Although winter hasn’t been that cold this year, it is exciting to sense the nearness of spring with tree blossoms budding and roses blooming. Bluebonnets are beginning to announce spring’s return, and in Lockhart and throughout Caldwell County, it is certainly a season of new growth.
The same is true in Lockhart ISD. Teachers have been engaged in professional development on honing their instructional toolbox and have applied these new skills immediately to boost learning. Students are rising to the challenge of higher expectations—not only meeting those expectations but exceeding them. After a season of teaching, learning, and studying, students and staff are beginning to see the blooms from all of their hard work right now in LISD.
As you know, the best way to ensure the best growth and biggest blooms is making sure the soil is properly prepared to support it. LISD has three Board-approved “District Goals” that guide our thoughts and actions in serving students.
Goal 1. Create a collaborative culture of contagious ambition.
Goal 2. Expect all staff to embrace growth activities.
Goal 3. Empower students to seize opportunities to achieve at high levels.
These goals are the “soil” for student success, setting high expectations for staff and students alike. Here are examples of what we are seeing springing from these goals.
Right now, the LISD Literary Task Force, a group of teachers, instructional coaches, and administrators, is implementing its strategies to boost literacy in early grades in every elementary school to prepare our youngest Lions for success. LISD established the task force when the district reviewed data indicating 40 percent of students entering sixth grade were below reading level. The task force investigated further and learned the deficit was also true for students entering second grade. In response, LISD provided targeted professional development and instructional resources to strengthen and enrich elementary teachers’ strategies to teach phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, reading fluency, and phonics skills for our youngest readers. With a district-wide plan and strategy in place, right now, all of our youngest Lions are learning critical literacy skills that will prepare them for their transition to junior high school.
Right now, Lockhart Junior High School is in its second year as a RAISEup Texas campus. By being selected by the E3 Alliance for this program, the campus receives grant money and professional development support to transform teaching and learning to help LJHS students meet high standards for college and career-readiness. A central part of this is the use of the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM). This strategy helps students succeed in subjects across the campus and prepares them for success in high school and college.
Right now, instruction at LJHS is stronger and more effective because of training, time, and support teachers have been given to collaborate together. Also, there is greater structure and predictability for students, which improves learning and student engagement. In the two years since LJHS began implementing these changes, the number of student discipline referrals has decreased by 62 percent. Also, a survey of LJHS parents and staff reveal increases in every measure of students being challenged, healthy, engaged, safe, and supported. We are proud of all of our LJHS staff who have committed themselves to this important work, and we’re even prouder of all our LJHS students who are demonstrating growth and excellence!
Right now, eighth grade students preparing for high school have an informed plan for the next four years. This year, all rising ninth graders and their parents were invited to personally meet with a high school counselor to discuss student interests and courses and collaboratively develop a graduation plan. LISD recognizes the critical role parents play in the success of their children, and we truly believe student success soars when the district and families work together for Lockhart children.
Right now, Lockhart High School students have access to more career and technical education courses than ever before. This spring, students are able to choose from an additional 17 new course opportunities in the fall. Also, last month, LHS had four students become the first-ever to compete for and secure paid internships with HOLT CAT. This is the beginning of new and strategic partnerships with local businesses to empower students to prepare for success beyond graduation.
These are examples of things that have already taken root and flourishing. I would also like to share with you the seeds sown that you will see grow later in the season.
Right now, LISD has launched an initiative called LISD VIPs. Every student in the district is a VIP (Very Important Person), so the district wants to give them VIP treatment with a Visionary Instruction Plan. A central focus in the planning is leveraging technology to redesign and redefine teaching and learning to truly prepare future ready students. Right now, the district’s VIP team, a group of teachers, instructional coaches, librarians, technology mentors, and administrators is VIP is engaged in planning pilot initiatives around the themes of personalized learning, student agency, and leveraging technology. In time, we will see technology not as something that is used without any real change in learning to something that is used to create new tasks that were before inconceivable. Innovation is the key—not just doing the same things differently, but doing completely new things to push learning into new frontiers for our students.
This brings me to the final piece I’d like to share. Right now, Lockhart ISD has posted on the district website its District of Innovation (DOI) Plan for parent, staff, and community members to review before the Board of Trustees considers the plan for final approval April 10. No one knows what is best for LISD students more than Lockhart parents and teachers. This spring, LISD is taking advantage of the options provided by the Texas Legislature for districts to assume more local control of their services to students by seeking designation as a District of Innovation.
A committee of staff, parents, and community members have collaborated to prioritize what is important for Lockhart students and have developed an innovative plan together that:
Provides local control of the school district calendar to provide and protect time for teachers to receive professional development, collaborate with other teachers to learn best practices, and allow time for teacher instructional planning
Designs semesters that are balanced for students with the first semester ending for students at Christmas break
Empowers the district to hire teachers with the specialized knowledge and skills to teach students specific courses that are not core (math, English, etc.) courses but may not yet have certification as a teacher—particularly for courses that are Career and Technology Education courses that are very technical and specialized, providing our students with teachers current in industry skillsets and knowledge
Maintains the use of teacher appraisal systems that hold our teachers accountable for delivering quality instruction aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), but removes the heavy reliance upon STAAR test scores as an indicator of quality instruction
Allows the district to make adaptations to the plan with Board guidance and approval as changes become necessary in the best interest of the students.
Yes, spring is nearly here, and LISD is beginning to bloom in big and noticeable ways. I want to thank our parents who have provided the trust and support to make this possible. Your partnership enriches the soil for success.
I want to also thank our LISD staff who commit themselves daily to our district goals, amending and enriching the soil to make sure the best of learning and success takes root and flourishes for our students.
I also want to thank our Lockhart community, providing additional resources to support the children inside and outside of our classrooms. Sometimes growth needs the extra support of stakes to get off the ground—thank you for that support!
Right now in LISD, the sunshine is bright, and so is our future!
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