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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

  • Understanding and Applying the Evidence Base for the Texas Education Agency’s Strategic School Actions
    REL Southwest developed a six-video training series to inform the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) efforts to support low-performing schools as they implement strategic school actions. Texas public schools identified by TEA as low-performing for three years in a row must implement these actions, which consist of a set of whole-school reform strategies that allow for flexibility and incentivize partnerships (for example, with charter and education management organizations and higher performing schools). The video series highlights the evidence base related to strategic school actions, including two priority components: high-dosage tutoring and expanded learning time. The project’s goal was to expand TEA’s knowledge of research on whole-school reform models and 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. Prior to completing the video series, REL Southwest conducted logic model training with TEA staff in the Southwest School Improvement Research Partnership. View video series.
  • 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 was 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, TEA staff were ensuring they collected the data from SGS districts needed to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the initiative and its related outcomes. The coaching project evolved from developing a data inventory to collaborating with TEA to develop a guidebook to help districts with broad implementation of SGS and with the TEA Roadmap data reporting process more specifically. The guidebook included definitions, instructions on how district users complete SGS goals, and an “Implementation Roadmap.” Informed by the coaching provided by the REL Southwest and the guidebook, TEA developed the “SGS Artifact Handbook” that incorporates the structure and content of the guidebook. The “SGS Artifact Handbook” is a guide TEA provides to districts to help staff prepare artifacts or evidence of accomplishing the goals and milestones included in their SGS plan and roadmap. View archived materials.
  • 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.