While DISD Waits for Word From TEA, Board Considers Contingency Plans For Four Schools

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On Thursday, the Dallas Independent School District's board of trustees will have their "second reading" of contingency plans for four high schools at risk of being labeled academically unacceptable by the Texas Education Agency for a fifth straight year. The at-risk campuses are Kimball, Pinkston, Roosevelt and Seagoville, and, exactly one month ago, district officials laid out a few possible scenarios for the campuses should the TEA decide to step in. Wrote Tawnell Hobbs, "The introduced plans for each campus would include removing 75 percent of teachers and reassigning at least 50 percent of the students"; three days later she noted in an update that DISD was also "considering having the four schools act as satellites magnets to Townview," but that district officials hadn't yet told Townview parents.

As trustee Carla Ranger notes on her blog, there's a meeting tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at Kimball to discuss the plans with "parents and concerned community stakeholders"; Roosevelt hosted one last week, and others are planned in coming days for Pinkston and Seagoville. But DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander tells Unfair Park today DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa remains hopeful that TEA Commissioner Robert Scott will give the district a pass and not intervene. That's because the four schools aren't academically unacceptable; in fact, they're at risk solely because of their graduation rates.

"And that is, in part, a little bit out of a schools' hands," Dahlander says. "But it is the requirement, so obviously there is additional effort being made at each one of those campuses. Dr. Hinojosa has spoken with the TEA commissioner to say these schools have met the academic requirement, but would you require a school to be reconstituted and shut down based on school completion rate?"

A TEA spokesperson tells Unfair Park this morning that Scott hasn't made a decision concerning Hinojosa's request and won't rule until those graduation rates for the 2008-'09 school year become available.

As evidenced by the TAKS scores for the at-risk high schools provided on the district's Web site, numbers at each did improve in most categories from 2008 to 2009. At Kimball, for instance, the percentage of all students meeting the standards for reading jumped from 72.2 to 80 percent; at Roosevelt, the percentage of 11th-graders alone meeting the TAKS math standards jumped 27.5 percent, to 78.8.

"You cannot deny there is a lot of progress that has been made," Dahlander says. "There's still a lot of room to improve, but they made marked improvement."

But the graduation rates remain low.

According to the district's scorecard for Roosevelt, only 54.4 percent of "first-time 9th graders" made it all the way to graduation in 2007-'08, the last year for which figures are available. Pinkston's numbers are even lower: 43 percent. Kimball was a full 20 percent higher, while Seagoville came in the highest with 67 percent. For comparison, Hillcrest had 70 percent of its students graduating in four years, while the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts had a graduation rate of 98 percent.

So while the DISD waits for a response from the TEA, "we still need to go through the process of having contingency plans," Dahlander says. "We're really in the early stages of those. But we're fulfilling requirements with the TEA and the community, which obviously needs to know what is happening with their schools."
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