Grand Prairie ISD, Uplift Education announce new partnership

Grand Prairie ISD and Uplift Education have created a new partnership called Education Energized (E2) that will redefine how charters and local districts work together in North Texas. The new initiative will create a school-within-a-school program run jointly by GPISD and Uplift at Lee Elementary School in Grand Prairie.

The Meadows Foundation will invest $256,000 in the partnership, while Educate Texas, a public-private initiative of Communities Foundation of Texas, will contribute another $31,000 to help launch the initiative. The Uplift program will open with grades K-2 alongside the existing K-5 GPISD program in August of 2015.

E2 has the full joint support of the GPISD and Uplift boards of trustees. Both are very interested to see what cross-pollination will happen and what powerful ideas for student success will come out of the partnership.

GPISD Superintendent Susan Hull, who has championed the district’s transition to an open-enrollment, choice-based school district, has been laying the groundwork for such a partnership for several years.

“We want GPISD to be the district that every family wants to be a part of because we offer a broad range of innovative programs that allows all students to succeed on their terms. We’re now partnering with Uplift Education because they’ve shown that by raising expectations, our region’s children will succeed. We can’t wait to see how our students grow as a result of this initiative,” Dr. Hull said.

The partnership represents the first time in North Texas that a charter school network and an independent school district will formally work together to promote student learning. Both school programs will share space and resources while continuing to run their existing programs. GPISD offers dual-language classes at the school, while Uplift will introduce an International Baccalaureate (IB) guided program to families. In addition to sharing resources, teachers will participate in joint training, and school leaders and administrators will problem solve together. GPISD and Uplift will work together to set student goals, though when Uplift students reach 3rd grade, their state test results will be reported by GPISD and count towards the district’s accountability ratings.

Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia believes that partnerships like E2 represent an important way local districts and charters were meant to work together.

“There is no question that by combining our strengths, we can create new ideas for empowering student achievement in our schools. We know what we do well, but we expect that as we are leading our scholars to great outcomes, we will also learn important lessons from Grand Prairie ISD. It’s a huge win for all of us,” Ms. Bhatia said.

The Meadows Foundation and Educate Texas were both excited to fund the project because of what it could mean for the education picture in North Texas.

“We believe it is highly beneficial when charter schools and traditional schools find ways to share best practices,” said The Meadows Foundation President and CEO Linda Perryman Evans. “When schools work together and leverage their experiences and resources, our children win. We hope this will be one model that shows ways to make significant progress in all our schools.”

Since Texas created charter schools in 1996, there has been a divide between charter schools and local ISDs. Many have viewed the two models as wholly different approaches to education rather than complimentary services that foster innovation and give parents the ability to select programs that best fit their children’s educational needs. The status quo says there’s only one way to be successful and whatever change that is allowed should be incremental. When Texas’ 77th Legislature added the updated charter language to the Texas Education Code in 2001, it wanted to see big improvements, not entrenchment.

“These two organizations have a track record of innovation and recognize student success is not about competition, but collaboration. Both looked at the lack of choice our families had and set out to do something about it. Both have been incredibly successful. We hope this partnership becomes a model for more of our Texas school districts and charters,” said George Tang, Chief Operating Officer for Educate Texas.

The E2 partnership will be the first of its kind in North Texas. The SKY partnership in Houston is a similar example of how charters are working directly with ISDs. In that case, Spring ISD, KIPP, and YES Prep began a similar program two years ago.

“We hope that more ISDs will view our local high quality charters as innovation labs. This is not an either-or proposition. We can achieve great things for North Texas’ students if we work together,” Ms. Bhatia said.

 

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