Thursday, July 26, 2018

Dallas ISD Did Something Amazing, and Everyone Should Know About It

So happy for Dallas Independent School District (DISD) schools which now only has two schools on the "Improvement Required" list.  What they did to get there was implement the Accelerated Campus Excellence program.  Since its inception in 2015, DISD focused on "Improvement Required" schools by doing the following (from DISD's ACE website): 
"...strong school leadership, effective teachers, and high expectations for both students and staff. The ACE plan incentivizes top teachers and principals to work at the district’s highest-need schools to ensure that effective teachers are in the classrooms where they are most needed."

Special emphasis in all of these schools additionally consisted of a lot of extended school days and after-school tutoring. Here's a list of all ACE schools.  

Do remember an earlier piece, as well, of Trini Garza Early College High School where the campus was recognized as one of the nation's top schools for low-income students, meaning that great things are happening under Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's leadership.

Also remember that this was a district that tried to railroad Home Rule policy that would have charterized the entire district!  Read this piece by Bonnie Lesley of Texas Kids Can't Wait titled, "Patrick's S.B. 2: Charter Schools and Home Rule Districts." Also see this related July 29, 2014 post by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig.

Congratulations to Dr. Hinojosa and all the Dallas teachers and staff that made this happen.  This isn't good news at all for the corporatizers and privatizers, the Education Management Organizations (EMOs) that depend on bad test scores to shame, blame, close down, turn around, and charterize public schools in order to "save" public education. This will keep them at bay, for now.  And that's a good thing.

-Angela Valenzuela

Dallas ISD Did Something Amazing, and Everyone Should Know About It

Fresh from his runoff win Saturday, Justin Henry was sworn in as the trustee for Dallas ISD District 9 before the school board worked its way through Thursday’s agenda. The district announced preliminary school accountability ratings revealed a significant drop in Improvement Required schools (Photo courtesy: Dallas ISD).

Super nerdy confession: The original title of this piece was “Dallas ISD May Have Just Done Something Miraculous.”
But then I remembered a long senior year where my Honors English teacher insisted that we study S.I. Hayakawa’s “Language in Thought and Action,” a book about semantics so revered it’s currently in its fifth edition.
I may not remember much from high school coursework, but I do remember that book, and what it taught about language, and why the words we choose can impact the message. And miracle is not the right word, really, for what has happened in Dallas ISD.
You see, four years ago, 43 of the district’s 230 schools were labeled Improvement Required in the state accountability ratings — meaning that those schools weren’t just at risk, or struggling, but that they had actually failed to meet state standards.
Thursday night, at the district’s monthly school board meeting, district superintendent Michael Hinojosa told trustees that the district expects that the Texas Education Agency will confirm that the district has only three IR schools in the entire district.
And while that just might be the lowest number and the quickest turnaround of any urban district in the state, it’s not a miracle. Don’t call it one.
Why? Because a miracle implies that people didn’t work hard to achieve this — that some nebulous divine being or luck changed the tide for thousands of Dallas ISD students. It was neither of those things, and to use the word miracle — or any form of it — is semantically wrong and factually insulting.
Because to achieve that kind of win, that kind of impressive benchmark, takes a lot of work — an incredible amount of work. Work by teachers and aides at those schools, work by students, work by parents, work by principals and assistant principals, and work by district staffers under Jolee Healey, who oversees the Accelerated Campus Excellence program. After all, part of ACE includes a lot of extended school days and after-school tutoring, and all of that takes time and effort.
That ACE program, by the way, is so obviously successful that other districts are adopting it, too, including Fort WorthGarland, and Richardson.
And these successes took patience. Because see, in 2015 — three years ago, the district’s IR count only declined to 37 from 43. Changes and reforms — like the ACE program — required some patience and time, and that small success was maybe not enough for some of the district’s fiercest critics.
But then by 2016, the district almost halved that number to 21, and then last year, it dropped to 13.
But this year’s drop to three may be even more of a win than that — Hinojosa told officials Thursday night that two of the schools are in the appeals process, which means that number could drop to a measly one IR school.
One, out of 230 schools. And the three schools? Two are in their first year of IR status, and the other is in the second year. This means that Carr and Titche elementaries, which were at the threshold of being shut down by the state, are off the IR list this year.
Whether it shakes out to be one, two, or three IR schools this year, Dallas ISD has achieved a success that other urban districts in the state can’t boast of. And do you know what that means for parents who live within the Dallas ISD attendance zone?
Thanks to the reforms and changes that brought about these changes, you can be even more assured that the district is likely even closer to being able to guarantee it’s ready to teach every single child that enters one of its 230 front doors.
It means that despite the moving parts and imperfections that every urban school district can face, Dallas ISD is by and large on an incredibly right path.
And that bodes well for a city that will be home to these future adults who will work, live, buy or rent a home, and play here.
Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for Contact her at

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