Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Transparency! Finding the best Dallas ISD school for your child!

Dallas ISD is an open enrollment district. That means any child may attend any of the 266 schools and academies that are not full.  But parents must be able to easily explore the best alternatives!!  Only 10% of DISD schools, about 24, are now full!  However, 36 DISD schools were among the 400 schools statewide who received every possible achievement distinction available!  149 of DISD schools are rated either A or B in performance by the State of Texas Education Agency.

Only a tiny minority of these DISD schools are full! 

With open enrollment any school with vacancies in your child's grade is available to your child! 

These improvements will continue! The last image below shows how Dallas ISD is already improving faster than any other urban district in Texas! 

To find the school ratings for the 266 DISD schools and academies there is already a current database called the "School Information File" on the Dallas ISD Data Portal.  It provides a shortcut to the most information available in one place about each of the 266 schools and academies in Dallas ISD, including their most recent state ratings and the number of distinctions they have.  This is one of the most useful places to begin a search for the best school.

To find the "School Information File" either google “Dallas ISD Data Portal” or go to .  At the top of that page, to the right of “Statistics & Reports” (where most people seeking DISD data normally go) you will find “RESOURCES.”  Select “RESOURCES” and go to the last of the four choices: “School Information File.”  Select it and the rest is easy. 

On the last page all the information choices should remain checked if you want all the data to begin with. On the top of that page in the center you will see [Clear all boxes I Export to Excel ] as alternatives. You want to click on "Export to Excel."  This will create for you in a few seconds an Excel Spreadsheet with all 266 schools and academies in DISD and 40 pieces of information about each of them, including location, enrollment profiles, state ratings, and the number of distinctions they have received with their most recent rating.

(The first time I did it I was using Chrome as my browser and it generated a virus message at this point not allowing the Excel Spreadsheet to be downloaded.  I switched to the Microsoft Edge browser and it worked fine.)

This School Information File is not known by many people in Dallas, or even inside Dallas ISD.  It is new and just beginning to be used. Most of DISD Administration, and probably 99 percent of staff, do not know this file had been online for over a year! 

The School Information File is only a start! It potentially will fill all the needs of the Excel School Equity Spreadsheet that I have been blogging about for several months!  We just need to add more variables, such as the detailed financial data on each school, including the 32 categories of per-student funding invested in each school as recorded in the PEIMS Financial Standard Reports for each Texas district and school campus.  On this site we also should have multiple years of past data in the same format for each school year to provide for study and perspective.  The Excel format is perfect!

Parents looking for a school for their child can search by any of the multiple variables given on each school.  

First, download the entire spreadsheet and save it.
  Then save a “school search” copy so you keep the original to return to.  In the school search copy you narrow your search by deleting the rows with the schools outside the zip code areas you want to consider. Then also delete the columns with the types of information from the variables that you are not interested in.  

That will narrow the number of possible schools and academies to those you may be most interested in due to location: near your home, work, or grandma, or anywhere if you are looking for the highest rated schools possible in DISD.  You can also delete variables you are not concerned with to help secure a more manageable spreadsheet.

The "School Information File" online as of 10-15-18 is only a start.  (It has been updated with current 2017/18 TEA rating data by DISD staff since I first saw it.)  It has only one year's data and now only 40 variables. (It had 48 variables when I first downloaded the 2017/18 version in August 2018.) The information items will need to increase significantly to over 200 to include school student capacity, facility condition index and hundreds of other variables related to each school.

School achievement and enrollment will change from year to year. The number of year's data represented in the "School Information File" needs to grow so that past years are available, a new spreadsheet for each school year. That will allow the school's history to be known.

Parents need to know each schools student capacity number so that they can easily tell if it is full using the enrollment figures online that are updated dailyVacancy numbers must become part of each schools web page if DISD is to be serious about district-wide open enrollment flexibility.

As you work on the file and notice information you believe must be included, please post below or send me a message about the additional data about each school that you would want include.  We know many more variables need to be added, as well as annual historical data to see a school's history to document patterns. This must be a School Information File that becomes a central resource for Dallas families.  We will achieve that goal only with feedback and constant improvement.

If you like the idea of a significantly higher level transparency within Dallas ISD, with over 200 additional variables on each school added to the School Information File, tell the DISD Board.  There are monthly board meetings on the 4th Thursday of the month at 5151 Samuel Blvd, the old Dallas County Schools location.  Please help send the message that DISD needs much more transparency!  Here is the DISD Board meeting schedule. 

Anyone can download an Excel Spreadsheet now on 266 schools and academies with 40 pieces of information.  If DISD shows a resolve to expand that information available to all years from 2017/18 back ten years, and if DISD expands the data each year on each school to five times the size of the 40 pieces of information now available, if that happens, trust for DISD will expand very positively.  It will help confidence in DISD to grow as families are better able to know Dallas ISD.

Yes, most of these 200+ variables most people will not be interested in at any given time.  They joy is that they can erase those columns in seconds and go on with their work.  It is certainly better to be able to erase data you are not interested in at this time on your working copy of the spreadsheet than to not have the data at all.

DISD is certainly heading in the right direction! Below is the letter grade projection for Dallas ISD schools given at the 8-9-18 Board Briefing.  This chart also shows the wonderful progress going from 43 to 4 failing schools within 4 years. The letter grade distribution among DISD schools was projected week by DISD staff.  

There are 12 schools in Texas that received perfect scores from the TEA.  Half of those 12 are Dallas ISD schools.  DISD only has 3% of the schools in the state, but a disproportionately high percentage of the best ones!

DISD is making wonderfully positive academic progress.  The "School Information File" now online already reflects this progress.  As 2017/18 and the years before 2016/17 are added, more of the history of improvement will be reflected, constantly more strongly, as DISD gathers resources and is able to post more data onto the "School Information File."

We have the good fortune in Dallas to be living in the most-improved-urban-district-in-Texas since 2012. Look at the chart below to see how DISD beats the other urban districts for improvement and achieved this title.  
Achievement Growth Across Major Texas Urban Districts from 2012 to 2018
Nothing will improve the quality of life in Dallas more than more transparency and improvement constantly happening at Dallas ISD! Dallas ISD will lead Dallas to be a truly great city!

(Note: Today, 11-2-18, I found a coding error in the DISD "School Information File" database.  It appears they have consistently coded the large non-magnet school on a campus as the magnet school and then coded the magnet school as a non-magnet/choice school.  I have send an email to advise them and ask that it be corrected. - Bill Betzen)

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