• by Mercedes Gonzalez Ramos, M.A. • IDRA Newsletter • September 1994 • 

Almost two years ago, a small school district in south Texas requested assistance from IDRA to raise the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) scores of its students, a need shared by many school administrators and teachers across the state. The district asked IDRA to assist them in their efforts to study the data, review and renew the teachers’ and administrators’ attitudes, and realize the ultimate goal of improving student performance.

A Task Force is Born

IDRA began by asking the principal at each campus to assemble a task force that included department chairpersons or grade level coordinators, teachers, and staff who represented various disciplines with the district. Before this, such persons had been dealing with the issue of TAAS performance separately as it related to their roles in the district. In many cases, they had not interacted with each other until IDRA encouraged them to join forces.

Task force members developed a vision for the students they serve. After examining the student data, they identified critical areas of concern and the population of students to be addressed. This process was vital in uniting task force members in a single mission which influenced their thoughts and actions throughout the initiative and afterwards.

Facing the need to expand comprehension and knowledge in text, task force members prioritized objectives within the reading segment of the TAAS. They reviewed the literature and determined which techniques would be most appropriate for their campus and students. They then drafted a plan of action and scheduled training and classroom visits. The plan has continued to evolve, assuming a very distinct and particular shape for each campus.

Success Begins

This intensive two-year effort resulted in better TAAS performance. The number of students meeting TAAS standards jumped from 31 percent of the targeted grade level in the Spring of 1993 to 60 percent in the Spring of 1994. Furthermore, after working together through the task forces, teachers and school administrators have energetically redefined their roles and ways of collaborating. With this change in place, they can continue improving student performance.

Endeavors such as these require much time, energy, and commitment. But, however difficult and whatever personal or professional challenges each individual faces in the process, groups can come together. Successful task forces emerge eager, anxious, and at times amazed at their own ability and creativity.

Mercedes González Ramos is an Education Associate in IDRA’s Division of Professional Development. Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©1994, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 1994 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]