Dallas ISD Officials Outline Plan for Fixing F-Rated Schools

Dallas ISD officials have a plan for improving F-rated schools, they told the board Thursday.
Dallas ISD officials have a plan for improving F-rated schools, they told the board Thursday. Getty Images
Dallas school leaders are confident they know how to pull the district's lowest-performing schools up in next year's school assessments, they told members of the school board Thursday afternoon.

The Dallas ISD board discussed the district's performance on the Texas Education Agency's A-F ratings at a board workshop Thursday. Dallas ISD scored a B in this year's ratings, the same score it received last year. But the number of failing schools doubled: eight schools received an F this year, compared with just four that received an "improvement required" rating for the 2017-18 school year, the equivalent of an F in last year's report.

During the workshop, officials pointed to a combination of leadership issues, school culture and climate problems, and a lack of high-performing teachers at those eight schools as factors that contributed to the uptick in F schools. And, they told the board, they have a strategy to fix those problems.

"We have a plan, and the plan is to ensure that we work for perfection for our students," said Stephanie Elizalde, the district's chief of school leadership.

"We have a plan, and the plan is to ensure that we work for perfection for our students." — Stephanie Elizalde, Dallas ISD chief of school leadership

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Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told the board that the uptick in F-rated schools was a disappointment. It demonstrates that, while district officials know how to help F-rated schools improve, it struggles to prevent better-rated schools from slipping into that territory.

Of the four schools that received an F rating last year, only one — John Leslie Patton Jr. Academic Center — received an F in this year's report. Meanwhile, one of the eight schools that earned an F in this year's report — Roger Q. Mills Elementary — scored an 89 in last year's report, putting it just one point shy of an A rating.

Hinojosa noted that five of those eight F-rated schools had brand-new principals last year. While those principals are well-qualified, first-year principals often don't know what they don't know, he said. He told the board the district is already on track to solve that problem through the district's new Leader Excellence, Advancement and Development program, or LEAD, which works with incoming principals to prepare them for the role. Hinojosa said this year's first-year principals are better prepared than those in previous years.

"The caliber of principals that is coming across my desk to get appointed is significantly different," he said.

Elizalde said teachers at the eight F-rated schools also reported workplace climate problems last year. She acknowledged she underestimated the magnitude of those problems but said the district would pay greater attention to workplace culture and climate issues in the coming year.

As it works to shore up the 20 schools that received D or F ratings this year, Elizalde said the district could receive help from the state. The district could use money allocated under House Bill 3 to entice highly qualified teachers to underperforming schools. That could help improve equity across the district and provide a better education to students at those schools, she said.

"These are students who deserve the same opportunities that I had," she said. "We know where we missed the mark, and we're going to ensure that that mark is not missed again."

The eight schools that received F ratings this year were Cedar Crest Elementary, Frederick Douglass Elementary, Patton Academic Center, Kennedy-Curry Middle School, Nancy J. Cochran Elementary, Roger Q. Mills Elementary, Rufus C. Burleson Elementary and Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary.

Of the 232 Dallas ISD schools listed in the report, 28 received an A rating and 102 earned a B.
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Silas Allen has been the Dallas Observer's news editor since March 2019. Before coming to Dallas, he worked as a reporter and editor at the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City. He's a Missouri native and a graduate of the University of Missouri.
Contact: Silas Allen