DISD's TAG, Magnet Parents Concerned Over Proposed Changes to Admissions Policy

I've been getting all kinds of e-mails in recent days concerning tomorrow's meeting of the Dallas Independent School District's board of trustees, which will discuss changing the way students are admitted into vanguards, academies and magnets. Last week word was there'd be a lottery system of some kind included in the proposal; but the two pages worth of docs posted so far show no such thing. Here's the selection process as spelled out per the agenda:

Seats shall be awarded to District students based on the following formula:

  • Thirty percent of the seats awarded Districtwide by rank ordering applicants based on overall criteria score; and
  • Seventy percent of the seats awarded within the four Elementary Learning Community Areas (adjusted proportionally for student population) by rank ordering applicants based on overall criteria score.
  • The sibling rule shall be applied to the Vanguard programs for grades 4-5, the prekindergarten-grade 8 Montessori programs, and grades 6-8 for Academies.
  • Nevertheless, parents and some teachers, concerned that the docs don't show everything expected to thrown on the table at the first read-through tomorrow, are sending out e-mails this afternoon rallying the troops. (I've gotten half a dozen from various sources in the last 30 minutes alone.) They're especially concerned about an alleged provision they insist will allow "students of promise" -- which is to say, students who "exhibit resilience and interest but do not meet the entrance criteria" -- into magnets. Two letters I've received follow. Did I mention Schutze was covering the meeting? No? Well, he is.

    Your Urgent Action Is Needed Today!

    At Tuesday night's PTSA Board meeting, we learned that at this Thursday morning's briefing, DISD administrators plan to present the Trustees with suggestions for changing entrance/selection requirements at ALL DISD magnets. Most of the options would be unfair and unjust and would have a highly negative impact on magnet schools, such as TAG.

    What Is the Problem?
    Part of the problem is that whatever perceived problem exists has not been articulated. We need to ask: What is the actual problem the administration thinks needs to be fixed through these proposed options?

    The magnet admissions selection system currently in place has produced high-caliber learning environments, such as TAG and SEM: TAG was #1 in the nation in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, and #2 in 2008. SEM has placed in the top 5 from 2006 through 2009.

    In the last 3 years, no child who qualified was turned away from TAG. We see no compelling reason to radically change a system that has been this successful and has been able to accommodate all of the students who qualified and sought admission. Our selection process has been audited and found to be extremely fair.

    The Proposed New Admissions Selection Criteria:
    1) All students will be chosen by lottery.
    2) Students will be selected through a process that involves the individual school selected 30% of students based on grades scored on entrance portfolios, with the remaining 70% selected by lottery.
    3) Students will be selected through a process that involves the individual school selected 80% of students based on grades scored on entrance portfolios, with the remaining 20% selected by lottery.
    4) Principals suggested a compromise of allowing the schools to select students based on existing requirements, agreeing to a proposed-by-the-district caveat of having the district's English Department selected essay prompts and develop rubrics for grading essays.
    5) A fifth option, which does not appear to be included in the current list of proposed solutions, would be to change nothing at all.

    Why Oppose an Entrance Lottery?
    Entrance to TAG, in particular, through a lottery would place all students in the same basket, regardless of how hard they worked or how well they did in school. A lottery system is unfair to those students who have excelled and serves as a disincentive to achievement. For example, a student with a 95 grade point average would be included in the same pool as a student with a 78 grade point average. What would then be the incentive for a student to push him or herself to excel if his or her chance of admission would not be affected?

    We strongly urge our trustees to reject any new magnet admissions selection policy that has a lottery component, and to choose instead to continue the system that has been in place. Some minor adjustments may well be in order, but these should be the ones which have been recommended by the principals and faculty at the schools.

    Why the Urgency?
    Principals and some Trustees were unaware the administration was planning to suggest these options and there is little time to voice our concerns. Now is the time to let your voice be heard by our trustees. They will be discussing this policy change at the board briefing which begins at 11:30 on Thursday, Sept. 9.

    What Do I Do?
    WE NEED YOU TO CALL OR E-MAIL YOUR DISD TRUSTEE TODAY!(See contact information, below.) Please call and leave a message for your Trustee on Wednesday, Sept. 8, and/or e-mail him or her before Thursday.

    Call for Speakers at DISD Board Meeting on 9-9

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    Robert Wilonsky
    Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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