Completed Projects 2018

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.

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.

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.

Continued Year 7 as Supports for the Effective Schools Framework

The Need

Title I schools often 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.” The challenge facing the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is to determine how to leverage the practices at Reward Schools such that a greater proportion of Title I schools can exceed state standards.

TXCC Response

Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping that informed the Reward Schools case study also helped the Texas Education Agency (TEA) identify districts with a high proportion of these high-performing, high-progress campuses across the state. The Rio Grande Valley District (RGV) Case Study, which is nearing completion, looked at four such districts in Region 1 Education Service Center (ESC) and identified 12 district practices that appear to account for their rate of success. Utilizing extensive data collected in the case studies of Reward Schools and Rio Grande Valley districts, TXCC staff will work with TEA staff to identify needs facing schools and districts around the state and to develop a District Excellence Toolkit with tools and resources that can address those needs.

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.