Dallas ISD launches 'Lit Initiative' to recover from learning loss during pandemic

With the first day of school next week for some Dallas ISD students, teachers and staff, the district is focusing on a new learning initiative.

It will put an emphasis on core subjects like reading, writing and math to recover from learning loss during the pandemic and poor STAAR test results. 

Dallas ISD says core subjects like reading saw a drop of almost 6% on the STAAR test from 2019 to 2021. So the district is launching its new ‘Lit Initiative’ with a focus on literacy to help students catch up. 

Dallas ISD is taking a new approach to learning after districts across the state suffered historic declines in all subjects. 

"It's comprised of disciplinary literacy, where we're getting students really thinking and behaving like scientists, historians, mathematicians, authors to improve the core instruction," explained Arlena Gaynor with Dallas ISD. "It's also focused on reimagining summer school with an intense focus on literacy and how the other subject areas support it."

Based on STAAR exam results, the district is training teachers to focus on helping students who are struggling with learning how to read.

"It's more than just being a reading teacher," said DISD Asst. Superintendent of Early Learning Dr. Elena Hill. "It's being a teacher who understands the science behind reading and can actually help a child who is struggling scientifically to really help them over the hump."

The district is also redesigning libraries and updating technology in partnership with apple.

"Evolving our libraries into what we're calling read labs, where all of the users of the library are actively researching," explained. "Tim Linley, Dallas ISD Executive Director of Visual & Performing Arts. "They're exploring, they're applying, they're learning, and they are designing all in hopes to draw kids into the library."

Dallas ISD also redesigned the school calendar by building in more time to help students catch up. 

"Completely redesigning their school day. And all students are getting, I think, about five weeks additional instruction," Gaynor said. "And then another way is through intersession where certain groups of students are going to come every break."

As staff and teachers get ready to welcome students back, the district is also getting families comfortable with coming back by hosting a series of back-to-school forums on COVID-19 safety protocols. 

The state doesn’t allow for masks to be required, but the district is recommending them for everyone. Protective and sanitizing equipment will be available on all campuses.

District officials say they’ll also maintain three to six feet distance between students when possible. 

The district is investing $100 million over the next two years to help with learning loss from the pandemic.