the state with statewide coordination through the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The support and assistance provided by this project seeks to strengthen the continuity of dropout prevention services and decrease the dropout rate in Texas.

TXCC Response

TXCC worked with the Texas CIS State Coordinator at TEA to support the 26 CIS Executive Directors to build a community of practice to address identified needs and to share best practices and experiences. In particular, TXCC provided technical assistance to TEA on conducting needs assessments of CIS affiliates, designing affiliate meetings to address needs, and building capacity to identify and communicate data to help affiliates improve effectiveness. TXCC also identified resources that TEA shared with affiliates on effective meeting practices, facilitation, and data visualization.

District Turnaround Leadership Initiative (DTLI)

The Need

A systemic approach to school turnaround is fundamental to addressing district systems in need of change and building staff capacity for transformative leadership to scale up the work that advances improved instructional practice and student outcomes at struggling schools. Such integrated processes, structures, and supports enable district and school leaders to bring to fruition what is possible and together rethink, reignite, redesign, and realize successful transformation at various levels of a district. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) contracted with the University of Virginia–School Turnaround Program (UVA-STP) to implement this approach in one district, with the goal of identifying and replicating best practices more broadly in the state.

TXCC Response

TXCC provided technical assistance to support TEA‘s development and implementation of the District Turnaround Leadership Initiative (DTLI) in collaboration with TEA’s contractor, UVA-STP. DTLI resulted in a blueprint for a comprehensive turnaround program for Texas that builds district capacity to support school improvement by strengthening four essential systemic levers: leadership, instructional infrastructure, support and accountability, and talent management. In September 2016, TXCC staff facilitated a meeting with the TEA Core Team and UVA-STP project staff to develop a plan for scaling the tenets of the UVA model statewide.

Educator Evaluation and Support Systems (Teacher and Principal)

The Need

The state's previous teacher evaluation system did not provide a supportive, continuous focus on instructional growth and had limited impact on improving student learning. Texas also did not have a recommended principal evaluation system, despite findings that school leaders are responsible for as much as 25 percent of the total school effect on student learning[1]. As a result, TEA developed and implemented the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) and the Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System (T-PESS) to encourage more frequent, timely, and formative feedback and incorporate multiple indicators of success, including measures of student learning. With both systems going to scale in the 2016-17 school year, TEA requested assistance to support implementation fidelity and ensure alignment with the state’s integrated supports for educator and leader quality.

Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS)

The state's previous teacher evaluation system did not provide a supportive, continuous focus on instructional growth and had limited impact on improving student learning. As a result, TEA developed and implemented the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) to encourage more frequent, timely, and formative feedback and incorporate multiple indicators of success, including measures of student learning. With this system going to scale in the 2016-17 school year, TEA needs assistance to identify additional needs for system improvements that will support implementation fidelity.

Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System (T-PESS)

Until recently, Texas did not have a recommended principal evaluation system, despite findings that school leaders are responsible for as much as 25 percent of the total school effect on student learning (Liethwood, Louis, Anderson, & Walhstrom, 2004). Recognizing the importance of effective principals for improved student outcomes, TEA identified the need for a principal evaluation system informed by research to provide specific feedback and support for school leaders. TEA needs assistance with statewide rollout to ensure that this project is aligned with the state’s needs for integrated supports for educator and leader quality.

TXCC Response

During the initial phase of this project, TXCC assisted TEA in the facilitation of steering committees of educators and stakeholders in revising teacher standards and in developing new evaluation/observation rubrics in collaboration with TEA’s vendors, NIET and McREL. Year 3 and 4 work focused on pilot implementation and rule revision in preparation for full implementation of the new teacher and principal systems. Year 5 work will include supporting TEA during the 2016-17 full implementation of T-TESS and T-PESS by building the Agency's capacity for information gathering to inform needed changes to the systems.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan Support

The Need

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed on December 10, 2015, reauthorized the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students. ESSA returns a significant amount of power back to the states, requiring them to establish a strategic vision and determine how the new law will affect their accountability, funding, school improvement, and grant-making systems. ESSA also requires that states get input from a range of stakeholders on these systems and on proposed ESSA policies as they develop their plans for ESSA implementation. However, rolling out systemwide ESSA policy changes within the Department of Education’s timeframe, and with meaningful stakeholder input, is a challenge for SEAs across the U.S. as well as for TEA.

