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Stellar Growth in an Educationally Diverse Community in Duncanville, TX

Stellar Growth in an Educationally Diverse Community in Duncanville, TX
School Name and Location: 
James R. Bilhartz, Jr. Elementary School
The Challenge: 

Bilhartz Elementary School is located just south of Dallas in Duncanville, Texas. Over 40 percent of students are limited English proficiency (LEP), and more than 80 percent of the Bilhartz Elementary School’s population receives free or reduced lunch. “We have a high low-socioeconomic and LEP population,” said Principal Pamela Wilson. “One of this population’s greatest needs is the ability to learn at their own pace.”

With a commitment to personalizing the learning experience of all of its 600-plus students, Bilhartz Elementary began integrating Study Island into its curriculum to reach every learner.

How They Did it: 

“We needed a program that could track student progress, as well as individualize instruction for our students’ specific weaknesses,” Wilson reported. “We use Study Island to ensure that each student gets prescriptive lessons based on their individual weaknesses.”

But, in order to generate those prescriptions, students need the flexibility to explore the curriculum and all it has to offer. The staff at Bilhartz Elementary realized that the more time spent with the system, the faster proficiency can be reached.

“We have a morning tutoring program that uses Study Island, as well as station rotations within the classrooms,” explained Wilson. “It also forms the backbone of our Virtual Summer Program, which seeks to combat the effects of summer learning loss.” 

All of these efforts have led to Bilhartz Elementary becoming a model for transformation within the Duncanville Independent School District and across the state.


Wilson can sum up Bilhartz Elementary’s success within the past two school years in a few simple measures:

  • “We achieved double-digit gains year over year (2015 to 2016) in every student group and on every measure.”
  • “Our growth rate was number one in the whole district.”
  • “31 percent of our students qualified in postsecondary readiness when the state only required us to have 12 percent.”

But, those are not the only measures by which Bilhartz Elementary has excelled. In just one year of using Study Island, Bilhartz gained 14 percent in reading over the previous year, and 9 percent in math.

The school beat the state’s expectation for student achievement by 12 percentage points and student progress by 19 percent, and it closed performance gaps by 12 percent. Those expectations are uniform for every school in Texas, not generated by past performance or demographic makeup, making Bilhartz Elementary one of the most transformative schools in the state and earning them Texas Education Agency distinctions for academic achievement in mathematics and in the progress made by the top 25 percent of students. 

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