When students return to school Monday, Aug. 14, a lot of things are going to be comfortingly familiar: the excited voices, our smiling faces delighting at the happy students, the morning bell, and so much more. But this year, you are going to be getting something that you haven’t had for more than a decade: 18 days. And as I explain what those 18 days are, you’re going to find out why the 2023-2024 school year is going to be such a great year.
You might have missed this, but last May I declared an end to teaching to the test. As I said in my State of the District speech, test scores will take care of themselves if joy – and on-grade-level materials – are in the classroom. We do not need to drill and kill to prepare for the state assessment. That means no more practice tests, no more worksheets that mimic the STAAR test, and no more test prep camps.
Instead, we’ll be teaching kids a rich and engaging – and on-grade-level – curriculum. And the best part is that each of our amazing teachers will be getting lesson plans aligned with state standards. That means you don’t have to spend hours every night planning the next day’s lessons. Instead, you can use that time to think of how you want to teach and reach our students. Or–even better–hopefully, you can watch a movie while folding laundry or meet friends for dinner or generally have a life. (See? I told you this year would be amazing!)
The amount of unnecessary, unhelpful, and non-obligatory assessments that we, as a school district, had been requiring had gotten completely out of control. We can’t expect you to succeed if we’re constantly taking classroom instruction time away for unnecessary assessments. We tallied up all the time we’re returning to classrooms by doing so, and it came to 6,640 minutes, which roughly equates to, you guessed it, 18 school days.
Why am I focusing so much on classrooms? After all, we’re all educators. From the bus drivers who are often the student’s first educator every day to the custodians and counselors and coaches, we all have a role to play. But what teachers do in the classroom is the work that all of us in one way or another are supporting. The teacher is the program, and starting this year Dallas ISD is returning control of classrooms to the teachers.
Thank you for choosing Dallas ISD. You are the reason our students have been making such encouraging progress. And now, by replacing test prep and unnecessary assessments with enriching, on-grade-level lessons, we can accelerate their growth and eliminate disparities. In a few years, people will come to Dallas to find out how we did it, and we’ll point to the 2023-2024 school year as when it all began and when we made giant strides toward fulfilling our mission to educate all students for success.
See? I told you 2023-2024 is going to be a great year