October Board Briefing: Dallas ISD's Legislative Agenda, Teacher Curriculum, and More!

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WHAT IS A BOARD BRIEFING?

At a board briefing, our Dallas ISD School Board discusses items they will need to vote on in upcoming meetings. They also hear reports from the Superintendent & the Dallas ISD Administration on ways in which the district is meeting student needs. Below is a summary of the three-hour long briefing on October 4th, 2018.

WHAT DID THE BOARD DISCUSS AT THE OCTOBER BRIEFING?

#1 STUDENT OUTCOME GOAL 2

Third grade reading is incredibly important for the future of a student’s life, therefore, the district has a goal which states: “Student achievement on the 3rd grade state assessment in Reading at “Approaches” or above will increase from 63% to 75% by 2022.”  The administration presented progress for last year’s 3rd grade cohort with the following:

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The data highlighted a difference of 43% of students who attended Dallas ISD PreK at ‘meeting’ standard compared to 35% of students ‘meeting’ state standard who did not attend Dallas ISD PreK. The data also shows that the district is performing higher than the state’s overall average. The district team will continue to build in benefits for students in the early grades to support them leading up to 3rd grade. 

Dallas ISD not only is leading in year-over-year growth in 3rd grade reading, it is one of two districts that experienced growth. This trend is similar when looking specifically at African-American students and Hispanic students. Right now, the board has a goal of 40% of all students to be at Meets level – 46% of Hispanic students are at ‘Meets’ level. This population of students is exceeding this goal. We should see this continue to improve.

The trustees shared their pride in the growth and progress for students served in the district under the administration’s leadership. Trustee Solis wondered about a comparison to other districts who have invested in early childhood both within the state and beyond.

#2 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

Dallas ISD is finalizing a legislative program to advocate at the state level in support of local district goals and needs. During the meeting, the board and district leadership team narrowed down their focus to a clear top three priorities. Because the midterm elections may bring about some changes, a meeting to finalize the legislative priorities will occur after November 6th where the district will meet with the Dallas delegation of legislators.

The top three priorities include: 1) Recapture funds to be spent on education. 2) Increase the basic allotment per student. 3) Full funding for universal PreK.

Discussion from the board included comments from Trustees Foreman and Flores asking for Universal Pre-K to be inclusive of all four year olds.

#3 SUPPORTING TEACHERS THROUGH CURRICULUM

Two district leadership teams worked alongside 84 teachers to write curriculum for Reading, Language Arts, and Social Studies. Over 600 teachers applied to participate in this effort and 84 ultimately contributed energy and resources towards finalizing unit plans for teachers. In terms of Math and Science. the district is still in the process of onboarding curriculum writers and will launch the curriculum next year.

The curriculum includes 3 broad pillars:

  • Outline of TEKS to be taught in each six weeks with focus on weaknesses to address student needs.

  • Professional Learning Community package to be used during common planning: unpacked TEKS, exemplar lessons, etc. 

  • Preview of the six weeks at a glance to train teachers prior to implementing six weeks unit plans.

The curriculum includes differentiated instructional ideas for various groups of students - special education, talented and gifted, English language learners, and others. In addition, the leadership team is collecting video to demonstrate the curriculum in action as an example and will continue to visit classrooms to collect feedback on implementation of the curriculum. Currently, there is an effort to raise awareness that the curriculum exists at all for teachers around the district.

Board discussion included questions from Trustee Foreman on the selection of the teachers, to which the district shared there was an extensive vetting process that narrowed the field of 600+ teachers to 84 final curriculum writers. Trustee Foreman also raised concerns around flexibility for teachers who are using this curriculum - the administration shared that the curriculum should function more as a guide and resource than as a lesson script.

Trustee Resendez wanted to ensure social-emotional learning was embedded in the curriculum and the presenters shared that it was built in. Trustee Pinkerton asked about how far in advance the teachers would have the curriculum available and the answer was at least six weeks. Overall, the board was grateful for this resource.

#4 BOARD SELF-CONSTRAINT

The board took a moment from the briefing to sign off that they “shall not assume a supervisory role with staff or students.” Each month the board signs off on a different statement for self-evaluation, prompting Trustee Foreman to request an overview of the time required to spend on these periodic self-evaluations through the Lone Star Governance integrity instrument from Texas Education Agency.

#5 STATE-LED ONLINE COURSES FOR STUDENTS

The final item on the agenda relating to student outcomes was about the Texas Education Agency Virtual Schools Network and their offering of 90+ high school, AP, and dual credit online courses. Texas code says these courses must be offered and students must be informed of their availability. One comment from Trustee Foreman was about getting clarification on how attendance is configured for online participation and what the role of the school staff is when managing these courses.

For full video clips of board discussion or for a closer review of each agenda item. please visit the Board Docs site with all public materials. Questions about this summary? Email info@dallaskidsfirst.org. 

September Board Briefing: Principals, Collegiate Academies, and More!

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WHAT IS A BOARD BRIEFING?

At a board briefing, our Dallas ISD Board discusses items they will need to vote on in upcoming meetings. They also hear reports from the Superintendent & the Dallas ISD Administration on ways in which the district is meeting student needs. Below is a summary of the seven-hour long briefing on September 13th, 2018.

WHAT DID THE BOARD DISCUSS AT THE SEPTEMBER BRIEFING?

#1 STUDENT OUTCOME GOAL 2

The district has set four student outcome goals. The administration presented on progress for one of those goals.

  • Goal #2 - Student achievement on the third-grade state assessment in reading at “Approaches” or above will increase from 62% to 75% by 2022.

Data from student assessments in Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade show growth in all grades from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018. Below are the results from the ISIP assessment, showing results from the beginning of the year (BOY) compared to the end of the year (EOY).

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The Dallas ISD administration shared the success of one particular school, Harlee Elementary, that has continued to outshine the district over the last four years. Three different sample assessment results show this success below:

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The board’s response to the presentation included questions and comments from Trustees Marshall, Henry, and Blackburn asking how the success from Harlee could be replicated across more district schools.


#2 PATHWAYS IN TECHNOLOGY EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL (P-TECH)

The P-TECH program is a collaboration between a DISD high school, a college, and an industry partner. Across the state of Texas, Dallas ISD holds more than half of all the state designated P-TECH schools (18).

Dallas ISD Administration reported that these early college P-TECH programs have a high retention rate compared to students who are not in the collegiate academies. In terms of ethnic makeup, the student population is also comparable to students who are not in the collegiate academies.

Below are some data points the DISD Administration reported from two program years of P-TECH (Cohort 1 and Cohort 2) and compared it to students that are not in the collegiate academies as well as to the state average.

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Board discussion included comments from Trustee Foreman asking for the opportunities of the collegiate academies to be expanded to more high schools & students.

#3 PRINCIPAL PIPELINE

Principals are key to success in schools and DISD has seen that turnover rate for principals is growing. To address this issue, the administration is working on a succession plan that includes building assistant principals into principals as well as continuing to coach other staff that are looking for this and other leadership opportunities. The plan is comprised of four pillars:

  • Attract: Define leadership competencies, identify high-potential candidates, provide incentives for continuing education, and provide communication for outreach between leadership stakeholders.

  • Prepare: Provide internal professional development and establish distributive leadership models.

  • Develop: Build and leverage external partnerships for principal development, support the executive directors (who work with principals), and offer districtwide leadership professional development sessions.

  • Retention: Recognize outstanding leaders, offer choices for professional development, grant earned autonomies, strengthen a feedback loop for improved effectiveness, and continue supporting schools with Funds for Racial Equity (FARE).

Board discussion included comments from Trustee Marshall who wanted to ensure we ‘thought big’ when it came to leveraging principal development, as it has great potential to drive improvement.

#4 THEORY OF ACTION & SCHOOL PERFORMANCE FRAMEWORK

The Theory of Action describes how to get from the DISD Vision (“to be a premier urban district”) to meeting the student outcome goals (4 goals set by board and superintendent). The Theory of Action has 4 pillars -

  • Standards of Service - All schools should receive consistent standards of service.

  • Managed Instruction - All schools should have a managed foundation that comes from state laws and DISD leadership.

  • School Performance Ratings - Every year, schools are rated with the School Performance Framework.

  • Flexibility and Empowerment: Based on ratings, schools earn autonomies.

The ratings come from the School Performance Framework, which highlights that growth matters, not just state distinctions.

  • 50% of rating comes from state accountability

  • 30% of rating comes from student growth

  • 15% of rating comes stop student, staff, and parent surveys

  • 5% of rating comes from student participation in extracurricular

The framework identifies schools with the following names:

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Currently, the following schools have received Accomplished ratings:

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Board discussion included a comment from Trustee Pinkerton in ensuring that the Standards of Service (as they currently stand in the Theory of Action & School Performance Framework resources) are measurable and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound).

#5 BOARD SELF-CONSTRAINT

Board members signed off on a document that was presented by the Dallas ISD Administration related to governance. The document is from the LoneStar Governance Integrity instrument and asks board members to agree that they “shall not act in an unprofessional manner when working with staff and administration” and “shall not be engaged in day to day administrative issues.”

There was no board discussion as the board signed the documentation.

#6 UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH PARTNERSHIP

The University of Pittsburgh Institute for Learning is providing professional learning and support to 12 DISD secondary schools serving predominantly African American, Latino, English Learner, and low-income students. The purpose would be to partner with schools to problem solve and support student achievement (with attention to literacy).

