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Chapter 1: Introduction

Step 1: Getting Started

The Accelerating Campus Excellence initiative (ACE) changes the human capital paradigm in schools by incentivizing a school district's more effective educators to lead and teach at historically underperforming campuses.


The purpose of this Program is to provide school district leaders with a design and implementation guide to create an ACE initiative in their district. This Program is not meant to be the only resource required to successfully implement an ACE initiative, which requires a significant amount of local context and adaptation. However, the contents that follow provide leaders with an overview of the detailed elements of the ACE program, how it has been implemented in districts to date, and key lessons learned that can support other district leaders in implementing ACE successfully.

This Program was designed by Best in Class, a partnership between Communities Foundation of Texas and the Commit Partnership, dedicated to attracting, preparing, developing, and retaining excellent teachers and school leaders for every child. Best in Class provides technical assistance to many of the ACE districts referenced in this Program. Please contact info@bestinclass.org if you would like more information and/or support for ACE implementation.

How to Use

The Toolkit is organized into four phases of implementation. Each phase has action steps or decision points. You can navigate to these steps on the lefthand menu or following along with your progress above. These programs were designed to be used in conjunction with one another. If you are looking to switch between toolkits you may access those on the right hand side. When you toggle between toolkits you will be placed in the corresponding Phase and Step.

Each Program’s step has information to help implement including:

  • Recommendations and best practices for how to implement the action step thoughtfully, with particular emphasis on change management strategies.
  • Lessons learned to strengthen implementation and adjust when things don’t go according to plan, with a particular focus on change management.
  • Vignettes and case studies to illustrate the recommendations and lessons learned in action and in a variety of contexts.
  • In addition, the ACE community tab offers additional information for ACE campuses, including resources related to convenings/ community of practice meetings.


If you need additional help implementing the ACE program you can click on the lefthand menu at any Phase or Step to access contact information and a review of how to navigate the program dashboard.

Step 2: The Impact & Challenge

Results from the ACE program have been promising. Over the first four years (2015-2019), of the ACE initiative, 28 of 29 campuses:

  • Met state accountability standards in Year One, in most cases following multiple consecutive years of failure.
  • Achieved increases in student growth upwards of 67% in math and 40% in reading.
  • Significantly reduced district gaps in achievement, discipline referrals and suspensions.

The key ingredients to these wins are effective school leaders and teachers. They are game changers for students.

Richardson ISD ACE Video

See how teachers in the Richardson ISD are focused on improving student outcomes:

Spotlight: Dade Middle School

Earned three state distinctions for exemplary achievement


Prior to implementing the ACE model, Dade Middle School, located in Deep Ellum and Fair Park districts of South Dallas, turned over five principals within four previous school years. It also struggled with student discipline and failed state accountability standards for three consecutive school years.

Fast forward to the 2017-2018 school year, the school's third year implementing the ACE model. Principal Tracie Washington is in her third year of leading the campus, and Dade MS has not met state standards for a third consecutive year, but has earned three state distinctions for exemplary achievement. The entire culture of Dade MS has changed, including a remarkable 85% reduction in student discipline referrals (from 1,139 in 2014-2015 to 167 in 2015-2016) in the first year of ACE. Learn more from the Local News Coverage of Dade Middle School

Related Resources

The Challenge

Data shows that the Texas public education system is inequitable, both in student outcomes and student experiences. Economically disadvantaged students within the Dallas-Fort Worth region and across the state have similar academic outcomes, regardless of the overall affluence of the school district they attend. In some cases, the gap in student outcomes between economically disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers, even within a single school district or campus, can approach 40 percentage points.

One of the most important strategies for overcoming the achievement gap is ensuring that great, effective educators are fairly and equitably allocated across campuses and classrooms. But districts often don’t know who the great teachers are. Human capital systems in many school districts do not effectively differentiate between effective and ineffective teachers, despite real differences in areas of strong and weak teaching practices and, most importantly, in student achievement gains. In the Widget Effect, national research found little differential in teacher evaluations, with less than 1% of teachers receiving unsatisfactory ratings. Current systems make it difficult to both identify exceptional teachers and determine how teachers need to improve.

Further, we don’t incentivize our best teachers to teach in challenging, critical roles in high-need schools. Within traditional seniority-based compensation systems, there is no financial incentive for an effective educator to take on a more challenging role in an underperforming school because compensation is tied to years of experience and not the effort required for classroom success. As a result, more affluent schools and districts tend to have better prepared, more effective teachers. Those schools also tend to keep teachers longer and employ fewer novice teachers, which usually results in greater student outcomes.

Step 3: Ace Overview

It is imperative that our students of greatest need - those whose starting line in life is far behind their more affluent peers - have equitable access to effective educators and leaders to grow academically, socially and emotionally. It is also imperative that we treat teachers like professionals, experts constantly honing their craft to be excellent, by providing accurate and specific feedback and assessment of their performance.

ACE is a smart first step towards addressing the inequity that exists within our schools. The five core components and commitments of ACE are:
  • 1
    Strategic Staffing

    Strategic staffing of effective teachers and principals (with $10k-$15k stipends annually for 3 years) to reconstitute identified campuses.

  • 2
    Instructional Excellence

    Instructional excellence focused on data-driven instruction and early interventions.

  • 3
    Extending School Day

    Extending school day by one hour and offering daily after-school enrichment until 6:00 p.m.; serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to students.

  • 4
    Social and Emotional Learning

    Social and emotional learning support for students and training for educators.

  • 5
    Parent and Community Organizations

    Strong partnerships with parent and community organizations.

What sets ACE apart from similar initiatives:
  • Full reconstitution of existing campus leadership teams and staff.
  • Identifying the most effective principals within a district to lead ACE campuses.
  • Financial incentives for teachers and school leaders ranging between $10K-$15K per year for three years.
  • A cap on the number of teachers (4) who can leave the same campus to join the staff of an ACE campus.
  • Intentional focus on data-driven instruction and data analysis at the student, content and grade levels.
  • After school enrichment opportunities and nutritional health (breakfast, lunch and dinner) without eligibility requirements or cost to students.


ACE has been replicated quickly with great results across multiple districts and in both elementary and middle schools. It is not a “silver bullet” that will instantly improve student achievement, but with effective leadership and thoughtful implementation, ACE can transform schools so they better serve each and every student.

ACE’s short-term goal is to ensure that students of the highest need have the most effective educators coupled with a nurturing environment that supports the “whole child.” The long-range goal is to establish a way for district leaders to continually identify the teachers and leaders who have a track record of growing student learning, compensate educators making the biggest impact on student achievement more, grow all teachers and leaders, and strategically staff schools with the best-fit educators.