At the start of this school year, Superintendent Mike Miles challenged Dallas ISD staff to “Think Differently and Act Courageously” in pursuit of the bold goals laid out in the Destination 2020 plan. His recent report on mid-year progress showed achievement gains in every area, affirming that the district is on a path toward student success.
For the first time, the district started the school year with nearly zero teacher vacancies, a feat the Human Capital Management department aims to repeat for 2015-2016. In another first for the district, parents enrolled nearly 10,000 children in pre-kindergarten. With early childhood as a main focus, this number will continue to increase as access improves.
Dallas ISD’s fund balance is at an all-time high, and the district’s Fitch Rating has been upgraded to AA+, resulting in an estimated $41 million net savings. This comes at a time when school choice continues to expand, with four campuses added this school year.
Last year, principal evaluations and compensation were assessed and re-worked, raising the bar for effective school leaders. Salaries now reflect the importance of principal performance as opposed to tenure. The next step in this districtwide calibration is underway with the Teacher Excellence Initiative, designed to reward teacher effectiveness. Of the 1,470 teachers identified as eligible to participate in the Distinguished Teacher Review, 1,402 submitted applications.
Student participation in advanced placement classes continues to increase, and last year Dallas ISD minority students led the country in AP scores when compared to other large urban school districts. Results for the mid-year Assessment of Course Performance (ACP) tests showed gains in every area, and also identified certain campuses in need of further support.
Miles tempered his excitement about the positive results with perspective for the challenges that remain ahead. “The results are positive,” he noted, “but let’s not forget how far we have left to travel.”