Board discussion included comments from Trustee Henry to consider adding a South Dallas school to the list of chosen campuses.

#7 STUDENT OUTCOME GOALS FOR 2018-2019 (T0 MEET BY 2021-2022)

The Dallas ISD Administration, under the Superintendent’s guidance, has proposed changes to the existing student outcome goals. The current goals state:

  1. Student achievement on state assessments in all subjects at Approaches or above will increase from 66 percent to 75 percent by 2022. 

  2. Student achievement on the third-grade state assessment in reading at Approaches or above will increase from 62 percent to 75 percent by 2022. 

  3. Student achievement on state assessments in two or more subjects at Meets or above will increase from 34 percent to 40 percent by 2022. 

  4. Student participation in extra-curricular or co-curricular activities will increase from 59 percent to 65 percent by 2022. 

The proposed changes are:

  1. Student achievement on state assessments in all subjects in Domain 1* will increase from 39% (2016-2017) to 47%. 

  2. Student achievement on the 3rdgrade state assessment in Reading at the Meets* level or above shall increase from 32.5% (2015-2016) to 45%.

  3. Graduates who are college, career, or military ready (CCMR) from Domain 1 will increase from 45% (2016-2017) to 50%. (This entire goal is new.*)

  4. Student extracurricular or co-curricular participation will increase from 59% (2016-2017) to 78%.*

*changes to existing goals

Board discussion from trustees indicated the need for more time to digest and process the goals prior to sharing more feedback.

#8 TARGETED IMPROVEMENT PLANS FOR IMPROVEMENT REQUIRED SCHOOLS

The Dallas ISD Administration will hold a public hearing on September, 27th to discuss and review improvement plans for Pease, Holmes, Atwell, and Patton.


For full video clips of board discussion or for a closer review of each agenda item. please visit the Board Docs site with all public materials. Questions about this summary? Email info@dallaskidsfirst.org. 

August Board Briefing: First Meeting of the Year!

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What is a Board Briefing?

At a board briefing, our Dallas ISD Board discusses items they will need to vote on in upcoming meetings. They also hear reports from the Superintendent & the Dallas ISD Administration on ways in which the district is meeting student needs. Below is a summary of the nine-hour long briefing on August 9th, 2018.

WHAT DID THE BOARD DISCUSS AT THE AUGUST BRIEFING?

#1 Student Outcome Goals 1 & 3

The district has set four student outcome goals. The administration presented on progress for two of those goals.

  • Goal #1 - Student achievement on state assessments in all subjects at "Approaches" or above will increase to 75% by 2022. 
  • Goal #3 - Student achievement on state assessments in two or more subjects at "Meets" or above will increase from 34% by 2022. 

 

The reports presented on student achievement for 2018 indicate that our students, teachers, support staff, and leadership teams have made gains that exceed the state average in almost all categories for grades 3-8 on STAAR assessments. 

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In addition, the district presented the A-F Accountability system which gives the district a letter grade (campuses will also receive letter grades). This grade is a combination of student achievement, student progress, and closing gaps for our student populations. 

In response to the presentation from the administration, Trustee Foreman presented a concern in regards to the gap between the state's absolute achievement compared to Dallas ISD. She made the point that while we are looking at data that indicates great gains, we are still lagging behind the state's average achievement results. Trustee Henry raised concerns about supporting our African-American student population as it currently shows that this student group's data is lower than other student groups. Trustee Resendez focused his comments on the cause behind the positive results - the Superintendent shared that it is a result of collective work, setting student outcome goals, and the ACE initiative. Finally, Trustee Marshall asked about the letter grade the district will receive and how we 'get points' for closing gaps for each student group the district serves.

#2 Funds for Achieving Racial Equity (FARE)

Dallas ISD student achievement results have created an opportunity to build in a FARE proposal to support racial equity strategic initiatives. At the briefing, 19 schools were included in a preliminary list for receiving additional support from FARE. This list will be modified once the state shares final data from state assessments. 

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Board discussion include comments from Trustee Marshall on the comparatively low amount of FARE funds when looking at previous proposals. Superintendent Hinojosa shared that the lower amount is a result of overall improved performance in the district and therefore fewer 'fragile' schools in need of these funds. Trustees Solis and Henry made comment on considering additional barriers that may still bring challenges even if a school receives FARE support. Trustees Micciche and Blackburn wanted to ensure schools were selected for this support in an equitable manner. Finally, Trustee Pinkerton wanted to know the connection between FARE and the new Office of Racial Equity. Below are comments by Trustee Foreman speaking to the need to honestly assess and addresses the needs of African American students. 

#3 Tax Ratification Election (TRE)

The growth that has occurred in Dallas ISD is due to initiatives that cost money, and the district has "managed on a shoestring budget." The administration recommends that the board give stakeholders an opportunity to vote on a 13 cent TRE, which results in additional funds to support the strategic initiatives that have benefitted students. Without these additional funds, the district would need to make cuts and the initiatives that are working now would only be continued with significant cuts to operating costs. Take a look at the formula the administration presented for taxpayers & voters:

Because this is the third time this vote has come to the board, there was limited discussion from board members. One point that Trustees Solis and Henry brought up related to how to articulate the need for a TRE approval by voters, should the board allow for it to be on the ballot. Trustee Pinkerton raised the concern around the decreasing fund balance across the years, even with an approved TRE from taxpayers for 2018. 

The administration is hosting two community meetings this week to provide more information about a TRE. Tuesday, 8/14 at Pinkston High School and Wednesday, 8/15 at Madison High School. Both meetings begin at 6pm. 

#4 Long Range Master Plan for Technology

Each campus was reviewed by the administration to assess the needs of schools across Dallas ISD. Based on the administration's recommendations, campus staff will receive professional development to implement the technology plan. Two plans were presented by the administration to the board and the Superintendent made the comment that the goal would be to ensure every student has a personal device (starting in 3rd grade) and that all classrooms have audio and visual devices (LED monitor) for teacher use. 

The board discussion included comments from Trustee Foreman on making sure that prior to giving students a personal device, there is quality Wi-Fi on all campuses. Beyond that, Trustee Blackburn gave feedback on ensuring the technology proposal aligned with curriculum for our students.

#5 Safety Plan

A few months ago, the governor met with leadership from Dallas ISD and made several recommendations to keep students safe (in light of recent school shootings). The administration was happy to share that half of the recommendations are already in their plans or are being implemented. Thus far this school year, Dallas ISD administration has trained all high school principals on safety - how to deal with emergencies, how to address mental health issues, and behaviors to watch for in our students. Aside from that, the Dallas ISD Police Department is able to communication more efficiently with the Dallas Police Department, and that will be critical should an emergency arise. DISD is working to have both preventative plans (mental health) as well as proactive responses to emergencies (securing entry to campuses).

From the board, several trustees pointed out that the use of detectors is somewhat problematic given the fact that they require upkeep and additional personnel to be effective. 

#6 Student Transportation Plan

The year is almost underway and the transportation team in Dallas ISD has worked to ensure students have transportation on the first day of school. From over 1,000 positions needing to be filled, the representative from the transportation team stated that the department is only 12 bus drivers short and there are still several days to fill those positions or modify routes. Costumer service is a key priority and there are a few ways to reach out to the Dallas ISD transportation team: 1) Visit the Dallas ISD website, go to 'Departments,' and click on 'Transportation' for resources; 2) Email transportation@dallasisd.org; 3) call 972-925-4BUS.

Discussion from the board members included a comment from Trustee Marshall on implementing swiping and tracking abilities for all students so that parents can use an app to see if their child has made it safely to school.

#7 Board Self-Evaluation

The board received a report from the administration on two self-evaluations from June and August. The board is asked to sign off that they "shall not assume a supervisory role with staff and students" and "shall not act in an unprofessional manner when working with staff and administration." Additionally, the administration presented points from the Lone Star Governance integrity instrument:

  • 1/15 Points for “Vision 1” – The Board works collaboratively with the superintendent to develop the vision and student outcome goals.
  • 1/15 Points for “Vision 2” – “The board has adopted goal progress measures aligned to each goal.
  • 9/10 Points for “Vision 3” – The board has adopted a vision for what student outcomes will be and has adopted constraints aligned with that vision.
  • 0.5/5 Points for “Vision 4” – The board has adopted constraint progress measures aligned to each constraint.
  • 0/15 points for “Accountability 1” – The board invests at least half of its time focusing on its vision and goals.
  • 0/5 Points for “Accountability 2” – The board measures and communicates, but does not interfere in, progress toward the vision and student outcome goals.
  • 0/15 points for “Structure” – The board delegates to the Superintendent operational authority to accomplish the vision and student outcome goals.
  •  10/10 Points for “Unity” – The board works collaboratively with the Superintendent to lead toward the vision and student outcome goals.

There was no discussion from the board.

#8 Racial Equity & Implicit Bias Suppliers

The new Racial Equity Department had a presentation on the three organizations which would provide racial equity & implicit bias training. The three organizations included - Pacific Educational Group, Generation Ready, and Border Crossers. As stated by Jamila Thomas from the Racial Equity Office, "The outcomes of the office are - 1) Race is no longer a determinant for one's social and economic outcome and 2) Our life outcomes can no longer be pre-determined by our race." The process includes "First, acknowledging and accounting for past inequities. Second, providing opportunities that promote racial healing (courageous conversations). Third, having targeted interventions for targeted populations."