TXCC Response

ESSA requires each State Education Agency (SEA) to be the key decision maker in the development and implementation of its ESSA Consolidated State Plan. SEAs must also conduct extensive outreach and engagement efforts to inform the development of state plans. To assist Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff to build capacity for these efforts, TXCC is helping them plan and coordinate stakeholder engagement meetings and develop and analyze surveys for public input. TXCC is also providing additional supports and technical expertise for state plan development in response to technical requests by the agency.

Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Council

The Need

Research has shown that high-quality expanded learning opportunities (ELO) increase school day attendance and grade promotion. However, few districts and campuses in Texas have sufficient resources to sustain consistent high-quality ELO programs or reach the students who would benefit the most. Many students and families in Texas lack access to high-quality ELO programs, especially in rural and high-poverty areas of the state.

TXCC Response

Legislation passed during the 2013 regular Texas legislative session required the commissioner of education to establish a statewide council to study and make recommendations concerning ELO for public school students. The ELO Council is statutorily required to meet three times per year and to submit a biennial statewide action plan to the governor and legislature with recommendations for improving expanded learning opportunities for public school students in Texas. TXCC assisted the Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff with coordination of the council’s work to inform policymakers and stakeholders about high-quality development and implementation of expanded learning opportunities for public school children, applying knowledge of research and best practices in this area.

Prekindergarten and Early Childhood Support

The Need

In 2015, the Texas legislature passed HB 4, which established additional state support for high-quality prekindergarten (PreK) programs, including authorization for a grant program and the expansion of early childhood education reporting requirements for Texas public schools. With only one PreK specialist for the entire state at the time, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) turned to TXCC for technical assistance and content expertise on specific requirements, including documentation of how school districts and charter schools are utilizing the High-Quality PreK Grant funds, defining kindergarten readiness, identifying PreK student progress monitoring instruments, and defining family engagement activities for all school districts receiving the High-Quality PreK Grant funding.

TXCC Response

TXCC assisted TEA to meet HB 4 requirements and document implementation progress to the Texas legislature and monitoring agencies as well as to increase effective delivery of prekindergarten services to children in public and charter school PreK programs. TXCC helped TEA with these deliverables and built additional capacity by supporting agency outreach and work with stakeholders.

Rio Grande Valley District Case Studies

The Need

The Rio Grande Valley is a high-poverty area along the Mexican border, with a high percentage of Title I schools and districts. In this region, 97.4 percent of students are Hispanic, 85 percent are economically disadvantaged, and 36.9 percent are English learners—the highest rates in the state. Despite the challenges that these statistics suggest, schools in this area have been exceeding expectations at a rate higher than anywhere else in the Texas. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) would like to know the reasons for this anomaly to identify scalable solutions to implement in other areas of the state.

TXCC Response

TXCC collaborated with TEA to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping techniques to identify “hot spots” in the state with high numbers of Reward Schools in concentrated areas. One such hot spot is in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. As part of the broad strategic vision developed with the comprehensive center project team, TEA is building upon the study of individual Reward School campuses to highlight specific success factors at the district level that most contribute to school-level success.

This comprehensive case study of this region will expand TEA's understanding beyond the school level and will inform state grant-making, policy, and technical assistance for Title I schools and districts. The study is designed to be a springboard for strategic partnerships at the state and regional level that will replicate successful practices within specific regions. Struggling districts will be given the tools they need—tools that have been used, refined, and proven successful in neighboring districts with the same student demographics.

