Literacy Beyond the ELA Class – Building a Bridge with CCR and Dual Credit Enrollment
I’m Elizabeth Lalor, Deputy Superintendent at Galena Park Independent School District (ISD). I’ve been at Galena Park ISD for over 32 years, beginning my career as a math teacher. I’ve been at Galena Park’s Central office for 16 years now. When I took over my role as Deputy Superintendent at Galena Park ISD, my focus was to increase college readiness and expand our Dual Credit program.
Our district maintains a 94% graduation rate and for the 2021-2022 school year, we were 1 of 3 districts in the state of Texas to receive an A grade among districts with over 10,000 students, 85% or higher economically disadvantaged, and 30% or more English language learners.
Identifying the issue
We needed to identify our issues. Our scores in math were at the state level, but we were behind the state in reading and had high gaps with English I and English II EOCs. We identified that writing was our weakest skill. While at a Collegeboard conference, I learned that math is the best predictor of getting into college, but writing skills are the best predictor of being successful in college.
Partnering with ThinkCERCA
I met ThinkCERCA CEO and founder Eileen Murphy at a conference. I loved that ThinkCERCA worked on literacy naturally. From engaging topics to English Language supports, this was an easy partnership. It was important to me that our students practice argumentative writing because it has no wrong answers as long as you provide supporting evidence.
Literacy for Young Adult Success
We decided to launch a class for 100% of our 7th and 8th graders, focused on additional literacy programming, but we don't call it ELA. The class is scheduled for every other day and lasts 90 minutes.
The first class we launched was an 8th-grade class called College and Career Readiness. In this class, we focus on their endorsements for high school, career clusters, informational texts, author’s purpose, college entrance exams, and professional skills. We had such great success with the 8th-grade class that we launched a 7th-grade class called Think Tank. In this class, our 7th graders focus on SEL Lessons, mindfulness, self-awareness, empathy, and communication.
We used the CERCA framework in our district. Hear directly from a Galena Park teacher on why she enjoys using the CERCA framework.
It was very important for me to have teacher buy-in because I can come up with great ideas, but I’m not in all of the classrooms. When there is no teacher buy-in, I know it’s not going to be utilized in the classroom. The teachers bought in—they love ThinkCERCA. The resources are easy to use and plan. They love that vocabulary, sentence stems, and good data is included for the teachers so they can determine where the kids are strong and where they might need to improve. In the ThinkCERCA platform, there are ways for teachers to give feedback to the students directly. There is no pushback from the kids; they enjoy the class.
Hear directly from Galena Park teachers on why they enjoy using ThinkCERCA:
A Plan for Growth
We knew we needed to have multiple pieces of writing throughout the year. ThinkCERCA recommends 7 Close Reading and Writing Lessons throughout the year. We have those built-in alongside the other scope and sequence we are working on. We have definitely seen growth.
It’s important that as a district administrator, you don’t just keep adding to the garden, you need to weed the garden, too. We realized this was a better way to teach writing than what we were doing before introducing ThinkCERCA.
Hear directly from Galena Park Teachers on the benefits of using ThinkCERCA:
Elizabeth Lalor has spent her entire 32-year career in Galena Park ISD serving as a math teacher, assistant principal, principal, and various roles in central office. She currently serves as the Deputy Superintendent for Educational Support and School Administration. Galena Park ISD has posted tremendous results under her leadership.. Highlights include the creation of the Career and Technical Early College High School and dual language program, increasing dual credit participation and success by over 1,000 students, and starting a middle school swim program. The district was rewarded an “A,” the highest level by the Texas Education Agency.