The board initially presented concerns on the training suppliers but the Racial Equity team explained the role of each organization and ultimately received positive feedback from the board. Trustee Blackburn asked about the timing of training and the Racial Equity team responded that new teachers have already received training and that top leadership will be a priority for receiving training.

#9 Elections

There are plans to include several finance-related ballot items for Dallas ISD in the November election. The ballot items that were a priority in the administration's presentation included:

  • Setting a tax rate at $1.17, prompting a Tax Ratification Election for voter approval.
  • Calling a bond election for - 1) $75 million for long-term bus replacement and a bus facility and 2) Refinancing an existing debt of $75 million from 2015.
  • Selecting a method to reduce property wealth when the state recaptures funds from DISD.

For full video clips of board discussion or for a closer review of each agenda item. please visit the Board Docs site with all public materials. Questions about this summary? Email info@dallaskidsfirst.org. 

June Board Briefing: Last Briefing of 2017-2018

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In the last month of the 2017-2018 school board meetings, the June Briefing agenda was packed! Below are some key issues with a summary of the administration’s presentation and the board’s response.

Data for Student Outcome Goals 1 & 3

End of Course Data was shared by the administration highlighting progress towards 2 of the 4 district goals. The data below is a sample set that demonstrates progress towards meeting the goal.

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The data above represents significant progress towards meeting the district goals and it is all thanks to the collective staff at the Dallas ISD campuses, the leadership of central staff, and board advocacy in support of a concerted focus on student achievement.

The board did not discuss the content of the presentation at length, but, on behalf of the board, Board President Dan Micciche congratulated the district for all of its work.

School Health Advisory Council

The administration and the School Health Advisory Council presented recommendations to the board for promoting health in our DISD classrooms and schools.

The goals include vetting curriculum on an annual basis, growing representation from each district on the advisory council, and prioritizing parental engagement in support of our students’ well-being.

The five specific recommendations included:

  • Reinstate the Youth Risk Behavior Survey

  • Reinstate a coordinator position for the Urban School Wellness Department

  • Promote a local wellness policy

  • Implement a wellness checklist for our schools

  • Prioritize a human growth and sexuality program for grades 6-8 and one additional credit course for high school students

The board discussion included concerns from Trustees Marshall, Nutall, and Blackburn about the curriculum used in classrooms. Trustee Foreman pushed for SHAC to ensure parents understand opt-out is an option.

Early College High School Program Expansion

The early college high schools in Dallas ISD have been one of the more prominent initiatives in the district that have both supported student access to college as well as recruitment for new students in our district. The administration presented two new programs for the 2019-2020 school year, which will begin planning in the 2018-2019 school year.

  • Cedar Valley College will partner with Skyline High School and 9th-10th graders will continue to attend classes on the Skyline campus while 11th-12th graders will take courses at the Cedar Valley campus.

  • North Lake College will partner with DISD to replicate the model of Trini Garza - all four years of high school will be on the college campus.

The board discussion on this agenda item came from Trustees Foreman and Marshall asking the administration to explore additional funding options for early college programs.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Scores

This assessment, NAEP, was administered to 4th and 8th graders for reading and math. Typically, the results from this exam are compared to district across the country and do not account for the demographic of students that make up the district. For that reason, the administration compared the makeup of Dallas ISD to the make up of comparable districts and found that in math, our students are performing above average and in reading, our students are performing on average.

Board discussion from Trustees Resendez, Foreman, and Marshall related to reinforcing reading and reading initiatives across our schools.

2018-2019 Budget Proposal

The budget presented by the administration included an assumed tax increase for Dallas ISD taxpayers. If the tax increase passes through a Tax Ratification Election first through the board in August and then through a ballot vote in November, DISD employees will see a pay increase for their salaries. If the tax increase does not go through, there are no plans for a pay increase for staff.

Board discussion included the following comments from Trustees -

  • Trustee Blackburn: Pay increase should not be dependent on an increased tax rate.

  • Trustee Foreman: Community should be a part of the budget proposal and a tax attorney should approve the budget proposal with its tax rate assumption.

  • Trustee Marshall: Supportive of pay increase for teachers who have met specific performance metrics in their evaluations; concerns about where money should go without strong consideration of where the money would come from.

  • Trustee Pinkerton: Wants administration to ensure that there are adjustments to central staff costs as well, not just adjustments to campus costs.

  • Trustee Nutall: Wants to ensure investment in early childhood matches retention of students.

  • Trustee Resendez: Interested in how funds will be spent for racial equity work.

  • Trustee Micciche: Concerns on accurately communicating budget implications when it comes to topic of ‘recapture.’

Student Recruitment & Retention

The administration named retention strategies for our DISD students as well as recruitment efforts to gain additional students who are not currently served by the district.  

Retention Strategies -

  • Kinder & Bridge Camps - This is designed to help students in their transition years of Pre-K to Kindergarden, Kindergarten to 1st grade, 5th grade to 6th grade, and 8th grade to 9th grade. Students would have the opportunity to visit the school they would attend the following year to begin to get acclimated.

  • Summer Connection Fair, Open House, and Customer Service Training are all strategies used to invite family engagement to feel connected to the district and to learn more about the schools in their communities.

Recruitment Efforts -

  • There will be a Recruitment Team on every campus and marketing efforts from DISD staff will continue to invite current and new families to learn about DISD.

  • A campus-based initiative known as Operation Comeback will focus on calling students who are enrolled but not showing up to school once the school year begins.

  • The annual Discover ISD fair will be hosted in two different locations to accommodate families across our district and offer a showcase of the many different schools and special programs DISD has to offer.

Board discussion included suggestions from Trustee Foreman to visit churches, add suggestion boxes on campuses, and have the Superintendent do a robocall to households in the district. Trustee Marshall asked the administration to ensure our schools are prepared to offer school tours as parents show interest in visiting our campuses. Trustee Micciche reinforced outreach efforts that match or exceed the tools charter schools use to engage families.

Career Institutes

DISD currently offers programs that are geared towards preparing students for career immediately following high school graduation. However, the administration saw the need to better align the certificates and expectations of the industry with the DISD program offerings. With that, the administration proposed enhancing the qualities of existing programs and eventually striving to have an industry partner at each DISD high school.

Board discussion included Trustee Foreman’s comment that we cannot leave out schools that do not have any programs, and not only strengthen the existing programs. Trustees Flores and Pinkerton offered their help with finding new partnerships for our schools.

 

If you have any questions about the June Board Briefing, please do not hesitate to visit the Dallas ISD Board Meeting Agendas Website, or email our team at info@dallaskidsfirst.org.

 

May Board Briefing: Student Outcomes, Charters, Technology, and Budget

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Progress on District’s Student Outcome Goals

The Dallas ISD administration and Superintendent Hinojosa presented progress towards meeting 2 of the 4 district goals:

  • Goal 1: Student achievement on state assessments in all subjects at “Approaches” or above will increase from 66% to 75% by 2022.
  • Goal 3: Student achievement on state assessments in two or more subjects at “Meets” or above will increase from 34% to 40% by 2022.

The sample data from a Reading and Math administration of state assessments in grades 5 and 8 showed the following:

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Our board expressed pride in the hard work of the students, teachers, leadership teams, and district administration in making this happen.

Charter School Partnership

The administration presented the possibility to use Senate Bill 1882, which allows school districts to partner with charter schools (and other eligible entities). In this particular partnership, St. Anthony’s - used to be a private Catholic school but is now a charter school - would have autonomy under governance, staff, schedule, curriculum, etc. The district would provide a school facility - Wheatley - and an advisory board that has continuous conversation around programs and student achievement at the campus.

The board had mixed support - Trustees Nutall, Foreman, Flores, and Blackburn showed support for this partnership; Trustees Pinkerton and Marshall were concerned about not receiving anything in return that would benefit the district’s budget; Trustee Solis had a mixed reaction of fascination about the concept and concern about unanswered questions; Trustee Micciche expressed the need for researching all necessary aspects before deciding to move forward; and Trustee Resendez did not publicly state an opinion on the matter.

Technology & Long Range Facilities Master Plan

A consulting team, Engage2Learn, alongside the administration, reported on a plan to implement technology and update facilities over the next couple of years. One of the highlights from the technology standpoint was an effort to provide a technological device (chromebook) to each student in the district - but if funding did not allow for it - to at least provide a device for every single high school student (elementary students and middle school students would share).

From a facilities standpoint, two major priorities in the next couple of years include replacing all equipment in buildings whose lifespan has or will expire in the next two years as well as modernizing classrooms (wall paint, new floor, whiteboards instead of chalkboards). The immediate next step will be to finalize a plan for technology and complete the facilities assessment across Dallas ISD campuses.

Budget Proposal

The administration and superintendent presented the budget for the 2018-2019 school year. One major difference is that the budget was presented assuming a higher tax rate for local residents. The projected enrollment, which impacts the budget, is a decrease of just over 1,700 students. In addition, state funding would decrease by 6.9% and federal funding would decrease by 2.4%.

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For a full video of the meeting, visit https://www.boarddocs.com/tx/disd/Board.nsf/vpublic?open.

