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Appendix A
PUBLIC FORUMS AND
FOCUS GROUP COMMENTS

As part of the review process, public forums were held at 15 Dallas area high schools in which approximately 200 parents, teachers, administrators, and community members participated by writing personal comments regarding 12 specific topics of review; and in some cases, discussed these topics with review team members. Parents and community members also participated in smaller focus groups to separately discuss the 12 topics under review. Additionally, 27 focus groups were conducted at the Central Office and the office of State Representative Harryette Ehrhadt.

The following comments convey the community's perception of Dallas Independent School District and do not reflect the findings or opinion of the Comptroller or review team. These are the actual comments received for each focus area.

A. District Organization And Management
B. Educational Service Delivery
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
C. Community Involvement
D. Personnel Management
E. Facilities Use And Management
F. Asset And Risk Management
G. Financial Management
H. Purchasing And Contract Management
I. Food Service
J. Computers And Technology
K. Transportation
I. Safety and Security

Educational Service Delivery (Part 3)

  • One concern I have with regular schools in the district is that they have not been able to focus children into technical jobs, which could build students interest in being at school. Just as we build programs for the magnet schools, we need to address the plight of the normal school. We also need to use research-based programs of education and not the latest fad.
  • One of the best teachers I've encountered is at Central Elementary. She plans well, gives limited homework, but her students accomplish a lot. The Dallas district could be well served by employing some of her classroom ideas as standards throughout.
  • Please check on our district-wide reading initiative. How does it compare with the state's reading program? I believe it is well below state standards for phonics instruction. To verify please scan the only textbooks required for use by teachers who attend the Dallas Reading Academy. This book was a mainstay of the whole language movement before its author descended on Dallas. He talks about phonics but gives the teachers and consequently the students almost no instruction in this area.
  • Please look into the way students are placed in Advanced Placement and pre-AP classes. The parent is allowed to request placement in AP classes regardless of student's ability or prior performance. In some high schools it has become a way of segregating the students, not by ability but social class.
  • Procedures in conducting ARD's change from year to year. There is not enough consistency.
  • Programs should be in place for at least five years so some hard data can be gathered as to whether it works or not. There is no continuity in the student's education.
  • Provide more services for students at risk of failure or dropout.
  • Some teachers decide a topic or activity is a must for their classroom. This activity is addressed as an either or on the State TEKS or not addressed at all. Some students have difficulty with these items. It would be good if greater awareness/consistency/supervision was given to required practices or activities in the classrooms.
  • Students are given rank points in AP classes regardless of whether they pass or take the AP exam. Consequently, students of lower ability take AP courses for rank points not education.
  • Teachers shouldn't give a lot of homework. Students have six classes. What if all teachers give an hour of homework per night?
  • That summer my child went to summer school at a second school. Her resource teacher understood where I was coming from and where my child was coming from. After completing summer school the resource teacher suggested that I transfer my daughter over to the summer school for the next year. She knew I was looking into transferring her to a private school or something.
  • The basis of all education is a good beginning. In order to prevent failure and eventual dropout students must acquire a good foundation. Many urban and low-income students are in need of supplemental experiences to prepare them for school. Home Instruction for Pre-School Youngsters (HIPPY) provides trained personnel to teach parents strategies that prepare their children for school. Full day programs should be available for all children ages 3-5, which will especially provide for those with limited or less than enriched background. The state requires students to enroll in school by age 7 but children need much more exposure to school experiences. Age five should be the mandatory age.
  • The Dallas reading Academy has jumpstarted reading instruction. We desperately need to recruit, train, and retain both substitutes and qualified classroom teachers.
  • The Dallas Reading Plan seems to be a quality program that has endured through three superintendents and two interim superintendents. I hope this program continues. I would be thrilled to have a majority of my students enter 6th grade reading at grade level.
  • The district needs to focus more in educating pregnant and parenting teens.
  • The district offers almost no vocational programs at the local high schools. The vocational programs at Skyline are being closed so the space can be used as regular classroom space. Regardless of what this district would like the public to believe, every student will not be a college attendee.
  • The educational programs and the delivery of the curriculum is appropriate. Some teachers are including the ESL, Special Education, and Deaf Education in some of the classrooms. This makes for an inclusive type of setting for students instead of exclusion.
  • The educational programs are just regular. It is not great in too many places and taught by too many not so great teachers.
  • There are a number of good programs focused at students in the district. But many of our students come from families in crisis. This means their issues go far beyond just receiving good instruction. They need a variety of support mechanisms and some of which already exist. More direct services to families-more systematic ongoing family counseling, better connections to emergency assistance, more coordination with organizations/agencies (Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Child Protective Services, Family Guidance Center, Youth and Family Centers, etc.) that help families should be pursued. Coordinated service delivery is the key. Some of the community liaisons found in about 45 schools need to be structured into a cohesive unit under a single umbrella.
