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What Did HB4 Mean for Dallas County Schools?

When House Bill 4 was passed by the 84th Texas legislature in 2015, it was simultaneously applauded and criticized. The author of the bill, state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, said he wanted “to make sure that we do the right thing for our little kids.” Governor Greg Abbott heralded the bill as a move toward advancing quality Pre-K education. Lawmakers championed the bill as a way to boost quality Pre-K programs. It did not seek to expand Pre-K to serve children who are not eligible under federal guidelines. The bill, they said, was to make sure quality Pre-K was offered, and provided $118 million in grants for school districts and charter schools that adopted new standards for Pre-K curriculum and teacher qualifications, as well as improving parental engagement and progress monitoring measures. Almost two years later - and with the Texas legislature heading into its 85th session - the grant is up for renewal, and without action by the legislature in the upcoming session, the funding will disappear, leaving districts across the state scrambling to maintain quality Pre-K programs with fewer resources. With this in mind, The Commit! Partnership (as part of a statewide effort commissioned by Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, and in partnership with Texans Care for Children) took a deep dive into the data generated since the grant was funded. Specifically, Commit! analyzed HB4 participation and implementation in six districts in Dallas County - Dallas, DeSoto, Duncanville, Irving, Richardson and Mesquite ISDs - and one district in Collin County, McKinney ISD. These districts represent 321,053 students, 64 percent of Dallas County students (not including the students from McKinney ISD), and make up 6 percent of Texas students. Many of the schools participating said they applied for funding for a range of goals meant to enrich their existing Pre-K programs, including enhancing supports for their teachers and aides, strengthening their family engagement programs to equip parents with the ability to engage in learning with their child, and expand their programs to include some full-day options. But a program with an expiration date also caused districts to proceed with some caution. Districts expressed reluctance to use the funds to invest in long-term goals like program expansion or additional teachers for fear that later - if the legislature opted to let the program die either by vote or neglect - they would have to dial back those plans and reduce staffing later. For those same reasons, many did not use the grant funds to expand to a full-day program. In fact, one district (Duncanville ISD) even opted to decline the funds completely because of the insufficient funding for full-day Pre-K, and several opted to only add full-day programs in a few select schools. Make no mistake: high-quality Pre-K is absolutely imperative for Dallas County, and the legislature renewing HB4 will help school districts sustain new quality measures that have been implemented. This will also give additional time to measure the impact of the program in terms of student performance. The [...]

Uplift Education Integrates Data to Drive Student Success

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By |November 30th, 2016|Bright Spots|0 Comments

Dallas County Family Empowerment Pilot: How Dallas is Building Brains and the Future

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By |November 16th, 2016|Bright Spots|0 Comments

Coppell ISD: Pre-Kindergarten Registration Campaign Increases Pre-K Applications

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By |November 1st, 2016|Bright Spots|0 Comments

Readers 2 Leaders and Jubilee Park Help Reverse Summer Reading Loss

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By |October 20th, 2016|Bright Spots|0 Comments

Dallas ISD’s ACE Program: Bringing Together Great Educators Leads to Turnaround Success for High-Needs Schools

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Cedar Hill ISD Helps More Students Access Financial Aid and College

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By |September 22nd, 2016|Bright Spots|0 Comments

Mesquite ISD: Eco. Dis. Students Outperform the State’s

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Trinity River Mission H20 Program: Using Data to Create Differentiated Interventions

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Paul Quinn College: Defying National Trends in Higher Ed

National headlines can paint a negative picture of the current and future state of higher education. The average cost of tuition, room and board for private institutions grew 10% from 2010-2015, much faster than inflation. In 2015, 1.7% fewer students completed their degrees within 6 years and fell more heavily in debt than their counterparts the year prior. It may not be surprising then that enrollment into postsecondary programs is down 2% since 2010 as more students and their parents see these sobering statistics in the news. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are experiencing even more significant challenges with their financial sustainability and student completion rates, which fall below the national average by about 25 percentage points. However, nestled in Southern Dallas, Paul Quinn College (“PQC”) is defying some of these trends despite what some would view as considerable challenges--implementing innovative practices to reduce tuition, grow enrollment, and help students persist and complete college. PQC is reducing tuition in a variety of ways, including a student work program and not requiring expensive text books. The college is assisting students to have academic and personal success, in addition to reduced financial burdens, via intensive support services such as their residential Summer Bridge Program which brings students to campus early and includes academic and social/emotional interventions. Paul Quinn College’s Successes v. National Averages: 80% of freshmen (and 84% of all students) at PQC receive Pell Grants, meaning most students come from low-income households. The cost to attend PQC was reported at $14,300 for 2015-16, which is a 19% decrease since 2012. Undergraduate enrollment at PQC grew 93% from 2010 to 2015. The College has posted six or seven figure end-of-year budget surpluses in seven of the last nine years and earned a perfect score on the Department of Education’s financial strength rating. Post-Secondary Enrollment and Tuition Nationally, enrollment has declined between 1 and 2% a year over the past several years due to macro factors such as a recovering economy and the continual rise of the cost to attend college. Yet during the past 5 years Paul Quinn College has seen enrollment not decline, but rather rise by 93%. While PQC cannot impact macro trends that would lead to higher enrollment, it has found innovative ways to reduce the price of a college degree its students bear, making a degree more attainable. Two of these cost-limiting practices include the following: Student work program: All on-campus students are required to work on campus or at an internship for a minimum of 10 hours per week during their semesters at Paul Quinn. In place of salaries PQC would pay full-time employees or independent contractors, PQC is able to pass the savings on to students in the form of tuition credit of $5,000 each year a student works on-campus. When students work off-campus, employers provide a $5,000 tuition credit to Paul Quinn and $1,500 for students’ personal expense defrayal each year a student works off-campus. This program not only helps reduce financial barriers to [...]