With the recent release of campus and district level STAAR data for 2016-17, it’s important for The Commit! Partnership to highlight growth in academic achievement among all of our district partners…and none are more important to Dallas County’s success overall than Dallas ISD given its substantial enrollment (158,000+ students) and its relative size (the district educates 1 in 3 County students).

In 2016-17, Dallas ISD continued its strong academic progress. Highlights included the following:

  • Math achievement across Grades 3-8 grew another 5% in 2017 at the state’s “Meets” or post-secondary pace level, exceeding the County’s growth of 3%. Since 2012, math achievement has grown a substantial 14% across Grades 3-8, again exceeding the County’s strong growth of 9%.
  • In 2016-17, Dallas ISD reading achievement across Grades 3-8 was flat at the state’s “Meets” standard but actually exceeded the change in County achievement (which declined slightly by 1%). Since 2012, Dallas ISD Grade 3-8 reading achievement has grown 5% vs. 3% for the County. More importantly, reading achievement in the critical area of 3rd grade has grown 8% in just the last two years, reflecting the district’s strong budgetary commitment to early childhood.
  • Achievement growth has been shared across all Dallas ISD ethnicities since 2012, particularly in math where proficiency growth rates for Anglo students (+15%), Hispanic students (+15%) and black students (+11%) have all exceeded County and state growth by several percentage points for those same ethnicities.
  • One of DISD’s most impactful strategies to deliver equity to disadvantaged students has been its “ACE” program, where the district’s more effective teachers (as determined by the district’s innovative evaluation system) are financially incentivized to work together in the district’s most challenged schools. This strategy has been particularly effective at the elementary school level; over its first two years across four pilot elementary schools, math achievement has grown an average of 34% (and now exceeds the district) while reading achievement has grown 19%. ACE will be expanding at the administration’s and board’s direction to six more campuses in Fall 2017, and other area districts are exploring similar strategies based on ACE’s initial success.
  • Based on this cumulative achievement growth, Dallas ISD has made tremendous progress in reducing the number of schools (and students educated within) rated by the state as “Improvement Required”, declining from 43 schools in 2014 to potentially as few as 15 schools in 2017 (final ratings will be released later this week from TEA). Students educated within an IR campus have declined almost 75% during that time frame – a remarkable achievement – and Dallas ISD has substantially led every other large urban district in the state in IR campus reduction.
  • Dallas ISD’s expansion of its Early College programming to eight new comprehensive campuses saw STAAR achievement proficiency at the Meets standard that was 2x to 4x greater than those students who did not enroll in the program while also reflecting higher attendance rates and 9th to 10th grade retention rates. The Early College program will be expanding at the administration’s and board’s direction to nine more campuses in Fall 2017, representing a significant budgetary commitment to equitably reducing the cost of college for a student population that is 90% economically disadvantaged and represents primarily first generation college scholars.
  • As of June 30th, roughly 4,700 students DISD students had completed a financial aid application – a 9% increase over the prior year, as the district saw increasing success in directing more resources to support students in accessing and affording a post-secondary education.

Dallas ISD is clearly making strong progress and is demonstrating that its board-approved strategies are working. But stubborn opportunity gaps and resulting achievement disparities persist, requiring more investment to provide the universal opportunity for an excellent education for all of DISD’s students. Despite strong achievement growth for Hispanic and Black students, their academic proficiency rates still trail their Anglo peers by 20% to 40% in reading and math, and over 5,000 students are still educated within a school rated in the bottom 5% of schools by the state (i.e. “Improvement Required”).

Turning around a large urban school district requires both a community’s patience and its commitment to equitably provide its disadvantaged students with sufficient resources and academic supports to meet them where they are. It’s our hope that Dallas ISD taxpayers recognize both the substantial gains already occurring – AND the urgent and compelling need to support Dallas ISD administration’s request for a tax increase to give all of its students an equitable shot at a quality education.

A key goal of The Commit! Partnership is to use data to help identify outlier success in Dallas County schools. To learn more about best practices across Dallas County as they are published, follow The Commit! Partnership on both Twitter and on Facebook.