  • There are too few programs in place to identify and work with students who face learning differences especially in the primary grades. There is a lack of support for parents in this situation. Some of my children's peers have left the district because they felt the needs of their children were not being addressed.
  • There needs to be an after-school program at every elementary school.
  • There should be more hands-on/interactive learning instead of the traditional old fashion sit-in the classroom all day staring as the teacher lectures.
  • We could have more programs for all kids to be involved instead of just sports.
  • We have excellent teachers and programs in this district especially in Seagoville. If more money were allocated so that AP students don't have to buy their own books or sit on the floor due to inadequate facilities, I think student performance would improve.
  • We need more shop classes, metal, wood, electronics, auto body, and auto mechanic in the district but they are not getting any support from the Ed. Tech department. Let us help those students who desire to learn these trades.
  • Why does the district not have a true inclusion program to support students in mainstream programs?
  • Woodrow Wilson High School has a dedicated hard working staff of administrators and teachers. Woodrow Wilson offers a strong set of AP course offerings, which challenge and prepare college-bound students and also provides remedial basic education for students who need to catch up in order to succeed in High School.
  • Advance programs like Magnet should not be under constant threat. Title One funds are excluded.
  • Evaluate magnet school programs annually.
  • In order to strengthen the magnet program, courses should be evaluated annually to determine effectiveness in specialized fields and to determine student progress longitudinally.
  • Magnet classes should be offered to the community.
  • Magnet programs are good but I think they tend to exclude many kids who could benefit.
  • Magnet Programs are great!
  • Magnet school for gifted children is great, that way they can move ahead with their own peers, and not get bored with their slower kids.
  • Magnet schools have received a good amount of funding compared to regular schools. Equality of funding for all students should be a priority.
  • My concern is that we lose some of our best students to magnet schools. How can we retain our students in the home schools?
  • Regarding Magnet; the district must hate TAG Magnet kids; no money or emphasis is on these students. At other Magnets; there is not enough money or attention from the district.
  • The Magnet Program at Lanier and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts afforded my daughter the opportunity to make friends with a common interest in the arts. Her friends from Lanier and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts came from various geographic areas of Dallas and were of various ethnicities.
  • The Magnet Programs are outstanding!
  • As a classroom teacher, we need to do away with the current bilingual system. All students in Texas need to learn English just as all students in Texas need to be taught Spanish as a second language. I taught in a bilingual school for several years and the bilingual teachers were not teaching English. They wanted to teach Spanish only because they received more money that way. It's an unfair system because I knew English speakers that wanted to learn Spanish and they are not allowed.
  • Bilingual education is still not proven as effective as immersion into the English language. Examples include Asian students and others who prosper without bilingual classes.
  • Bilingual is unfair. Why are English-speaking principals, administrators and TAAS teachers being penalized for being speakers of English? Speaking Spanish is not educational, it's a language.
  • Bilingual programs must provide for English immersion classes.
  • ESL placement needs review. Some students are self-contained in one classroom for major academic courses, even though they have received instruction in public schools for several years.
  • Get rid of bilingual education. It has been proven that this is a hindrance in preparing students for a productive life. Stop spending money printing everything in English and Spanish. Sponsor classes to teach parents (Spanish-speaking) English. Spanish-speaking students seem to be the only group of other languages that refuse to learn English, and we keep pouring money to continue the crutch for them. Asians learn to adapt; why can't the Spanish. And who has the highest dropout rate? Clearly this system isn't working.
  • I feel our English-speaking students should be taught a second language early in elementary schools. We spend a lot of money making sure our Spanish-speaking children learn English. This means our Spanish-speaking population become bilingual and are better-trained and marketable for jobs and we are leaving our own children out.
  • I wish that our school could have bilingual education, i.e. English to Spanish converting over from English and learning Spanish.
  • I wish we could make our bilingual programs bilingual in both ways. Spanish speakers need to know their two languages are an asset, not a detriment. English speakers could definitely benefit from learning a second language fluently (which can be done easiest when they're young.)
  • On the Bilingual/ESL program, there is no clearly defined standard, no clearly defined curriculum, teacher training is insufficient, and classroom supplies are insufficient.
  • Provide English immersion classes since there is difficulty in procuring bilingual personnel, Other states have been successful in this procedure. Require Spanish as a Second Language for all teachers and students. Make a third language available to those who desire it.
  • Should be more bilingual for the younger groups.
  • Some bilingual teachers are not bilingual-they only teach in Spanish.
  • Some Hispanic children speak Spanish but are assumed to be bilingual.
  • Summer school should be mandatory and free for all non-English speakers. It should provide a specialized curriculum for ESL students. Bus transportation should be provided. The curriculum should include native language enrichment as well as ESL. Parenting classes, such as AVANCE, should be included.
  • The bilingual/ESL program should be fortified district-wide, but especially in Area 5. More recruiting is needed to find qualified teachers in both efforts. Stipends should be paid to ESL teachers, as well. However, accountability should be included in payment process, based on improvement in language skills/fluency.
  • There is very little standardized curriculum in bilingual education from school to school.
  • We need to keep bilingual class for younger students and we need to keep bilingual meetings.
