During the 2018-2019 school year, Dallas Teacher Residency (DTR) expanded to partner with Richardson Independent School District. The article published below in the Dallas Morning News demonstrates how the teacher residency model can help with school transformation.
See the full article that was published in the Dallas Morning News below (original story link here).
Friday March 1st, 2019
We need to stop calling certain public school reforms “controversial” and just start calling them “effective.”
That includes everything from paying the best teachers the best salaries to expanding the choices parents have when it comes to selecting a school for their kids.
But today, we want to focus on a more nuanced element of the effort to improve struggling schools.
We are thinking of Richardson ISD, a district that has seen its performance slip over the years as it has taken on more economically disadvantaged students, many of them immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Last year, Richardson adopted one of Dallas ISD’s core reforms, targeting its worst-performing schools with a surge of resources while also incentivizing the best teachers to help turn those schools around.
Four elementary schools were put into the program — Carolyn Bukhair Elementary, Forest Lane Academy, RISD Academy and Thurgood Marshall Elementary. All four include student bodies that are more than 92 percent economically disadvantaged. Each was rated as requiring improvement by the state, meaning an unacceptable number of students didn’t measure up on state testing.
Today, it appears the district’s focus on reform is having its intended effect.
All four schools now show significant growth at the midpoint of the current school year vs. end-of-year STAAR scores last year.
In third grade, 60 percent of students are reading at a level that would see them pass STAAR. Last year, just 36 percent met the mark at the end of the year. In fifth grade reading, the number is 53 percent at midyear vs. 32 percent at the end of last year.
The numbers aren’t perfect. There are areas where additional growth is needed.
But the trajectory is clearly north. Getting there, though, hasn’t been easy, or cheap.
RISD opened every position at the four schools last year. Then it invited its 350 best teachers to apply to work in one of the schools. The reward: an additional $10,000 in pay.
RISD also introduced a massive support system for students — including breakfast, lunch and dinner, after-school care until 6 p.m. and ongoing tutoring and activities. All in, the effort has cost $3.2 million a year. At that price, it isn’t something that can be expanded to other struggling schools absent an increase in overall funding to the district.
But the district is adapting some of the best lessons from these schools and bringing them into other schools at a lower cost. That includes consistent coaching and training for teachers.
The answer isn’t throwing money at the problem of struggling schools. It is using market incentives to get the best teachers to take a chance on the toughest campuses. And it is filling in the gaps of child care, nutrition and extra tutoring that some families simply can’t afford.
This is what real reform looks like.