New accountability ratings show tremendous gains in Dallas ISD

Accountability ratings released today by the Texas Education Agency show that Dallas ISD is making tremendous gains.

The new state accountability system known as “A through F” grades school districts on student achievement, school progress/growth, and closing the achievement gap. Dallas ISD received a “B” letter grade and is home to six of the 12 schools that achieved the highest-possible score on the 2018 STAAR test, according to the TEA.

“We are proud of our tremendous gains in Dallas ISD, and our families, teachers and staff should feel great accomplishment in what we have done together,” Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said. “But this is not the finish line, we have just started this race. We still have much more work to do.”

Recent data continues to prove Dallas ISD schools are trending upward in academic achievement across multiple measures, with 66 percent of its campuses scoring 80 percent or higher on the new grading system. The scores are another indication that Dallas ISD students continue to narrow the achievement gap between the district and the state. A steep turnaround of Improvement Required campuses— coupled with strong performances in both reading and math—are significant achievements that can be attributed to the district’s rise.

Other factors for the district’s growth include the expansion of the collegiate academies, schools of choice, early learning programs, and a strategic compensation initiative that rewards teacher excellence.

Rising Academic Achievement in Dallas ISD includes:

  • Dallas ISD is home to six out of 12 schools that received the highest possible score of 99 on the 2018 STAAR.
  • Dallas ISD achieved a steep decline in the number of Improvement Required campuses, from 43 in 2013-2014 to four in 2017-2018.
  • More Dallas ISD students are meeting state standard on the STAAR exam, narrowing the gap between the district and the state:
    • 2013-2014: 27% Dallas ISD; 39% State
    • 2017-2018: 40% Dallas ISD; 47% State

Multicultural leaders work to ensure all races are well represented in Dallas ISD

As a professor who has taught students about the African American experience for more than 40 years, Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney has seen first-hand how bringing a multicultural approach to history and social studies helps students see themselves in the curriculum.

ulaney’s distinguished background made him an ideal member for Dallas ISD’s new Multicultural Studies and History Advisory Council formed by the district’s Racial Equity Office. As an advisory council member, Dulaney joins leaders from many Dallas multicultural institutions in helping guide Dallas ISD to develop multicultural studies, experiences and opportunities for all students and staff.

“I’m encouraged to see that Dallas ISD is looking to make sure all of its students from different cultures and races are represented and empowered,” Dulaney said.

Dulaney was among the powerful voices at the Multicultural Studies and History Advisory Council meeting held Aug. 13 at the Pan African Connection, which is owned by Akwete Tyehimba, who is one of the advisory council members. At the meeting, the advisory council members discussed strategies for bringing a multicultural lens to a Dallas ISD History Hackathon—which was the brainchild of advisory council member Jerry Hawkins, executive director of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation—as well as language for an African American History Class.

Jamila Thomas, director of the Dallas ISD Racial Equity Office, said the advisory council members bring invaluable resources and knowledge that can benefit Dallas ISD students.

“It’s important to have the community voice at the table and make sure they are a formative part of the whole process,” she said. “These multicultural leaders are living and breathing this on a daily basis, and they are eager to work together to bring out the various cultures we represent in Dallas ISD.”

Dallas ISD formed the Racial Equity Office last school year to manage, implement and develop projects that align with a Racial, Socio-Economic, and Educational Equity resolution adopted by the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees in December 2017.

“I am excited about all of the various efforts to bring Dallas ISD’s Racial Equity Office to life,” said Leslie Williams, deputy chief of the Racial Equity Office. “This is powerful.”

New Teacher Academy prepares educators new to district for success

About 1,500 teachers new to Dallas ISD were welcomed with pep-rally fervor on Wednesday, Aug. 8, during the annual New Teacher Academy.

Student performances were a large part of the event. Cheerleaders from L.G. Pinkston High School greeted the new teachers as they entered the Music Hall at Fair Park. As the Hillcrest High School JROTC color guard presented the colors, Charles Rice Learning Center fifth-grader Skye Turner led the Pledge of Allegiance and Texas pledge. The Carter High School band pumped up the crowd, and the Skyline High School drill team entertained – all before lunch. In the afternoon, members of the Townview Choir, W.T. White Dance Company and Stockard Middle School Mariachi performed.

