New initiatives will accelerate innovation in neighborhood schools

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A group of new Dallas ISD initiatives aim to accelerate innovation–and boost student performance–in neighborhood schools.

Dallas ISD Chief of Strategic Initiatives Brian Lusk and Deputy Chief of Transformation and Innovation Angie Gaylord briefed trustees on the efforts during the Aug. 8 board briefing.

“We are committed to improving our schools’ market share and bringing more educational choices into our families’ backyards,” Lusk said.

Innovation Engine Grant Program

The Innovation Engine Grant Program will annually award up to 20 neighborhood schools with $50,000 in seed money to help them explore and implement innovative education models. From creating a space for social and emotional learning to training staff on next-generation instructional strategies, the schools can use the funding in a variety of ways to support innovation on their campus. Interested school teams can go here to learn more and apply by the Sept. 6 deadline.

Middle School Redesign
The Middle School Redesign provides opportunities for higher-performing middle schools to receive $50,000 in funds and weekly support to explore innovative models for their neighborhood school.

The five middle schools selected, and the models they will explore, are:

  • Hill Middle School will explore becoming an International Academy
  • Quintanilla Middle School will explore becoming a STEAM school
  • Richards Middle School will explore becoming a STEAM school
  • Spence Middle School will focus on College and Career Exploration
  • E.D. Walker Middle School will focus on Fine Arts and STEAM

Lusk said the goal is that at least several of the schools will then go through the Public School Choice (PSC) Competitive Proposal Process, where educators can rebrand their campus or design a new school.

Achieving in the Middle
In addition to the initiatives spearheaded by the Office of Transformation and Innovation, the approved 2019–2020 budget includes a $10 million district investment in the Achieving in the Middle (AIM) initiative. AIM brings strategies proven to lift school performance—strategic staffing, instructional excellence, social and emotional support, extended learning and supportive partnerships—to 23 Dallas ISD middle schools.

As principal of D.A. Hulcy STEAM Middle School, Jonica Crowder-Lockwood has seen how pivotal the middle school years are for students. Hulcy STEAM Middle School reopened to great success in 2015 and has since become a “Gold Ribbon” school, according to a Children at Risk report.

“Middle school is a stage of discovery. Students are figuring out what they like to do and who they are,” Crowder-Lockwood said. “It’s great that Dallas ISD is focusing on these years so we can guide our kids into success in high school and beyond.”

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