Decatur ISD: Preparing Every Student for the Future
Located 40 miles northwest of Fort Worth, the Decatur Independent School District (Decatur ISD) comprises six campuses spanning grades K-12. Of the roughly 3,000 students enrolled in Decatur ISD schools, half come from economically disadvantaged homes.
Decatur ISD is dedicated to helping all of its students excel, which includes finding creative ways to support its students and teachers outside of the scope of the traditional school day. In 2012, Decatur ISD and The Miles Foundation teamed up to develop a “Future Ready” curriculum coaching program, with a particular focus on math and science.
After only a few short months, the value of Future Ready’s intensive coaching program was apparent. Three dedicated curriculum coaches were providing guidance to teachers not just in math and science, but across all subject areas. The coaches worked with each teacher individually to maximize their instruction methods and find effective ways to use computers and technology in the classroom.
The Future Ready program helped to significantly improve Decatur ISD’s science and math testing scores over a three-year period. In 2015, the District’s Algebra I state assessment scores increased by a total of 20 percentage points.
The second program Decatur ISD implemented in partnership with The Miles Foundation is AVID (an acronym for “Advancement Via Individual Determination”). Established in 1980, AVID brings teachers research-based strategies that help strengthen students’ critical thinking, literacy, and math skills. The AVID program specifically targets underserved and at-risk student populations in the schools it serves, including those students who would be the first generation in their family to go to college.
The AVID program nationally touts impressive results, with a reported 92% of AVID seniors planning to attend a post-secondary institution (2- or 4-year college). Decatur ISD started its AVID program with 50 freshman high school students, and has seen transformational results. Through advanced placement classes, study skills tutoring, and other mentoring opportunities, many of the at-risk students that have participated in Decatur ISD’s AVID program have excelled. In the 2015-2016 school year, the AVID freshman students outperformed their Decatur ISD freshman peers in the English, Biology, and Algebra I EOC exams.
Today, Decatur ISD has expanded the AVID program to include 9th and 10th grades, as well as two classes in middle school. One of the keys to AVID’s success is a small class size that enables one-on-one attention for each student. In addition to maintaining these small student-to-teacher ratios, Decatur ISD arranges for local college students to tutor AVID participants two days per week.
AVID aims to broaden students’ beliefs in what they can achieve – particularly if their parents and other family members did not attend college themselves. To help realize this goal, Decatur ISD sponsors college field trips as part of its program. To date, Decatur’s AVID participants – many of whom had never previously been to a college campus – have traveled to visit the University of Texas at Arlington, Austin College, and the University of North Texas.
The evidence of AVID’s success is demonstrated by more than just higher grades and improved test scores. When AVID students were invited to address Decatur ISD’s Board of Trustees in 2016, ninth grader and AVID student Jerry shared her story with a room full of Board and community members. Jerry admitted that she was a troublemaker before entering into the AVID program, having developed a notorious reputation among her student peers and the school’s principals. Through AVID, Jerry said she began envisioning a different path for herself. She saw the opportunity (and real possibility) of going to college. With a new future clearly in focus, Jerry was finally motivated to make a change. She improved her grades, earning a 4.125 GPA in her 9th grade year with three Honors classes. Jerry also has had no disciplinary actions since she started in the AVID program.
Personal stories like Jerry’s attest to impact that transcends academic achievement. AVID has helped transform the culture at Decatur ISD, instilling a spirit of high achievement, college attainment, and inspired learning. The Miles Foundation is proud to support AVID and Decatur ISD in promoting better outcomes and brighter futures for all of its students.