Dallas ISD needs funding for possible solution to failing schools

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Dallas ISD’s turnaround plans for nine of its repeated failing schools revealed just how much several schools are dealing with high turnover and inexperienced teachers.

The plans revealed one school reported having a 100 percent turnover in fourth and fifth grade for three years in a row. But DISD seems to have found a solution. The only problem is finding the money to put it in place everywhere.

Ashley Winans, a teacher for seven years, volunteered last year to leave high-performing Silberstein Elementary for Blanton Elementary, a school that failed state performance requirements five years in a row.

“I wasn't expecting the extent of the behavior problems I had,” she admitted. “It was a struggle."

For many DISD teachers, the struggle is too much. One failing campus saw a 50 percent turnover year to year while another school saw the majority of its teachers have less than one year of experience.

George Rangel with Alliance AFT says there's no real incentive at most failing schools for experienced teachers to transfer in, and strict performance evaluations are driving many of them away.

“Some regret going to Improvement Required because they know it is a career ender,” Rangel said. “If you ask some of the experienced teachers why they left, they see no future."

But at six DISD schools, there is something amazing happening. The plan is dubbed "ACE," for Accelerating Campus Excellence.

Chief of School Leadership Stephanie Elizalde says the program works by giving financial incentives for its best teachers to go to its most challenging schools as a team.

“The campuses we selected to go into ACE are the ones I would consider on life support,” she explained. “There are what I would consider significant stipends."

And as added security, the controversial teacher evaluations are on hold for three years. School hours are extended and snacks provided.

But even though the program is working, the district doesn't have the money to implement it everywhere.

“That's not an excuse for me to say well, we can't do it everywhere,” Elizalde said. “So we'll live with what we have."

Elizalde says 6 of the 7 ACE schools, including Blanton Elementary, came off the state's failing list in just one year.

“From the beginning of last year to the beginning of this year, it's phenomenal,” Winans said.

One trustee says the cost of an ACE campus is $1 million a year.  The superintendent's proposed tax referendum could have provided the money to expand the program, but trustees voted down and sent the referendum to voters.