Successful Strategies for School Improvement

In the summer of 2019, the Abilene Independent School District (ISD) had a problem: five of their elementary campuses had been labeled Improvement Required by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Michelle Josselet, then-principal of Abilene ISD’s Jackson Elementary, began her post just that June. A month later, she learned of her new school’s F rating.

“Definitely a large task to take on as a first-year principal,” she said.

Abilene ISD’s Reagan Elementary School was also dealing with their Improvement Required status for the second year in a row. Then-principal Leslye Roberts said one of the schools' primary challenges was figuring out standards and alignment. 

The West Texas district knew they needed to make a change in order to move towards school improvement, but they weren’t sure where to begin. In December 2019, they reached out to engage2learn (e2L) and quickly began a strategic partnership focused on standards alignment, teacher growth, and the importance of recognition.

RELATED: Measuring the Impact of e2L Coaching on Reading & Math Scores in Primary Grades

2019-2020 Academic Year 

A New Partnership and a New Challenge 

Teachers and administrators alike received coaching support through e2L beginning in December 2019 and quickly began earning badges to symbolize their progress and recognize growth. Using e2L's conversation-based coaching model, coaches supported Abilene ISD teachers in setting individualized goals based on research-based instructional best practices and competencies

In just the first two months of working with engage2learn, Abilene ISD teachers had already earned 315 progress badges, quickly showing an upward trajectory of growth in best practices. 

Then, after just two in-person coaching sessions districtwide, COVID-19 hit. Across the country, educators pivoted to full-time virtual learning, and all in-person coaching had to come to a halt. Thankfully, e2L is a virtual organization and was able to seamlessly pivot to continue supporting Abilene ISD through virtual coaching sessions for the rest of the year.

Despite the many roadblocks presented by the pandemic, Abilene ISD’s elementary schools were already seeing tremendous growth in teachers and students alike. 

2020-2021 Academic Year

Continued Growth Through Instructional Coaching

Abilene ISD expanded their partnership with e2L in the 2020-2021 school year, implementing e2L's Coaches Academy and Executive Coaching. This district-wide partnership allowed educators and educational leaders across Abilene ISD to receive ongoing coaching support, helping them grow and earn badges in role-specific competencies throughout the year.

In addition to coaching support, two Abilene ISD elementary schools partnered with e2L for unit design services each grading period. During Unit Design Days, e2L coaches facilitate teachers in following a backward-design process starting from a cluster of conceptually connected standards that anchor the unit. This design process results in differentiated and individualized instruction that is standards-aligned, incorporates life-ready best practices, and encourages positive, growth-focused feedback. 

With a total of 292 educators receiving coaching support across 25 schools, the results began to speak for themselves. Schools across the district saw improved NWEA MAP Growth data throughout the year, a truly impressive accomplishment amidst a global pandemic. For example, Austin Elementary saw 22% gains in math, as well as 19% gains in both reading and all subjects. Abilene ISD educators collectively earned over 1,700 badges during the 2020-2021 school year.

It was clear that Abilene ISD was moving, quickly, in the right direction toward school improvement. You can find additional coaching impact and data here: Abilene ISD Coaching Data / Bright Spots Snapshot Report

Cumulative Coaching Touches by Type


Abilene ISD Results of school improvement



2021-2022 Academic Year

Celebrating & Encouraging Teacher Growth through Badges & Recognition

The growth that Abilene ISD experienced amid the pandemic was an indicator that supporting teachers and education leaders through coaching, as well as other e2L services, was a valuable asset to continue and extend throughout the district.

Upon entering the 2021-2022 school year, Abilene ISD continued their partnership with e2L, including Coaches Academy, teacher coaching, and unit design for reading and language arts teachers. The district also partnered with e2L for unit design at all elementary schools and high schools, in addition to coaching for principals, assistant principals, and instructional coordinators at all of their elementary schools. 

With so much progress underway, Abilene ISD turned their focus to building internal capacity with its leaders and instructional coaches in order to create a sustainable, growth-focused culture across the district. They felt that earning badges and recognizing the success of growth was a key feature in achieving this long-term school improvement goal.

Abilene ISD’s associate superintendent for curriculum & instruction, Dr. Ketta Garduno, wanted schools to take ownership of their badging and growth goals. During executive training, principals had the opportunity to analyze the competencies and identify badge goals for their schools, building upon previous educator growth data. While all of their coaching and educator growth data was housed and celebrated within GroweLab, e2L's all-in-one instructional coaching platform, the district wanted a way to ensure that educators' hard work and progress would be recognized within the school walls.

“We knew we needed to create a badge recognition system that was easily accessible, observable, and communicated clear goals that are visible for all participating educators on the campus. Therefore, we decided to create posters of the badges earned to display on each campus.”

Dr. Ketta Garduno

The system is simple: as teachers earn badges, those badges are added to respective posters and celebrated. 

“Because we wanted the recognition system to be seen as a way of celebrating educator growth, we decided to call the system Badge Celebrations,” Dr. Garduno said. Now, Abilene ISD is tracking proficiency in instructional best practices and competencies by using a system that tracks and celebrates badge attainment that happens as a result of coaching in GroweLab.

Abilene High Badge Celebration Tracker

As this school year continues, teachers will participate in five unit design sessions prior to each of the five grading periods, as well as individual coaching conversations facilitated by both Abilene ISD instructional coaches and Certified e2L Data-Informed Growth Coaches, once again giving teachers the opportunity to hone their craft, earn badges, and celebrate the growth of themselves and their students along the way.

The Power of Recognition

Remember that what you recognize is where you place your value.

Educator and student behaviors will follow.

Throughout the last few years of coaching, Abilene ISD has seen firsthand the impact of a recognition system, celebrating growth to encourage continued staff and school improvement. This academic year, they have aimed their focus on recognition, promoting teacher growth, and, ultimately, student achievement. e2L utilizes an evidence-based coaching model to ensure the growth of teachers, regardless of onsite or remote learning.

Ready to bring standards-aligned, recognition-based coaching support to your district? start a partnership today!

RELATED: Choosing the Right Instructional Coaching Model and Platform