Middle/Early High School Interventions for At-Risk Students--Cypress-Fairbanks ISD

Area:
Dropout Prevention/Recovery

Campus/District:
Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District

Overview:  
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD (CFISD) serves a student population (total = 96,456) that is 15.7% African American, 8.8% Asian/Pacific Islander, 38.1% Hispanic,  37.1% White, 41.5% economically disadvantaged, 16.9% LEP, and 40.0% at risk.

CFISD’s completion rates for all students and at-risk students have been consistently above both state and peer district comparison group averages (see Supporting Evidence for more information).


In this summary, find out how the district:
  

  • Assigns staff to each middle and high school campus to provide tailored academic interventions and proactive dropout prevention services for struggling students
  • Identifies staff mentors for struggling students
  • Requires that all students complete a year-long ninth grade study skills course
  • Provides literacy interventions and mathematics labs
  • Operates an alternative high school with night classes and a community college atmosphere
  • Partners with area agencies to address truancy issues

Strategies that are aligned with research-based best practices in dropout prevention/recovery include (see Research Base for more information): 

  • Providing targeted academic support and enrichment
  • Providing relevant instruction
  • Offering alternative schooling options
  • Building school-community collaborations
  • Removing barriers (i.e., childcare/transportation, medical/health care, housing)
  • Offering differentiated programming for recovered dropouts
  • Implementing programs so students can connect with caring adults
  • Ensuring flexibility and multiple options after re-enrollment

Implementation

Context:

  • The district began implementing proactive dropout prevention programming beginning in the late 1990s, adding several new components in more recent years. 
  • Cypress-Fairbanks ISD was identified as a Promising Practice district in TEA’s Dropout Recovery Resource Guide (2008). Information from 30 Texas districts and charter schools identified as having promising practices aligned with national dropout recovery research is included in the guide. For details, see http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/ed_init/PDF/dropout_recovery_resource_guide.pdf.
 Demographics (2008-09)
Demographics Table. Grade levels served: ECE-12. District Enrollment: 96,546. Ethnic Distribution: African American 15,775, 15.7%. Hispanic 38,338, 38.1%. White 37,314, 37.1%. Native American 268, .03%. Asian/Pacific Islander 8,810, 8.8%. Economically Disadvantaged 41,696, 41.5%. Limited English Proficient (LEP) 16,938, 16.9%. At-Risk 40,174, 40.0%.
Source: Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS)

Accountability Rating:
Recognized (2008–09)

Implementation Highlights:
Cy-Fair Updated timeline

Strategies/Approaches:

