Early Education

Expanding Collaborative Learning Communities in DeSoto ISD

20 July 2015

During the 2014-2015 school year, the Commit! Partnership began working with 7 elementary campuses in DeSoto ISD to increase student math achievement. As part of the partnership, principals reviewed data, visited high-performing outlier schools, and connected community partners with school needs. While visiting high-performing schools, principals credited much of the success they observed to mentorship and collaboration between teachers. As a result, DeSoto ISD principals have embraced collaborative, data-based Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) and initiated an Early Reading Academy and Math PLC’s.

DeSoto ISD Math PLC’s

Last year, principals voiced concerns over the new rigorous math standards, especially because many elementary campuses only had one math teacher per grade in grades 2-5. With that feedback, Commit! and DeSoto ISD now convene monthly cross-campus math PLC’s for 2nd-5th grade math teachers with the help of the Fluor Foundation. Teachers use Common Assessment and STAAR data to identify student learning gaps and are then provided with sample activities to address these learning gaps by DeSoto ISD math specialists. According to one 2nd grade teacher, “Reviewing the common assessment and talking with other grade level teachers about things that help in the areas the students have been struggling has been the most helpful aspect of the PLC.”

Partnership With Dallas ISD and DeSoto ISD on Early Reading Academies

In partnership with Dallas ISD, the “South Oak Cliff (SOC) Reading Academy” was launched last year with the goal of providing Kindergarten-3rd grade teachers with quality professional development in reading and writing instruction. 100% of teachers agreed the SOC Reading Academy improved their teaching and more of their colleagues would benefit from meaningful participation. 15 of 19 participating teachers had students exceeding the feeder pattern percentage of students on grade level in May 2015 or growing 10 percentile points or more from September to May. This year, the Commit! Partnership is refining and re-launching the SOC Reading Academy with ~25 Kindergarten – 2nd grade teachers reaching ~500 students. Additionally, Dallas ISD is expanding a similar Reading Academy model that will reach an additional 300 K-2 teachers serving over 6,000 students and DeSoto ISD is bringing the model to 20 Kindergarten-2nd Grade teachers, led by Dr. Clarissa Plair, who has over 30 years of literacy education and leadership experience.

In DeSoto, teachers meet voluntarily each week and cover topics such as reading block schedules, running records, guided reading, phonemic awareness, phonics, word work and writer’s workshop. Teachers across campuses share from their classrooms what worked well, what didn’t, and how they plan to implement what they’re learning in the Reading Academy.

From the first eight sessions, 91% of participants responded that the sessions are very helpful. One teacher commented, “They are short sessions, I’m able to focus, pay attention, and apply what I’m learning while at the same time having conversations with other Kinder teachers from other schools.” Reading academy participants also receive support from Commit! through student level data reports that help monitor student progress and a DonorsChoose campaign for up to $500 of resources donated to their classroom. The Boone Family Foundation has graciously pledged $25,000 towards DonorsChoose projects posted by these Reading Academy participants.

To learn more about our partnership with DeSoto ISD, contact Chelsea Jeffery or Sagar Desai.

To learn more about our partnership with Dallas ISD, contact Andy Canales.