ACE Weekly Newsletter

February 7, 2016

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In This Week's Issue:

Note from Executive Director


Celebrating Excellence

Articles of the Week:

  • Key Factors that Nurture Student Resilience
  • Main Idea: The Skillful Teacher, Part I on Motivation

Video Spotlight

  • Extra Tutoring Helps Dallas ISD Schools


  • ACE Site
  • Math SE live binder
  • School Calendars
  • HUB
  • Links to articles on School Turnaround
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Note from your Executive Director

Dear ACE Team,

Our ACE initiative is focused on transforming schools to benefit students, families and the communities we serve. Achieving our goals will have the long term impact of increasing college readiness to ultimately break the cycle of poverty. This is the primary reason each of us embraced the challenge of ACE: to make a lasting, positive difference in the lives of children.

The research is clear that effective teachers make the most difference for increasing student achievement. Research also demonstrates that the most struggling schools have the greatest challenges with recruiting and retaining the most effective teachers. Across the nation, students needing the most academic support receive the least access to quality learning opportunities. Dallas ISD seeks to change this pattern with both TEI and ACE.

In ACE, we are showing that students from the most struggling schools can make significant learning gains with the best teachers. In fact, in our first year, we have shifted the quality of teaching as measured through TEI from only 24.6% Proficient and above teachers in 2014-15 to over 64% Proficient and above in 2015-16. By recruiting highly effective teachers with ACE stipends, we are leading the way in creating a long-term paradigm shift for how teachers are compensated.

This week I read an article closely aligned with our ACE mission. It effectively communicates the imperative need for change in our profession. Please take a few minutes to read it at the link below. "Stop Talking about Teachers as if They're Missionaries"

As always, thank you for your dedication and tenacity.


Jolee Healey

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Thank you ACE Counselors!

Dear ACE School Counselors,

Thank you so much for your dedication. Your role in supporting the social and emotional development for our students is vital. Best wishes for an awesome spring semester.

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From the Marshall Memo: Three Key Factors That Nurture Student Resilience

In this article in Kappa Delta Pi Record, California consultant/researcher Sara Truebridge addresses the central question about resilience: Why do some children who are exposed to high-risk environments successfully adapt while others do not? Truebridge challenges the notion that resilience is a trait that students either have or don’t have. All people have the capacity for resilience, she says, and there are three factors that tap and nurture that potential: (a) caring relationships, (b) high expectations, and (c) meaningful opportunities for participation and contribution. The three factors help develop children’s social competence, problem-solving ability, sense of self and internal locus of control, and sense of purpose and optimism about the future – all of which are key to dealing successfully with adversity.

“When these protective factors exist together in any one environment – home, school, community, or peer group – the climate in that environment becomes one that is optimal for nurturing the resilience of a child, youth, or any individual,” says Truebridge. “Applying these approaches does not cost extra money, but rather requires a focus on re-culturing schools in a unified vision to create, nurture, and sustain important protective factors that provide a positive influence and buffer students from adversity, threat, stress, and risk.” Having all three factors present in a school can compensate for their absence in the family, community, or peer group. And a school with these factors can be resilient as an organization in the face of challenges and traumatic events it may face.

What do the three key factors look like in schools? Truebridge lists these specific actions and characteristics:

Caring relationships – This is all about providing a sense of connectedness and belonging, “being there,” showing compassion and trust. Teachers get to know the life context of each student and model empathy and compassion. Principals engage students, staff, and parents in school climate surveys and have an open-door policy that makes students comfortable dropping in if they need help or just want to talk. Superintendents make regular visits to schools and sponsor “dialogue nights” where adults and youth can talk together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and safety.

High expectations – Teachers make appropriate expectations clear and recognize progress as well as performance. They also encourage mindfulness and self-awareness of moods, thinking, and actions. Principals orchestrate a curriculum that is challenging, comprehensive, thematic, experiential, and inclusive of multiple perspectives. They also provide training in resilience and youth development, and work to change deeply held adult beliefs about students’ capacities. Superintendents question how success is defined and ensure a commitment to being culturally responsive.

Meaningful opportunities for participation and contribution – Teachers hold daily class meetings and empower students to create classroom norms and agreements. Principals establish peer-helping/tutoring and cross-age mentoring/tutoring programs and set up peer support networks to help new students and families acclimate to the school environment. Superintendents scour the neighborhood to identify pro-youth resources, services, and facilities, and hire a community liaison officer to enhance communication, cooperation, and understanding.

Truebridge draws on her own research and that of several other researchers to make these observations about resilience in schools:

  • Resilience is a process, not a trait. It’s a struggle to define oneself as healthy amidst serious challenges.

  • All people have the capacity for resilience; for some it needs to be tapped.

  • Several personal strengths are associated with resilience – being strong cognitively, socially, emotionally, morally, and spiritually.

  • One person – a teacher, relative, friend – can make a difference in the life outcomes of an embattled student.

  • Educators’ beliefs about students’ resilience are key factors in student outcomes. “If you don’t believe in the capacity of all individuals to have resilience,” says Truebridge, “then you run the risk of giving up on them.”

  • Teachers and administrators who have a “growth” mindset about students’ ability to overcome adversity will get far better results than those with a “fixed” mindset.

  • In classrooms, open channels of communication are essential. Nothing should inhibit, embarrass, or shame students from asking questions during a lesson.

  • Coming from a high-risk environment does not determine a person’s life trajectory. “No child is destined to become a gang member,” says Truebridge.

  • Most individuals exposed to adversity – between 50 and 70 percent – do meet developmental milestones and lead productive and independent lives.

  • Bad behavior doesn’t equate to being a bad person. “What the student did was display poor judgment and, as a result, the student needs to be responsible for those actions,” says Truebridge. “However, a person who displays bad judgment is not ‘forever’ a bad person.”

  • To help others, educators need to take care of themselves. An analogy: on an airplane, people need to have their own oxygen masks in place before they can help others.

  • Challenging life experiences and events are opportunities for growth, development, and change. “Quite often,” says Truebridge, “our perseverance through tough times builds our confidence and makes us stronger.”

“Resilience: It Begins With Beliefs” by Sara Truebridge in Kappa Delta Pi Record, January-March, 2016 (Vol. 52, #1, p. 22-27), available for purchase at; Truebridge can be reached at

The Skillful Teacher, Part II

In part II of the Skillful Teacher summary, the focus is motivation, which is incredibly important for these last few weeks before STAAR. We are reminded that "the emotional state of students affects almost everything they do in school – their level of focus, amount of investment, and the energy level they bring to tasks.

This emotional state is influenced by three major areas – each of which is described in the section on motivation: their relationship with teachers (Personal Relationship Building), their feelings of support among peers (Classroom Climate), and their own confidence and belief in themselves (Expectations)."

Read this week's main idea to get the part II summary by clicking Here.


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Common Elements of Successful School Turnarounds: Research and Experience

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