The issue of equity and how to ensure that all Dallas ISD students have fair and equal access to the promise of Destination 2020 framed the discussion about the next phase of the plan held at Thursday’s board of trustees briefing session. The district’s leadership presented concepts to expand options in the areas of early childhood education, school choice, and college and career readiness, and recommended plans that will shape the implementation of the next phase of Destination 2020.
Executives in charge of the three areas shared statistics defending the need for more and different options to increase the odds that more students will succeed academically. The geographic distribution of early childhood education programs, the need for more school choice to provide a better fit for diverse learners, and increased options to prepare secondary students for college and future careers are among the factors reflected in their recommendations.
Going forward, the plans will be impacted by the results of the current school choice survey now seeking community input on the types of schools and academic plans parents and others want to see developed. Next, the proposals will be shared with the recently created Future Facilities Task Force, which is studying district needs and will ultimately recommend a plan to build, renovate and expand district facilities. The superintendent has challenged the task force to place Destination 2020 center stage in its discussions and deliberations related to any expansion of facilities in the next decade and beyond.
Learn more about the information provided to trustees, and download presentations below.
Early childhood education programs must be expanded and better targeted to growing population centers to prepare more children to be ready for success in kindergarten, said Alan Cohen, director of Early Childhood Education and Community Partnerships. Presenting program data, he said only 38 percent of students in Dallas ISD are adequately prepared to succeed in kindergarten. While the population of four-year-olds is not expected to expand significantly, Cohen said projections of future population growth show that existing programs may not be located in areas where growth is expected.
Chief of Transformation and Innovation Mike Koprowski cited equity as one of the chief reasons the district should expand school choice options. Public school choice would, he said, provide students and families with an increased array of options that might appeal to particular students’ interests and aspirations, preferred learning styles, personal circumstances, and values. The administration has said the goal of the move toward more school choice is to provide every student the chance to attend a high-quality, best-fit school.
The district currently offers a degree of choice through its 29 magnet schools. While several are considered among the best in the country, the administration estimates only 12 percent of current students are actually attending magnet schools. Additionally, magnet school enrollment figures do not reflect the district’s student demographics. Limited capacity of magnet schools, lack of transportation, and admission requirements are some of the reasons cited for the limited number of students served by those schools.
By 2020, Dallas ISD is expected to have launched 35 new choice schools or programs. Possible choice options might include Montessori schools, International Baccalaureate schools, early college programs, advanced placement, dual language, single gender, military/leadership, and STEM schools, among others. Koprowski proposed three buckets of choice schools—transformation schools, innovation schools and expansion schools. More information about these options is available here. The schools might be located in existing district facilities, co-located on community college campuses, or opened in previously closed schools.
The proposed expansion of choice schools would feature an application process in which committees composed of educators, community leaders and subject matter experts could submit written proposals to create specialized schools. The district would provide extensive support to the committees, facilitating design workshops, site visits, access to national models, staff recruitment, and start-up assistance.
Preparing students to enter the careers of the future will require the district to continue working to align its career programs with projections of workforce demand. College and Career Readiness executive Dr. Linda Johnson presented trustees information showing the fields where demand is expected to grow by 2020, and discussed how the district is working to prepare students to successfully enter those fields, either upon high school graduation or following college.
Johnson presented information showing that Dallas ISD offers more than 110 career preparation options via 16 pathway programs now available at district high schools, and discussed the growth in the number of students receiving certificates in industry-recognized career programs. While this number is growing, she said there is substantial room for improvement. Trustees discussed the need to ensure the certificate programs are widely offered and promoted, and that students who pursue the certificates are well supported since those who are successful are better equipped to earn a living wage upon graduation.
The impact of HB 5 and its requirement that students select from among five career endorsements in ninth grade has required changes in graduation plans, said Johnson, who shared data showing the list of endorsements offered at each district high school.
Trustees questioned how the district would ensure all students have equal access to the increased options created by the next phase Destination 2020. As the plans move forward, they asked for assurances that equity be a key consideration in how programs are expanded, developed and located across the district, and promised to continue reviewing the plan for proof that it addresses the issue of equity.
All three executives will work alongside the Future Facilities Task Force to support its mission of proposing a facilities plan that furthers the goals of expanding school choice, providing quality early childhood education programs and preparing students for college future careers.