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.

DonorsChoose.org offers teachers help with back to school

Teachers new to DonorsChoose.org can receive help getting their classrooms set up for the start of the new school year. Through Friday, Aug. 10, teachers who submit their first DonorsChoose.org classroom project will receive an automatic $50 kickoff donation for the project from the DonorsChoose.org team. Whether teachers want to refresh their classroom library, create a new activity kit, or try out a welcome back activity, the team from DonorsChoose.org wants to help teachers jumpstart the new school year. Go here for full details.

Staff from ACE campuses prepare for new school year with intense training

Last week, staff members from Dallas ISD’s ACE schools convened to prepare for the coming school year.

ACE stands for Accelerating Campus Excellence and is a strategic staffing initiative that hires proven educators at perpetually struggling schools to boost student achievement and college readiness.

The core plan focuses on instructional excellence from teachers and high expectations for students. Other aspects of the plan include additional resources for students and designated time for staff development. ACE focuses on leadership through the use of teams comprising campus staff. A laser-focus on goals focuses on specific academic benchmarks, but the plan also aims for a much-improved culture at each school.

The initiative began in 2015 with six elementary schools and one middle school, where the ACE plan helped students make incredible academic gains. The second group of ACE schools were designated in 2017, and added five additional elementary schools and one middle school.

For the 2018-2019 school year, four ACE schools remain from 2017 (C.F. Carr, J.M. Ervin, Eward Titche and Thomas J. Rusk) and one remains from 2015 (Elisha M. Pease). Newly added to the ACE roster are César Chávez, Paul L. Dunbar, L.L. Hotchkiss, Martin Luther King Jr., Maple Lawn and J.J. Rhoads.

During the recent kickoff event, Damien Stovall, principal at Titche Elementary School, shared his philosophy for boosting student success.

That success begins in forming a positive relationship between teachers and students, which leads to confident children.

“Before you try to teach them anything, they don’t care what you know, until you know that you care,” Stovall said. “Once you boost their self-confidence, the sky’s the limit, I don’t care where they started or where they’re at.”

He recited a pledge students sign at the beginning of the school year. It says, in part, “I am somebody. I was somebody before I came here, and I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. … I deserve the education that I get here. I have things to do, places to go and people to impress. I will go to college and prove people wrong. I will follow my dreams and persevere.”

Learn more about Dallas ISD’s ACE plan here.

Required compliance training for campus staff available online

Campus-based employees are reminded that required compliance training on a variety of health and safety topics is available online this school year. The sessions range from bloodborne pathogens, bullying and child abuse to suicide prevention, sexual harassment and type II diabetes. All campus employees are required to complete the compliance training by Sept. 30, 2018. A list of the online sessions and instructions to register are available here. Completed courses will appear on employees’ transcripts. Staff should direct questions to Jennell Johnson-Polk at (972) 925-3379. Similar training planned for central staff will be communicated at a later date.

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.”

Districtwide program aims to boost consistency in teaching curriculum

About 1,500 Dallas ISD school employees convened on July 25 at Wilmer-Hutchins High School to officially kick off a districtwide program to foster best classroom practices by emphasizing teamwork.

Campus Instructional Leadership Teams (CILT) are made up of five people, including the principal and teachers, and will help guide a more effective and consistent implementation of curriculum across the district. The CILT program had previously existed, but had been shelved the past few years.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and members of his Executive Leadership Team touted the benefits of working together to help ensure the best results for students. After hearing from district officials, CILT members broke into smaller sessions based on grade level and subject to focus on specifics.

The kickoff will be followed by five additional CILT group meetings before each six-week grading period begins to pinpoint what aspects of the curriculum will be the focus.

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.

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