To ask questions about this summary, please email info@dallaskidsfirst.org.

April Board Briefing: Student Outcomes, Taxes, and Racial Equity

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There are four district goals in Dallas ISD - three relate to the results of STAAR testing and one pertains to student participation in extracurricular activities.

  1. Students “approaching” grade level standard or above will increase to 75% across all subjects by 2022.

  2. Students “approaching” grade level standard or above will increase to 75% in 3rd grade Reading by 2022.

  3. Students “meeting” grade level standard or above will increase to 40% in two or more subjects by 2022.

  4. Student participation in extracurricular and co-curricular activities will increase to 65% by 2022.

Across various board meetings, the administration and superintendent present progress towards meeting these goals - where there is success, where there are challenges, and what the data shows about meeting the goals.

During the April School Board Briefing, Superintendent Hinojosa and the Dallas ISD administrative staff presented progress on the fourth goal: engagement in extracurricular activities from our DISD students. As of June 2017, 58.7% of students were participating in an extracurricular activity. By March 2017, 70.6% of students were participating in extracurricular activities. Needless to say, the district has exceeded the initial goal and it is something to celebrate.

Tax Ratification Election

Superintendent Hinojosa presented the possibility of the board approving a Tax Ratification Election (TRE) for voters who live within the Dallas ISD bounds. A Tax Ratification Election would mean that the school board decides whether or not voters can cast a ballot in favor or in opposition to a tax increase of 13 cents.

These additional funds would be used to sustain strategic initiatives, student outcome goals, and the district’s focus. Some of the initiatives named included magnet programs, early college high schools, and schools within the Office of Transformation and Innovation. If these funds support student outcome goals, it could help the DISD meet its student achievement goals.

Board discussion included themes around placing more pressure on state legislature to increase funding for local school districts, considering impact on families who are under financial duress, letting voters decide on the tax increase instead of the board, and communicating a timeline for a TRE.

Racial Equity

The second topic of the briefing that drew great anticipation from the public was the presentation from the administration on plans for addressing racial equity in the district. The presentation was a collaborative effort between Dallas ISD administrative staff and a research group from San Diego State University, National Center for Urban School Transformation.

This qualitative study by from NCUST  “sought to understand what they heard in interviewing people - 350 different teachers, principals, parents, students - and observed in about 500 different classrooms across 20 schools.” NCUST studied schools that “serve diverse communities and get great academic results for every demographic group they serve.”

After the study was executed in the fall, the district and San Diego group were tasked with providing recommendations to Dallas ISD. The recommendations included:

  • Develop a district equity office.

  • Develop a strategy that increases the likelihood that all students, particularly African American and English language learners, master state standards and graduate college and career ready.

  • Focus improvement in learning outcomes for all demographic groups, emphasize high levels of support for all schools through district offices, and mandate corrective action for schools that fail to make reasonable improvements.

Board discussion in response to the administration and NCUST’s presentation included themes around wanting more specificity for recommendations since it is not the first time racial equity work has been presented to the board.

The plan, according to Assistant Superintendent Leslie Williams, “We are gonna work with the non profit organizations, the city of Dallas, and take advantage of the resources in the different departments that we have within Dallas ISD to make sure we meet the needs of all students.”


If you have further questions about this summary of the board briefing, don’t hesitate to contact info@dallaskidsfirst.org.

For full viewing of board meetings, visit https://www.boarddocs.com/tx/disd/Board.nsf/vpublic?open

Most Students Can’t Vote, But Their Voice Is Loud and Clear

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Our students across the country have been taking center stage in the past few weeks by leading efforts for change. They have served as role models not only to one another but to the adults who are in positions of leadership, especially those in elected office.

At a local level, Dallas students have also voiced their thoughts. After discussing the role of the school board in Dallas ISD with middle and high school students, our young leaders have some things they’d like to share with our elected trustees.

Thank You...

 - Marco, Grade 8 

- Marco, Grade 8 

 - Benjamin, Grade 8

- Benjamin, Grade 8

 - Kendrian, Grade 11

- Kendrian, Grade 11

Voicing concerns...

  Aileen, Grade 8

 Aileen, Grade 8

 - Karla, Grade 8

- Karla, Grade 8

 - Evelyn, Grade 8

- Evelyn, Grade 8

 - Valery, Grade 8

- Valery, Grade 8

With students advocating for technology, more electives, funding for schools, and equity across schools - it is critical to keep these leading voices front and center. 

FIRST-TIME DUAL ENDORSEMENT: THE CASE FOR CHANGE IN DALLAS ISD’S DISTRICT 9

Pass the Baton

With 2,791 District 9 students enrolled in a campus with an “Improvement Required” label and two qualified candidates stepping up to run, Dallas Kids First is endorsing a vote for change in leadership. For nearly a decade, District 9 in Dallas ISD has had the same school board member in office. In 2012, Dallas Kids First endorsed this member, but by 2015 could no longer stand behind a voting pattern that raised more questions than it did solutions.

With a narrow victory in 2015, the incumbent was able to stay on the school board for another three years. Of 3,922 voters, 52% supported the incumbent; and only 7% of eligible, registered voters participated in this decision.

A combined 2,106 voters chose to re-elect the same leadership for a total of 29 schools - representing 23,696 students and even more households.

While other members on the board have led policy efforts to make sure Dallas ISD students across all campuses have their needs met (breakfast for students, restorative discipline policy, etc.), the current trustee has missed opportunities to address the concerns of a diverse District 9 community, and an equally diverse Dallas ISD consituent-base.

Passing the baton to a solutions-focused representative on the school board would be a positive change for Dallas ISD and District 9. In the 2016-2017 school year, Dallas Kids First tracked high-impact decisions voted on by the school board. These decisions translated into board members voting on items that could either help or hinder students, teachers, and effective school board governance.

High-Impact Votes by School Board:

  • Turnaround plans to support schools with  “Improvement Required” label

  • Expanding student opportunity for PreK

  • Advocating for funding to meet District’s student outcome goals

  • Asking voters to support a $1.6 billion bond for improved facilities

On average, the Dallas ISD school board supported these topics with 90% approval. In District 9, these high-impact votes were supported 68% of the time.

TIME FOR NEW LEADERSHIP

Local elections matter and a development of civic engagement across the nation has inspired the local Dallas ISD school board race for District 9.

Campaign season typically starts closer to March, but 2018 brought an early start for a community ready to cast a vote. By November, two promising candidates publicly shared their interest in running for the same school board seat as challengers to the sitting incumbent. Two experienced individuals running at the same time for the same seat further highlight an inspired base of new leaders looking to get involved - not just at the voting poll, but on the ballot.

Given the qualifications of both candidates, Dallas Kids First considered four options throughout the five-step endorsement process.

  • endorse Edward Turner

  • endorse Justin Henry

  • do not make an endorsement

  • make an endorsement for change

Considering the interview panel, community input through DKF’s endorsement survey , and the DKF advisory team, it became apparent to all: By endorsing Edward Turner, DKF would be denying the fact that Justin Henry is deeply invested in supporting student outcomes. By endorsing Justin Henry, DKF would be ignoring Edward Turner’s commitment to the community in support of schools.

The DKF team works year-round alongside schools, educators, community partners, and elected officials to advocate for student outcomes. By not making an endorsement at all, all efforts would have been in vain and not aligned to mission - raise awareness, organize voters.

Henry and Turner are each rising stars for the local landscape and, in making a dual endorsement, Dallas Kids First is positioned to support each of their campaign efforts - all while shedding light on missed opportunities for District 9 in the last nine years.

With an evolving education landscape, it is time for the leadership in District 9 to evolve too.

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Find out if you or your friends can vote for this election here!

Find out if you are registered to vote here!

Click here to read about Edward Turner’s “Focus for District 9.”

Click here to read Justin Henry’s “Issues” page.

Click here for some critical ‘NO’ votes by current District 9 incumbent.

Dallas Kids First 2018 Candidate Endorsement Announcement

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For Districts 1 and 3, Dallas Kids First stands behind unopposed incumbents and DKF-endorsed Trustees Dan Micciche and Edwin Flores, respectively.


For District 9, Dallas Kids First supports a vote for change in school board leadership via a dual endorsement, empowering voters to support one of two strong candidates suited for leadership. Dallas Kids First endorses Justin Henry and Edward Turner for Dallas ISD School Board.

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After completing its 2018 endorsement process - a combination of candidate questionnaire responses, a community interview panel, and community survey responses - Dallas Kids First endorses a vote for change in leadership by empowering voters to choose one of two strong candidates, Justin Henry or Edward Turner, for Dallas ISD's District 9. Our community panel was made up of 25 members, including current DISD students, teachers and staff, District 9 residents, CAMP Fellows, and DKF members.

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Below are some key comments from panelists:

  • District 9 Dallas ISD teacher and CAMP Fellow Emily Barksdale shared, “Justin Henry wants improvement in student achievement, college readiness etc - especially through a racial equity lens.” Henry stated, “we are in a crisis” and “the current status quo is unacceptable.” He emphasizes the need to “create an environment conducive to partnerships.”

  • District 9 middle school student and interview panelist Marquies Buekner shared, “Edward Turner wants what is best for students, [he has] a very great sense of urgency… can relate to District 9 because he grew up here and that is what drives him.” Turner stated, “As a trustee, be conscious of power, use this for good, not abuse. Be an example for students.”

