The district has started a Racial Equity Office and it will work to identify both resource and opportunity gaps within the District, with the plan that budgetary and programmatic decisions in the future will be driven by closing these gaps.
High Quality Early Childhood Education
Ninety percent of brain development occurs before age 5, so it is imperative our children have access to high quality pre-k beginning at age 3. District data shows that students who attend a high quality pre-k program are 2x more likely to be kindergarten ready, and those students who are kindergarten ready are 3x more likely to be reading on grade level by 3rd grade. Furthermore, if students are reading on grade level by 3rd grade, they are 4x less likely to drop out of school prior to graduation. Research shows these successes and many others such as increased attendance and lower disciplinary issues are aided by investment in early learning. Dallas ISD has one of the highest child poverty rates in the state and has responded by investing significant dollars towards supporting a high quality, full-day program that exceeds even state reimbursements, as they have identified pre-k as such an important strategy. In order to reach the Board goal of serving every eligible three and four-year-old by 2025, the district has embarked on public-private partnerships, best practices in classroom setup and specific professional development for teachers around cognitive development and social emotional learning, all of which playing a strong role in increased kindergarten readiness (up 12% over the past four years).
College & Career Readiness
Studies show that the share of jobs requiring postsecondary education and training have more than doubled over the last 40 years. Increasing college completion rates is necessary to meet the workforce needs of the future and provide a meaningful path out of poverty for students. Additionally, the state has set a north star goal of 60x30, meaning 60% of adults between the age of 24-35 will have some type of postsecondary degree by the year 2030. Currently, preparedness, admissions requirements and processes, significant tuition increases and support for first-generation students are significant barriers to success and challenges that must be met head on. Dallas ISD has invested significantly in the expansion of Early College High Schools, which show six-year college completion rates 2x higher than those of comprehensive high schools, while allowing a student to attain an Associate’s Degree while in high school and at no cost to the student. There are also a number of career pathways for student to earn industry certifications upon graduation that would allow for immediate employment, and the number of certifications issued by Dallas ISD over the past four years has increased four-fold.
Recruitment & Retention of Effective Teachers
Every student deserves and effective teacher, as research shows that the effectiveness of a teacher is the most important in-school indicator of student success. Developing and supporting strong human capital pipelines to recruit and retain effective educators is critical, especially in large, urban school districts such as Dallas ISD. We must continue to push for teaching to be seen as an important profession, and in order to do that, we have to define effectiveness, support development, and reward educators whose students are growing in their achievement year after year. The definition of teacher effectiveness is not without debate, but Dallas ISD through the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative, is one of the strongest systems in the nation and has differentiated levels of teacher effectiveness based on student outcomes, teacher performance in the classroom, and student perception surveys, and teachers are compensated according to their effectiveness level. First implemented in 2014, improvements are continual toward the goals of defining success, supporting success, and rewarding success, but the tenant remains the same; in order to ensure our students who need the most effective teachers in front of them, we first need to identify who these teachers are so we can incentivize them to move to those campuses. When this has been done, the student outcomes have been extraordinary.
Hiring a superintendent of schools, setting policy and funding a district's goals when approving a budget are the roles of a school board member and a very important element of success in public education. Trustees in Dallas ISD are elected by the public in 9 single-member districts and serve 3-year terms. A new effort by the Texas Education Agency, Lone Star Governance, is bringing accountability and a focus on student achievement to the forefront, asking boards to set goals and measure their effectiveness as a collective body.