Expanding Equity through STEM Learning Opportunities in Southern Dallas County School Districts
Texas Instruments Foundation grants more than $4 Million for investments in Cedar Hill, DeSoto, and Lancaster independent school districts
Educate Texas, an initiative of Communities Foundation of Texas, announced more than $4 million in investments from the Texas Instruments (TI) Foundation for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational programs and opportunities in three school districts in southern Dallas County — Cedar Hill, DeSoto, and Lancaster. These districts are located in an area south of Interstates 20 and 30 – where more than one-third of residents live in poverty and where students historically lack the academic advantages of their peers in other Dallas districts to the north.
Educate Texas and the TI Foundation have partnered for nearly a decade with the Lancaster Independent School District to transform it into a STEM district — embedding STEM teaching, thinking and problem-solving skills across the entire school district. Since then, the TI Foundation has invested more than $10 million in Lancaster ISD, including a new, three-year, $1.015 million grant for teacher and principal training in STEM reading and writing, social and emotional support due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dual language teaching, and instructional training for faculty and parents.
“In Lancaster ISD, the STEM grants have made a positive impact on the curriculum for over 7,500 students,” said Shemeka Millner-Williams, Lancaster Independent School District Interim Superintendent. “We are excited to continue the long-standing partnership with Educate Texas and the TI Foundation that has been so beneficial to the students of Lancaster ISD. We are equally excited to now leverage the gains that we’ve experienced through this partnership with our neighboring districts to advance STEM education in southern Dallas County even further.”
The TI Foundation has also awarded $3.02 million in initial grants to Educate Texas to develop STEM districts in Cedar Hill and DeSoto ISDs — home to approximately 17,000 students. Both Cedar Hill and DeSoto have grown more than 40% in the past 20 years, and they are becoming increasingly important to local workforce needs. These new grants will build on the learnings from the Lancaster investments and will be used for professional development training of teachers and principals, creating curricula founded in STEM-based concepts, and preparing students for college and STEM careers. The districts are also within 15 miles of Lancaster, which will enable sharing best practices to lift up students in all three districts for the betterment of southern Dallas County.
“Cedar Hill ISD is extremely grateful for the generosity of Texas Instruments, a global giant in STEM. This grant from the TI Foundation has the opportunity to be transformative in our classrooms and throughout the community,” said Dr. Gerald Hudson, Cedar Hill Independent Superintendent. “Since receiving this grant, we have often referred to it as a ‘gamechanger’ because it will create opportunities that did not previously exist. Our scholars will have the opportunity to lead STEM efforts, not only in Dallas County and North Texas, but throughout the United States and globally.”
“We are so honored and excited to be a part of this effort to increase and improve STEM access and education in our community,” said Dr. D’Andre J. Weaver, DeSoto Independent Superintendent of Schools. “Through our recently introduced strategic plan, we have a focus on curricular innovation to ensure that we, here in DeSoto ISD, are providing our students the highest-quality, enriched learning experiences. Introducing STEM-based learning and coaching DeSoto ISD teachers and scholars to embody and exercise a STEM mindset provides a pivotal shift to our educational philosophy, which will propel us into the future of learning in DeSoto ISD.”
“When we began to work with the TI Foundation and Lancaster ISD in 2012 to create a STEM district, we expected the successes and outcomes there to serve as a rigorous STEM learning and teaching model that could be scaled to other Texas school districts,” said George Tang, managing director of Educate Texas. “We’re thrilled that the original expectation is now being realized with renewed efforts in Lancaster ISD, and with expanded support to Cedar Hill and Desoto ISDs. This opportunity allows us to help build thriving communities, extending our impact to the lives of thousands more students and ultimately inspire and prepare them for great futures.”
The results of the investments in Lancaster ISD by the TI Foundation and the work with Educate Texas demonstrate improved outcomes for students:
- Lancaster ISD has increased Algebra 1 proficiency by 51% since 2012, now exceeding state standardized test scores vs. trailing it by 24% previously.
- Lancaster ISD increased grades 3-8 math proficiency by 26% since 2012, eliminating its 13% gap with the state.
- The Texas Education Agency accountability rating for Lancaster ISD went from a “D” in 2012 to a “B” in 2019.
- From 2013 to 2017, the number of Lancaster ISD teachers with advanced degrees nearly doubled; it now exceeds the state average by 10 percentage points.
- Lancaster ISD students are now accepted at higher rates to a broader selection of colleges and universities with highly selective admissions.
“We have seen Lancaster ISD be transformed through the STEM district program and are excited about the potential to build upon those efforts for Cedar Hill and DeSoto ISD students, teachers, school leaders and communities,” said Andy Smith, executive director of the TI Foundation. “As with Lancaster ISD, the intent of these new grants is to reshape the teaching and learning of STEM subjects across all grade levels to better prepare students from pre-K through 12th grade and, ultimately, for postsecondary and career success.”