Founded to address years of low voter turnout, Dallas Kids First continues its efforts to make school board candidate information more accessible to a diverse constituent base. The Dallas Kids First scorecards outline candidates' strengths and areas of growth aligned to qualities of effective board leadership.

With the election just two months away, Dallas Kids First is calling on Dallas ISD constituents to commit time and resources to increase participation in the May 5, 2018 election. Advocate alongside DKF and let us know your interests by clicking here: https://www.dallaskidsfirst.org/volunteer/.

Each candidate's scorecard along with their questionnaire responses are available on the 2018 election page, https://www.dallaskidsfirst.org/2018-elections.

Facing Our Challenges, Finding Solutions

Given the size and range of various needs in our Dallas ISD community groups, it is no surprise that there is an equally vast partition in approaches for resolving the challenges our constituents face. The great news is that all of those who invest in public education share the same goal - every student should be given access to opportunities that will allow them choices for their futures. But to ensure our district gets to that goal, it is important to confront the challenges we face.

Challenge #1: Our city is segregated by race and class, and so are our student outcomes.

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Former chancellor of public schools in D.C. said it best, “school is the crossroads where all of society’s problems meet.” Dallas is no exception to this reality. In our schools we see segregation by race and by class - and unfortunately - we see metrics that show a correlation with our students’ achievement.

One way Dallas ISD is able to measure this correlation is through the Reading STAAR results from the end of each school year. Third grade reading scores are a notoriously strong predictor for future success in college and career. “If children cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade, they face daunting hurdles to success in school and beyond… And those struggling students are disproportionately poor students and students of color” (National School Board Association).  

The state of Texas measures student performance on state assessments by using four different levels:

  • Student did not meet grade level expectations.
  • Student approaches grade level expectations.
  • Student meets grade level expectations.
  • Student masters grade level expectations.

Below are the results from the 2017 Reading STAAR assessment highlighting the disproportionate outcomes for poor students and students of color who “met” grade level expectations.

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Acknowledging this challenge can help our District find solutions to address this achievement gap. Stephanie Elizalde, Chief of School Leadership at Dallas ISD makes a statement for our board to continue to raise expectations for all of our students, and that in doing so, our district can earn more credit from the state.

Challenge #2: Our Dallas ISD kids suffer when trustees don’t work together.

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Often times, constituents and school board members across Dallas ISD disagree on whether resources are spread in an equitable manner for students and campuses; yet, no matter which district a student goes to school in, student achievement is comparatively low. The map above depicts the average percent of students across grades and subjects who meet grade level expectations in the STAAR state assessment.

As a district, our average comes to 35% of students meeting grade level expectations on this particular metric. Our school board members must come together to recognize the impact of their decision-making on the district as a whole, not just their specific district. As Pedro Noguera, graduate school professor at UCLA, shared with many Dallas county constituents at the Commit! Partnership’s Community Scorecard Release, “Everyone should be concerned, even if you have kids in good schools now.”

While the metric of 35% of our students performing on grade level is disappointing, Noguera also reminds Dallas constituents “too often we focus on the deficit, and not on the strengths.” Understandably so, our board members focus their attention on areas of high need and high urgency. This academic year, that need is in the district’s “IR” campuses (a state rating for schools that do not meet the state standards and are deemed Improvement Required). Because there are four campuses in their fourth or fifth year of having received the “IR” rating, the Texas Education Agency has shared that they would either take over and manage the entire district, or that they would close the four campuses.

The school board came together and voted at the January board meeting to create a plan that would address the “IR” campuses to avoid the state from closing them and/or taking over the district. With continued collaborative discussion at the board table, our school board members can help our Dallas students meet grade level standards, not just escape an “IR” label.

Dallas Kids First hopes that by facing our challenges and working together, Dallas ISD stakeholders can more quickly begin to find solutions.

Source of data: Source: https://mydata.dallasisd.org/SL/TAKS/index.jsp

What does it mean to be an effective school board member?

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Every Spring, Dallas Kids First interviews candidates who are considering election for the Dallas ISD School Board, and with each year, the Dallas Kids First team raises the bar for these critical leaders in our city. Below are the six research-based qualities our DISD constituents can consider when evaluating a candidate’s fit for trustee with some examples of DKF-endorsed trustees mixed in!

1. Kids First Mindset

Kids First Mindset

Education advocates often speak of putting kids first and making decisions that focus on what is best for kids. Without question, it is the common thread between even the most disagreeable groups in the education space. What does it mean? For Dallas Kids First, it is about a trustee unequivocally driving their decision-making based on student outcomes. In a role that brings so much to the table, it is easy to get lost in the scuffle of non-student factors or spend time on a topic that ultimately has very little impact on student outcomes. With these goals at the center, it becomes easier to drown out competing distractions.

2. Leadership Experience

Leadership Experience

It is necessary that a trustee support their focus on student outcomes with proven and relevant organizational leadership skills suitable for the size and complexity of DISD. The skill set required for setting a $1.7 billion budget, considering the diverse needs of 157,000 students, and addressing contracts for 20,000 personnel require a person who can bring a valuable perspective to the board as policy decisions are made, budget goals are set, and the superintendent guides Dallas ISD administrative staff.

3. Understanding of Trustee Role

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A kids-first mindset, complemented by relevant leadership experience pave the path for effective governance. To make a meaningful impact, it is key that a trustee is anchored on student outcomes through their policy-setting, budgetary goals, and holding the superintendent accountable. Not wavering from these three duties allows the Dallas ISD administration to carry out the district goals in a cohesive manner and for the board to use their time communicating the successes and challenges of the district with all constituents.

4. Urgency

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It is no doubt that Dallas ISD has made significant progress in the past few years. But, there is still much work ahead to ensure our students are reaping the benefits of a great public school experience. Our trustees must exhibit a sense of urgency with a tangible action plan that targets improvement for DISD performance. It is imperative to consider improvement not only for the trustee’s elected district, but also for the district as a whole. The trustees that move the needle for our students are those who take responsibility and accountability for this performance with all the tools at their disposal.

5. Community Partnership

Community Partnership

Among the tools our trustees have at their disposal, one of the greatest is the community they serve. A trustee should have goals for partnering with the various community groups and stakeholders impacted by Dallas ISD when it comes to problem-solving, finding solutions,  and policy-setting. Taking action towards creating this partnership shows that a trustee sees the value of working with diverse perspectives and populations.

6. Education Knowledge

Our trustees must be equipped with a fundamental understanding of Dallas ISD’s student achievement challenges as well as knowledge of successes from other districts, states, or countries. This better positions the board to be critical when setting policy, setting budget goals, and holding the superintendent accountable for the success of the district.

How do we know if our school board members are making an impact?

The success of our students is the success of our board’s leadership. By investing time in monitoring the progress of our student outcome goals, our board is investing in the future of Dallas. One tool that facilitates this process is Lone Star Governance. The state has trained our board to focus on their impact with the Lone Star governance initiative. Through this training, our governing team is challenged with intensively focusing on one objective: improving student outcomes.

 

Want to learn more? Browse our website for the "elections" tab to preview the 2018 election. Or, sign up for our list-serv and share your volunteer interests.   

IMPROVEMENT REQUIRED SCHOOLS - LOOKING BEYOND THE LABEL

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No school in Dallas ISD wants the label of "IR campus." That being said, what does it mean? A campus with the label of “Improvement Required,” commonly referred to as “IR,” is a school that has not met the state standards of the Texas Education Agency (TEA). There are four criteria used to make this determination:

  • student achievement on standardized testing
  • student progress across core subjects from year to year
  • closing performance gaps between socioeconomic and racial groups
  • postsecondary readiness via high school graduation rates

If a school has “low performance on one or more of the four indexes," it must begin planning for improvement. Currently, Dallas ISD has fourteen IR campuses, all with various lengths of being on the IR list:

Dallas’s 14 IR Campuses in 2017-2018

  • Thomas A Edison Middle Learning Center (5 yrs)
  • Edward Titche (5 yrs)
  • CF Carr (5 yrs)
  • JW Ray Learning Center (4 yrs)
  • Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center (3 yrs)
  • George W. Truett (3 yrs)
  • Onesimo Hernandez (2 yrs)
  • JN Ervin (2 yrs)
  • Thomas J Rusk MS (2 yrs)
  • James Madison HS (2 yrs)
  • Joseph J Rhoads (1 yr)
  • Lincoln Humanities/Communications (1 yr)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. (1 yr)

What happens to the 7,500 students on these 14 campuses?

An improvement plan begins with an analysis of the root causes that led the campus to miss the mark for the criteria and then works to address how to overcome those challenges for the coming school year. While the district has made significant progress in reducing the number of IR campuses in the last three years - going from a total of 43 IR campuses to a total of 14 IR campuses - there is still great uncertainty and work to be done to address the needs of the students who are attending the remaining 14 schools.

One way in which our IR schools have received support is through the implementation of the ACE initiative (Accelerating Campus Excellence). ACE was initially piloted in 7 schools, 6 of which made it off of the IR list. The only school from the original ACE campuses still on the IR list is Thomas A. Edison Middle Learning Center.

