Armed with data from a curriculum audit commissioned by the Education Foundation, the Education Partnership is looking to the future and planning for what it hopes will be a new reality in the local education landscape.
The Education Partnership features a cross-section of leaders including members from the education, business, government, law enforcement, foundation, nonprofit and religious communities. About 45 people attended the most recent gathering at Complex Community Federal Credit Union Training Center.
The committee went over the community’s assets, challenges and opportunities. Some of the attributes, like the strong economy, were noted as double-edged swords because they attract people to the area, but also prompt students, faculty and staff to leave the ECISD.
Although a caring community was cited as an asset, Leadership Team member Carol Uranga said parents don’t necessarily take the time to care for their children and don’t turn out to schools unless their student is performing.
It was noted that Midland had put up $5 million for teacher housing, but it wasn’t found to be particularly effective. What was effective was a $10,000 signing bonus over three years for teachers in Midland, Midland ISD Foundation Director and Leadership Team member Jami Owen said.
Committee members divided into various tables discussed their vision of the future for ECISD and the community.
Lorraine Perryman, chairman of the executive committee of the Education Partnership, said the community needs adequate and affordable housing to recruit and retain teachers.
Chris Cole, a leadership team member, said the relationship between Odessa and Midland needs to be worked on.
Perryman said state-of-the-art facilities and timing elections better so entities in Odessa aren’t competing with each other are needed. She added that she would like to see full community involvement in schools.
Perryman said she would like to see a “knock-‘em-dead” career and technology school.
Participants also reported out what they think success would look like in 10 years. This would include having a low dropout rate, high graduation rate, a high rate of students going to college, higher teacher retention rate and growing their own workforce.
Superintendent Tom Crowe said the district is involved in several programs aimed at bringing more teachers to ECISD.
Among the key improvements would be engaged parents, letting all students know they matter, engaging businesses and churches and shifting the cultural perception of education.
The curriculum review and analysis conducted by WLK Education Consultants and focused on kindergarten through third grade English Language Arts. Rita Latimer, retired executive director of curriculum and instruction for Richardson ISD who also has worked for ECISD, presented information from the review Tuesday.
In terms of curriculum, the audit showed that the staff was committed to improving instruction; was positive about the efforts of the district, but frustrated about key aspects of the kindergarten through third grade language arts program.
Perryman said the district got to work immediately after WLK’s presentation in November 2017 and embraced the changes. By the December school board meeting, district officials presented their progress, she said.
There were many unconnected resources that did not provide an effective scope and sequence of skills and the curriculum units were extremely long and cumbersome to navigate, information presented at Tuesday’s meeting showed.
Units did not have clear student objectives, resources, pacing or sequencing information. Teachers “interpret” units differently and the district could not ensure that a consistent curriculum was being taught across the district, the information said.
- The ECISD program does not show well articulated instructional pieces.
- The multiplicity of unvetted resources makes it difficult to ensure alignment to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which are the state curriculum standards.
- The district does not have a comprehensive phonics or writing program to meet the needs of students.
- I Station Indicators of Progress results indicate that the needs of students at the mid and lower levels, Tier 2 and Tier 3, are not being adequately met.
- STAAR reading and writing results for grades three and four indicate the curriculum is not meeting the needs of students in a significant number of schools.
- Excessive number of assessments and lack of coordination between subject areas.
- Training is not systematic and differentiated enough to meet the needs of teachers. Latimer said training should be spread throughout the year.
- The organizational model does not allow for seamless coordination of curriculum.
- ECISD has difficulty attracting qualified staff.
- Significant turnover at the elementary level has produced an unstable workforce that is struggling to meet the needs of students.
- Long-term substitutes in many schools.
- Bilingual teachers: The district hires bilingual teachers from outside the United States, which is costly and leaves the district dependent on federal regulations outside the control of the district. This practice also contributes to the turnover rate, the report said.
The goal of the Education Partnership is to encourage a common understanding of the educational issues and challenges facing the community, from cradle to career, and to work collaboratively to help solve these issues, using the Collective Impact model.
The Collective Impact model is based on a “framework that focuses on bringing members from different sectors within a community together to drive large scale social change,” such as education, a news release said.