District questioned about grad rates

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Over the weekend, district officials acknowledged that they have a lot of work to do to ensure high school graduation rates reflect attainment of rigorous academic standards and not “seat time.”

For months, Dallas ISD has cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the recent increase in the graduation rate, saying it is something worth noting but that it must be accompanied by college readiness rates. District officials note that even the principal evaluation system, which has been in place for two years, does not include graduation rates as a performance indicator for principals. Instead, the evaluation includes a more meaningful measure – college readiness rates.

At the June 17 Destination 2020 Community Progress Report meeting, Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles shared the graduation rate information while showing the work the district still has to do to improve college readiness, which is tied to overall performance on the ACT and SAT exams.

Miles is challenging district staff to increase rigor in all areas throughout the district. A credit recovery task force met over the summer to think differently about current practices and design ways to raise academic proficiency. The group discussed how Dallas ISD will more closely monitor attendance for credit programs, a state required initiative that the district must offer to students who are passing courses but who have been absent more than 10 percent of the scheduled class time. Last spring, Dallas ISD principals were trained in best practices to execute such programs. That training will occur again this fall.

The district’s summer school credit recovery program is another area of focus. Administrators are working to revamp summer school, making it more rigorous and meaningful. The task force is considering expanding summer school and an end-of-course exam requirement.

Rigor doesn’t stop at the classroom. New Athletic Director Gil Garza has been charged with strengthening athletic eligibility requirements and putting a system in place that closely monitors the grades of student-athletes.

“While the district has seen improvement in its high school graduation rate during the last few years, it has not experienced similar gains in a higher college readiness rate, as measured by ACT and SAT results,” said Miles. “We owe it to our students to increase rigor in all areas so that they are better prepared for the future.”

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