Successful Strategies for School Improvement

Recognizing an Opportunity for Growth

In the summer of 2019, Abilene ISD had a problem: five of their elementary campuses had been labeled Improvement Required by the TEA.

Michelle Josselet, principal of Abilene ISD’s Jackson Elementary, had just started her role in June. A month later, she learned of her new school’s F rating. “So, definitely a large task to take on as a first-year principal,” she said. AISD’s Reagan Elementary was also dealing with their Improvement Required status, now for the second year in a row. Principal Leslye Roberts said one of the struggles they were facing was figuring out standards and alignment. 

This West Texas district knew they needed to make a change, but they weren’t sure where to begin. So, in December 2019, they reached out to engage2learn and quickly began a strategic partnership focused on standards alignment, teacher growth, and the importance of recognition.

19-20 Academic Year: 

A New Partnership and a New Challenge 

Teachers and administrators alike received coaching support through engage2learn beginning in December 2019, and quickly began earning badges recognizing their growth. Using the eGrowe coaching model, e2L coaches helped AISD’s teachers set individualized goals based on best practices in their classroom and school environment. 

In just the first two months of working with engage2learn, Abilene ISD teachers had already earned 315 badges, quickly showing an upward trajectory of growth and 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, engage2learn is a virtual organization, and e2L was able to pivot and continue supporting Abilene ISD with virtual coaching sessions for the rest of the year. Despite the roadblocks the pandemic presented, Abilene ISD’s elementaries were already seeing tremendous growth in teachers and students alike. 

20-21 Academic Year: 

Continued Growth Thru Coaching

Abilene ISD continued their partnership with engage2learn during the 2020-21 school year,  implementing Coaches Academy and Executive Coaching. This district-wide partnership allowed educators and educational leaders in Abilene ISD to continue receiving coaching support, helping them grow and earn badges throughout the year. 

In addition to coaching support, two Abilene ISD elementary schools also partnered with e2L in unit design services each grading period. During Unit Design Days, engage2learn coaches facilitate teachers in following a backward-design process starting from a cluster of conceptually connected standards that anchor the unit. The design process results in differentiated and individualized instruction that is standards-aligned, incorporating life-ready best practices and producing feedback throughout from assessments. 

With a total of 292 educators receiving coaching support across 25 campuses, the results began to speak for themselves. Campuses across the district saw improvement throughout the year on the MAP assessment, an exciting 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. AISD educators collectively earned over 1,700 badges during the 20-21 school year.

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

2021-22 Academic Year: 

Celebrating Teacher Growth through Badge Recognition

The growth 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 21-22 school year, Abilene ISD continued a partnership with engage2learn for Middle School Horizontal Laser Team (HLT) services at the middle school, including Coaches Academy coaching, teacher coaching, and unit design for Reading/Language Arts teachers. The district also partnered with e2L for unit design at all elementary schools and high schools, in addition to Executive Culture Coaching, support coaching for principals, assistant principals, and instructional coordinators at all of their elementary campuses. 

Currently, Abilene ISD is focused on building internal capacity with its leaders and instructional coaches to create a sustainable practice of support and growth. They felt that earning badges and recognizing the success of growth was a key feature in achieving this long-term goal. 

AISD’s associate superintendent for curriculum & instruction, Dr. Ketta Garduno, wanted campuses to take ownership of their badging goals. During executive training, principals had the opportunity to analyze the best practices and identify badge goals for their campus-based on previous educator growth data. While Abilene ISD appreciated all of their educator data being housed in eSuite, they wanted a way to ensure badge goals and educator growth data were always visible.   

“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.”

As teachers earn badges they are added to the poster 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,” she said. Now, Abilene ISD is tracking mastery of instructional best practices use a Badge Tracker System that celebrates badge attainment that happens as a result of coaching in eSuite.

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 e2L 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: what you recognize is where you place your value; the behaviors will follow. Throughout the last few years of coaching, Abilene ISD has seen firsthand the fruit of a recognition system, celebrating growth to encourage continued improvement. This academic year, they have aimed their focus on recognition, promoting teacher growth, and, ultimately, student achievement.engage2learn utilizes an evidence-based coaching model to ensure the growth of teachers, regardless of onsite or remote learning. Through an evidence-based model, teachers show evidence of implementation of best practices in their classroom and earn aligned best practice badges. Check out this blog by our founder and CEO, Shannon K Buerk, on the importance of a recognition system that aligns with your core values and beliefs, or, if you are ready to bring standards-aligned, recognition-based coaching support to your district, start a partnership today!


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