The Art of Transitioning a District

Reading Challenge: A Superintendent Implements a District-Wide Reading Solution

To say that change has been the hallmark of the Manor (Texas) Independent School District over the past five years would be an understatement. Student enrollment has increased by more than 1,000, the population of English language learners is growing significantly, and overall enrollment is projected to reach near 20,000 over the next five to 10 years.

Among the ripple effects of these changes, according to Manor ISD superintendent Dr. Royce Avery, has been a record-high 23 percent annual teacher turnover as educators find themselves ill-equipped to deal with large numbers of English language learners and the new and unfamiliar more urban school environment.

In fact, as the fifth Manor superintendent in five years, Avery, himself, is also a product of the district’s dramatic turnover. But though the challenges to guiding the school community through such a transition are great, and understandably overwhelming for many district leaders, Avery embraces them. “This is why I’m here. I’ve always been an advocate for doing great things for children.”

In office just eight months, Avery has already put into place a range of programs to back up Manor’s promise of Growth Through Innovation, and with reading success a priority, MindPlay is a key part of that. “The program helps us identify student needs on an individual basis and adapt in our teaching methods. It is just one element of our instructional technology focus, but an important one.”

A 30-year veteran educator who has served in a variety of district roles, from coach and teacher to vice principal and principal, Superintendent Avery knows from experience which programs work and which don’t. He first used MindPlay as a principal 15 years ago, and has been an advocate since. “I think you always revert back to something that’s worked for you over the years,” he says. Currently, all Manor campuses use MindPlay, including the district’s eight elementary schools, two middle schools and three high schools.

With strategy, leadership and community engagement additional district priorities, Avery has also been able to tap into MindPlay’s capabilities to assist with accomplishing those goals. MindPlay’s data tracking feature, which allows teachers to exactly pinpoint student progress, has been helpful on both the classroom and district levels. “Internally, every six to nine weeks staff looks at the data and presents that information to district leaders, which helps them discuss implications and strategies moving forward,” says Avery.

Such data collection from MindPlay also promotes parent engagement through the generation of timely reports on student progress. Additionally, Avery sees the data from MindPlay and other programs as a tool for helping to develop principal leadership skills.

“A lot of principals get so busy they don’t understand the importance of fidelity in implementing a program. MindPlay gives a weekly report of how it is used, and this data analysis provides a basis for talking to principals about use, which is a huge factor in success. You look at a campus principal and can see their leadership reflected in the data on how many kids are showing improvement.”

Professional development and teacher buy-in is also a primary factor in any large-scale program implementation and Avery says he appreciates the level of teacher training offered by MindPlay. “The hands-on consulting, going into classrooms to observe teachers, making suggestions about how to maximize the program, and the shared examples really help each educator and principal customize their implementation,” he says.

When it comes to student achievement, Dr. Avery feels strongly about reaching every single learner in a meaningful way. “It’s all about what we do and how we engage. And I can say confidently that MindPlay has made our students into better readers and set them up for long-term learning success.”