A solution to suburban invasion: Give extra points for attending Dallas ISD schools

Recently, Dallas ISD trustees voted to give a boost to students applying to William B. Travis Vanguard for the Academically Talented and Gifted if an older sibling already attends the school.

We wrote about the number of siblings admitted to the school last spring based on the board policy, and the compromise policy trustees collectively supported to try to reverse the trend. Instead of moving siblings to the front of the line, it gives them a 5-point boost on their 100-point assessment.

The policy is designed to benefit families who want to travel to and invest in a single school. It caters to middle- and upper-class families whom the district is trying to woo and who overwhelmingly comprise Travis, a TAG magnet for fourth- through eighth-graders. Travis is one of five Dallas ISD schools that are predominantly affluent.

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We also reported recently on the numbers of suburban students attending the district’s top magnet schools. After reading it, Lakewood parent Natalie Cortez responded with this idea: “Why not extra points for investing in DISD at the elementary level?”

Her son was one of dozens on the Travis wait list who were admitted when administrators opened the school to more students. Cortez says she has encountered a number of families there who “live in the district yet choose private school for elementary and then only jump to DISD when they can get their kid into a school like Travis.”

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“There are so few spots at a place like Travis, it’s frustrating to see spots taken by private school kids that could have gone to kids that may be more socioeconomically disadvantaged within the district,” she says.

It’s an interesting idea that strikes to the core of one of the board’s goals: “Dallas ISD schools will be the primary choice for families in the district.”

“Perhaps if parents know their child will have a better chance of being accepted if they pick a DISD elementary school, more of them will opt in to the system,” Cortez says.

Her suggestion was for children applying to Travis or one of the other magnet middle schools, such as Irma Rangel Young Women’s or Barack Obama Male leadership academies, or the international academies at Harry Stone and George B. Dealey Montessori schools.

Though sibling preference doesn’t extend to the district’s magnet high schools, such as Booker T. Washington SPVA, or Townview’s TAG or SEM, what if these extra credit points could be awarded to students at Dallas ISD middle schools applying to these high schools?

A policy like this certainly would send a statement to Dallas families who have written off the school district save for its renowned magnet schools.

What would be interesting is to see how many families come for the magnet schools and stay for the neighborhood schools when they find out that, in fact, incredible things are happening not just Uptown and Downtown but right down the street.

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