Before Dallas ISD Sends TEA Its Plan to Save Unacceptable Schools, Your Input's Needed

For the past six days, the Dallas Independent School District has been hosting "community meetings" on campuses deemed academically unacceptable by the Texas Education Agency -- 33 in all, based, of course, on last school year's TAKS scores. Tonight's meeting will be held at North Dallas High School, one of two on the list now in its fifth year of unacceptability, which puts it in danger of being shuttered by the state -- a seldom-used option, most recently seen in Austin and Houston in 2008, but a very real option nevertheless.

The other five-year AU campus, incidentally, is A. Maceo Smith, which re-opened last month as a so-called New Tech High in order to avoid having the Texas Education Agency step in and reconstitute or close the school after its years on the AU list.

The district's asking "students, parents and community members to attend the meetings to provide input and find out what the rating means for their school, why their school received the rating, what plans are being made to improve the school, what the consequences are if the school doesn't improve and how they can join in the effort to help make improvements." The town halls will culminate at 4:30 p.m. on September 22 with a public hearing at 3700 Ross, after which the board will submit to the TEA its School Improvement Plans.

You can sneak peek the so-called SIPs for the 33 elementary and secondary schools after the jump. It's the same PowerPoint the trustees will look at during tomorrow's board briefing, and includes such options as Saturday school and mentoring programs and "Compelling Conversations" at the elementary level and freshman early-starts and "student data profiling and review every six weeks" on secondary campuses.

I asked district spokesman Jon Dahlander about North Dallas this afternoon -- specifically, how concerned is the DISD about its future. Because, as TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson reminded me today, "under the law, when you have a six-year AU campus," State Commissioner of Education Robert Scott "has to close it." Dahlander says the district doesn't believe it'll come to that.

"North Dallas is a campus where the state could step in," he says, "but we have a new principal in her second year with an energetic staff." And that, combined with the launch of  Career Pathways, leads DISD officials to believe North Dallas will get turned around.Plus , notes Dahlander, North Dallas couldn't even become a six-year AU campus till 2013 -- since, as we noted yesterday, STAAR test scores won't even count this year, meaning the TEA will not issue accountability ratings next July.

"If they were AU in 2011, come 2013, if they're AU again, then they would be considered six-year," Culbertson confirms. "So they do have a chance to improve -- some breathing room. But they also have to carry out their improvement plans even through they won't get a rating."

Dahlander and Culbertson do point out that schools that have been AU for more than a year will be reconstituted -- which is to say, the district will begin evaluating principals and teachers, removing them from a campus if 3700 Ross believes they're to blame for poor student performance. And monitors -- those chosen by the district and appointed by the TEA -- will be assigned to campuses thought to be in dire need of outside supervision.

"We consider multiple factors when looking at closing a school or a district," Culbertson says. "However, the commissioner just ordered two districts closed next year: North Forest, by Houston, and Premont, which is down by Corpus Christi. It is the final thing he can do to a district or campus that fails to meet academic and/or financial standards."
DISD School Improvement Plans for AU Campuses

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky