District of Innovation

About 400 school districts and counting have adopted District of Innovation plans. Dallas ISD became the latest to do so in a 6-3 vote Thursday night. (Photo by Flickr/Stuart Pilbrow)

Dallas, Highland Park, and Ector County schools recently became the latest districts to opt for the “District of Innovation” status. Districts across Texas are grabbing hold of a 2015 law that allows them wider flexibility and control of everything from the start and end dates for the school year, class size, and length of a school day,  to who they can hire to teach.

Highland Park ISD’s board of trustees voted a District of Innovation plan in March. Ector County ISD passed its plan in April.

The District of Innovation concept was provided for in 2015 when the state legislature passed House Bill 1842, which allows districts some flexibility in seeking exemptions to state education code on various facets of curriculum, governance, accountability, and finance.

To begin the journey, a board adopts a resolution to examine the issue, then holds public hearings and appoints a committee to develop the district’s plan.

Proponents point to the local control, and to the opportunity for the same flexibility charter schools have. Opponents frequently say there is the potential for a slippery slope scenario that would lead to hiring unqualified teachers.

There is also a fair amount of fret about what teacher contracts would look like on a District of Innovation landscape, but so far districts that have passed plans have insisted teacher contracts would not be affected. (more…)

HightlandParkHS

Even Highland Park ISD scored a C in a category in the state’s new A through F ratings system.

It’s been about a week since Texas released its first “what-if” A through F grades for school districts and schools — a measure adopted by the last Texas legislature, ostensibly as a way to tell parents how their district and schools were doing.

And in that time, 219-and-counting school districts have adopted resolutions against it. Why? Largely because even typically high-performing schools are getting Ds and Fs in at least one of the categories that formed the overall grade. For instance, the Highland Park Independent School District, where nearly every kid goes to college and the overall tally of scholarship dollars earned by a graduating class is routinely worked into the commencement speeches, scored a C for postsecondary readiness.

Dallas ISD earned a B in the same category. In addition, the district earned a D in student performance and Bs in student progress and closing the achievement gaps between poor students and their peers. The district earned a B overall. (more…)

Photo illustration NPR See this? This is what we should be talking about, but we arent.

Photo illustration NPR
See this? This is what we should be talking about, but we aren’t.

I will be honest – I’ve been dreading this snapshot for the District 7 election. It’s the final one, and every day that has passed has only made me more nauseous when I look at how nasty the Dallas Independent School District’s District 7 race has gotten. It’s gotten bad enough that I’m actually going to move the “my two cents about District 7” feature of these snapshots that usually goes at the end up here, up top.

It’s that bad. And if I sound cranky, it’s because I don’t like having to devote a perfectly good story on what I’m about to devote a perfectly good story on. Very little grinds my gears, but this is one of those things. (more…)