How Fort Worth ISD Created a Culture of Achievement with Help from Xello
The Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) had a number of challenges that they hoped a high-quality future readiness solution would be able to satisfy. Among them:
In 2014, the Texas State Board of Education passed new graduation requirements that allow students to graduate with one or more endorsements in:
Business and Industry
- Arts and Humanities
- Public Service
An endorsement on a student’s diploma signals that they have a deeper knowledge of and proficiency in the subject. This change was undertaken to undertaken to give graduates an edge when vying for increasingly competitive college and career opportunities. But aligning to the new graduation requirements meant some school districts needed to adapt their thinking.
“Programs of Choice” System
The district administers a system in which students choose high schools based on their programs of interest. They needed a solution to help them empower students to make informed choices.
Equitable and Personalized Learning
The FWISD is comprised of an incredibly diverse student body. Demographics include:
- 78% students who are economically disadvantaged
- 30% students who are bilingual/ESL
- 31% students who are English Language Learners
- 85% students of color
With diverse demographics like these, it’s difficult to deliver a college and career readiness program that works equitably for everyone.
21% students who are Black
14% students who are white
Tonni Grant, coordinator of the FWISD Academic Advisement Department, says one of the tools to help them achieve these goals is Xello.
“Everything that we stand for is embedded in Xello. The exposure it gives our students to colleges, careers and real-world examples is directly aligned to our mission,” she said.
“The hands-on lessons give our students an opportunity to explore and learn more about the things they enjoy and are passionate about. This leads to them making better decisions and become leaders in their fields of study.”
The FWISD has been working with Xello since 2015, but from 2017 to 2018, they saw a 137% district-wide increase in the number of students engaged in college, career and military readiness planning programs.
Here are some of the ways Xello empowers FWISD educators and students to meet their mission—and beyond:
Grant says Xello has helped FWISD students be prepared to decide on and achieve an endorsement and become more certain of their graduation path—and where they fall in the greater scheme of things.
Programs of Choice
Xello’s learning style, personality style and Matchmaker quizzes help middle school students explore and identify what they love, what they’re good at, and how their skills might translate to a career. With a better understanding of their interests, they can more easily decide which program to pursue in high school.
For students in FWISD, establishing areas and programs of focus early has had a huge impact, including boosting attendance and graduation rates. Some students are even earning certifications and licensures while still in high school. This gives them a jumpstart on postsecondary careers and a leg up in an increasingly competitive labour market.
“This early [learning] process has a profound impact on students and families. Because it provides them more certainty of the right path forward, there is less indecision on post-secondary choices, and a greater chance of making the right decision the first time, particularly with college choices,” said Grant.
Equitable and Personalized Learning
Xello’s accessible has helped FWISD make huge strides towards ensuring equal outcomes by offering:
- Opportunities for all students to explore multiple pathways
- Customizable, shareable digital workspaces (profiles) where students can record and reflect on their accomplishments, challenges and goals
- Career profiles that reflect gender and ethnic diversity, so all students can see themselves in a future job
- Availability in English and Spanish so students can work and share in the language they’re most comfortable with
- A course planning and selection tool that makes it easy for students and educators alike to ensure everyone has a plan and is on track for graduation
“All students, regardless of background, have an opportunity to see the same things. It does not matter whether the student is at-risk or a high achiever. The program we’ve enabled with Xello provides something for everyone. It is a one-stop shop that makes achieving students’ dreams fun and engaging, and all without tasking educators with more work.”
She notes that the ability to have access to input local scholarships and custom messages allow educators to make an already customizable program even more specific for their students.
Janet Gonzalez is a College and Career Readiness Coach at Trimble Tech High School within the FWISD. She’s blown away by the impact Xello has on her students—and their families.
Students at Trimble may sign out a Chromebook to work on Xello at home. Gonzalez says she encourages her students to show their parents their profiles and talk it over with them.
“My personal goal is to eventually have all parents become familiar with the program,” she said.
“I think it’s important, especially in the Hispanic community, because a lot of parents are concerned about their children’s future and they don’t know how to help them. It would be great for both of them to do a session at home and see how easy some of the lessons are.”
ASCA recommends that schools strive to maintain a 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio. But with ratios as high as 450:1 in some Texas districts, involving parents is crucial to helping all students consider the variety of options available for their futures. Since FWISD’s program is available in Spanish, language isn’t a barrier to getting more parents involved.
Greater parental involvement means children have a whole community of support and everyone on the same page. Gonzales has already had feedback from parents who are thrilled to be able to support their children in their college and career readiness plans.
Gonzales recalls a mother of an 11th grader who came to her with concerns about her son. She’d observed that he appeared to be losing interest in the architectural learning path he’d chosen some years before (Trimble Tech offers programs of choice) and asked if Gonzales could offer him some direction.
“I reached out to him and provided a light introduction to Xello, which is really intuitive and doesn’t require much, if any, hand-holding. After going through just a few activities he completely lit up. It’s like a cloud had lifted. He felt motivated and focused again,” she said.
“It felt like we almost lost him and now we have him back on track.”
Of course, there will always be students who are not interested in college. Gonzalez says they’ll automatically tell you that postsecondary school and a big career is not for them.
“I say, ‘Do you know what your learning style is?’ They look at me, puzzled, and I tell them there’s an amazing quiz in Xello that helps them know more about themselves. I try to take them down a different path to get them interested in exploring. Some students come back and tell me about careers they’d never heard of and are now interested in.”
She says it’s incredibly rewarding to hear them talk amongst themselves as they work their way through Xello. Often, she assigns students fun little career research projects in Xello asking them to report back on things like:
- How much particular jobs pay
- A description of what the day-to-day experience is like
- The courses you need to take to qualify for particular jobs
Kids are so interested that they come back and ask to look up more careers.
And because of all the reflective elements in Xello — like the ability to comment on lesson and activity outcomes as well as any content they share — when it comes to one-on-one consultations with students, Gonzales says the conversations are infinitely more productive.
“We can look at their profile together, discuss their interests, ideas and career paths, and begin to make a real plan, one that matters to each student.”
Both Grant and Gonzales acknowledge that Xello plays a key role in helping FWISD accomplish their mission. And both anticipate long-lasting benefits that will extend well beyond high school for most students.
“If there’s a student who wants to know more about themselves and what they want to do when they leave high school, Xello definitely helps us help them find it. And even when they don’t yet know – especially then – Xello is an indispensable tool for unlocking each student’s natural curiosity and leading them on a path to discovery and a plan for their future,” said Grant.
That was Fort Worth ISD’s success story—now it’s time to write yours. Learn how Xello can help students at your district get college and career ready. Book My Demo