• Lori Kirkpatrick

Why Build Community Schools?


Although Dallas ISD has seen some large improvements over the past several years, there are still issues that need to be addressed in order to improve student achievement and success. The time has come for new ideas. With over 89 percent of the DISD student body considered to be high poverty, it is even more important that these new ideas serve the entire DISD population and not just a few. Focusing on test scores alone has not been working.

We need to take a look at Community Schools, a model that has existed in the U.S. for decades and that has shown success in cities across the U.S. including in Austin, TX. Community Schools are able to focus on children and their achievement by combining quality teaching with family and community involvement. We all know that our children need not only academic support but also social support in order to achieve success both in school and in life.

There are six strategic components to Community Schools:

1. Engaging and Student-Centered Curricula - Schools must offer a good selection of classes and after-school programs that include the arts, languages, and honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Programs and classes should also include special education students and students for whom English is a second language.

2. High-Quality Teaching - Teachers should not be judged based on the test scores of their students. Teachers should be focused on meeting their students' academic needs and teacher assessment systems should adhere to this concept. Professional development should also be an important focus.

3. Community Support - There should be wrap-around services and opportunities that support student academic achievement. This would include health, social, and emotional support services that are available to the full community year-round.

4. Positive Discipline - Disciplinary methods such as restorative justice help to achieve school safety and a healthy school climate while eliminating suspensions and similar harsh punishments.

5. Parental and Community Engagement - Research shows that the best schools are those where the community actively participates in both planning and decision-making.

6. Inclusive School Leadership - Each school has a Community School Coordinator who works with school's leadership team to make sure that parents, community partners, school staff, students, and other stakeholders, have a voice in strategic decisions.

It is time for true public education innovation. When students' health, safety, social and cognitive needs are met, there is a correlation with increased academic success. As your District 2 Trustee, I will partner with other Trustee members to determine how we can implement this model within DISD. I believe this more comprehensive approach will result in better academic scores, increases in attendance, decreases in absences, and decreased disciplinary issues.

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