Most public high schools in Dallas aren’t measuring up, according to the latest Texas School Guide from Children At Risk. Every public school is rated in the guide from the non-profit that does education research.
Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, says Dallas ISD has some of the nation’s best high schools. But that can be misleading.
“We do have a lot of schools that really aren’t up to snuff,” Sanborn says. “We have over 80 percent of our schools are rating a D or F at the high school level. That’s really not acceptable.”
Sanborn says Fort Worth high schools aren’t much better. Only 70 percent score a D or F.
The Texas Education Agency rates schools based on test results that include racial breakdowns. Sanborn’s group is harder on schools than the state. The Texas School Guide also crunches income data, a school’s extra-curricular activities and other information to come up with a letter grade. Sanborn doesn’t want to turn parents away from schools, but empower them.
“One of the things that we know is a lot of parents settle for your zoned school,” Sanborn says. “What we want people to understand is you shouldn’t settle. You should explore. Not enough of the parents are exploring those other choices and the second thing we know is not enough parents are getting engaged in those schools themselves to make them better.”
Dallas trustee Elizabeth Jones used last year’s guide so much it’s tattered, worn and written on.
“There’s always this presumption that poverty is only concentrated in certain parts of Dallas,” Jones says. “One of the things I discovered, looking at the poverty level of various campuses, is that the highest concentration of poverty is in north Dallas.”
Consider Thomas Jefferson High School, which is in her district. TJ earned a “D” in the guide, but Jones says only two comprehensive Dallas high schools, meaning those other than special campuses like magnet schools, did better, one getting a “C+” the other “C-.”
Jones says the guide shows there’s still a lot of work to do in DISD.