The Educate Texas 2018-2019 Annual Report: Side by Side

Thanks to the support of our partners across Texas, Educate Texas is making a positive impact in education across the state. Working side by side with leaders from school districts, colleges and universities, business and workforce, community and civic organizations, and state agencies and policymakers, we are making education a priority and creating a brighter future for all Texas students. Read stories about how we’re empowering effective teaching, improving access to higher education, ensuring students are ready for college and careers, and collaborating with community leaders through collective impact initiatives in our 2018-2019 Annual Report.

 
College & Career Readiness: Dollars for College

College & Career Readiness: Dollars for College

We’re Kick-Starting College Savings

“When children know they have money set aside from an early age designated for their college or higher education, they and their parents embrace graduation as an expectation and feel inspired to invest in this goal,” said Wende Burton, Senior Director of Community Philanthropy at Communities Foundation of Texas.

In 2018, with support from United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas and Educate Texas, and additional funding from W.W. Caruth, Jr. Fund at CFT, The Meadows Foundation, Dallas Social Venture Partners and The Boone Family Foundation, Lancaster ISD (LISD) became the first district in North Texas to launch Dollars for College — a savings account program that provides low-income families with a safe, trusted, easy-to-access and low-cost opportunity to start building college savings for their children.

It was the 2012-2017 districtwide STEM initiative, funded by Texas Instruments Foundation and supported by Educate Texas, that helped position LISD as an ideal candidate for the Dollars for College program.

Dollars for College is a powerful program because it builds on our community-wide educational attainment goals and brings something that once seemed unattainable for many families, into the realm of possibility,” said LISD Superintendent of Schools, Elijah Granger. “Starting a savings account — even a small one — is an important first step toward planning for a stronger academic future.”

Dollars for College scholarship accounts are opened for every participating LISD kindergarten student. Accounts are seeded with $50 and are linked to students’ individual 529 accounts* set up by parents. Families can make deposits at any time in their student’s individual account. Students will also have opportunities through the district to earn incentives and matching funds to grow their savings. When each child is ready to pursue higher education or training, they can access funds from these accounts to use toward those expenses. As of the end of the 2018-2019 school year, more than 85% of LISD families have agreed to enroll their students in Dollars for College, with over 240 opening parent accounts.

In 2018, LISD received the HEB Academic Excellence Award. The district decided to use the award to further the impact of the Dollars for College initiative and invest in the future of the 2018-2019 kindergarten class by directing the $50,000 award as additional seed money into every current kindergarten student’s Dollars for College account.

“If it wasn’t for this program, I don’t know how we could afford to send our youngest child to college,” said LISD parent, Cameisha Borner. “We are so thankful that Lancaster ISD and Dollars for College are partnering with parents by investing in our children’s future.”

“Starting college savings from an early age can help change the trajectory for these students, their families and the entire community, helping more students access and complete higher education in the future,” said Reo Pruiett, senior director, programs at Educate Texas. “We look forward to sharing in the success of the first LISD Dollars for College kindergarten class — and to seeing the program grow and expand in the years to come.”

“Children who grow up with college savings, even small amounts, are three times more likely to go to college and four times more likely to graduate. Our long-term goal is to help increase access to postsecondary education for the more than 70 percent economically disadvantaged students living and studying in Dallas County,” said Burton, “and the LISD Dollars for College initiative is a wonderful start!”

*529 account – a tax-advantaged savings plan sponsored by states, state agencies or educational institutions designed to encourage saving for future education costs.

Effective Teaching: Best in Class

Effective Teaching: Best in Class

We’re Helping Students Succeed

“I’ve always known that this calling to be a teacher was going to be tough — but I also knew that it was all going to be worth it. We have a greater purpose: to serve and lead. That matters!” said Sarah Barrientos, second grade teacher at Handley Elementary School in Garland ISD (GISD). “The ACE program has helped us better serve students, meeting them where they are and helping them get to where they need to be academically.”

The ACE (Accelerating Campus Excellence) model, a turnaround strategy that began in Dallas ISD, identifies a district’s most effective teachers and leaders, and places them in schools with the highest needs. In 2018, Best in Class, a partnership between Educate Texas at Communities Foundation of Texas and Commit Partnership, worked side by side with GISD to implement ACE at two campuses: Handley Elementary School and Lyles Middle School.

“The ACE model is designed to close achievement and opportunity gaps and help students achieve greater academic, social and emotional success,” said Betsy Cook, deputy director, programs at Educate Texas. “GISD handpicked a team of highly effective educators for each ACE campus, and it’s already seeing positive results.”

Per data collected mid 2018-2019 school year from Lyles Middle School: 

  • 5.3% more students met or exceeded reading growth projections, compared to the prior year, and the percentage of students who did not meet MAP* test expectations dropped by 10%.
  • The time teachers spend with students is very important, so it is also notable that there were 210 fewer staff absences than the prior year.
  • Based on available Mock STAAR** data, Lyles is projected to earn a B in its   2018-2019 accountability ratings, up from a D in 2017-2018.