Middle school/early high school interventions

  • Academic Achievement Specialists were assigned to each middle and high school campus. These specialists worked with a district Academic Achievement Coordinator in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. The specialists met as a group with the district coordinator once a month for one-half day to receive training in the district’s data monitoring tools, personal graduation planning software, processes related to the Student Success Initiative (SSI) and the district’s Grade Placement Committee (GPC), and Response to Intervention. The campus-based specialists reported to campus leaders and worked closely with counselors and the dean of instruction to provide proactive dropout prevention services, monitor student progress, conduct conferences with students, work with teachers, and collect data on interventions.
  • The campus-based specialists tailored academic options for students identified as struggling, including strategies such as:
    • re-enrollment in a failed course with a different, “hand-picked” teacher;
    • participation in TAKS support classes (online or direct teach);
    • credit-by-exam; or
    • credit recovery.
  • The specialists also assigned a staff mentor to each identified struggling student and usually tried to choose a mentor with whom the student already had an established relationship. The mentor met with the student on a regular basis during the school day (at lunch, before school, or after school) and monitored the student’s attendance, grades, benchmark test scores, and TAKS scores.
  • The district began implementing a required year-long ninth-grade study skills course at each high school campus in the late 1990s. The course provided study skills and note-taking strategies based on the Quantum Learning program. Teachers certified in reading/English Language Arts (ELA) taught the course and worked with students on goal setting, reading in the content areas, and four-year course-taking plans.
  • In 2005−06, the district also began offering a districtwide intervention for middle and high school students who had failed TAKS in mathematics and/or science. At the beginning of the school year, each campus identified students who had not passed TAKS in these two subject areas for participation in a three-day workshop offered in the fall. The workshop was developed by district mathematics and science specialists and curriculum coaches and provided opportunities for re-teaching and extending instruction for deeper content understanding.
  • In 2006−07, the district required students who had not passed the third administration of eighth-grade reading TAKS to enroll in a Read 180 course during their freshman year. The course was offered in a two-block period to groups of 15 students in a classroom with computers and equipment to support the program. Class began with direct teaching, and then students broke out into three groups. One group worked on computer exercises designed to build fluency and vocabulary. A second group read and listened to leveled books on headsets. The books on tape provided metacognitive “think alouds” or reflection questions to support the reading process. The third group worked with a teacher for individualized support on comprehension and fluency needs. Staff reported that the program was engaging for at-risk readers.
  • In 2008−09, the district implemented credit recovery programs at each high school campus with a focus on ninth graders with credit deficiencies. Credit recovery was offered in staffed computer labs called Success Through Academic Recovery or STAR labs using the PLATO system. STAR lab teachers were certified in one of the core content areas, most typically reading/ELA and mathematics, as staff reported that these were the two highest need content areas, which required the most teacher support. STAR lab teachers interviewed and developed relationships with referred students and provided additional academic and emotional support. Most campuses also developed strategies for providing supplemental academic support in the content areas in which the STAR lab teacher was not certified. For example, at one campus where the STAR lab teacher was certified in reading/ELA, the mathematics department assigned staff to report to the STAR lab 3-4 periods a day during either team planning or conference periods to provide additional academic support for students working through the PLATO mathematics program. Students were scheduled into the STAR lab in lieu of taking another elective course.
  • Students participating in credit recovery through STAR labs simultaneously enrolled in the next course level. For example, if a student failed English I, the student enrolled in English II, while working to gain the English I credit through the STAR lab during an elective period. Teachers staffing the STAR labs supported the student in both the English I and II coursework.
  • In 2008−09, the district implemented an Algebra Lab course at each high school campus for students who had failed the eighth-grade mathematics course or the third administration of eighth-grade mathematics TAKS. These students were promoted to ninth grade with the agreement that the student had to take Algebra I and the Algebra Lab (which was offered for local credit, not credit toward graduation). The lab class provided support with a different teacher and different student groupings from the regular Algebra I class the student was enrolled in and offered the student more time for in-depth study. The curriculum for the lab paralleled and extended the regular algebra curriculum. For example, if an objective was explored using a manipulative with practice on five examples in the regular class, the lab class provided review of the objective and the opportunity to practice the concept with 10-12 additional examples. Based on the success of the lab class in helping ninth graders pass Algebra I, the district developed a geometry lab class for tenth graders to be implemented in 2009−10. Lab classes were taken as electives.
  • The district also operated an alternative high school, or “campus of choice,” for students in Grades 11−12 (Windfern High School). The campus environment was designed like a community college with two-hour, nine-week courses, a silent bell system, small class sizes, open lunch, flexible scheduling, and self-paced courses. Classes were offered from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students applied for admission with recommendations from their home campus assistant principal and counselor and worked toward graduation based on individualized graduation plans. Alternative academic options included credit-by-exam, computer-based instruction, and correspondence courses, with individualized tutoring support as necessary. The campus typically served 300−350 students, and the number of students per teacher was 12.7 in 2007−08, compared to the state average of 14.5. The campus philosophy was based on establishing close, caring relationships between students and teachers and developing students’ sense of belonging. Additional instructional programming offered at the campus targeted students with a variety of needs/interests, including the following:
    • teen parenting support;
    • hotel/restaurant management and training;
    • apprenticeships and business mentoring;
    • ESL instruction; and
    • GED tutorials.

Dropout recovery

  • Key components of the district’s dropout recovery efforts were assignment of attendance officers to elementary, middle, and high school feeder groups; campus-level dropout recovery liaisons; and the Compulsory Attendance Program.
  • To track and recover students who might have dropped out, the district’s five attendance officers, all of whom had teacher certification and master’s degrees in educational administration, worked closely with a dropout recovery liaison on each middle and high school campus. These campus-level dropout recovery specialists, often an assistant principal or another campus-identified staff member, led teams of campus staff (counselors, assistant principals, principals, PEIMS coordinators, registrars, and academic achievement specialists) in tracking students who did not return to school at the beginning of the year during the “school-start window,” which typically extends from the first day of school through the last Friday in September. Each member of the team was responsible for a portion of the list of non-returning students and called all known contact numbers for the student or next-of-kin. If students could not be located through phone calls, the campus sent letters and also tried to contact either siblings or known friends of the student to find out if the student had dropped out, moved, or pursued some other educational option. Located dropouts were referred to campus academic achievement specialists for alternative academic support options. The campus PEIMS coordinators updated leaver codes for those students who had moved out of the district or state.
  • The district and all high schools also participated in an annual regional “Reach Out to Dropouts Walk” (for details, see http://www.expectationgraduation.org) that took place at the start of the school year (September), with volunteers visiting the homes of students who had not returned to school.
  • Staff also reported that the district had participated in a partnership with the county District Attorney’s Office called the Stay in School program for one year with support from a county grant in 2007−08 (for details, see http://app.dao.hctx.net/CrimePrevention/StayInSchool.aspx). Through the program, the District Attorney’s Office sent a school-initiated warning letter to parents after three unexplained student absences, which staff reported was more effective than a letter from the district. If absences continued, the parent and student were then required by the court to participate in a collaborative meeting with county officials to discuss barriers to student attendance and referrals for support. The attendance officers represented the district in these court proceedings and collaborative meetings. Subsequent court actions could include parent participation in court-ordered activities, such as attending school with the student or attending truancy classes, which met for six hours on two Saturdays. As a last resort, if the truancy continued, parents could be fined, although staff indicated that this rarely happened and that students usually returned to school after barriers had been addressed and support had been provided. The district was not able to pay for participation in the program in 2008−09 when the county grant ended. However a similar program called the Compulsory Attendance Program was established in 2009−10.
  • Staff emphasized that training and collaboration were critical aspects of the district’s dropout recovery efforts. Attendance officers and dropout recovery liaisons provided training to campus staff, including training on the appropriate use and documentation of leaver codes, then followed up on the training with leaver code audits every three weeks. Attendance officers and dropout recovery liaisons met weekly during the school start window and continued to meet and communicate regularly throughout the year.

