Guest Column: Kevin Malonson on Why Dallas Must Support Single-Gender Academies

A former home rule commissioner on the next thing to get behind in DISD

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Kevin Malonson, a friend (and sometimes critic) of Learning Curve, on what he feels is the next important reform in Dallas ISD. He has worked with these schools, and wants folks to know how important they are before the December 14 sign-up deadline.


 

Now that the Great Bond Debate of 2015 has been settled and Dallas has spoken, it is important for parents and community members to continue to hold Dallas ISD leaders accountable to the plan. The majority of bond funds will be spent on buildings and capital improvements that will support many of the initiatives initially put forth by Mike Miles’s Destination 2020 plan. These initiatives are expected to offer options and opportunities for all students in the district to receive a top rate education regardless of their income or neighborhood.

In the next few years, the district plans to focus on high quality early childhood education, career and technical education, and public schools of choice. The push for schools of choice is particularly empowering because existing neighborhood schools have the opportunity to submit proposals to the DISD Office of Transformation and Innovation to adopt specialized curriculum. If successful, the neighborhood school would become an Innovation School. Proposals are also being accepted for brand new Transformation Schools that will address the evolving educational needs of our children.

There are currently many campuses considering innovative ways to serve their students, but one model in particular deserves attention and community support. Leaders at two Pleasant Grove Middle Schools, Florence and Balch Springs, have been working hard to develop a plan to support some of the most neglected students in the district. They are proposing single gender leadership academies that will focus on rigorous academics, social service, character building, and leadership opportunities. Both campuses plan to offer AVID school-wide and they will focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).

The goal is for neighborhood students to matriculate through these academies and earn the academic credentials needed to qualify for at least two House Bill 5 mandated endorsements. Ideally, these students would continue on to Spruce and Samuell High Schools where they could take advantage of the Early College Programs and get a head start on completing their Associate’s Degree. These offerings in this feeder pattern will be truly transformative for students, families, and the local community.

One doesn’t have to look far to see successful examples of single gender academies. Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School and Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy are well regarded schools and produce some of the finest graduates in the district. Around the state, public single gender leadership academies are offering more opportunity and options to students. The leadership teams from Florence and Balch Springs have studied results from Garcia Middle School in Austin and both the Young Men and Young Women’s Leadership Academies in Grand Prairie among many other campuses. The data overwhelmingly shows that a single gender environment is a valuable option for some students. General trends at the schools investigated indicate fewer discipline infractions, better performance in Reading/Language Arts for boys, and better performance in Science for girls.

Whether you voted for or against the bond, the time is now to support the 160,000 students of he Dallas Independent School District. One of the best ways to do that is to make your voice heard when decisions are made regarding your neighborhood school or your neighbors’ neighborhood school. The Office of Transformation and Innovation has set a December 14, 2015 application deadline for new Transformation and Innovation schools for the 2016-2017 school year. If you are interested in supporting, critiquing, contributing, or partnering with your neighborhood school or the proposed single gender academies in Pleasant Grove, please reach out to your trustee and ask how your voice can be heard. Our children and our community need you.

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