  • Would it not be beneficial to teach Spanish from 1st grade to 12th grade? The reason being is that you're paid more for being bilingual in the job market.
  • For the most part I am pleased with the honors programs, but if my student for any reason drops out of the honors program, we are moving to another district.
  • Gifted and talented academic threshold for inclusion is too low. There is no curriculum standard and no one has a definitive answer about what a good TAG program is.
  • I feel that the students selected in the TAG program should be those pupils that may or may not be A+ material. Students should be selected on their creativity and world self-awareness. Far too often, I've seen and witnessed schools that choose a group of students based on high test scores with no creativity and as a result, have created a boring atmosphere with great minds that think the same way. Another viewpoint in the TAG program is the absentee of Hispanic students. Although these students show creativity and advanced thinking beyond their age group, most times they are ignored because of their language barrier. Society is composed of various cultures and different ideas, not the opposite. Our schools should reflect real-life situations and TAG is definitely in need.
  • I wish we would have more gifted and talented programs in the schools.
  • My daughter attended Sidney Lanier Expressive Arts Vanguard and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. I believe that I could not have bought a better education for her in a private school. Because of the excellent professional training she received at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, she was chosen for a technical theater apprenticeship in a professional theater in Houston. She went on to get a BFA from Baylor University.
  • One TAG teacher per school, regardless of size of the school.
  • Only one tag teacher per school.
  • TAG is a great program at Daniel "Chappie" James.
  • TAG is a watered down program. Kids go once a week for one hour. For what?
  • TAG programs in some cases are a waste of resources. It is not utilized properly.
  • TAG/AP program is not understood or fully supported by administration.
  • Talented and gifted classes are still very important to sustain creative and growing minds. Teachers are in need of more resources, but still do a splendid job under the circumstances.
  • The gifted and talented programs in the elementary schools need to be looked at again. I don't think the funds are there for the students and most of the teachers are tired. The gifted and talented in the middle schools should be together.
  • The teachers at Lanier and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts were outstanding. They were able to ignite the students' passion for the arts and use that passion and creativity to stimulate interest and growth in the academic area. They understood that the students had a variety of learning styles and didn't teach them in a cookie cutter fashion.
  • The theater department faculty at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts prepared my daughter so well that she felt much of what was offered by the Baylor University theater faculty was a repeat of what she had already learned at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
  • There is no consistency in the TAG program throughout the district. The last director had no gifted experience. The interim now has no gifted experience.
  • There is not enough support from district or understanding from community regarding the alternative education.
  • We need not only alternative school programs but options in the East Dallas area. Lots of children dropout because they have no other options to them in this area.
  • All schools need a program for our challenged children. Not everyone is brilliant, high honors, etc.
  • Being aware of TEA's close inspection of special education and their determination to change numbers for least restrictive environment and TAAS exemptions, I have the following concerns:
    • The ARD must make Child Centered Decisions and not what TEA number crunchers want. (e.g. A DC student needs to spend 5-6 hours in self contained to get his needs met. Three hours in regular education class is not appropriate.)
    • Five percent of special education children being exempted from TAAS and this is unrealistic. Example, a third grade student whom IEP is on a first grade level will take the TAAS alternative, but will the questions be on a first or third grade level?
    • Regular education teachers who will receive these in need students will need lots of support, caring, and extra pairs of hands to accommodate learning differences. The district needs to plan on hiring lots of people to work on this inclusion project.
    • Testing of kindergarten is not developmentally appropriate. Last year, I saw five-year olds burst into tears while taking the Stanford 9. It is just not right and not necessary-ask any kindergarten teacher, they see no need for formal assessment.
  • Comparing the two schools my youngest daughters have been in, it is a difference between night and day. The first school she was in was a school that had no understanding of ADD, HD, or Dyslexia. I was talking to a teacher in this school telling her my daughter was on medication. She asked what for and I told her ADD. Her comment to me what that my daughter is starring in space for all three teachers including the resource teacher. I asked her if she thought we need to increase the medication and the teacher answered, "Oh no, she is not running around." The teacher had no concept of ADD verses ADD HD.
  • Dallas ISD teachers need to realize that they need to develop a different approach when teaching students with ADD, ADD HD, and Dyslexia. A few ways is to adjust the homework assignments, folding the paper so they can only see a few problems, do not time test such as multiplication facts and reading tests.
  • DISD does not know what to do with Special Education.
  • DISD is three years behind on evaluating for special education students. Don't have enough therapists to meet the needs of students. Not enough teachers.
  • District dismantled offices for special education.
  • Educational services are adequate. Special Ed requires too much paperwork.
  • I do not agree with being held accountable for students who have been passed through the system because of special education or because of their age. If special education students are truly special education students, they should be responsible for "special" tests and curriculum, not exactly what other students are doing.
  • I feel that Special Ed needs to be analyzed more. There is no accountability or curriculum for Deaf Education. I don't think that high school; middle school, or elementary should ride the bus together. Also, communication between school and parents is very poor. Services are not very good.