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Aldine Independent School District

District Partner 2013-2014

ERS partnered with the Aldine Independent School District (AISD), located near Houston, Texas, to map its resource use and improve human capital strategy.

"You're making us look deeper, forcing us to put a lot of thought into the value we place on different things. We know why we made decisions, but we hadn’t thought about what that means we really value as a district."
- Archie Blanson, Deputy Superintendent, Aldine ISD

District Facts

Aldine Independent School District has long been recognized for ensuring that its more than 67,000 students – 83% of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch and 32% of whom are English Language Learners – get a quality education, even as it remains an extremely low-funded district.

By 2013, however, Aldine’s student test scores on new state exams had fallen to the middle of the pack of large Texas districts. The district was also implementing a new teacher evaluation and compensation system, which required additional resources. 

Work Focus

In this context, Aldine's leadership team partnered with ERS to review the district's use of people, time, and money to ensure they could support this new initiative and other priorities as they worked to turn around student performance:

  • The Strategic Resource Map: Analyze a range of data to understand how resources are allocated across the district, and if they align with the district’s needs and goals. This includes a focus on three main areas:
    • Funding: Equity, transparency, and flexibility of funding across schools
    • School Design: Organization of resources (people, time, and money) at the school-level, and match with individual student need
    • Human Capital: Current strategies to attract, retain, leverage, and develop an excellent teaching corps

  • Analysis of student growth data: Through a partnership with Dr. Theodore Hershberg of the University of Pennsylvania and Operation Public Education and Dr. John Schacter of The Teaching Doctors, we had access to several years of value-added growth scores linked to individual teachers. We incorporated this data into the Resource Map, and created tools to help the district with its human capital strategy and decision-making:
    • Principal Support Card: This report shows school-level data about how principals are doing in hiring, evaluating, and retaining excellent teachers. Its purpose is not to evaluate or sanction principals, but to allow Area Superintendents to diagnose concerns and better guide principals on how to develop an effective teaching staff.
    • School Budget Hold'em exercise: We modified our classic School Budget Hold'em to allow district leadership to weigh the costs of several reform strategies against the potential impact on student achievement.

Findings and Outcomes

Our Strategic Resource Map surfaced some of the ways in which Aldine has had relative success with limited resources, including:

  • Targeted, strategic investments in critical areas – including special education diagnostics and school-based instructional coaches – that are having a meaningful impact on kids.
  • Equitable distribution of resources across schools and student types.
  • Empowering school leaders to select and develop their teams, and actively encouraging teacher teaming and collaboration.
  • Success with students who were formerly in the ELL program, and have now transitioned out - and who on average performed better than non-ELL students on state tests

At the same time, the Aldine team recognized many opportunities for improvement. The district wanted to take a closer look at “strategic retention” of teachers – retaining its most effective teachers while allowing its least effective teachers to move on.  This is particularly acute for teachers in years with three to seven years of experience, who make up 38% of the district’s best (top-quartile) teachers, but represent over half of the top-quartile teachers who leave. 

To address this and other human capital challenges, ERS developped the Principal Support Card (PSC). The PSC creates a foundation for principals and their managers to take a data-driven approach to identifying strengths and gaps in each school’s human capital strategy, and then to act to ensure that all children are taught by the best possible teacher. For example, if a principal notices in the PSC data that more of her most effective teachers are leaving than least effective, she can work with her area superintendent to investigate why and make targeted changes.

Looking forward, Aldine’s leaders have expressed a desire to extend the use of the PSC or a similar tool to improve principals’ school leadership practices, with a particular focus on human capital development. They have already decided to add one Area Superintendent to provide more overall principal support.

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