Choice School enthusiasm surpasses expectations

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One mom was so determined to turn in an application for her child to attend one of the district’s two new Transformation Schools opening next year, she dropped off the application in-person while on her way to the hospital with pregnancy-related contractions.

Meanwhile, district staff who called other parents to tell them their child could attend one of the Transformation Schools next school year were often greeted with screams of joy. Mike Koprowski, chief of transformation and innovation, shared these stories with trustees on Thursday to describe the excitement surrounding the Transformation Schools.

“The response really exceeded our expectations,” he said.

The two new Transformation Schools opening next year—the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Middle School at D.A. Hulcy and the Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Academy High School at James W. Fannin—are a part of the district’s effort to launch a total of 35 new Public Choice Schools by the year 2020. New Choice Schools will offer the same types of specialized options as existing magnet schools, but the difference is that they will not have any academic entry requirements and will be open to all students regardless of academic ability.

Koprowski said the number of applicants to the Transformation Schools surpassed expectations. A total of 409 students applied to attend the Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Academy High School at James W. Fannin. Beginning in August 2015, the school will start with 129 ninth graders, adding one grade each subsequent school year up to 12th grade. A randomized computer selection process was used to allocate the 129 available seats.

The high school will be a Personalized Learning school in which students receive personalized instruction based on what they need to know, when and how it should be taught, with content tailored to their needs. Every student will be issued a laptop and will have internship opportunities with a business mentor beginning in the 10th grade.

Another 280 students applied to attend the STEAM Middle School at D.A. Hulcy.  Beginning in August 2015, the school will start with only sixth grade, adding one grade each subsequent school year up to 8th grade.  A randomized computer selection process was used to allocate 200 available seats for incoming sixth graders.

The STEAM Middle School at D.A. Hulcy will be a student-centered, community-based school that anchors teaching and learning under a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics model. Traditional subjects will still be taught. However, the elements of STEAM will be emphasized in day-to-day courses and electives and embedded within the curriculum itself.

Applications to the two schools came from diverse areas of the district. STEAM Middle School applicants hailed from 41 Dallas ISD schools, while applicants for the Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy High School at James W. Fannin came from 37 different schools in the district. Twenty-six applications came from families who live within Dallas ISD boundaries but were sending their child to another district public school, a private school or charter school.

Koprowski said the district is building on the current excitement with its next round of Choice Schools. Dallas ISD recently launched the second round of competitive proposals for its Public School Choice initiative, which invites teams of educators to submit their ideas for future Choice Schools. Click here to learn more.

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