March Briefing: Middle School Initiative, Special Education, and More!

DISD Students.jpg


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 10-hour briefing on March 7, 2019.




Admin Presentation:

Dallas ISD Goal 2 states “Student achievement on the 3rd grade state assessment in reading at “Approaches” or above will increase from 62% to 75% by 2022.”  

There were mixed middle-of-year results from one assessment (ISIP) that showed gains for English test takers, a mixed decline for Spanish test takers, growth for African-American students year over year and a dip in the scores of Hispanic students. “Tier 1” is considered on grade level and results show:

  • English test takers in Kinder have 46% of students at Tier 1, compared to 45% last year. Spanish test takers at 62%, compared to 63% last year.

  • English test takers in 1st grade have 44% of students at Tier 1, compared to 43% last year. Spanish test takers at 55%, compared to 57% last year.

  • English test takers in 2nd grade have 53% of students at Tier 1, compared to 53% last year. Spanish test takers at 55%, compared to 58% last year.

CLASS scores come from observation of behaviors in classroom. The better a classroom does on CLASS, the better the students do in achievement (as seen by ISIP).

Looking ahead: continue focus on high-quality curriculum development; enhance and expand summer PD focused on new standards, continue rolling up new assessment (TX-KEA), and realign coaching support for classrooms with the highest need.

Board Discussion:

  • Why the dip for Hispanic students and Spanish test takers? Possible that teachers are not spending 50% of their time in Spanish and 50% of time in English. (Trustee Marshall)

  • What will we do different to get better results? Stronger curriculum in 1st and 2nd grade. Why instructional coaches only some places? Schools rated “Competing” and “Developing” receive coaches. (Trustee Pinkerton)

  • Why is a CLASS score not given to every classroom? It is matched to places where there is an early learning coach.  (Trustee Blackburn)


Admin Presentation:

Middle school grades are ‘make it or break it – students begin to disengage or leave DISD. There are indicators to know if a 6th grader is at higher risk of dropping out in high school – failing grade in Math or English, attendance rate of less than 85%, and unsatisfactory behavior mark in core course.

Dallas ISD is proposing a Middle school Initiative which would strengthen the school experience for students and positively impact future success in high school and beyond. Criteria for being included in the M.S. Initiative: “Developing” and “Focus” campuses, low student achievement data, historical factors, percentage of proficient teachers, and equity demographics. 

The Middle School Initiative would provide the following supports: strategic staffing, instructional excellence, social/emotional support, extended learning, and supportive partnerships. 

The structure would be a‘Teaming Approach’ - Break up school into small subsets of teams (ex: 6th grade team, 7th grade team, 8th grade team each have an assistant principal, a counselor, and 2-6 lead teachers under principal leadership.

An exciting aspect of the initiative is that it would help close achievement gaps for African American students since 5,000+ out of 6,000+ African American students in 6-8th grade would be recipients of this investment.

Superintendent Hinojosa mentioned that the cost of this initiative is $10 million. House Bill 3, if passed, could cover this cost. 

Board Discussion:

  • How many middle schools didn’t make this list? 10 schools. Let’s tie some of the supports to our equity initiative. For the Teaming Approach, concerned about varying sizes of schools & staff ratio. (Trustee Foreman)

  • Would want an investment in all middle schools to have forward-thinking planning. Also, wonder if ‘Master teachers under TEI are doing the work defined under ‘Lead Teacher’ for the teaming approach. How will we fund this if House Bill 3 does not pass? Look at budget again. (Trustee Marshall)

  • Plan if we don’t have enough funding? Narrow focus to four campuses. (Trustee Blackburn)

  • “We need to do this no matter what.” (Trustee Pinkerton)


Admin Presentation:

Dallas ISD administration proposed a Career & Technical Education Project which offers 22 credit hours for a certification. This would have a specific focus on construction, electrical technology, HVAC, and plumbing. Students in 9th grade would still attend classes at their home campus, 10th-12th grade students would be at a career institute for half a day 2x week and otherwise be at their home campus.

This is different than P-TECH since PTECH offers 60 dual credit hours for a degree, this program offers a certification.

The plan is to have four Career Institutes in each of the four quadrants of DISD. So far, two locations have been identified - north at Tom Field, south at Village Fair.

Board Discussion:

There was much discussion on the differences between the many offerings for high school students across the District. The image below represents the differences:

PTECH vs cte.jpg


Admin Presentation:

Dallas ISD Administration presented two data sets: graduation rates for student groups and out-of-school suspension rates for student groups.

