Blanton Elementary's Success is Not a Secret

_MG_0380 copy.JPG

Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School Principal Laura Garza has a history of significantly boosting student achievement for students in Dallas—and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Principal Laura Garza and Math Instructional Coach Alicia Iwasko review individual student data on the school's data wall.

Principal Laura Garza and Math Instructional Coach Alicia Iwasko review individual student data on the school's data wall.

Garza was recruited to be the principal at Blanton, which was targeted as one of Dallas ISD’s 2015-2016 Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) schools because of its persistently low performance on state tests. Garza’s focus on increasing student learning and developing high-performing teachers at Silberstein Elementary led to a 20% increase in 3rd through 5th grade math STAAR scores during her tenure as principal, proving that Garza had the skills, structure, and vision to make significant gains in student learning.

At Blanton, Garza’s goal was simple: to accelerate student achievement. She built a team of high-performing teachers—many of whom she developed at Silberstein—including teacher Alicia Iwasko, who now serves as Blanton’s Math Instructional Coach. Through a variety of intentional leadership decisions and best instructional practices, Garza, Iwasko, and Blanton’s math team replicated the consistent academic growth they saw at Silberstein—83.6% of students at Blanton passed the math STAAR, an increase of 35.4 points from the year before. In just one year, Blanton’s students achieved the highest growth on the math STAAR assessment of any elementary school in DISD.

Garza cites skills learned during her time in the Teaching Trust Leadership Teams program as being foundational to the success she experienced at Silberstein and at Blanton. Recognizing that success like Blanton’s could be replicated at other campuses, the Teaching Trust Alumni Network organized a school visit for alumni leaders and their teams to learn how Blanton has implemented best practices with fidelity. On October 26th, 27 alumni from seven campuses across DISD and Uplift Education visited Blanton to observe their math instruction and data practices in action and develop a plan to implement these best practices at their own schools.

Visiting school teams rotated through 4th and 5th grade math classrooms to observe data-driven instruction in action. They traveled to Blanton’s Data Room, where teachers track the academic progress of every student in the school, and watched videos of Iwasko and her math team conducting weekly data meetings about the upcoming week’s lessons using an intentional consultancy protocol. To conclude the day, the teams created campus action plans to implement what they learned during the visit and received feedback from Blanton leaders on their plans.

“This school visit helped us validate practices we are implementing at our campus that work and identify new effective strategies to help us continue to grow,” Principal Adriana Gonzalez of Hall Elementary reflected. “Teaching Trust always models the impact that attention to details can have on training and collaboration.”

The Teaching Trust Alumni Network hopes that the day will allow components of Blanton’s success to be replicated across DISD and Uplift as teachers return to their campuses motivated to implement new instructional strategies.

As Principal Garza notes, “You can really see that effective teaching and using engagement and using data really helps to push instruction in the classroom and success for students. At the end of the day, it’s always about what is right for kids.”