After four years or more years of being on the IR list, four campuses are getting additional consideration for next steps: Edison, Carr, Titche, and Ray. Due to a combination of student performance, poor building quality, and under enrollment, Superintendent Hinojosa has proposed that Edison be closed for the 2018-2019 school year, though the school board will vote before any action takes place. Under enrollment is the same reason the superintendent recommends J.W. Ray consolidate with neighboring campuses.

For Carr and Titche, the ACE initiative is supporting the schools by improving school culture and pushing student achievement. Trustee Resendez (District 4) and Trustee Blackburn (District 5) inquire with Chief of School Leadership Stephanie Elizalde and Assistant Superintendent Jolee Healey about the progress of each campus. They share that achievement data looks promising at this point in the year and that they could meet the state standards come June. In the case that the campuses do not, however, Plan B will be to consider consolidations or closures.

One educator’s experience on an IR Campus

While I currently serve 4th graders as a math and science teacher, I have taught for five years in traditional public schools and charter schools across different states. I have worked with 10th graders, 8th graders, 7th graders, and 3rd graders. I mention this to say that I have never seen a school with a student population that has such huge emotional and academic deficits, warranting its ACE status surely.

I was recruited as part of the ACE program, a label which brings great challenges but great rewards. The ACE label means DISD recruits their best staff (mainly administration, teachers, and counselors) in order to improve student achievement data, school culture, and community involvement.

C. F. Carr Elementary has been an IR campus for five years and became an ACE campus in 2017, roughly around the same time the closure of George Washington Carver Elementary took place. With the closure of the school, Carver students relocated to Carr.

The most difficult days were the first six weeks of school. Combining two separate school communities with unique issues requires diverse, appropriate resources and at times we aren’t as well-equipped as we should be. While Carver students struggled with the relocation, Carr students struggled with their old school becoming a completely new establishment and their old teachers leaving.

Every day is different and every day is challenging.

Fortunately, I can say with confidence that our students have acclimated and are stepping up to the occasion. They are working hard, growing, and learning something new every day. Serving as a member of the school’s community is very rewarding.

We are currently at risk of closure by the end of this school year. The ACE initiative has improved school culture, according to our most recent climate survey data, and student achievement for most, if not all grades, has improved as well. I hope that our campus gets out of IR status so we can continue to make growth and change student trajectories for the best. As for the other IR schools with the ACE program, I’m sure they are seeing similar results and wish the same.

How Much Improvement Is Required?

It is without doubt that all of our schools - especially our IR campuses - are under immense pressure to perform and meet the state and district expectations year after year. The staff at our IR campuses work incredibly hard toward getting beyond the label and fostering a mindset of higher expectations.

Once a school gets off of the IR list, there is still an additional year of support to ensure our IR schools meet the state standards in its first year without the label. Does this imply improvement is no longer necessary? Of course not.

DKF is hopeful that our Dallas ISD leadership - administration, school board, and community advocates - will not stop planning for improvement once our campuses lose the “IR” label. While it is important to celebrate the growth of our neediest campuses, it is equally necessary to have a lens for excellence beyond the experience of an IR campus. 

Ready, Set, Endorse! A Look Inside the DKF Endorsement Process

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Dallas Kids First was driven to work in support of our Dallas ISD school board races when it became noticeably clear that voter turnout was painfully low and when elections were regularly uncontested: on average only 5% of registered voters consistently go to the polls and often the incumbent takes on this meaningful role with no one to challenge their impact.

Dismayed by the lack of engagement, Dallas Kids First began supporting key community members who were interested in running for school board by endorsing its first candidates in 2012 - current board president Dan Micciche (District 3) and current board member Bernadette Nutall (District 9). Staying true to its core beliefs, DKF has developed an endorsement process that is centered on what is best for students, what works for educators, and what holds our trustees accountable.

Step 1: Candidate Questionnaire

Once a candidate has officially filed to run for office, whether for the first time or as an incumbent, DKF sends the candidate a questionnaire. Since the candidate has one month to officially file to run for school board, it proves to be advantageous to file early as it means  more time to thoughtfully respond to the questions.

The questionnaire consists of about eighteen questions - with input from the community on what to probe - that allow our Dallas voters to read and learn about the person’s experiences, ambitions, and plans. Once submitted, DKF shares the responses with the interview panelists so they can begin to build familiarity with the candidate. DKF also takes the step of publishing the questionnaire on the website for the benefit of all voters.

Step 2: Endorsement Interview Panel

It is important to get face-time with candidates who seek to be on the school board, especially by community members who may otherwise have less access. This is why DKF invites people across the Dallas ISD space - parents, students, residents, educators, etc. - to sign-up and interview candidates. In any given interview, a range of about 10-20 people will attend for 30-45 minutes with the candidate. The interview panelists have a chance to read the candidate’s questionnaire responses to prepare follow up questions.

Finally, the interview panel debriefs and discusses each candidate’s areas of strength and weakness, resulting in a rubric rating for each. The rubric, developed from multiple iterations of community feedback, is a way to define the high expectations a trustee should meet in leading our school district.

Step 3: Scorecard Development

The interview candidate’s rubric ratings and comments are then consolidated from the interview panelists by DKF staff to generate a scorecard. The scorecard gives each candidate a grade for the items on the rubric and an overall grade for the candidate’s potential as trustee.

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Step 4: Community Survey + Public Endorsement

Once the scorecards for each candidate have been finalized, DKF sends a survey link to its network to ask for an additional round of input. This allows DKF to ask community members (who were not in the interview room) who they would recommend for final endorsement. With this additional feedback, DKF is then ready to put a stamp of approval on one candidate for each district and publicly announce its endorsement for Dallas voters.

Step 5: Let the CAMPaigning begin!

The time following the public endorsement is crucial - this is where DKF shares its time, fundraising, and messaging to support the endorsed candidates. Uniquely critical to the process is our partner fellowship program, CAMP (Campaign Activity and Management Program), which engages with key parts of the city to encourage voters to support our candidates.

The CAMP Fellowship’s eight-month investment in learning about our school board, diverse communities, best practices for winning campaigns, and DISD-specific issues authentically prepares the fellows to engage with voters around elevating our school board by taking the step of casting a vote for the endorsed candidates.

To Close, to Consolidate, or to Improve - DISD Trustees Discuss Appropriate Policy

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Our Dallas ISD trustees have to make an endless amount of decisions. Some involve cumbersome research and discussion, while others seem fleeting and undemanding. Whether it’s how to measure teacher effectiveness or approving gifts from Donors Choose - the items that make it to the Board table cover a wide spectrum.

In 2011, one of the toughest proposals that made it to the nine decision-makers for approval was a decision to close 11 campuses. In response to state budget cuts, trustees and Dallas ISD administration pointed to the notable financial savings if campuses were consolidated. With extensive discussion around what response to take, the debate begged the question: Should there be defined criteria before trustees discuss closing a campus? Ultimately, the vote to close 11 campuses in January 2012 is still debated today because criteria was unclear.

Fast-forward to the 2017 November Board Briefing, trustees discussed a proposal to the original policy titled CT Local, which presents the idea of using defined metrics when considering a school for closure or consolidation. The sponsor of the policy proposal was Trustee Edwin Flores (District 1), who recaps the draft of the policy for his peers to review in the following video clip:

 Prior to reviewing the draft of Trustee Flores's proposal at the briefing, Policy Chair Trustee Lew Blackburn (District 5) and Dallas ISD administrator Scott Layne, (Deputy Superintendent of Operations and Chief Operating Officer) worked on possible language for the revisions. After reviewing and approving the policy, Trustee Flores brought his presentation to the rest of the board as a means of discussing possible modifications prior to taking any further action. Below, President Dan Micciche confirms with Mr. Layne and Dr. Blackburn that they are ready to present the draft and gather thoughts from other trustees.

 

As can be seen in the clip, the policy would entail that Dallas ISD administration present a report each year to the board depicting how each school is doing in relation to the metrics described - school performance, school enrollment, and building condition. However, the phrasing in the policy indicated that if a school does not meet the criteria, it would be up for closure or consolidation. Trustees found consensus that those two options should not be central to the intent of the policy.

Trustee Dustin Marshall (District 2) contributes his idea that the policy could help the administration and the board identify under-resourced schools to help the campus improve, rather than just consider for closing or consolidating:

Trustee Audrey Pinkerton (District 7) agreed with Trustee Marshall and suggested adding alternative language to the policy that could help schools meet the minimum standard:

Dallas ISD administrator Stephanie Elizalde, Chief of School Leadership, and board president, Trustee Micciche (District 3), also agree on changing the language to highlight the needed priority of developing schools, as opposed to just closing or consolidating:

In addition, Trustee Bernadette Nutall (District 9), Trustee Joyce Foreman (District  6), and Trustee Miguel Solis (District 8) request that the policy chair Dr. Blackburn and the policy sponsor Dr. Flores take a moment to shelve the policy until the language is further developed:

While there is no pressing timeline to bring the policy back to the board table, seeing the consensus between our Dallas ISD Board of Trustees was uplifting in the midst of one of the more complex decisions our elected officials must make.

To reach out to Trustees, view the entire meeting online, or to look up documents from the meeting agendas, please visit the Dallas ISD School Board webpage

 

 

Are our Dallas kids at the center of the TEI debate?

