Exploring/Getting Started

Needs and Readiness Assessment

ACE is an equity-focused initiative, ensuring that students with the greatest need have access to effective educators, data-driven instruction, enrichment opportunities, social and emotional learning supports and community involvement. It includes implementing five core components on a school campus that can lead to significant results. This section will help districts explore the initiative and assess their need and readiness.

Best in Class is also available to discuss additional details regarding the ACE initiative and implementation supports available with districts. To develop a customized support plan to provide districts and community partners the aforementioned services, Best in Class uses tools such as robust data analysis, convening relevant stakeholders, and aligning stakeholders on common goals, priorities, and strategies through intentional facilitation. These efforts typically follow the following cycle:

  • Problem identification – intensive collaboration with district and community stakeholders to identify and frame the problem and develop a project timeline
  • Input gathering – conduct data analysis from district, state, and federal sources; perform stakeholder interviews; conduct site visits
  • Stakeholder facilitation – convene and facilitate relevant stakeholders through a multi-stage process, using techniques to allow the community to drive action and to align on common goals, priorities, strategies, and metrics
  • Input synthesis – synthesize insights gleaned from the stakeholder convenings coupled with key indicators and data points from the input gathering phase
  • Product development – depending on the services requested, this can result in a range of end products, including the creation of a strategic plan, a theory of action, a needs assessment, Dashboards and Scorecards, or a set of common indicators and metrics
  • Iteration and activation – support the continued iteration of strategic plans, technology and tools, and a theory of action while simultaneously aiding districts and community partners in the development of activation plans and continuous improvements of existing systems

Best in Class Support

Please email info@bestinclass.org for more information or reach out to Betsy Cook at info@bestinclass.org or Garrett Landry at info@bestinclass.org. Best in Class provides technical assistance to districts and more information can be found here.

When district leaders are considering the ACE initiative, it is important that they reflect on the level of need of the district, meaning the number of schools that would benefit from the model, and the level of readiness to implement the initiative, meaning whether the conditions are in place or could be in place to ensure successful implementation. By completing and discussing the self-assessment below, district leaders can better understand whether the district will benefit from ACE, and what the steps are to move forward.

You can find the assessment here.


LESSONS LEARNED

When answering the questions about need and readiness, districts should not look at a single year of data.

Instead, if possible, districts should use longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data. This can include test scores as well as data from student and staff climate surveys.

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Needs and Readiness Assessment

Needs and Readiness Assessment

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Needs and Readiness Assessment
Needs and Readiness Assessment
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ACE District Spotlight

Four districts across Texas – Dallas ISD (2015), Fort Worth ISD (2017), Garland ISD (2018) and Richardson ISD (2018) – have implemented the ACE initiative, and in August 2019, six more districts will launch their ACE initiatives - Lubbock ISD, Crowley ISD, Aldine ISD, El Paso ISD (modified model), Plano ISD (modified model) and Pflugerville ISD. Each district provides a model of how the five core components have been implemented with fidelity while also adapted for the specific needs of their schools. To gain an understanding of how districts implemented the five core components specific to their context, please read the following vignettes and the examples provided throughout the Toolkit.

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Implementation Timeline

ACE, at minimum, is a three-year initiative with an additional year for the transition in process.

For a general example of an implementation timeline including program design, planning and logistics, see here.

For a district-specific example from Dallas ISD, see here.

For an example of an implementation timeline that includes the engagement of key stakeholders, see here.

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Implementation Timeline

Sample Implementation Timeline

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Implementation Timeline

Dallas ISD Implementation Timeline

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Implementation Timeline
Sample Implementation Timeline
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Implementation Timeline
Dallas ISD Implementation Timeline
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Implementation Leadership Team

It is critical to establish an implementation leadership team at the district level to manage implementation of ACE. A district implementation leadership team should be a cohesive unit and include a superintendent who is invested in the purpose and goals of the initiative. While the leadership team will be responsible for leading the day-to-day implementation of ACE, it is important for the superintendent to be a visible leader of the initiative, helping to set the vision and manage resistance that might emerge.

The most important departments in the implementation phase include:

  • Human Capital
  • School Leadership
  • Communications
  • Operations/Finance

A project lead(s) with the authority to make decisions is needed to coordinate across departments and ensure the process moves forward at the appropriate pace. All department teams should align on a unified message about the reasons for implementing ACE.

LESSONS LEARNED

To help senior leaders, such as school board members, understand the importance of the ACE initiative, the district leadership should prepare a detailed presentation of the initiative that it can modify for various audiences.

