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New School Year Brings Changes to Fort Bend ISD


Nearly 500 students met Patches, the Sullivan Elementary School mascot, during the first summer play date.

Nearly 500 students met Patches, the Sullivan Elementary School mascot, during the first summer play date.

New Schools And New Programs Will Benefit Students

By Anna Saikin

As thousands of Fort Bend ISD students return to classrooms this fall, some will have back-to-school activities that include attending a new school or adjusting to a new curriculum. Among the additions to FBISD’s mission “to inspire and equip all students to pursue futures beyond what they can imagine” include the opening of the district’s 47th elementary school and the introduction of the EDGE (Educators Dedicated to Growing Ex­cellence) program to select campuses.

Sullivan Elementary, which serves members of the Riverstone community, will welcome its first class of students this year. The school is named after firefighter Anne McCormick Sullivan, a Dulles High School graduate who was killed at the Southwest Inn fire in Houston on May 31, 2013 along with three fellow Houston Fire Depart­ment firefighters. Sullivan, who also ran cross country and played soccer at Dulles, received her firefighting degree from Wharton County Junior College. Deputy Superintendent Dr. Christie Whitbeck chaired the naming selection committee and praised Sullivan’s “drive and determination” and noted, “her bravery in the line of duty will be revered for generations to come.”

Sullivan Principal Donna Whisonant welcomed members of the Dalmatian family during two play dates earlier this summer. Parents and children were greeted by Patches, the school mascot, who arrived on a fire engine. The summer events were open to the community and were well attended with enthusiastic response from the neighborhood. Sullivan Elementary staff have been keeping parents updated on the building’s progress this summer through the school’s Facebook page and Twitter account (@ase_dalmatians) as teachers prepare classrooms for their students arrival.

Students of two other elementary schools will return to familiar classrooms but with a new curriculum. Teachers at Ridgemont Elementary and Briargate Elementary aim to counter disappointing outcomes from previous years by leading the district’s EDGE program. The EDGE program breaks from traditional curriculum models that assign students to grade levels based on age and content mastery, and instead uses a grouping model that gives teachers the flexibility to move and cluster students throughout the day to best serve their educational needs. Groups are determined by factors ranging from learning style, learning and objective mastery, subject, or interest. Students will have a master teacher who instructs through flexible classes and coaches the EDGE teachers who support lesson development and delivery and instruct students. In addition to in-school instructional changes, students can attend an afterschool program called Club EDGE that extends learning through physical activities, tutorials and homework as­sistance while allowing students to socialize with their peers.

EDGE was created after extensive conversations about how to address the unique needs of underperforming schools that did not meet state accountability standards. An internal group of district leaders from 13 departments developed EDGE using a holistic approach to improving student outcomes. FBISD leaders received input from departments including curriculum, accountability, teacher development and school leadership. Superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre is optimistic about EDGE’s potential outcomes. “We believe that EDGE has the potential to transform a school’s entire culture,” he states. “EDGE offers students, staff, and parents the support they need to help our students achieve.” The program leads the district’s efforts to improve student mastery in several key areas measured by state performance guidelines.

Parents of students at Ridgemont and Briargate elementary schools were invited to informational meetings this past spring to discuss the upcoming changes. The two schools were chosen as to pilot the program from an initial list of 10 schools based on analysis of student data and assessments. Each school will have new instructional leadership this fall. Principal Stephanie Houston will head Ridgemont Elementary, which houses Ridgemont Early Childhood Center, and Principal Deanna Olson will lead Briargate Elementary faculty.

As with other instructional models, the goal of the redesigned modules is to give students the tools they need to be successful, but one notable feature that sets the EDGE program apart is the opportunity for educators to have peer mentorship. The district is providing additional professional development opportunities for educators with the expectation that it will positively impact student achievement. To encourage FBISD’s top teachers to participate in the pilot program, FBISD is offering regular access to district-level master teachers who will serve as liaisons between campus teachers and the central office. In addition, each campus in the EDGE program will have a designated full-time Parent Educator who will coordinate a variety of adult education and parenting classes.

If the EDGE program is successful, FBISD leadership hopes to roll it out in other campuses, though the program is not without additional costs. The total cost for implementing EDGE is $1.1 million, partially subsidized by federal Title 1 funding. Club EDGE is expected to cost an additional $1 million, although the district is actively seeking grants to financially support to program.

Parents who have questions related to the EDGE program should visit the program’s webpage (fortbendisd.com/edge) or contact their school administration.

Principal Stephanie Houston recently joined Ridgemont Elementary School.

Principal Stephanie Houston recently joined Ridgemont Elementary School.

Principal Deanna Olson will lead the EDGE program at Briargate Elementary School.

Principal Deanna Olson will lead the EDGE program at Briargate Elementary School.

 

Principal Deanna Olson will lead the EDGE program at Briargate Elementary School.

Principal Deanna Olson will lead the EDGE program at Briargate Elementary School.


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