“Last year, and the years before, I had very poor grades,” said Devin Anderson, a Lyles Middle School student. “This year, the ACE program is helping me bring my grades up from Bs to straight As.”

Per data collected mid 2018-2019 school year from Handley Elementary:

  • 13.9% more students met or exceeded math growth projections, and 5.4% more students mastered MAP* test reading projections, compared to the prior year.
  • There were 198 fewer overall staff absences than prior year, and the school’s case load for academic, social and behavioral issue interventions decreased by 20%.
  • With available Mock STAAR** data, Handley Elementary School is projected to rank #12 of 47 campuses in GISD, moving it from the bottom quartile to the top.

“Here, it’s different than my other school,” said Da’Kamryn Bland, a Handley Elementary School student. “I like that the teachers are kind, and they teach me how to do new stuff. They’re super funny, too.”

Beyond academics, ACE supports the “whole child,” with features including an extended school day; free after-school enrichment activities; breakfast, lunch and dinner; uniforms and evening transportation home.

“I love the uniforms. Having all the students wear the same thing is good, and helps with bullying,” said Rosa Ramirez, a Handley Elementary parent.

Loreen Declet, 5th grade bilingual teacher at Handley Elementary, said, “I’ve had a couple of parents talk to me, and they are really happy that we are taking the time to not only work with students academically, but also to think about what happens at home. They know how to have a conversation with others and they know how to be respectful. We want to reach out to each one of these kids, so that they can do better in life.”

Dr. Ricardo López, GISD superintendent, is excited to have two ACE schools in the district, and proud of the program’s success. “ACE has proven results in transforming campus culture and dramatically improving achievement for students. Providing an exceptional education and meeting the unique needs of our students is our mission. The ACE investment of resources at these two campuses exemplifies our commitment to carrying out this mission,” he said.

GISD’s ACE campuses will serve as an example to other Texas districts seeking to improve teaching and learning for students. As more ACE campuses open, Best in Class will continue to be a trusted source of support.

*Measures of Academic Progress test

**The practice test for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test

Policy & Advocacy: Legislative Lunch & Learns

Policy & Advocacy: Legislative Lunch & Learns

We’re Building Knowledge

When it comes to higher education policy, there are many stakeholders. Texas legislators, public and private universities, educators and students are all invested. In 2018, Educate Texas, which seeks to strengthen education by building partnerships and encouraging collaboration across the system, worked side by side with The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University System, and Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT) to host a series of Lunch and Learn sessions for legislative staff.

Each luncheon featured national experts who shared their knowledge about many higher education policy topics. Luncheon attendees learned about challenges affecting college affordability, how the college experience of today differs from that in decades past, and the importance of creating streamlined pathways for students into and through higher education.

“We collaborated with Educate Texas to raise awareness of important issues in higher education, like advancing educational opportunities, addressing financial needs, and the economic importance of education,” said Ray Martinez, president of ICUT. “The Educate Texas Lunch and Learn series helped legislative staff understand why these issues are important to all higher education stakeholders.”

The 2018 Lunch and Learn series culminated in a half-day multi-session conference in January 2019 that correlated with the start of the 86th Legislative Session. At this event, student voices were also brought into the conversation through partners College Forward and Young Invincibles.

“One session was all about ‘Who is the 21st Century Student?’, as we wanted to broaden the perspective on the type of students we’re serving,” said Melissa Henderson, deputy director of policy at Educate Texas. “Many legislators were probably very traditional students, in that they went directly from high school to a four-year campus, attended full-time and then graduated four years later. This isn’t the experience for most students today. Half of today’s students are attending part time, and 80% of freshman are at a community college. This shift has considerable policy implications.”

Another session focused on college affordability, going beyond tuition and financial aid, and focusing on issues like transfer, student success and college debt — especially when students leave college with debt, but no degree.

“The Lunch and Learn events were unique in a few ways,” Henderson said. “First, they were collaborative across university systems and across public and private universities. Second, they were focused on issues affecting all higher education. And lastly, through our partnerships, we reached nearly 60% of all legislative offices, a much broader reach than we’ve ever had.”

“We enjoyed working with Educate Texas to share the expertise of leading higher education professionals with a broad representation of legislative offices,” said Martinez. “Because of the Educate Texas Lunch and Learn events, Texas policymakers are now more informed about some of the most important issues affecting higher education today.”

Reaching more people and building a foundation of knowledge helps Educate Texas achieve its goal of being a trusted thought leader and a strong collaborator in higher education.

Higher Education: TxCAN

Higher Education: TxCAN

We’re Increasing College Access

TxCAN, an initiative of Educate Texas, connects and supports college access initiatives throughout Texas. Nearly 60% of Texas students come from economically disadvantaged families. Economic disadvantage is the biggest obstacle in students accessing higher education — but it doesn’t have to be.

