The Dallas County Learning Community (DCLC) is a new collaboration of area public school districts highly focused on continuous improvement to help the region exceed state growth in both academic achievement and living wage opportunity. Led by former Richardson ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone, this first-of-its-kind learning community went on its inaugural site visit last week to learn about Lancaster Independent School District’s incredible growth in reading scores and see how this success can be replicated across the county.
What is Going on at Lancaster ISD?
Lancaster ISD serves over 7,100 students, over 85% of whom are experiencing economic instability – the highest rate in the county. But, as Superintendent Katrise Perera says, “We don’t see poverty as a learning disability.” Instead, the district’s high expectations and sense of community create the “secret sauce” that is driving academic gains.
When this year’s STAAR exam scores came out, Lancaster ISD showed a 20 percentage point increase in 3rd grade reading scores from 2021 – despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a foundational milestone that often predicts later academic success, and Lancaster ISD has been exceeding both Dallas County and the state’s growth on this metric since 2012.
As attendees learned, this success wasn’t by accident. Lancaster ISD has long laid the groundwork to see these sorts of reading gains with a strong emphasis on teacher quality, pre-K enrollment, and reading. In 2018, nearly the entire Lancaster ISD 3rd grade class of 2022 was enrolled in Pre-K 4 and about 40% the year before in Pre-K 3 – far above the state average. In addition, Lancaster ISD has invested in reading infrastructure and centralized learning recovery lessons. As Belt Line Elementary Principal Wendy Hawthorne made clear, “Literacy has been a huge focus, and you can see the results coming in now.”
DCLC in Action
School leaders from Dallas ISD, Richardson ISD, Duncanville ISD, and Uplift Education visited three of Lancaster ISD’s elementary schools to see this learning in action. Together, with the Commit Partnership, the DCLC observed classrooms, debriefed the data, and spoke with school administrators to learn more.
As DCLC Superintendent-in-Residence Dr. Stone said, “Last week’s visit to Lancaster ISD was a shining example of how we can work together to better serve our students. It was exciting to see school leaders engaged and actively looking for ways to collaborate and implement some of Lancaster ISD’s ‘magic’ into their own school districts.”
Visits like this one in Lancaster ISD are at the heart of the DCLC’s mission. Thanks in part to the actionable data provided by our state’s robust system of assessments and accountability, these school leaders have the opportunity to learn from each other and align on the milestones that drive academic success. By working together in this way, Dallas County schools can continue to grow and ensure our students are prepared to earn a living wage.
We’ll have more on Lancaster ISD’s incredible growth in the coming weeks.