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Dallas kids should have a quality teacher in front of them every day. Although that is still not the case for every student, the progress that TEI (Teacher Excellence Initiative) has achieved is catapulting Dallas ISD towards achieving that end and gives us confidence that the district is heading in the right direction.


At the school board briefing on November 2nd, 2017, Superintendent Hinojosa shared updates for the teacher evaluation system used across Dallas ISD schools. For this controversial initiative, he determined that “the debate is over.” But are our Dallas kids at the center of its controversy? Fortunately, the data-sets shared with Trustees highlighted overwhelmingly positive outcomes for them.

One of the highlights demonstrated that there was a correlation between student achievement results from standardized testing (common assessments, end-of-course exams, etc.) and a teacher’s classroom observation score, otherwise known as summative points. The correlation emphasized that the cumulative points a teacher earns from classroom visits done by their principal or assistant principal matches the rate of student achievement for the classroom.

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Beyond the correlation between student achievement and a teacher’s classroom observation points, there is also a correlation between a student’s experience in the classroom and their student achievement. In these surveys, students in grades 3-12 are asked to share their perception on the teacher’s support, expectations, and instructional strategies during class.

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Although there have been doubts on the efficacy of using student surveys to identify effective teaching, the graph shows that the surveys are in fact a useful metric for gauging teacher effectiveness - an idea that opponents of TEI can no longer revert to as a drawback of the evaluation system. A Dallas ISD middle school teacher who also serves as an instructional coach shares, “The data definitely speaks for itself and the charts are a great visual to see the correlation.”

One of the major arguments against using TEI is that it goes against using a teacher’s years of experience in the classroom as a measure of excellence for kids, however, the results from the data gave prominence to the weak correlation between the number of years a teacher has taught and student achievement results from standardized testing. This is not to say that our lifelong educators are not valuable to the fabric of our schools, but to also give credit to teachers of all experience levels making a difference each day for our kids.

 

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From an educator’s standpoint, TEI has also made it easy to tease apart retention rates based on teacher performance. On the whole, Dallas ISD’s retention rate exceeds the state measure. More significantly, TEI visualizes the fact that DISD is retaining higher performing teachers at a higher rate than lower performing teachers. The graph below shows this correlation between performance and retention. As a parent, community member, staff member, or student - we can celebrate that the best educators are the ones sticking around for our kids.

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Just as much as TEI is helping the district identify high performers, it is also opening up the opportunity to support those who are struggling and/or want to grow. Ongoing support and development of all our educators is critical to ensure we continue to meet the diverse and evolving needs of our students. This is an expectation we set in our classroom for students from day one. Our teachers and school system are leading by example with TEI, which is something to be celebrated.

At the briefing, DKF-endorsed Trustee Dustin Marshall (District 2) shared that even with the positive outcomes up to date, there is of course room for improvement. A task force brought together by the district, Next Generation Teacher Evaluation Project, will dive into issues relating to sustainability, re-branding, and overall upgrades.

Among these improvements, Trustee Marshall shared the need to have a competitive starting salary to recruit teachers. This was something around which many Trustees found consensus. In addition, because TEI allows the district to identify high-performing teachers, DKF-endorsed Trustee Miguel Solis (District 8) recommended partnering them with their peers to develop instruction beyond their classrooms. Solis shared, “As you get better, as you get more money, you also gain more responsibility in helping your colleagues.”

This is something others have found agreement in, as a Dallas Morning News editorial shared, TEI “helps identify teachers who can be groomed for more campus responsibility, such as becoming an instructional coach or acting as a critical mentor for newly hired educators.”

With the help of the Next Generation Teacher Evaluation Project, it is critical that Dallas ISD stays focused on a key ingredient to increasing student outcomes: supporting the educators who are in our classrooms every day. In the meantime, our DKF community will stay alert and engaged on the impact it has on our kids.

 

For more information, follow this link to a second Dallas Morning News piece.

Expanding and Building the Impact of Dallas Kids First

Local elections have seemingly never mattered more than they do in today’s political atmosphere. This compels DKF even more to facilitate discussion and engagement in education policy decisions that impact our kids, families, and communities every day. As a result, Dallas Kids First has expanded as an organization and is introducing our newly hired Executive Director - Camila Correa Bourdeau. Below is Camila’s introductory letter for our Dallas Kids First supporters. Welcome aboard, Camila!

To our Dallas Kids First supporters and partners,

Thank you first and foremost for continuing to engage in discussions that push for excellence across our district. Without the diversity of experiences, ideas, and advocacy you bring to the table, Dallas ISD would not be making the heightened progress we have seen over the past few years. Whether the item under debate brings controversy or consensus, having your voice is valuable for the many decisions our School Board Trustees make on a daily basis.

You’ve inspired the continued development of opportunities we provide for our students - both during school hours and beyond. For that, we thank you.

For me, stepping into this role was a choice that made sense. I have always been passionate about education and definitely fall into the belief and cliche that knowledge is power. My parents, siblings, and I immigrated from Chile to New Orleans, and ultimately to Dallas in search of an education that would give us precisely that - the power to choose the future we desired. This is the same role Dallas Kids First plays for our students across Dallas Independent School District.

As public school teachers, my parents prioritized school and although our journey to the US began with the challenges of an extremely under-resourced school and community in New Orleans, we ultimately found our beacon of hope in the city of Dallas. Growing up, I realized I wanted to play a part in creating this hope for others.

After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, I started my career as a teacher through the New York City Teaching Fellows where I earned my master’s in Education at Hunter College. I taught in Washington Heights for one year and in the South Bronx for five. 

As a result of my experience in the two different schools, I became hyper-aware of the differences a campus leader could have on the outcomes of the students under their leadership. I joined Educators 4 Excellence where I advocated for teacher voice in education policy decisions and quickly learned that the campus leaders were not the only ones capable of influencing major change for student achievement. This led me to become the union delegate for my campus under the United Federation of Teachers which gave me a wider perspective on the various levels of engagement a community member could play in advocating for policies that had our kids at the center.

Subsequently, I moved back to Dallas where I worked for Teaching Trust as an instructional coach for teachers across approximately 40 campuses in Dallas/Ft.Worth. I also developed adult leadership skills in educators looking to refine or grow in their influence. This allowed me to reconnect with the Dallas education community on a campus level, but I was still seeking a connection to the policy world that I knew was so important.

I was lucky to find CAMP, a partner program of DKF that teaches its diverse group of fellows all about campaign and management activity through the lens of the Dallas ISD School Board Trustees. I was thrown into the thick of the controversial issues the Dallas community and our kids are very familiar with and my urgency in contributing to greater outcomes for our students grew exponentially.

Whether in Chile, New Orleans, NYC, or Dallas, my experience has told me the same thing over and over: Our public schools, which share the same purpose, offer wildly different outcomes for our students. Without quality leaders, there is a limit to the quality of our kids’ futures. The leaders of our district have great potential - and we as supporters of Dallas Kids First have the knowledge to influence that potential.

Putting the power in the hands of our kids, via our collective knowledge and advocacy, Dallas ISD can empower its Trustees to push for high expectations for the future of our Dallas kids. But only when we put Dallas Kids First.

Camila

DKF Recommends an "Against" Vote on the November 7 Dallas County Schools Proposition

On November 7th, DallasKidsFirst Recommends Voting “AGAINST” on the Dallas County Schools Resolution – Our Students Deserve Better

November 8, 2017 update: 58% of 81,114 Dallas County voters voted to shut down Dallas County Schools. Transportation for the remainder of this school year will remain unchanged. A dissolution committee will be appointed and begin their work over the next few days.

The mission statement of Dallas County Schools (DCS - not to be confused with Dallas Independent School District) states, “we strive to be a trusted, solutions-oriented partner that not only serves the learning community, but also municipalities throughout the state with innovative solutions.” However, the reality is that Dallas Kids First is unable to reconcile the responsibility to serve Dallas County as described above with the current level of service and financial condition of DCS.

Dallas Kids First (DKF) supports policies and practices that put the interests of student first and that are budget responsible, and it is through that lens, that we cannot support the continuation of Dallas County Schools for Dallas ISD and the other districts they serve.

The research that led us to this conclusion started with examining the level of service that Dallas ISD students and campuses are receiving, and the results are shocking to say the least. Examples of a negative impact on our students, include:

  • Valuable classroom instruction missed due to late arrival. In 2015-2016 school year, DCS buses had a 64% on time arrival rate. Just think about that, four out of every ten students that rode the bus arrived to school late and missed classroom instructional time. This statistic is even more troubling when you consider that 88% of Dallas ISD’s student population is economically disadvantaged and rely on Breakfast in the Classroom to be physically prepared for the day of learning; a breakfast that is served during first period which a student would miss if late to school. 
  • An appalling safety record. Since 2011-2012, there has been an average of 419 accidents/incidents per year involving DCS buses. Said another way, that is one accident/incident per every 69 students that ride the bus. Each of these accidents/incidents put our children’s safety and security at risk, and although we understand accidents happen, 419 per year is a mindboggling number. To put that in perspective, a number of other transportation providers were researched, including the provider for Hillsborough County Schools in Florida, the 8th largest school district in the Country, never once had more than 50 accidents/incidents in a single year transporting more students across larger districts.

