The Miseducation of Dallas County: Episode One

Episode One of The Miseducation of Dallas County podcast explores the “morbid fear of taxation” in the 1870s regarding education, and the similar opposition to raising taxes today. This episode’s historical content is heavily indebted to the work of historian Jackie McElhaney. She has a book titled Pauline Periwinkle about the fight for women’s suffrage in Dallas. This podcast is dedicated to educators everywhere. The future is in your hands. Don't Want to Listen? Read the Full Podcast Below: August 18th, 2017. Rob: It was definitely a day of anticipation. Waiting for that meeting to start, wondering how many members of the community would show up to a Friday night school board meeting. And then wondering if we were gonna be successful in this almost seven month effort to help get more money for the 158 thousand students of Dallas Independent School District. This is Rob Shearer. Rob: I am the director of communications and marketing at The Commit Partnership. And for over a half a year, he’d been working on a campaign to attempt the unthinkable: raise taxes in a Texas city. Rob: The data was pretty clear that this could make a really big difference in a district that is already pretty cash strapped. Spending more to get better quality absolutely ends up positively impacting students and their lives. So Rob and Commit joined a growing group of community advocates, who called themselves Strong Schools Strong Dallas, who were fighting for a Tax Ratification Election, or TRE, a ballot measure to be voted on by residents of the district for an increase in their property tax rate. Which, you might be surprised to learn, was supported by more than just data. Rob: The surveys from the community have convinced us, the calls from the community have convinced us, the meetings with the community have convinced us. It’s an important aspect of the work Commit does. They seek to leverage both quantitative data and qualitative community expertise to provide a complete picture of the school systems they study. And picture was clear: Dallas ISD’s budget, even at over a billion dollars, simply isn’t enough to meet all of its student’s needs. Rob: To the untrained ear, you hear billion-dollar budget, and you think Scrooge McDuck rolling around on his back in the cash. But the reality is when you divide that billion by 158,000 students, the amount per student is significantly lower than the national average. And given where our students are coming from, given the rates of poverty, given the percentage of students that are learning English as a second language, it is completely naïve to think that Dallas ISD can spend the exact same amount per student as more affluent districts and expect the same outcomes. And that is not because of a deficiency of our students, or a problem with our teachers, it is just the reality of it not being a level playing field. The school district itself recognizes this disparity. The [...]

By |November 8th, 2017|Data, News, Podcast|0 Comments

Dallas County Students Show Significant Improvement on Key Academic Indicators

The recently released State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) data from the Texas Education Agency indicates noteworthy improvement for Dallas County students. The 4th Grade Math indicator, which contributes to showing if Dallas County students are on a postsecondary pace, is the largest gain from 2016 to 2017, raising seven percentage points. Since 2012, all indicators have increased considerably (3rd Grade Reading up five percentage points, 4th Grade Math up 14 percentage points, 8th Grade Science up 11 percentage points, and Algebra 1 up 11 percentage points). Overall, 24,000 more Dallas County students are meeting The Partnership’s four STAAR benchmarks today than in 2012. Since 2016, 8,900 more Dallas County students are meeting indicators that show they are on a postsecondary pace (1,241 more students meeting 3rd Grade Reading, 3,957 more students meeting 4th Grade Math, 1,068 more students meeting 8th Grade Science, and 2,590 more students meeting Algebra 1). While STAAR results cannot be the sole predictor for student success, the significant improvement for Dallas County students is encouraging overall. With more students meeting key academic benchmarks this year, we are one step closer to the state’s 60x30 goal: By 2030, at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 will have a certificate or degree.

2016 Partner Survey Results Now Available

Earlier this year, partners were invited to share their perspectives and experiences of The Commit! Partnership as part of a national evaluation to better understand how communities come together to improve educational outcomes. Conducted by Equal Measure, this second annual “Cradle to Career Partner Survey” was administered here in Dallas, along with 15 other communities across the country. You can read the full report here, along with a brief summary slide deck here. Here are just a few of the takeaways: Our community continues to lead on a national stage: Of the 16 participating communities, the Commit! Partnership rated consistently higher across all communities in every category. We are improving our collective ability to do this work: The Commit! Partnership ratings increased from 2015 to 2016. Eliminating locally defined disparities and continuous improvement continue to be strengths. Areas for improvement remain: Among our opportunities to improve are broadening community knowledge of the partnership’s vision, expanding the diversity of perspectives informing that vision, mobilizing the contributions of parents and students, and more effectively bringing about public policy changes that support improved educational outcomes. Thanks to those partners who took the time to participate in the survey. This feedback will help us improve our collective efforts to improve outcomes for all children in Dallas County, from cradle to career.

