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Garland ISD: Supporting Individual Student Needs with Ellevation

About Garland Independent School District

Educating a total of 57,000 students, more than 15,000 of whom are English Language Learners (ELL), Garland ISD ranks as the second-largest district in Dallas County. The 71-campus district is the fourth largest in Dallas-Fort Worth, 13th-largest in Texas, and is among the 70 largest districts in the US.

Garland ISD Chooses Ellevation

Prior to joining Ellevation, Garland relied on a complex process of paper documents and massive spreadsheets to manage its ELL program. The cumbersome system--along with the constant movement of students--obstructed the district’s ability to deliver the specific supports each child needed. In 2014, Garland ISD turned to Ellevation to improve program efficiency, gain better visibility into student data, and improve overall instruction in language and content.

Disparate Tools Hinder Program Management

Garland ISD has a rich history of providing a quality education for English Learners. In the past four years, the population has grown 25 percent. The district’s dedicated Student Services Enrollment Center is in charge of enrolling hundreds of students each year and then providing information directly to campuses. 

Part of this process is administering assessments, conducting a Language Proficiency Assessment Committee (LPAC) meeting, and quickly providing information to campuses so that they can immediately support students.

When a student then shows up at one of the district’s schools, the magic begins.

“We needed to have a seamless way to transfer information to support individual students,” says Pascuala Sifre, Compliance Coordinator. “We knew that handing a teacher a piece of paper about a student wasn’t providing all of the support that teacher needed in order to support their individual needs. We wanted to go above that to help our teachers and students.”

As the state’s accountability system has shifted, the district wanted to be proactive in supporting teachers through actionable data to inform instruction. Sifre knew they needed to try something new.

Discovering Ellevation

After reviewing options, the district discovered Ellevation.

“From the beginning, I was hooked. We brought together people across the district and it was unanimous that this was the route we needed to go to support our teachers and students. Learning that Ellevation has educators in Texas working to tailor the product to meet our needs, we knew that it was the right thing to do,” says Deb Tietjen, Coordinator of BE/ESL Programs.

Better Information, Better Decision Making

Since deploying Ellevation, Tietjen says there have been noticeable improvements across the district’s ELL program. In particular, she cites improved teacher collaboration, more precise documentation, quick access to student information, and more relevant, data-driven ELL program decisions.

Not only is the team more efficient and better equipped to help their ELLs succeed, but the new tools have freed up time for reflection, leading to insights and advocacy for program needs. “Our principals and LPAC leads have access to the program and are really looking at students to determine their language strengths and create effective plans to build on areas for growth,” Tietjen says. “Having all of the historical LPAC decisions in one place, easy access to generating an Individualized Language Acquisition Plan (ILAP), and so many other student-focused tools has allowed our department to focus on continued professional development directed at supporting students, not just compliance. Now, when we come together, we are making informed decisions about students with a forward vision grounded in a historical context.” 

Garland classroom teachers are able to use the collaborative workflows in Ellevation to recommend supports that their students need on upcoming standardized tests. In 2017, the district completed 6,189 MOY LPACs in just 16 days while collecting nearly 10,000 designated support recommendations from teachers in just 23 days.

Looking to the Future

This summer, Garland will begin piloting Ellevation Strategies, which will provide teachers of all grade levels and subject areas with strategies and activities for effective ELL instruction. The module also provides a framework for sustainable professional development that allows all teachers and administrators across the district to focus on how best to support their ELLs.

Sifre would like others who are in a similar situation to know, “If you are struggling with ways to connect all of the LPAC requirements, data and paperwork floating around, Ellevation can truly transform your district. It gives you time to focus on what matters most – the kids!” 

Ellevation makes our job easier! As a department, we use it every day to review information at the campuses and determine how we can best support both teachers and kids.