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Has school choice hurt the Dallas school district

When the school that your child attends is shrinking in population, there may be cause for alarm. Take a moment to think about why that may be the case. If a school is performing well academically, is safe, and fosters strong school spirit, no student would want to leave, right? Dallas ISD unfortunately, as several schools that have have fallen victim to "student flight".

The Law

Hate it or love it, one of the most impacting tenets of the federally mandated, No Child Left Behind, legislation, provides that parents and students who attend failing schools, or schools that have received a rating of academically unacceptable, which primarily comes from low test scores on state tests, have the legal right to transfer to another school outside of their zone.

Now, stating this, the administration of several Dallas ISD schools have witnessed declines in their student population due to the option of school choice.

School Culture

So what happens to the hallways of these schools? How do they change, when many have not just abandoned ship but grabbed a life jacket and took their chances for survival elsewhere? When school populations decline there is a sense of loss that hangs thick in the air. Morale among students and staff reflect a "then there was..." tone. School spirit seems to not be a focus, enrichment and extra-curricular activities tend to fall by the way side as well. The school administration (albeiit, pressured to) begin implementing a culture of "whatever you do, we gotta pass the TAKS this year or else".

Shrinking Funds

Schools are given Title I funds based on student enrollment numbers. When your enrollment is low, it can impact the resources a school may receive. Without proper or adequate funds for various resources such as; computers, smart boards, funds for enrichment activities, and so on, are jeopardized. Thus, impacting the probable performance of the students of these academically unacceptable schools.

Circumvent

Dallas ISD schools that have suffered from "student flight" need to perservere with a plan of action that will foster the students that decided to stay in their zone schools. These students need to "buy-in" to the notion that they can succeed and that those that flew the coup are missing out. Give these young people a sense of pride for their school. Do not abandon Pep Rallies, do not cross off having a chess or debate team, develop on-going academic competitions for students in the core subjects AND yes, competitions for teachers. Create a culture for Rigor, Accountability, and FUN! If done correctly,  neighborhood students will not want to miss out on the action of their zone school and those test scores that administrators are zealous about improving just may creep UP on them.

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