Analytics Update

What has The Commit! Partnership's backbone Analytics Team been up to? Data Infrastructure: Harvard’s Government Performance Lab is in the process of establishing the first collaboration with a collective impact backbone in the country, selecting Dallas ISD to place a Fellow to enhance data analytics for Early Childhood and/or College & Career Readiness outcomes. Data Capabilities: The 9-month education focused D3 (Data Driven Decision-Making) Institute, led by the Communities Foundation of Texas with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and The Commit! Partnership, has selected 16 nonprofits and will commence in October, providing training and coaching resources. Data Partnerships: The Commit! Partnership is providing analytics support and strategic assistance to nascent collective impact efforts in Harris and Tarrant Counties, together with Dallas County representing more than 30% of students in Texas. Here’s some exciting Dallas County news: Did you know that Dallas County reduced the number of struggling (Improvement Required) campuses by over 50%? In the last year alone, 13,000 (of which 95% are economically disadvantaged, 35% are Black, 62% are Hispanic, and 51% are English Language Learners) students no longer attend a struggling campus! This progress is a testament to the collective efforts of the community to address our region’s greatest education challenges.

Doing More with Data

This time last year, a group of 14 partner organizations were wrapping up the inaugural Data Learning Cohort, supported by The Commit! Partnership and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. In an effort to build even greater capability with data, The Commit! Partnership and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas are teaming up with Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) to bring their Data Driven Decision-making (D3) Institute to the education space! The D3 Institute is an intensive, 9-month commitment that includes a series of workshops along with one-on-one coaching focused on using data and evaluation to inform organizational decision-making. CFT previously offered this learning opportunity to three cohorts of nonprofits working to improve the financial stability of working families. Now, with the additional support of The Commit! Partnership and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, a fourth D3 Institute will provide education-focused nonprofits that serve the needs of youth (ages 0-18), their educators, and/or their families the power to accelerate development of enduring service solutions that have greatest impact on students’ academic and social-emotional wellbeing. To learn more about the Institute and previous participating agencies, visit A cohort group of up to 15 nonprofits will be selected to participate through a competitive process already underway. Selected nonprofits will be announced in September and the Institute will run through June 2017. Participating agencies will also have the opportunity to help co-design a follow-up program tailored to support them in achieving their results beyond the Institute.

By |May 1st, 2016|Data, Newsletter|Comments Off on Doing More with Data

New Doubly and Triply Disaggregated Data Available at District and Campus Levels

At Commit!, we promote the disaggregation of data—by race, gender, language, and economics—to identify key disparities and opportunities for the Dallas County educational community to address. Our recent STAAR (state assessment) analyses focused on one dimensional student achievement data, e.g., achievement of economically disadvantaged students or Hispanic students or LEP students in reading, math and other state exams. But recently, thanks to the TEA, we have gained access to doubly and triply disaggregated data. We can now see, for example, how economically disadvantaged, Hispanic boys are performing on STAAR assessments—and how performance of African American girls has varied across campuses over time. This is a big win. The community can now research and learn from campuses who are outperforming other campuses with high-need populations. What are those campuses doing? Can some of those practices be replicated? Additionally, where does the data say that critical needs exist for us to investigate further with our partners to understand and address. Below is a sample data that can be used to identify those outlier campuses. Be on the lookout for our Bright Spots blog series to learn more about what we’re doing with doubly and triply disaggregated data—and please feel free to contact Ashwina Kirpalani at with questions. For information on particular schools or school districts in Texas, please visit the Texas Cradle-to-Career Education Data Dashboard: If you have any feedback or questions, please email Robert Mundinger at

By |January 1st, 2016|Data, Newsletter|Comments Off on New Doubly and Triply Disaggregated Data Available at District and Campus Levels

Seeking Data? We Can Help!

In an effort to increase transparency and access to public education data, the Commit! Partnership is excited to announce the launch of the Data Dashboard This is a free resource for the general public, nonprofits, funders, and others to easily find, view, and use the data that matters to them. To start, we are launching district and campus pages which provide longitudinal and snapshot views of student demographics, student achievement, and staff composition for all public schools in Texas. Users will be able to download specific charts as image files, as well as download the raw data as Excel files. The dashboard is not meant to house real-time data or compare or rank schools or districts; rather it aggregates Texas Education Agency data released annually. We will continue to evolve this interactive website over time, with the next release likely including College Access and Success data among other features. In the meantime, we welcome your input to improve the usefulness of the resource. Please do send all questions and suggestions to

By |June 15th, 2015|Data|0 Comments

Commit! and United Way Partner to Launch Spring 2015 Data Cohort

In collaboration with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (UWMD), the Commit! Partnership launched its inaugural Data Cohort in March with the goal of equipping each participant to become leaders in data quality and data analysis within their organizations. Participants meet every two weeks, over 4 months, for a total of 8 sessions, representing 14 organizations.

By |March 31st, 2015|Data|0 Comments