An innovative policy proposed by the Dallas ISD administration last year and adopted by its Board of Trustees is helping district leaders provide greater transparency for student success after high school graduation while creating mutual accountability for the district’s role as the chief economic mobility institution for the communities it serves.
Data shows that 62 percent of Texas jobs will require postsecondary credentials by 2030, and in February 2022, Dallas ISD trustees adopted a policy where district leaders will annually report on key college and career readiness goals and outcomes. Setting these goals is a big step, but to truly make progress, districts and their boards must regularly analyze the metrics and use them to inform future actions and resource allocations. The recent Dallas ISD Board of Trustees Briefing on April 6 featured the first college and career readiness outcomes report since the policy was adopted, and multiple trustees and district leaders expressed gratitude for a policy and resulting data that can help them support students after graduation.
“This conversation is the first time I’ve heard us be this transparent and accountable on this topic, and I want to thank you for that,” Trustee Dustin Marshall said. “This board can’t help you and can’t make investments in this topic unless we know where we stand and where the shortcomings are. We are ready and willing and able to divert resources to help you succeed in this area.”
As part of the policy, Dallas ISD identified five strategic outcomes and associated goals to track: meeting the Texas Success Initiative (TSI); earning industry-based certifications (IBC); completing level I or level II certifications; finishing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA); and enrolling in college.
The district published the following data this week on each goal:
Based on this week’s Dallas ISD Board Meeting, it’s clear the district is taking this seriously.
While the district is on track to meet its goals in IBC, level I/II certifications, and FAFSA/TASFA completion rates, Dallas ISD explicitly wants to make greater progress in supporting its students to meet TSI readiness goals and enrollment in a post-secondary education after graduation. In response to this data, Dallas ISD is making strategic changes, such as assigning college assessment coordinators to particular campuses and increasing student enrollment in college preparation and Texas College Bridge courses. These steps are on top of their decision for 2022-23 to quadruple their investment in college and career advising to create lower student advisor ratios across all high school grades 9 through 12 (this investment appears to clearly be paying off as Dallas ISD has become a county-wide leader in financial aid and college applications vs. its peers).
By continually tracking and reporting these metrics – both those that show success and those that reflect a need for more work and potential investment – Dallas ISD is modeling how schools can effectively use data and mutual administration/board accountability to guide strategy and fuel student economic mobility. Combined with their expansion of P-TECH early college offerings at all of their comprehensive high schools and the $200+ million investment in four career institutes made possible by their 2020 bond election, Dallas ISD has steadily become an exemplar for Texas school districts in supporting student economic mobility. With only 3 in 10 Dallas County young adults ages 25-34 earning a living wage of over $50,000, and over 10% of that same age group living below the federal poverty line, this transformational approach is critical to the future of Dallas County and its desire for broad and inclusive economic prosperity.
“(Postsecondary) readiness is a very easy thing for school districts to throw their hands up and say, ‘Once they graduate, we have no more control over what happens,’” Trustee Ben Mackey said. But it’s important “to purposefully take ownership of this and to put the data up here and talk about what we can do to help nudge students. Because ultimately, this is the goal of education: kids being able to make a life for themselves, whatever way they choose, and having the skills to do that. So I thank you all for taking this step and sharing this data.”