Training:

  • Training for Academic Achievement Specialists in the district’s data monitoring tools, personal graduation planning software, processes related to the Student Success Initiative (SSI) and the district’s Grade Placement Committee (GPC), and Response to Intervention.

Resources, Cost Components, and Sources of Funding:

  • This practice was implemented using a combination of local funds, state compensatory education funding, and grant funds. 

 

Lessons Learned

Strengths/Challenges:

  • Staff reported that providing flexible and self-paced alternatives for at-risk students who had failed courses (other than sitting through a year-long course again) was an important motivator, especially for seniors. The strategy of staffing credit recovery labs with certified teachers who developed relationships with students and who provided additional support was also reported to be more effective than sending students to a computer lab to work alone.

Evidence Type:
Established Best Practice

Overview of Evidence:
Since 2004–05, the district’s overall student completion rates1 were consistently above both state averages and averages of a peer district comparison group that included six districts matched by size and type.2 Completion rates for at-risk students were also consistently above both state averages and averages of the peer district comparison group. In 2007−08, the most current year for which completion data were available, the district’s completion rate (Completion Rate I without GED, which is used as a standard accountability indicator) was 96%, compared to the state average of 88% and the peer district average of 90%. The district’s completion rate without GED for at-risk students was 92%, compared to the state average for at-risk students of 81% and the peer district average of 84%.

Overall district completion rates with GED (Completion Rate II) were also consistently higher than the state peer district averages. In 2007−08, the district’s completion rate with GED was 96%, compared to the state average of 90% and the peer district average of 92%. The district’s completion rate with GED for at-risk students was 93%, compared to the state average for at-risk students of 83% and the peer district average of 86%.

 Across both measures (Completion I and II), each comparison was statistically significant (p<.05).

Chart 1: District Completion Rate I Compared to State and Peer District Averages Across School Years. In 2004–05, the district's Completion Rate I was 96.8%, compared to the peer district average of 93.9% and the state average of 91.9%. In 2005–06, the district's Completion Rate I was 96.8%, compared to the peer district average of 93.8% and the state average of 88.9%. In 2006–07, the district's Completion Rate I was 96.1%, compared to the peer district average of 89.3% and the state average of 86.7%. In 2007–08, the district's Completion Rate I was 95.8%, compared to the peer district average of 90.3% and the state average of 88.0%.  In 2004–05, the district's Completion Rate I for at-risk students was 93.0%, compared to the peer district at-risk average of 88.6% and the state at-risk average of 87.2%. In 2005–06, the district's Completion Rate for at-risk students was 94.1%, compared to the peer district at-risk average of 86.2% and the state at-risk average of 82.0%. In 2006–07, the district's Completion Rate I for at-risk students was 93.2%, compared to the peer district at-risk average of 80.9% and the state at-risk average of 79.2%. In 2007–08, the district's Completion Rate I for at-risk students was 92.2%, compared to the peer district at-risk average of 83.9% and the state at-risk average of 81.1%.
Source: Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS)

  Chart 2: District Completion Rate II Compared to State and Peer District Averages Across School Years. In 2004–05, the district's Completion Rate II was 99.2%, compared to the peer district average of 97.4% and the state average of 95.7%. In 2005–06, the district's Completion Rate II was 97.8%, compared to the peer district average of 96.9% and the state average of 91.2%. In 2006–07, the district's Completion Rate II was 97.1%, compared to the peer district average of 90.6% and the state average of 88.6%. In 2007–08, the district's Completion Rate II was 96.1%, compared to the peer district average of 91.6% and the state average of 89.5%. In 2004–05, the district's Completion Rate II for at-risk students was 98.0%, compared to the peer district at-risk average of 94.9% and the state at-risk average of 92.7%. In 2005–06, the district's Completion Rate II for at-risk students was 95.9%, compared to the peer district at-risk average of 89.4% and the state at-risk average of 85.4%. In 2006–07, the district's Completion Rate II for at-risk students was 94.7%, compared to the peer district at-risk average of 83.2% and the state at-risk average of 81.9%. In 2007–08, the district's Completion Rate II for at-risk students was 92.8%, compared to the peer district at-risk average of 85.6% and the state at-risk average of 83.3%.
Source: PEIMS

Research Base:

Contact Information


Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District
P.O. Box 692003
Houston, Texas 77065
(281) 897-4000

End Notes


1 Note: According to the 2007−08 AEIS Glossary: “Dropouts are counted according to the dropout definition in place the year they drop out. The definition changed in 200506. Completion rates for classes in which the national dropout definition is being phased in (i.e., classes of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009) are not comparable to completion rates for the class of 2005 and prior classes, nor to each other.”

2Peer districts were matched by district size (50,000 and over) and district type(major suburban). For details, seehttp://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/snapshot/2008/peer.srch.html.

Posted/Revised:
2009