Since launching in 2012, TxCAN has had great success with building access networks, collecting data on Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates, and sharing learnings and data with education professionals statewide. In 2018, to further expand the reach and benefits of the work, anchor funder Greater Texas Foundation (GTF), alongside The Kresge Foundation, generously provided funding and deep thought partnership to reinforce the TxCAN program.

“We are proud to support TxCAN,” said Sue McMillan, president and CEO of GTF. “There are many organizations across the state working hard to improve college access and success for Texas students. We can do so much more when there is cohesion and shared learning among organizations with aligned goals. We are eager to see TxCAN lead a statewide strategy to make us all more effective at supporting students.”

John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Educate Texas, explains the TxCAN vision: “TxCAN is here to bridge the gap between high school and higher education, to simplify the enrollment process for students and parents, to support students from low-income and minority backgrounds, and to increase collaboration across education agencies and college access networks statewide.”

With its emphasis on collecting and disseminating FAFSA data, one of TxCAN’s successful 2018 efforts was the creation of a dashboard to track FAFSA completion rates. The dashboard allows college access professionals across Texas to compare their local FAFSA completion rates to other education service center regions, counties, school districts and campuses.

“In the Rio Grande Valley, one of our main focus areas for the last few years has been high school seniors completing FAFSA,” said Katherine Diaz, deputy director of RGV FOCUS, a collective impact initiative of Educate Texas. “We were very excited when TxCAN launched their new FAFSA dashboard. It has been very useful and has made tracking our FAFSA data much easier. It is a go-to tool!”

Since the dashboard launched, TxCAN has received a lot of positive feedback about the tool from college access professionals across Texas. With the introduction of the mandatory FAFSA completion requirement through the new public-school finance bill — House Bill 3 — resulting from the 86th Legislative session, the dashboard will be even that much more valuable.

“So many kids are bright and talented, but need access to opportunities,” said Shareea Woods, director of Texas College Access Network (TxCAN) at Educate Texas. “TxCAN is bringing together our partners across the state, ensuring they have the resources to give our kids the best start at life.”

Collective Impact: RGV FOCUS

Collective Impact: RGV FOCUS

We’re Strengthening Communities

“We all understand what the end game is. It is not just education. It is financial stability for families in our community. For us, partnership and alignment with RGV FOCUS has been a fantastic gift,” said Traci Wickett, president and CEO of United Way of Southern Cameron County (UWSCC). Traci joined the Leadership Team of RGV FOCUS, a collective impact initiative of Educate Texas, in 2012, and enjoys working side by side with the strong team of business, education and non-profit leaders.

Eduardo Infante, Superintendent of Lyford Consolidated ISD (LCISD) and 2018-2019 RGV FOCUS Leadership Team co-chair, also joined the RGV FOCUS Leadership Team in 2012. Reflecting on his experiences over the last seven years of working side by side with other RGV leaders, he says, “We are smarter together than we are apart. We have learned the benefits of working side by side, and RGV FOCUS has been a big part of that.”

In 2018, building on the benefits of the collaborative successes of RGV FOCUS, Traci and UWSCC worked side by side with Eduardo and LCISD to bring the UWSCC’s VITA program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) to the Lyford community. The VITA program trains volunteers to help working families that earn less than $55,000 annually by preparing their income tax returns for free. LCISD provided student volunteers.

“Bringing VITA to our community has had a multi-fold benefit,” Eduardo said. Traci agreed, “Yes! The students benefit because they not only gain skills, but they become official IRS-certified tax preparers. The community benefits because it’s an opportunity to have income taxes prepared for free.” Chris Coxon, interim director of RGV FOCUS and managing director of programs at Educate Texas, added, “In addition, because income tax returns are a key component of FAFSA* completion, the VITA program benefits the Rio Grande Valley region as well. At a 71 percent completion rate, the RGV exceeds the state, currently at 60 percent, of graduating seniors completing FAFSA. That means more RGV students have access to college!”

“We have seen it in action. We can get so much more done when we work together,” Eduardo said. “We share what works, we challenge each other, and we encourage each other. We have learned the benefits of working together — side by side — and RGV FOCUS has been a big part of that. It’s not by chance. It’s by design.”

*Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Educate Texas is committed to ensuring that all Texas students are prepared to be successful in school, work and life. Our efforts are guided by the 20x2020 Student Success Plan with the goal of making a positive impact on 20 percent of the nearly 7 million public school and higher education students and the 350,000 public education teachers in Texas by 2020. The plan rests on four key pillars: College and Career ReadinessEffective TeachingHigher Education and Collective Impact. The programs and initiatives that support each area work together to create an ever more seamless connection between pre-K-12, higher education and the workforce, so every Texas student has a clear path and equal opportunity to pursue a meaningful future. We invite you to learn more about our vision and progress in our 2017 annual report: Where Giving Empowers

 
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