The teachers heard from Board President Edwin Flores, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and keynote speaker Dr. Ernest Morrell, an accomplished author and the director of the Center for Literacy Education at the University of Notre Dame. They also heard from district officials on the nuts and bolts of teaching in Dallas ISD, as well as learning about employee benefits. Before a “block party” to close the event, 2017 Teachers of the Year Beth Poquette Drews, Nedra Johnson and Josue Tamarez Torres offered words of encouragement and advice.

Wednesday’s event was a general orientation. During the previous two days, new teachers focused on professional development in their content areas at W.H. Adamson and Wilmer-Hutchins high schools.

Special ceremony welcomes hundreds of bus drivers new to Dallas ISD

A special ceremony on Aug. 8 welcomed hundreds of bus drivers to Dallas ISD.

Dallas ISD is running its own transportation this school year after Dallas County residents voted Nov. 7 to dissolve Dallas County Schools (DCS). Previously, Dallas ISD contracted with DCS, a taxpayer-funded agency, to bus students.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa thanked the bus drivers and mechanics—many of whom previously worked with DCS—for their professionalism and eagerness to safely transport students.

“Our school board, our district, and the entire City of Dallas is indebted to your service,” Hinojosa said.

The Dallas ISD Transportation Service is still hiring several more bus drivers. Go here to apply.

Social and Emotional Learning training helps teachers ‘focus on the whole child’

It’s Monday morning, and a group of Dallas ISD teachers are learning how to use a Mood Meter, which will help them recognize their own—and their students’—emotions.

One of the summer professional learning sessions happening July 23 at W.H. Adamson High School is part of a continued district focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), which helps students develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to be successful in school, work and life. Through the Mood Meter, for example, students can reflect, name, and label their emotions in an effort to practice self-awareness, social awareness, and self-management. This helps the students practice the skills needed for success with support from their teacher.

There are 120 Dallas ISD campuses this school year that have partnered with the Student Engagement and Counseling Services Department to engage in a series of SEL professional learning sessions. These campuses have committed to implementing SEL signature practices. This summer, SEL professional learning sessions have also been made available to campus administrators and teachers across the district.

“There’s tremendous evidence showing campuses that implement SEL practices see a significant reduction in discipline incidents. ” said Juany Valdespino-Gaytan, Executive Director of Student Engagement and Counseling Services for Dallas ISD’s Teaching and Learning. “Campuses are excited about integrating SEL into their instruction and practices, and we can expect to see much more positive academic and classroom experiences for students.”

The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees in 2016 adopted a policy requiring SEL curriculum standards to supplement the TEKS, and guidance for teaching SEL. For campus leaders such as Dan D. Rogers Elementary Principal Lisa Lovato, the benefits are clear: students learn better when they feel better.

“Focusing on social and emotional learning helps us develop the whole child,” Lovato said. “And by focusing on the whole child, we are setting our students up for success.”

Principal’s passion sparks direction for new IGNITE Middle School

While enrolled in medical school and doing night rounds at a hospital, Michael Gayles came to a life-changing decision: he would follow his dream of becoming an educator.

After graduating from medical school, Gayles went on to serve as a teacher at North Dallas High School and, several years later, as an assistant principal at T.W. Browne Middle School. Today, Gayles is helping open and serving as principal at IGNITE Middle School, the new Dallas ISD Personalized Learning transformation campus opening in August.

For Gayles, his goal for IGNITE Middle School is simple: help students envision their best possible life, and set them on the path toward making that life a reality.

“Growing up I didn’t have anyone who helped me think about what I was passionate about or possible career paths I could pursue,” Gayles said. “What I’m most excited about is how Ignite Middle School will help students discover their passions at an early age.”

IGNITE Middle School is seeing tremendous interest: more than 700 incoming sixth-graders applied for what was originally 150 seats. Due to the high interest, the campus increased its inaugural class to 230 students.

