In 2014, 43 Dallas ISD schools were on the state’s Improvement Required list for not “Meeting Standards,” according to TEA’s accountability rating system. As a result, Dallas ISD found itself at the center of a statewide conversation about public school effectiveness.
Since then, Dallas ISD has doubled down on its efforts to increase student academic achievement through additional instructional hours in some schools and a system to better identify the most effective teachers. The added effort has produced results and recognition in the form of distinctions from TEA and awards from several other organizations.
We’ll take a look at some of the most improved schools from Dallas ISD, including an explanation of some of the distinctions they’ve earned. Like nearly all of Dallas ISD, these schools serve high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
In response to student need, and pressure from the state, Dallas ISD implemented the Accelerating Campus Excellence or ACE program. This program recruited the most effective teachers and administrators to schools in Dallas ISD with the most academic need. One of the ACE campus schools, Blanton Elementary, had been listed as an Improvement Required campus for several years before being designated as an ACE campus in 2015. However, after three years as a ACE campus, Blanton now boasts 6 state distinctions as well as the Texas Honor Roll Star Award and the Children at Risk Gold Ribbon Award.
In the past five years, the number of all the Blanton students who acheived the "Meets Grade Level" standard on STAAR Reading has increased by more than 20%. Blanton became and ACE campus in 2015, and since that year the number of students meeting grade level for reading has grown by 35%. 
Lenore Hall Elementary, Walnut Hill Elementary, Julius Dorsey are non ACE campuses that are also making impressive gains in STAAR performance and each of these elementary schools received five to six distinctions in 2017. Texas elementary schools can earn up to six distinctions. TEA distinctions indicate that campuses finished in the top 25 percent of 40 schools comprised of a similar student body.
The six distinctions are:
- Top 25 Percent Student Progress
- Postsecondary Readiness
- Performance Gap Closed
- Academic Achievement in Math
- Academic Achievement in ELA/ Reading
- Academic Achievement in Science
In addition to receiving distinctions from TEA, several of these schools are also recipients of the Texas Honor Roll Star School award. The Texas Honor Roll Star School award recognizes schools that have shown higher levels of student achievement in economically disadvantaged and minority students.
Lenore Kirk Hall ES:
- 6 distinctions
- Children at Risk Gold Ribbon
- 93% Economically Disadvantaged
- 70% English Language Learners
Walnut Hill ES:
- 6 distinctions
- Texas Honor Roll Star Award
- Children at Risk Award
- 84% Economically Disadvantaged
- 52% English Language Learners
- 5 distinctions
- Children at Risk Gold Ribbon
- 90 % Economically Disadvantaged
- 59% English Language Learners
Walnut Hill Elementary and Julius Dorsey Elementary both made large gains in STAAR Reading in 2017 . Walnut Hill Elementary School was the recipient of the Texas Honor Roll Star Schools award, earned all six TEA distinctions, and also received the ‘Gold Ribbon’ Award from Children at Risk. The ‘Gold Ribbon’ Award recognizes top schools with a high percentage of academic achievement in economically disadvantaged students based off of STAAR scores.
Despite modest increases in the percent of economically disadvantaged students (which is typically associated with lower test scores)at Walnut Hill, the number of students achieving "Meets Grade Level" on STAAR Reading grew by 25%.
Dorsey has seen continuous, steady increases in the percentage of its students who achieve "Meets Grade Level" for STAAR Reading, growing from 29% in 2012 to 54% in 2017. Dorsey also displays large gains in Hispanic student reading achievement.
What does this mean for the students? It means students at these schools, which are comprised of 60-99% economically disadvantaged students, are increasingly and rapidly becoming college and career ready in schools and areas where just four years ago this was not the case. Impoverished students who are not reading on grade level by 3rd grade are three times more likely to dropout of school. In county where only 34% of students are reading on grade level, making 20 point gains in reading proficiency is heroic and crucial to giving economically disadvantaged and minority students the ability to transcend the constraints of poverty.
Lenore K. Hall has seen gains of more than 20 points in STARR Reading achievement. The school also displays large increases in the number of Hispanic students who are achieving the "Meets Grade Level" standard. While the overall number of Hispanic students in Texas meeting this standard only increased by 5% in the 2012-2017 time period, Lenore K. Hall increased by 24%.
Despite the troubling outlook for the district just a few years ago, many campuses are making rapid improvements and proving their dedication to educating Dallas’s most under served children. With recent news that the number of Dallas ISD schools on the Improvement Required list has been reduced from 43 to 3; it is clear that Dallas ISD is on the right path to effectively educating the kids who need it most.
 In 2012 the student population at Blanton Elementary was 19% Black, 78% Hispanic and 3% White, and in 2017 it was 12% Black, 85% Hispanic, and 3% White.