The presentation should focus on the five core components of ACE, the success other districts have experienced with ACE and how the district leadership envisions implementing ACE. It should also allow plenty of time for questions. This presentation can help surface and address initial conflicts that may otherwise not emerge until later in the implementation process. An example of a presentation can be found in this ACE proposal to a school board.

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Board Proposal

ACE School Board Proposal

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Board Proposal
ACE School Board Proposal
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Change Management Elements

Initiatives to improve student achievement, especially those that involve significant changes, can result in some pushback from both within the district and external stakeholders. Developing a proactive change management process can help reduce this unease. Key elements of this process should include:

  1. Over-communication of the rationale for implanting ACE
  2. A unified message from the leadership team that articulates the what, why and how
  3. Clear communication materials and timelines for all stakeholders
  4. A balance in all messaging between district impact vs. individual impact because the initiative will not largely impact all at the district but will significantly impact those at the ACE campuses
  5. A continued focus on the needs of students on district campuses outside of the ACE initiative
  6. An emphasis on how the initiative fits into the larger strategic vision for the district
  7. Celebration of early wins once the implementation is under way

Sometimes, it can feel as if the pace is slowing down to allow for the change to be processed. But typically, the long-term benefit of allowing for this space outweighs the reduced speed of implementation.

Throughout the toolkit, when one of the change management elements is emphasized or illustrated, the text will be highlighted with this icon.

LESSONS LEARNED

In reflecting on the implementation of the ACE initiative, one district spoke to the importance of change management and the importance of helping leaders understand how to lead change.

Many leaders have not been trained in change management strategies and may stumble to create a vision and motivate teachers to try new ways of doing things. Moving into the second year of implementation, the district is considering bringing in a professor to discuss the impact of change and the leader’s role in facilitating this change.

Financial Implications

Cost

On average, the annual ACE initiative costs are an additional $1,200-$1,400 per student or a total of $750K-$950K per campus (assuming 650 students and 45 teachers). ACE is a three-year program, at a minimum, with the district committing to the additional expenditures on the front end. Approximately 50% of that increase goes toward educator stipends and the rest is spread out across professional development, afterschool enrichment, transportation, and other social/emotional and operational costs identified by the district. The estimated cost can be seen here. A breakdown of the stipend by role is as follows:

  • $15,000 - principals
  • $13,000 - assistant principals
  • $10,000 - teachers
  • $10,000 - counselors
  • $8,000 - instructional coaches
  • $8,000 - librarians

As an example, Garland ISD outlined the total projected cost of ACE stipends across the district. Additionally, Garland ISD created a Finance and Budgeting presentation that details the budget for ACE with information on sources of funds, expenditures and lessons learned.

Finding the Funds

While implementing the ACE model requires a significant investment, it is a strategic decision that can help a district realize the tremendous potential within every student.

There are many ways to identify resources to pursue the ACE model. Some districts do so by running a deficit budget, changing the student-teacher ratio or auditing professional development contracts.

The most common exercises for identifying resources are:

  1. Strategy Prioritization – This is an exercise to identify the most important areas within each department’s budget, and potentially trim spending on deprioritized programs to free up resources to utilize on a high impact strategy such as ACE.
  2. Reviewing General District Professional Development Contracts – In most districts, campus professional development vendors fall under a single contract that is mostly unmonitored and, in some cases, doesn’t demonstrate benefits. A district can identify areas of saving within these contracts to reallocate toward implementing high quality, student-centered initiatives such as ACE.

The Texas Education Agency prioritized the ACE initiative as a key action in their school turnaround portfolio and made available sizable grant opportunities for districts implementing the ACE model. There are restrictions though to the campuses that are eligible for this support and additional information on those restrictions and the grant opportunity can be found here.

Regional philanthropic support can also play a role in supporting the ACE initiative. Areas most commonly funded by external philanthropic partners include professional development opportunities, social and emotional health materials and newer resources for students (culturally relevant texts, furniture, college banners, etc.). While these costs are only a fraction of the total cost of ACE, philanthropic funding demonstrates the work is supported by a greater community of individuals and organizations.

LESSONS LEARNED

While philanthropy can play a part in supporting ACE, districts should not rely on philanthropy or grants to fund teacher stipends.

It is important for a district to make a concrete commitment to the educators opting into ACE with stipends coming from general funds that are guaranteed over the three years.

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Estimated Cost

Estimated Cost

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Garland ISD

Garland ISD Projected Cost

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Budgeting Presentation

Dallas ISD Projected Cost

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Estimated Cost
Estimated Cost
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Garland ISD
Garland ISD Projected Cost
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Budgeting Presentation
Finance and Budgeting Presentation
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