  • Missed extracurricular opportunities for an already underserved student population. There is no better way to express this point than to use the words of a Dallas ISD teacher. In the past year alone I can think of several instances where my students were denied the opportunity to compete in sporting events and other extracurricular activities because DCS couldn't be bothered to provide reliable service. I've waited at stadiums and ball fields for countless hours, only to find out that the bus never showed up at the school to pick up the kids. Our baseball team has had to forfeit JV games so Varsity had enough time to play on at least two occasions. Our entire swim team missed a meet last month because of DCS error. Our soccer team had buses break down and students had to walk the remaining mile to a district game or forfeit. My kids don't deserve that.”

As if above issues directly impacting students wasn’t enough, DKF also focuses a great deal on quality governance, and if we were completing one of our scorecards for the DCS Administration and Board of Trustees, they would most certainly receive an “F.” There is evidence of extreme issues of financial mismanagement involving taxpayer dollars and administrators and elected board members are named in numerous news reports and investigations for serious infractions that have led to Texas legislators’ taking bipartisan action to consider dissolution of Dallas County Schools.  Specific examples that bring us to the conclusion that voters should seriously consider an “AGAINST” vote include: 

  • A per student cost to the Dallas ISD that has doubled (~$800 to $1,600) since 2011-12 with 22,000 less riders and historically low fuel costs, with no explanation on why this is the case.
  • DCS borrowed funds to the tune of $52M to enter into a revenue-producing stop arm camera program with districts outside Dallas County which ultimately led to millions in lost revenue.
  • Dallas County Schools has turned over records to the Texas Rangers who are charged with investigating public corruption.
  • Questions around campaign contributions of more than $200K from a vendor (who was ultimately awarded a multi-million-dollar contract) to the board president and general transparency of campaign finance reports of all board members.
  • DCS sold a number of properties for $25M, then turned around and leased the same properties back for $47M, passing on the increased lease amount to its district partners. Dallas ISD paid (unbeknownst to them due to poor transparency from DCS) $2M towards this questionable land deal, money that should have been in the classroom.
  • DCS has a financial rating that is considered to be “junk status”, has defaulted on debt payments, and over the past year, DCS has had two Superintendents, two Chief Financial Officers, and the Board President all resign which points to the incredible dysfunction and uncertainty around the current DCS operations.

The safety of our students comes first and foremost, and parents should have the confidence that their children will arrive to school in a safe and on time manner, while being prepared for the academic day and able to enjoy their extracurricular activities. Furthermore, taxpayers (which pay a $.01 property tax to DCS) deserve transparency from their elected officials, which the DCS Board of Trustees is, free from corruption or back-room deals, and who stay true to the mission of their organization and do so with fidelity. Even with recent leadership changes at DCS, DKF has zero confidence that the product will improve and believe strongly that there must be a better alternative.

At the bottom of the ballot, make sure to vote “AGAINST” on the Dallas County Schools proposition.

Dallas Morning News Editorial Board recommends an ‘Against’ vote on Dallas County Schools Bus System

NBC5: DCS investigation stories dating back to November 2016

DMN: Credit agency warns of bankruptcy risk

Early Voting Dates:

 Monday, October 23 – Saturday, October 28  8:00am to 5:00pm

Sunday, October 29 –1:00pm to 6:00pm

Monday, October 30 – Wednesday, November 1  8:00am to 5:00pm

Thursday, November 2 – Friday, November 3  7:00am to 7:00pm

Early Voting Location Finder (vote anywhere in Dallas County)

 Election Day

Tuesday, November7  7:00am to 7:00pm (vote in your precinct)

Critical Needs for Continued Progress

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In 2013, Dallas led the country in the growth of millionaires, with these families controlling over $450 BILLION in personal wealth.
 
At the same time, the city of Dallas has the highest child poverty rate in America. 4 in 10 Dallas children live below the poverty line, which is the equivalent of a family of 4 earning less than $24,000 per year.
 
A staggering 50,000 children in Dallas live in extreme poverty, in a household making less than $12,000 per year. And nearly 4,500 students enrolled in Dallas ISD qualify as homeless.
 
How has Texas and in particular, Dallas, become such an example of massive inequality?
 
The root causes of this inequality run deep, but our failure to provide every child access to a quality education has been a primary driver.
 
Currently only half enter the school system prepared to succeed in Kindergarten. 89% of the students in Dallas ISD are considered to be economically disadvantaged (the highest percentage in North Texas), 43% of student are English Language Learners and 65% of students are considered at-risk by the State.
 
Yet, even considering these immense challenges, Dallas ISD has the 3rd lowest tax rate in North Texas (only Highland Park with zero poverty and Azle ISD have lower rates) and has had the same tax rate for a decade.
 
However, Dallas ISD has not blinked in the face of these challenges, and over the past four years, has made tremendous academic progress that deserves to the celebrated. Accomplishments include:

  • Kindergarten Readiness has grown by 12% since 2012
  • Pre-K enrollment has grown by 43% since 2012, to over 11,000 students annually
  • 40% of students now accessing IB/AP classes, up from 33% since 2012
  • 14,209 fewer students attending an Improvement Required campus, a 47% reduction, in 2 years
  • Career certificate attainment rates have increased by 4X over the last 2 years
  • Early College High School programs on track at all 22 comprehensive high schools by 2018
  • Piloting the first two schools where student enrollment is intentionally balanced based on family incomes
  • Board policy to eliminate discretionary suspensions for students in grades PK-2 by 2022-23 

To their credit, Dallas ISD has not complained about being the highest poverty school district in a city with one of the lowest tax rates, but simply focused on providing the very best for their students on less and less – but they can only do that for so long until the resources run out.
 
Furthermore, Dallas ISD has roughly 33% LESS money to spend per student than the national average for school districts. As a result, hard choices are made each year during the budgeting process, choices that kids shouldn’t have to suffer from and that elected Boards’ shouldn’t be forced into making. We shouldn’t have to choose between expanding pre-K or keeping librarians, paying teachers well or providing college counselors for primarily underserved, first generation students.
 
Our kids are being short changed by a state that has failed to make education a priority, particularly for those growing up without wealth and privilege.
 
Don’t be fooled by rising property values and assume that Dallas ISD is receiving more money to put towards are students. As local valuations increase, the State simply contributes less, pushing the burden away from them. Case and point is the current Dallas ISD budget which saw an increase in local revenue of $87M and a decrease in State revenue of $97M – a net LOSS of $10M.
 
Despite a Texas Supreme Court ruling that the State Legislature should overhaul public school funding, the legislature once again failed to act, leaving taxpayers in Dallas with a choice. Do we choose to invest wisely to break the cycle of poverty? Do we believe our kids are worth it?
 
We at DallasKidsFirst are advocating for a Tax Ratification Election to be brought to the voters – a small increase between 6-13 cents (depending on the Board decision) on our property taxes which has the power to make a big difference in our public schools and in the lives of more than 158,000 Dallas ISD students.
 
Our kids are worth it, our educators are worth it, and the District has earned it with the great progress over the past four years. Let’s all come together and support the district, giving them the ability to continue this progress for our students – the future depends on it.

The Board will vote on August 5 to decided whether they place a TRE on the ballot in a special election. We hope you will encourage your Dallas ISD Trustee to support the measure. Contact information for each trustee can be found here. If you need help knowing who your trustee is, send us a note at info@dallaskidsfirst.org. 

2017 Dallas ISD Elections | Districts 2, 6, 8

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Congratulations to Trustees Marshall, Foreman, and Solis on their re-election to the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees in May and June 2017

District 2: DKF-endorsed candidate Trustee Dustin Marshall was elected to fill a vacancy on the board in 2016 and filed to run for a full term in 2017. With 4 candidates on the ballot in 2016 and 3 candidates in 2017, both elections required a runoff. He earned a rare “A” on his DKF candidate scorecards both years. Marshall ranked high in knowledge of local, state, and national education policy, understanding of board governance, urgency, independence and he has spent a year working to bridge the gap between his own private school experience and the District 2 community’s loyalty to their neighborhood campuses through providing “office hours” in local coffee shops and an advisory council to provide feedback on how policy votes will impact their campus. We believe in his solid commitment to Dallas ISD and are very pleased to see him re-elected by over 66% of District 2 voters in a hard-fought runoff to serve through 2020.

District 6: Students in District 6 schools have a strong advocate in Trustee Joyce Foreman who was re-elected by her community in 2017 to serve a second term on the board. While we don’t always agree with Foreman’s approach to policy solutions, we do recognize her commitment to her role and clarity of opinion. We never doubt where Trustee Foreman stands on an issue.

District 8: Trustee Miguel Solis filed to run for re-election and did not draw a challenger for the seat. He was sworn in to serve a second full term on May 25, 2017 without an election. Solis, elected in 2013 to fill a vacancy on the board then re-elected in 2014 for a full term has been instrumental in supporting the current teacher evaluation system, expansion of Early Childhood Education, and the reduction of out of school suspension of our youngest students. Solis was endorsed by DKF in 2013 and 2014.

DallasKidsFirst exists to increase citizen engagement by providing voters with actionable information about public school governance. DKF believes that district-wide transformation requires Trustees who will honestly assess Dallas ISD’s challenges. Following years of low voter turnout and cancelled elections, DKF wants to engage every Dallas ISD stakeholder by shining an intense light on school board decisions. Our Dallas ISD Vote Tracker is released each month and easily accessible on our website and social media.