Slaton ISD included in $12 million grant to improve teaching, combat COVID-19 learning loss

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 3:23 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Slaton Independent School District will receive part of a $12 million federal grant intended to “increase teacher and school leader effectiveness and improve teaching and learning in 19 high-need schools” and combat learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to information in a new release from The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET); Crockett, Gladewater, Slaton and Somerset ISDs will receive support from NIET and Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity (BranchED) through a grant partnership called “Texas IMPACT,” or “Improving Management Systems for Principals And Classroom Teachers.”

NIET is a national nonprofit that partners with education systems to provide initiatives, including the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, teacher and leader development, school improvement, rubric and observation systems, and educator preparation.

The release states the four school districts will serve as “anchor districts” from east, south, and west Texas regions; acting as models to other small districts within their regions statewide and nationally on how to strengthen support for educators.

“Slaton has always been committed to supporting our teachers and giving them opportunities to learn and grow so every student is able to be successful,” said Slaton ISD Superintendent Jim Andrus. “We will use this grant investment as an opportunity to continue to strengthen what we do every day and expand our vision on what is possible for students to achieve.”

With the goals of the Texas IMPACT partnership to work to combat learning losses in 19 high-need schools, NIET strategies will be implemented such as creating roles and opportunities for teacher leaders, providing customized professional learning to teachers during the school day, using an instructional rubric to ground teaching in research-based practices, and creating a system of performance-based compensation that rewards teachers who show growth or take on additional responsibilities.

Texas students experienced large learning declines in all subjects, according to the Texas Education Agency, and NIET states the key to turning around learning loss is to have the most effective teachers in front of the students who have lost the most. “Unfortunately, research shows that it is often the case that the least experienced teachers are placed in the most challenging schools, where students are likely to have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The four districts in this grant have high populations of students from families who face economic challenges, with the percentage of students classified as economically disadvantaged ranging from 73-89%.”

According to the release, the selected districts will use NIET’s TAP System, “which has been shown to increase the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders, increase educator retention, as well as attract effective educators.”

“We are excited to collaborate alongside educators in these four school districts to help them take their instruction to the next level,” said NIET Co-President Laura Encalade. “This is an opportunity to help teachers and students change their trajectory in a way that not only results in improvements a year from now, but also sets them up with tools that will equip them to grow for years to come.”

The release states BranchED will provide professional learning and coaching to help district leaders and educators focus on building culturally responsive teachers and school leaders who create inclusive school environments where educators are equipped and empowered to embrace identity and diversity as an asset for learning.

“The communities that have been most impacted by the pandemic can maximize investments like these to accelerate recovery,” said Dr. Cassandra Herring, President and CEO of BranchED. “We are proud to be part of this partnership and provide support for educators in Crockett, Gladewater, Slaton and Somerset that will help to create school cultures where every student is able to thrive.”

The grant partnership will launch this fall, with NIET team members beginning to meet with districts and start planning for implementation.

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