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Commitment 1: Strong Literacy Foundation for All

The very foundation of learning is literacy. Students start by "learning to read" and then transition to "reading to learn" and ultimately communicating effectively to demonstrate and share what they have learned. Unfortunately, here at Spring ISD – like so many school districts across the nation – our students are struggling in the area of literacy and we are struggling to help them.

For instance, the results of the 2013-14 STAAR assessment show that an alarming 40 percent of our students are not able to read on level, which obviously impacts other academic content areas. Add to this the fact that nearly 80 percent of our K-2 students requiring reading intervention at the beginning of the school year were still not reading on grade level by the end of the school year – despite intervention efforts – and the gravity of the situation is clear.

These numbers point to a literacy crisis – a crisis that we take very seriously. That's precisely why literacy is at the core of our strategic plan. We fully understand that we need to get literacy right and are committed to doing so with an emphasis on the following strategies:

Strategy 1: Focus on Early Literacy

The transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" starts between kindergarten and third grade. When this transition doesn't occur smoothly, learning across other content areas can be stunted. As such, it's important that we ensure that Spring ISD students are reading on grade level by third grade so they can actively start engaging with other content areas like math, science and history – growing their vocabulary, their knowledge base, and their world.

To do this, we are going back to the basics with fidelity. We will apply precise and sequential instruction in the key component areas of literacy – phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension. We will ensure that all our elementary principals have key literacy competencies and understand their role as the literacy leader on their campus. We will also ensure that all our elementary teachers have a deep understanding of how to teach reading and writing processes and that they are provided continuous professional development in the area of literacy. Lastly, we will apply consistent assessment practices across the district including a kindergarten screener, a diagnostic tool and a nationally normed summative assessment.

In short, consistency across our elementary schools and an emphasis on the importance of literacy in K-3 are key components of our comprehensive literacy plan. Our efforts are not about recreating the wheel. They are simply about getting back to the basics with fidelity. No shortcuts; just good, solid reading and writing instruction in K-3 so that every student has a strong literacy foundation upon which to build their other studies.

Strategy 2: Embed Literacy Throughout

To prepare our students for college and career, we must infuse literacy skills – both reading and writing – intentionally throughout all district curriculums. To do this, we will start by setting the clear expectation, across every grade and every campus, that literacy must be purposely embedded in all core and enrichment classes. That means reading and writing will be embedded in math courses, science courses, music courses, art courses, etc.

Our academics department will design curriculum with this intent, ensuring that all curriculum reflects the integration of literacy across the disciplines. Administrators and teachers will be provided training to ensure they understand the practices and skills needed for an integrated literacy approach across content areas and disciplines. Administrators will be tasked, as the literacy leaders of their campuses, to lead these integrated literacy efforts and monitor the effectiveness of integrated literary lessons and curriculum. Teachers will be provided opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in their area of expertise and other disciplines to develop integrated literacy lesson plans and share ideas.

Naturally, embedding literacy across all content areas will be a paradigm shift for many of our schools, so we understand that this change won't be easy. It will require breaking down barriers across departments and redesigning curriculum. In our opinion, though, it will be well worth the effort. Embedding literacy across every content area will provide our students with the strong foundation in reading and writing that is needed to be successful in college, work and life.

Strategy 3: Establish Strong Literacy Framework for English Language Learners

Learning any new subject is a process and can be difficult. Learning a new subject can be especially challenging for students who are developing their understanding of English and working through potential language barriers. To help the more than 8,000 students in our schools who are learning English while also learning content in other core subject areas, we will establish a strong literacy framework to help our English language learners on their journey to both English fluency and college and career readiness.

First and foremost, moving forward, teachers will be trained and supported to utilize strategies designed to meet the needs of second language learners, with instructional strategies for second language learners actually embedded into the district's curriculum. Secondly, English Language Development (ELD) will be intentionally taught across our schools. These are important "firsts" for the district and demonstrate our commitment to better serving our English language learners.

Lastly, as part of the district's work to strengthen our curriculum, we are working to better reflect the multicultural landscape of our district in our curriculum. Here at Spring ISD, we value the diversity found in this community and see a huge opportunity to leverage it as a competitive advantage for our students who will compete in a global society.

Strategy 4: Create a "Love of Reading" Culture

Reading for pleasure builds the enthusiasm and skills needed for lifelong learning. School communities with a "love of reading" culture emphasize and model the importance of reading both for learning and pleasure. These school communities dedicate time for daily reading, encourage reading at home, provide students access to great reading materials, and have buy-in on the importance of reading from every staff member.

