DALLAS - When the Texas Education Agency released its first A through F accountability grades for Texas school districts, Dallas ISD scored a B.
But a closer look at the ratings shows Dallas ISD, in some ways, is doing better than suburban school districts.
Even with 230 schools, 175,000 students and all of the challenges a big urban district faces, DISD has some schools that are making the grade that other districts aren't.
Stepping in to Dallas ISD’s Jack Lowe Elementary is like stepping into a fairy tale. However, the results are anything but fiction.
“We have some students that come from some very tough backgrounds, but they see these students as assets,” said DISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa. “And they’ve been able to put all the pieces together for them to succeed under the state's standards.”
Lowe is one of six Dallas schools among only 11 statewide receiving the highest grade possible. They received a 99 from the TEA. No other North Texas district, including Plano and Frisco ISD, had schools on the high scoring list.
“You have to have strong teachers. You have to have a strong leader, and you have to have support,” Hinojosa said. “If those three are there, then you got a chance for success.”
Ten Dallas elementary schools, six middle-grade schools, and 12 high schools were graded 94 or higher.
“You had same neighborhoods, same parents and same students,” Hinojosa said. “What changed was the culture and the adults and then we got them out of academic problems.”
Dade Learning Center was one time struggling academically. The school improved because of the district’s Accelerated Classroom Education program. It gives a financial incentive to the best administrators and teachers who commit to three years in a school that has a bad environment.
While some schools are breaking the odds in DISD, others are not as lucky. Sixteen schools in DISD scored D grade from the TEA. Four DISD schools received an F. For those 20 schools, improvements are required.
“We're gonna keep doing some of the things that we're doing, although it’s very painful because we don’t have additional resources. We can reduce the pain if we have additional resources and we can have a multi-year plan to keep this positive momentum going,” Hinojosa said. “I think the district is way up to the challenge because of the talent we've been able to attract and the results we've been able to achieve.”
An extended school day and breakfast, lunch and dinner for students every day costs about $2,000 additional money per student at an ACE school. It may be expensive, but other districts see the results and are now emulating DISD.