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Southwest School Improvement Research Partnership

Workshops and coaching icon

Like many states, Texas has struggled with how best to build districts’ capacity to support low-performing schools. REL Southwest is working with the Texas Education Agency and other partners to enhance the state’s ability to evaluate and continuously improve school and district practices, with the long-term goal of increasing the number of students attending high-performing schools.


  • Examine the quality and fidelity with which low-performing districts and schools in Texas implement improvement initiatives.
  • Examine the degree to which those initiatives improve district, school, and student outcomes.


photo of spence john Angelica Herrera, Partnership Research Lead Susan Therriault, Partnership Senior Advisor
Partnership Facilitator Partnership Research Lead Partnership Senior Advisor
John Spence Angelica Herrera Susan Therriault


  • Garrett Black, Assistant Director, Strategy, Division of School Improvement, Texas Education Agency
  • Lizette Ridgeway, Director, Division of School Improvement, Texas Education Agency
  • Marian Schutte, Director, Division of System Support and Innovation, Texas Education Agency
  • Joe Siedlecki, Associate Commissioner, System Support, Innovation, and Charters, Texas Education Agency

Training, Coaching, and Technical Support

  • School Turnaround Research Training
    REL Southwest provided training to inform Texas Education Agency (TEA) efforts to support state-identified low-performing schools as they implement strategic school actions. Strategic school actions are a set of whole-school reform strategies that schools the state has identified as low-performing for three years in a row are required to implement under state statutes. Each of the options for strategic school actions allows for flexibility and incentivizes partnerships with external organizations (for example, charter and education management organizations and higher performing schools). The members of the REL Southwest School Improvement Research Partnership determined a need to examine evidence related to strategic school actions, including two priority components of the school reform strategies: (1) high-dosage tutoring and (2) expanded learning time. REL Southwest is creating a series of videos highlighting research related to these topics. The project aims to expand TEA’s knowledge of research on whole-school reform models, high-dosage tutoring, and expanded learning time and to inform the types of supports provided to districts implementing these models and strategies, with the long-term goal of increasing the number of Texas students attending high-performing schools.
  • Effective Schools Framework Data Analysis and Coaching
    The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is developing the Effective Schools Framework (ESF) diagnostic process to support districts and campuses in continuous improvement efforts. To enhance TEA’s capacity to analyze, interpret, and use ESF data to make data-driven decisions that support school improvement, REL Southwest is working closely with the agency to develop and refine an analysis plan that connects ESF data with school performance. REL Southwest will use the ESF implementation data collected during a completed pilot phase and help TEA interpret the findings to inform its use of the data. The REL Southwest team will host coaching sessions to review, analyze, and interpret the findings to inform the diagnostic and support practices for the schools. REL Southwest will also provide TEA with coaching support for development of an ongoing analysis plan for future years.
  • Inventorying Data Collected in Texas Districts Participating in the System of Great Schools
    The goal of this coaching project is to guide the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in developing a data inventory and effective data collection practices for the System of Great Schools (SGS) initiative. By taking these steps early in the initiative’s implementation, TEA staff can help ensure they collect the data from SGS districts needed to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the initiative and its related outcomes. As part of the project, REL Southwest, in consultation with TEA, will create an SGS Data Collection and Management Guide, which will outline data currently collected, additional data that could be collected, best practices for collecting each type of data, and what questions the various data sources can help answer.
  • Using Logic Modeling for Statewide School Improvement Efforts Training
    This REL Southwest project built the capacity of the Southwest School Improvement Research Partnership to develop and use logic models to conceptualize school improvement initiatives in a way that will enhance the state’s ability to support district implementation and monitoring of school actions for school reform. The project began with a general introduction to logic modeling and how logic models can be used to support program development, monitoring, and evaluation and was followed with a training on how to use logic models for three school actions: reassign, restart (partner- or district-managed), and new school (partner- or district-managed). By supporting our Texas Education Agency (TEA) partners’ understanding of the connections between system-level supports provided to districts, actions districts take, and the data needed to monitor implementation and effectiveness of school improvement initiatives, this project intended to help TEA use logic models to better understand school improvement efforts as well as communicate to districts how to plan for and implement school actions. View archived resources.

Applied Research Studies: Works in Progress

  • Indicators of School Performance in Texas
    Many states, including Texas, categorize schools as "low performing" based on student scores on standardized tests, and in some cases, other indicators such as low graduation rates and achievement. A primary concern of state education leaders in Texas is how to identify, monitor, and support persistently low-performing schools over the next few years without 2020 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) standardized test data and when 2021 STAAR data may be less representative or reliable than in past years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To assist the Texas Education Agency in addressing this concern, REL Southwest researchers are conducting school-level analyses to determine the relationship between school performance ratings and potential predictors not currently used to monitor school performance (such as student attendance rates, course grades, disciplinary records, and educator characteristics). The team will then develop binary indicators based on the school-level predictors that are significantly associated with school accountability ratings. In cases where accountability ratings are not available or when their reliability is uncertain, the Texas Education Agency can use these binary indicators to identify schools that may be at risk of low performance and are in need of supports. The study will include data from the 2017/18 to 2020/21 school years. The analyses will be conducted separately for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. The researchers anticipate that the study will be more likely to identify useful indicators for schools that include high school grades because of the larger number of non-STAAR potential predictors available.
  • Effects of a State-Defined Restart Strategy for Low-Performing Schools in Texas
    Beginning with the 2017/18 school year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) established grant programs to provide applicant districts with financial support to design and implement strategic school improvement actions for Title I schools. School restart is one type of strategic action districts may implement with these grants. REL Southwest is using longitudinal administrative data, program records, and interviews with district and school leaders to study the school restart model and evaluate the effects on student, teacher, and principal outcomes. The study will provide evidence on whether school restart improved student and educator outcomes and whether the characteristics of students and staff changed after implementation. Results from this research will help TEA and school districts determine whether to continue expansion of the district-managed restart model as a strategy for improving schools. View the Data Management Plan.


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