Each year, mountains of student testing data are analyzed to determine which schools are the best at showing exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years or demonstrate that it’s closing the achievement gap.
Two schools from each state rise to the top, and this year – possibly for the first time – the two schools in Texas are from a single district.
Dallas ISD’s F.P. Caillet Elementary School and Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School are the 2016 National Title I Distinguished Schools in Texas, and only two of 80 schools in the nation to earn the distinction this year. On Monday, May 16, students and staff at both celebrated their accomplishments and received banners from the Texas Education Agency.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa congratulated both schools, telling students that people in Dallas, the state and across the nation now know about the schools.
“They recognize you because you’re one of the best schools in the country,” he said at Rangel. Further, he told students that their school was the model for the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. Success at both schools is sparking the of three additional single-gender schools in the district next year (at Balch Springs and Florence middle schools, and SOLAR Preparatory for Girls at Bonham).
Terri Stafford, statewide Title I coordinator, and Dr. Gordon Taylor, executive director of Region 10, presented the banners to each school.
Stafford told students at both schools how rare the honor is, and that it shows how special they are.
At Rangel, she said that only two schools out of 6,000 in Texas earned the Title I Distinguished School honor each year, and only 80 from across the country. She pointed to the warm sense of community among students and evoked one of the inspirational messages in the hallway, “It’s not a matter of going to school, it’s where you’re going to school.”
She said in her 13 years as the statewide Title I coordinator, she had never seen the distinction earned by two schools in the same district.
Taylor told students at Caillet that they are a special group of 700 out of 21 million elementary students across the country. He pointed to others on the stage with him, including Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, and said they are rightly called leaders.
“We could not be leaders without convincing someone to follow,” he said. “You are the same way. You can be leaders in your school. This school is giving you something that not many others get, and that’s a step forward.”
At Rangel, he said the data shows exceptional student performance, but there is much more to earning the award.
“They don’t have a clue what exceptional students are about if they’re just looking at test scores,” Taylor said. That can be found only by visiting the school in person and seeing what is making it successful. Teachers, students and the principal can all take credit for the award, he said.
Lara Andree, a senior at Rangel, began attending Rangel as a ninth-grader. She said she was nervous at first but felt a welcoming camaraderie, fostered by the shared experiences she and her classmates have. The culture also promotes striving for excellence.
Adrian Luna, executive director for the Wilmer-Hutchins High School feeder pattern that includes Rangel, said testing data shows not only did all Rangel students pass their assessments, but they showed significant improvements.
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world,” Luna said, quoting Nelson Mandela. “You are armed and fully prepared to go out and change the world.”