IGNITE Middle School is a Personalized Learning campus that will provide individualized instruction, not only based on each student’s academic needs, but also on their interests and goals. The students will take field trips to high schools, colleges and workplaces to help them better envision their future.

“The most important resource in a child’s educational life is their own potential. If we can ignite that potential, they will be unstoppable,” Gayles said. “Ignite is dedicated to helping students discover their super powers.”

IGNITE Middle School is opening thanks to the Office of Transformation and Innovation’ Public School Choice Competitive Proposal Process. The process gives educators the chance to create high-quality, best-fit options for Dallas ISD students to realize their full academic potential.

The Public School Choice Competitive Proposal Process, Version 5.0, is currently underway for any educator interested in rebranding their campus or designing a new choice school.

Longtime educator named Dallas ISD 2018-2019 Librarian of the Year

Kelli Yonker will happily tell anyone who listens that she has one of the best jobs in the world.

As the library media specialist at Stonewall Jackson Elementary School—and the Dallas ISD 2018–2019 Librarian of the Year—she inspires a love of reading and researching in students. And while she appreciates the Librarian of the Year honor, nothing for her can top helping students succeed.

“Watching the lightbulb go off in students’ heads when they realize they know how to research and learn something new—or seeing their eyes light up when they pick out a book and get excited about reading—is the best feeling in the world,” Yonker said.

As the former technology teacher at Stonewall Jackson Elementary, which will be renamed Mockingbird Elementary School in July, Yonker infuses technology learning into the library. Students create “book trailers” on iPads and use the latest technology to research.

“The role of the librarian has dramatically changed over the past 10 years. You have to adapt to the latest technology so the students are equipped with the skills needed to succeed today,” Yonker said. “My daily goal is to make the library a warm and welcoming place where students enjoy reading and researching. This is truly a dream job.”

Stonewall Jackson Elementary celebrates four retiring teachers with combined 118 years of service at school

A party at Stonewall Jackson Elementary School celebrated four retiring teachers who combined together have worked 118 years at the campus.

Art teacher Cheri Flynn and deaf education teachers Melissa Alloway, Heather Wood, and Cyndy Jaremko are also the last group of teachers to technically retire from Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, as the school will change its name to Mockingbird Elementary School in August.

“This is a culmination of our history. These teachers are a legacy, having worked here for so many years,” Principal Melanie Mans said. “We are so proud of them and we want them to know today how thankful we are for everything they have done for our students and schools over the years.”

Reilly Elementary staff use first aid training to revive substitute teacher

Irene Aguilar was printing out a form at Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School when she heard a substitute teacher at the school fall to the floor in the front office. The teacher was unconscious.

Aguilar, the school’s office manager, quickly called School Nurse Beata Fik and Counselor Amparo Guzman. The skills they learned in their Heartsaver First Aid/CPR/AED training kicked in. They called 911, and after using the school’s defibrillator and performing CPR, the substitute regained a pulse. Aguilar, Fik and Guzman then used CPR skills to support the teacher until the ambulance arrived.

“It was just amazing how everyone played a part to help save his life,” Guzman said.

Today the substitute teacher is walking and on his way to recovery in the hospital. Dallas ISD Health Services Director Jennifer Finley applauded the Reilly Elementary staff for their heroic actions.

“The medical staff at the admitting hospital thanked the school staff for their quick and effective response,” Finley said. “It was because of their recognition and action that the substitute teacher is up walking, talking and expected to make a full recovery.”

Dallas ISD Health Services trains about 2,200 staff, teachers and students every year in first aid and CPR. Every campus is allocated a nurse and has at least one defibrillator machine.

May 9 is National School Nurse Day, and it’s a chance to recognize the amazing work campus nurses do every day across Dallas ISD.

“We are so fortunate to have our campus nurses there to respond to emergencies, provide an extra layer of safety, and encourage our students to make healthy choices and live a healthy lifestyle,” Finley said. “Our nurses are a valuable member of every campus.”

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