To ensure that each and every one of our school communities creates and nurtures a "love of reading" culture, we will enlist the help of Spring ISD families and community members on a campaign called "READ MORE. LEARN MORE." As part of this campaign, we will raise awareness of the importance of literacy and the severity of the literacy crisis that exists in our community. We will also conduct literacy events throughout the year, launch summer programs to support year-round literacy, and collaborate with community organizations and businesses to extend literacy efforts throughout the community.

Commitment 2: Excellent Curriculum and Instruction

Excellence in student achievement for a school district requires a firm foundation of quality curriculum. Just as students need the guidance of effective teachers in the classroom, effective teachers need a strong course of study that they can rely on to guide them in their day-to-day work. When teachers don't have access to quality curriculum to work from, they can find themselves caught up in unnecessary and time-consuming work that keeps them from focusing on the actual act of teaching and providing individualized instruction. As such, it is essential that our academics department design curriculum that gives teachers the support they need so they can spend more time doing what they do best – the work that only they can do – teaching our students.

While improvements to district curriculum were initiated during the 2014-15 school year, there is still work left to be done. Focused on creating a framework that will improve student achievement, we are working hard to align curriculum, instruction, standards and assessments across every grade level and every school. Moving forward, this alignment will serve as a common point for teacher collaboration and communication. It will also allow parents to get more involved in their child's learning process – better understanding what their child is expected to learn and by when. Lastly, when students move, an aligned curriculum will help them maintain a course of study without interruptions if and when they need to transition to another school within the district.

The following strategies will guide us as we look to the future and continue our path to excellent curriculum and instruction for every child:

Strategy 1: Establish a Districtwide Curriculum Framework with Clearly Defined Expectations

In order to provide the best education possible for all students, the district is already in the process of developing and implementing a clear, standardized, disctrictwide curriculum framework to support strong classroom instruction. Spring ISD has been a district with high student mobility in recent years, and it is imperative that instruction be aligned across campuses and that support is provided through a solid curriculum and through ongoing training for both teachers and administrators.

The newly designed curriculum framework starts with an updated scope and recommended lesson sequence, combined with a focus on ensuring that all students have the opportunity to reach grade-level expectations. The framework includes instruction standards and expectations, lesson structures and assessment information, as well as strategies to support individualized instruction for all learners at every level. This framework will make clear the purpose of each lesson and provide proven strategies and practices to help teachers help students get where they're going and make the most of their education along the way. Moreover, classroom lessons will reflect the district's focus on student ownership, incorporating instructional models that encourage mastery through increasing levels of autonomy and self-reliance when learning new concepts, processes, and subjects.

Strategy 2: Continuously Monitor Curriculum Implementation

Any new curriculum framework will come with its share of struggles and difficulties, so consistent monitoring and implementation support will be the key to our success in reaching our goals. To realize these goals, all levels of support, starting with teachers and administrators, will be expected to have an understanding of the curriculum framework and its expected outcomes. Once everyone is on the same page and operating from the same playbook, the district will implement systems for better curriculum monitoring, including written reflective feedback, guidance templates, review of lesson plans, and linking classroom data to instruction. This system will provide tangible feedback to both the teachers and curriculum writers, allowing us the opportunity to continually strengthen the curriculum to ensure student success.

Strategy 3: Implement a Learning Management System with a 360 Degree View of Student Learning

To help unify our offerings districtwide and provide greater support to teachers, students and families, the district will explore a number of learning management systems to identify one that meets its needs and provides the feedback required to make critical decisions about student learning. By streamlining the plethora of information and management systems currently in use across the district, teachers can spend more time thinking purposefully about curriculum planning and less time searching for resources across multiple applications. Administrators' use of the learning management system will guide coaching conversations, feedback and campus improvement plans. Students, together with their parents, will have ready access to the information and resources they need to make the most of their education and to excel. It is our hope that regular, easy access to relevant indicators of student progress will inform and empower all stakeholders.

Strategy 4: Develop an Assessment Framework that Uses Data to Drive Instruction

Data informs instruction. To provide the most accurate feedback and ensure that the best decisions are made, the data we utilize needs to be reliable. An assessment framework aligned to the rigor of the TEKS will be developed through collaboration with stakeholders and experts to provide essential data at all levels, allowing teachers, administrators and district staff to make informed decisions and monitor current practices. With the highly diverse population of Spring ISD, it is imperative to analyze the effectiveness of strategies, programs and curriculum through student learning outcomes. This framework will provide opportunities for teacher and school collaboration to ensure we are providing the best education possible to all students and preparing them for the tests – and the opportunities – they will encounter in both school and life.

