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Roundup Blog Series

Midland on the move: Call for quality schools

Midland on the move: Call for quality schools

By Orlando Riddick and Elise Kail | June 28, 2018

This post is the first in a series examining how REL Southwest, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and other partners in the Southwest School Improvement (SWSI) Research Partnership are collaborating to examine and improve support for district and school improvement in the state. Coauthors Orlando Riddick, superintendent of Midland Independent School District (MISD), and Elise Kail, MISD chief transformation officer, report from far West Texas, where their district is on the forefront of school improvement. Read on to learn how MISD is laying a strong foundation for school transformation efforts aimed at increasing quality options across the district.

Midland is on the move. We need an education system in Midland, Texas, that meets the needs of every student and family. Through our bold transformation plan, "Midland on the Move," Midland ISD (MISD) is re-envisioning itself to meet these diverse needs as both a direct operator of schools and a facilitator of high-quality public schools. The result is a dynamic ecosystem of high-performing schools that ensures every child has access to a high-quality K–12 education option.

This ecosystem, known as the System of Great Schools (SGS) and guided by the Texas Education Agency, is a continuous improvement model for all campuses, not just our lowest performing ones. Using student achievement data from the state, we've estimated that out of nearly 26,000 seats occupied by students across our campuses, approximately 5,000 offer a low-quality education option for students. Under Midland on the Move, we envision converting all low-quality seats into high-quality ones at an aggressive pace—within the next three years.

Why did we launch a Call for Quality Schools process?

To realize our vision for every Midland student, we needed to cultivate, augment, and recruit the best leadership and talent inside and outside of the district to design new schools and reimagine existing ones. To make this happen, we looked to one of the four levers within the SGS program, Lever 2: Expand Great Options, which describes the Call for Quality process. Midland ISD's Call for Quality Schools provided the structure needed to help us pursue partnerships with organizations that proposed innovative programs and concepts specifically designed to address our district's needs, align to MISD values, and meet our rigorous definition of quality.

What did our Call for Quality Schools process look like?

We kicked off our Call for Quality Schools in September 2017 with a meeting to share our bold transformation plan with potential national and local partners, as well as members of the local business and philanthropic communities.

Our formal Call for Quality Schools process included a written application from potential partner organizations, in-person interviews, and a board vote over the span of seven months. MISD evaluated 30 written applications from 22 separate entities from November through December 2017. We then held in-person interviews in January 2018 for 22 applications from 14 entities. Twelve applications, five from within the district and seven external, were moved forward to the ongoing due diligence phase. The due diligence phase consisted of discussions with potential partners about campus and district needs in relation to the partner’s model and financial implications and feasibility. During this phase, we conducted a variety of site visits across the Southwest, including Phoenix and Chandler, Arizona, and Dallas, Cedar Hill, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas. The site visits provided an opportunity for district personnel to see effective implementation of proposed programming, to engage in discussions with campus personnel and students as appropriate to better understand impact, and to gain personal and professional insight as to whether the program or school would meet quality standards set forth by our board and superintendent toward becoming a System of Great Schools.

Now nearing the conclusion of the Call for Quality Schools process, we are excited to share that our Board of Trustees unanimously voted in May 2018 to conditionally approve based on available funding to implement several innovative whole-school, program, and talent models identified through this process. A few of these models include:

  • An in-district charter school authorized and funded by Texas Senate Bill 1882
  • A single-gender girls' campus for grades 6–12 focused on STEM
  • A Newcomer's Center for grades 2–12 English language learners
  • Talent partnerships to build teacher and leadership pipelines
  • Computer science and college prep programs to be integrated into a set of current Midland schools

How did we execute our Call for Quality Schools process?

Buy-in to the process is critical, and we were thoughtful about the represented stakeholders we engaged. To broaden engagement of the community, we launched a Listen and Learn Tour in Fall 2017 to develop a shared definition of school quality in Midland. Representation from across the community took part in these opportunities parents, teachers, principals, board members, business and industry representatives, nonprofit representatives, as well as students. This effort received a strong positive response, and our dialogue with the community continues today.

We established several teams from across our district leadership to lead and support the Call for Quality Schools process. Our Transformation Office drove these efforts along with a cross-functional Transformation Team that included campus principals, board members, and directors, and representatives from the following departments: Teaching and Learning, Finance, Legal, Professional Development, Special Populations, and Accountability. We also established a Call for Quality Schools subcommittee, comprised of members of our Transformation Team as well as a teacher, a parent, and additional operations staff. The subcommittee evaluated the written applications and in-person interviews.

Board engagement has been a critical part of this effort. We've continued to work closely with our board to ensure we are aligned on the quality and types of partnerships we envision for Midland. Focusing on the common aim of ensuring that all students have access to high-quality education has made this broad support possible.

Where we're headed

While we have taken significant strides in our first year of this work, this is a multi-year process, and we envision continuing our annual Call for Quality Schools to help us achieve our vision. We are in conversations with future partners and are excited to continue to share our progress.

Read Part 2 of the series.


For more information about school transformation, REL Southwest suggests these resources:

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Author Information

Orlando Riddick

Orlando Riddick

Superintendent

Midland Independent School District

Elise Kail

Elise Kail

Chief Transformation Officer

Midland Independent School District