State Board of Education Long-Range Plan

The Need

The Texas public education system is subject to a variety of plans, including the Texas Education Agency's five-year strategic plan, the state technology plan, the ESSA plan, and 60x30TX, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s state plan. Without support and guidance, the State Board of Education Long-Range Plan (SBOE LRP) could potentially run counter to the others, resulting in confusion and complications in the goal of aligned supports for stronger outcomes for students.

TXCC Response

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has prioritized creation of the State Board of Education Long-Range Plan (SBOE LRP) for Primary and Secondary Education in Public Schools. The scope of this project includes not only project management but also the gathering and synthesizing of stakeholder input via research, surveys, and public meetings; facilitation of community and steering committee meetings; organization and analysis of information shared and gathered throughout the process; and production of the SBOE LRP. TXCC is partnering with TEA in order to increase the agency’s capacity in the areas of research, data analysis, data synthesis and presentation, meeting facilitation, and document production. Both agency staff and members of the SBOE will work alongside the TXCC in each of these areas. The final product of this work will be a plan for Texas public education that leverages existing state-level plans to create a compelling vision for system improvement.

Texas Equity Plan

The Need

In accordance with three sections of Title I, Part A, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), each state education agency (SEA) is required to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to ensure that all students have equal access to a quality education, regardless of race, ethnicity, or family income. In 2015, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) submitted an equitable access plan to address differences in access to excellent educators experienced by poor and minority students. As noted in the 2015 Texas Equity Plan, “schools with high concentrations of minority students and students living in poverty have higher percentages of inexperienced teachers than schools with low concentrations of those students. Similarly, districts in major urban, suburban, and rural areas had the largest differences in terms of inexperienced teachers and unqualified teachers.”

TXCC Response

Texas has had an equity plan in place since 2005 and has made notable progress in closing equity gaps over the past decade. The 2015 Texas Equity Plan revised and updated the 2012 plan with input from stakeholders in light of new federal guidance as part of ED’s “Excellent Educators for All” initiative. Year 5 TXCC work focuses on assisting TEA with plan implementation and building out supports for local education agencies (LEAs) to develop local equity plans for the 2017-18 school year.

Texas Reward School Case Studies

The Need

Decades of research have shown that poverty has a strong and negative impact on student academic performance. Title I schools face particular challenges that affect academic performance, including high rates of student mobility and large proportions of English language learners. Despite these difficulties, 6 percent of Title I public schools in Texas have exceeded state standards and earned distinction as Reward Schools. These schools share many similarities with low-performing schools but have implemented practices that allow them to overcome challenges and become high performing. These practices, if identified, could help more Title I schools achieve success.

TXCC Response

TXCC collaborated with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Center for District and School Support (TCDSS) to spotlight and share the Reward Schools’ best practices with other schools in the state. In Year 5 of the project, TXCC staff provided technical assistance and expertise to TEA on developing surveys and other research instruments based on the Reward Schools case studies that can be implemented with larger samples of high-performing/high-progress Title I schools. This will allow TEA to go beyond the limitations of the case study approach (i.e., non-generalizable findings) to gather data and produce findings that are more generalizable to the diverse schools in Texas.

Texas Rural Schools Task Force Support

The Need

Texas has more than 2,000 campuses that are classified as being in rural areas according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This is more than 20 percent of all campuses in Texas. While some rural schools are experiencing some success, many, if not all, face challenges that are unique due to size and region. The Commissioner of Education is interested in learning about the common issues faced by rural schools, the current strategies and innovations implemented in Texas rural schools, and how the Texas Education Agency (TEA) can better support rural schools.

TXCC Response

The Commissioner of Education created the Rural Schools Task Force and charged it with identifying the current and future priorities of Texas rural schools. TXCC worked with the Educator Support Division of TEA as a thought partner, co-project manager, meeting designer and facilitator, research and resource developer, and product manager to help the task force identify challenges, best practices, and innovations that are important to Texas rural schools. The output of the task force was a series of recommendations for how TEA, districts and schools, education service centers (ESCs), and other partners can best support rural schools in addressing the barriers and challenges they face.