Commitment 3: Excellent Systems of Support and Acceleration

When we can recognize struggles early on, we can rally support for students who need it so they don't lose confidence and grow frustrated. Likewise, when we recognize accelerated learning needs early on, we can offer expanded curriculum so these learners don't become bored and grow frustrated. And naturally, it is critically important that our students who receive special education services are receiving instruction and care that meets their unique needs.

To do all of this, we need excellent systems of support and acceleration across the district – in every school and in every classroom. Based on information revealed in recent audit reports and parent feedback received during the district's listening tour, we know that we need to strengthen these systems to ensure that each and every child's needs are being met.

The following strategies will be implemented to achieve this goal, ensuring excellent systems of support and acceleration across the district:

Strategy 1: Implement a Tiered System for Student Support

Different struggles require different supports – some require more practice, some require catch-up assistance, while others require targeted remediation for deficits in literacy that are preventing learning in other content areas. Whatever the struggle, our classroom teachers need to provide differentiated support to struggling students and they need to have the right tools and training to do so.

As such, an improved tiered system of support that addresses the unique needs of every student is being designed for implementation during the 2015-2016 school year. Administrators and teachers will be provided the training needed to understand the new tiered system of support and how to use it effectively. We will strengthen and refine the district's tiered system for response to intervention each and every year of our five year plan. It is our goal to have one of the best systems of tiered support in the nation by the conclusion of our plan.

Strategy 2: Strengthen Special Education Framework

To strengthen special education instruction across the district, we will implement a "needs-driven" framework focused on individualized instruction and supports for every student. The district's current approach to special education utilizes a "program-driven" framework that groups together disabilities with limited ability to customize supports and instruction to each student's needs. As we transition to a more individualized approach to special education instruction, we will also work to increase inclusion services to students – allowing them greater access to general education curriculum along with their non-disabled peers.

Through training and coaching on the new "needs-driven" instructional model, teachers will be able to implement effective co-teaching and provide specialized instruction to better meet the needs of each and every student.

Strategy 3: Strengthen Curriculum and Instruction for Accelerated Learners

"The learning needs of each student must be met" is a guiding principle for the district. As such, it's important that we design curriculum and programs that challenge every student. This includes our gifted and talented students, who need challenges beyond what's offered in regular content curriculum.

During the 2015-16 school year, the district will ensure that newly designed gifted and talented curriculum is embedded into the district's grade-level curriculum across all elementary schools. This will provide elementary teachers frequent opportunities to extend and expand lessons for their gifted and talented students. The new curriculum will include interesting projects and rigorous activities that allow gifted and talented students to creatively demonstrate their learning.

Efforts to improve curriculum and instruction for gifted and talented students at the secondary level will also be made next year through the implementation of rigorous Pre-AP and AP curriculum across all middle and high schools. Currently, there is limited and/or inconsistent access to Pre-AP and AP curriculum for our secondary students. We are committed to changing this through an expanded Pre-AP and AP offering – with students and families seeing more courses offered each year of our five-year plan.

Moving forward, we will implement new gifted and talented assessment tools at the elementary level to better support early identification. We will also evaluate the potential for gifted and talented classrooms at the elementary level to better meet our accelerated learners' needs.

Commitment 4: Graduates Who Are 21st Century Learners

Today's students are "digital natives," absorbing information about the world from digital devices that they carry with them at all times. With the world at their fingertips, today's students require and demand a different kind of learning experience. They want quick and easy access to new knowledge, more opportunities to collaborate with their classmates, and they insist on being allowed to participate in decisions about things that affect them. They also need teachers who will embrace the role of technology in the classroom so it better matches how they take in information and communicate outside of school.

Add to this the fact that today's workplace is also changing, with companies requiring that employees are able to effectively use technology to research, participate in complex team projects, and work with people from diverse backgrounds, and it's easy to see that there is a real need for new approaches to educating our students – approaches that connect with how 21st century students want to learn and the skill sets needed to be successful in 21st century work environments.

The journey to ensure that 21st century skills are present throughout a student's educational experience will take time. However, we must begin now. The following strategies illustrate how the district will approach this important commitment:

Strategy 1: Support Teaching Through Technology Practices

More information will be posted here soon.

Strategy 2: Expand Team and Project-Based Learning Opportunities

More information will be posted here soon.

Strategy 3: Create Interactive Learning Environments

More information will be posted here soon.

Strategy 4: Foster Cross-Cultural Competencies

More information will be posted here soon.

Performance Indicators

    • % of students graduating in 4 years
    • SAT Critical Reading and Math Scores
    • % of kindergarten students reading on grade level
    • % of 3rd grade students reading on grade level
    • % of 3rd - 8th grade students scoring satisfactory or advanced on the state reading and mathematics examinations
    • % of students scoring satisfactory or advanced on the state End-of-Course examinations
    • Close the achievement gaps between student groups
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