Dallas ISD 2017 graduation rates of African-American, Hispanic, English Learner, and Economically Disadvantaged student groups exceeded statewide rates – students in Special Education lagged behind.

The Office of Racial Equity stated that the next steps to address the graduation gap for students in Special Education would be to expand programs to keep students engaged in school and expand partnerships that connect students to work after graduation.

For the suspension data, African-American students received referrals at a higher rate than other student group. Middle school grades had the highest suspension rates compared to other grade levels.

Next steps for the Office of Racial Equity is providing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) training for staff, identifying schools with highest referral rates, and giving more time at high-needs campuses to SEL coordinators.

Board Discussion:

  • Want a strategic plan to address higher suspension rate for African American students. For SEL training, it must be ongoing. (Trustee Foreman)

  • Recommend not spending time on graduation rates compares to other metrics that may be more meaningful.  Let’s find out if there are schools with disproportionate rates of suspensions to target support there. (Trustee Marshall)

  • Want to see progress towards 7 strategic areas tied to the Racial Equity Policy we passed. Bring solutions, not just problems or information we already know. (Trustee Blackburn)

  • What is the role of an SEL coordinators? Assess campus support of students. (Trustee Pinkerton)

  • Want to compare how student groups are doing within DISD, not to other districts. Also want to be sure we don’t limit our thinking as we begin planning to address these issues (Trustee Henry)

  • Curious to know about reasons for students being suspended. (Trustee Solis)

  • Curious to know if suspensions are limited to specific groups. (Trustee Micciche)


Admin Presentation:

Over 18,000 applications to school choice options: collegiate academies, magnets, Transformation and Innovation schools (OTI). 1.   Transformation Schools are brand new, open enrollment using priority lottery, no academic entry requirement, and transportation is provided to all DISD students. Innovation Schools are redesign/neighborhood schools, new instructional model, maintain existing attendance boundary, and maintain existing staff.

Application breakdown between current DISD students (internal) and non-DISD students (external - could be living within DISD boundaries and attending non-DISD school or could live outside of DISD boundaries)

  • Collegiate Academies: 87% internal applicants, 13% external applicants.

  • Magnet Schools: 68% internal applicants, 28% external applicants, 4% PreK applicants.

  • OTI: 54% internal applicants, 23% external applicants, 23% PreK applicants.

Ethnic demographics of applicants is similar to district demographics.

Proposal for 2 new transformation schools: Exploratory Fine Arts, Digital/Visual & Creative Arts

Proposal for 6 new innovation schools: 5 personalized learning and 1 STEAM. These campuses would be across Districts 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

Board Discussion:

  • Want to know how many external students we accept and the difference between students who live within DISD boundaries. (Trustee Pinkerton)

  • Let’s develop a pipeline for students who don’t get into first choice so we don’t lose them. (Trustee Micciche)

#6 SPECIAL EDUCATION (Powerpoint available in Board Docs)

Admin Presentation:

This report shows implementation status of 16 recommendations on 5 key findings to support Special Education. Five findings include: clarity and direction in programming, equitable access to full continuum of services, staffing & organizational roles, systems of support to schools, and communication & engagement.

Student Performance shows: dropout rate is declining, performance on STAAR 3-8 exams has improved, students at ‘approaches’ or above has increased, and rating of “Improvement Required.”

Bright spots for status of implementing recommendations – evidence of progress for a core academic plan providing direction and programming, a “Does Not Qualify” review process, and bilingual leadership for Sp. Ed. 

Needs work for implementation: staffing and organization for the ARD Facilitation & case management. 

Takeaways: access and outcomes have improved, teachers and principals support efforts underway and seek continued improvement, and parents are appreciative of this focus but desire better communication, customer service, and opportunities to engage in decision-making. 

Board Discussion:

  • Marshall: Need to step up in this area. Want a new position for ARD and case management.

  • Foreman: Want to know how much money we get before we increase budget for Special Education.

  • Micciche: Want to ensure schools that have the Special Education Unit are also meeting needs elsewhere.


Admin Presentation:

This presentation is an update on the process used to select K-8 Reading & Language Arts instructional materials for 2019-2020, aligned to new TEKS, and designed to last for 10 years with digital & print resources. The new standards call for authentic integration of reading and writing and a focus on foundational learning (i.e., phonics).

The Dallas ISD administration is asking the board to approve resources to support this transition. Admin has had ‘roadshow’ for campus recommendations. Teachers have voted on the preferred resources and now admin must plan for implementing.

Board Discussion:

  • Which resources were selected? HMH, Fountas & Pinell, and Estrellita. (Trustee Pinkerton)


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/Comments about this summary? Email