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Community Conversation: Improving education in Dallas

Diane Xavier | 5/23/2014, 1:07 p.m.
The topic of improving education has been a heated debate in Dallas for the past decade. Not only has this ...
From left: Dr. Rosie Sorrell, former State Board of Education member; Mavis Knight, a current State Board of Education member; Keisha Crowder Davis, director of High School Redesign for Dallas ISD; Ramona Clarkson, a DISD parent and grandparent; and Moderator Casey Thomas Photo by Robyn H. Jimenez

“And we keep piece meddling and fragmenting the program so it’s not helping the whole student.”

Davis, director of High School Redesign, said that Dallas ISD has taken on a project to help redesign all of its high schools.

“My department is High School Redesign but by board policy, three years ago, every high school has been redesigned so every high school in DISD has a focus,” Davis said.

Currently, the school district has over 115 career programs.

“I know you typically only hear about the programs that are in the magnet schools but we also have engineering programs, culinary arts program, business and management programs at every high school,” she said.

Davis said during the last legislative session held this past June, House Bill 5 was passed and put into effect in January.

“With House Bill 5, every high school has to have a focus, and every eighth grade student must declare an endorsement. There are five endorsements, which includes STEM, recess and industry, arts and humanities, public services, and multi-disciplinary studies.

“Because every high school has a focus, what we are looking at is to make sure all of the high schools in Dallas feed into these endorsements and last summer the district decided to look at all these programs and we have programs for House Bill 5 that meets these endorsements. What we are doing with our current eighth graders in December is we have high school fair where they go out and visit high schools, because the magnet schools have only so much room.”

Davis said that every high school in Dallas ISD has a focus and they wanted every eighth grader to be able to make some informed decisions on what high school they want to go to.

Another program under her department is called Whole Secondary Success.

“It’s called this because all the schools have been transformed,” she said. “The question is how can we get our students to college and what is needed in college. We have dual-credit programs where in high schools the students who are eligible can go to the community colleges and take the dual-credit courses and the district will pay for these courses.”

Davis said the goal is to let the parents know that the district is available for their students.

“They can go to the community college and take courses and we also have dual-college community courses where local college professors come into our high schools and teach the courses,” she said. “And now we look at college and think that college is a student going to a four-year institution.

“But the national definition of college is any post-secondary education and training program that meets an industry standard of an associate’s degree or higher. So our students that leave the district and go to the community college are students that when they go to college they come out with a license or they have some type of certification for college.”

Davis said that her department is looking at the number of courses that students can take in high school and graduate with a certificate or a license that can help make a living wage.