Commit! to Literacy: Volunteer with South Oak Cliff and Molina

July 31, 2013
31 Jul 2013

We’re excited to share unique volunteer opportunities throughout August in 14 Dallas ISD elementary schools that feed into South Oak Cliff and Molina high schools, serving over 8,000 students in Southwest Dallas. Principals and teachers at these schools have been hard at work planning for the year ahead, and they need your help as they rev up for the first day of class and set the foundation for our kids’ success.

Literacy centered classrooms and an aspirational college-going culture will help set that foundation. At the end of 3rd grade, children make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Hence, a child’s ability to read on grade level by the end of 3rd grade is a strong indicator of his or her future; fewer than 1 in 5 children who read below grade level in 3rd grade go on to college.

Over the next three Saturdays (Aug. 3, 10, and 17), you can help by:

We will have complete directions and supplies at each of the schools. All you need is enthusiasm and energy!

In addition to impacting thousands of students, all volunteers will be rewarded with a free ticket to the Heart of Dallas Classic football game and entry to the State Fair of Texas!

To participate, please complete this brief Dallas ISD volunteer application and sign up for your preferred day, time and project here. Please forward this email to your networks!

Get Involved
               Get Involved

Thank you for your time and support of children across our community. To learn more about the Commit! Partnership or if you have questions,
please email

Mayor’s Back to School Fair

July 31, 2013
31 Jul 2013

The cost of getting children ready to start a new school year – taking into account essentials like notebooks, uniforms, and health checks – is overwhelming for many Dallas families. But the Mayor’s Back to School Fair, presented by Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, will ease the burden for thousands of local families for the 17th year in a row. Tomorrow, August 1st, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can head to Fair Park to volunteer, get your child prepared, or just check out the event!

The City of Dallas, Dallas area schools, public health departments, state agencies, non-profit organizations, corporations, and hundreds of volunteers have come to together to create a space in which all school-related needs can be met for free or at little cost. Need a haircut? A new pair of glasses? They’ve got you covered. Is it time for a checkup with the dentist, or for an immunization? No problem. Want some refreshing snacks and a book to read while you wait? Half Price Books and the North Texas Food Bank will make sure you’re comfortable while you navigate the stations.

We thank Mayor Rawlings and the long list of generous donors and community sponsors for helping to ensure that all kids start the new year on the right foot!

All are welcome, but please note that free school supplies are only for Dallas public school students who meet the 2013 Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.

Check the website for additional details. Hope to see y’all there!

Championing the Work of our Partners!

July 25, 2013
25 Jul 2013

Texans Can Academies: Please welcome our partner, Texans Can Academies, a statewide network of 10 charter schools. These high schools provide structured and nurturing education to students who have struggled in traditional classrooms. With a strong foundation in reading and thinking skills, and a focus on responsibility and good citizenship, students are prepared to succeed in whatever path they choose, whether college, the military, or the professional world. The schools provide a number of programs to help their students graduate and ultimately make empowered decisions about their future:  They offer specialized remedial reading, credit recovery for those who have fallen behind, dual credit courses, and on-site child care for young parents. Their Student Transition Coordinators (provided through the PASS Program) counsel students on their post-secondary options through individual guidance, coordinate group activities like job shadowing and college visits, and help students with resumes and applications. We appreciate the space they provide for struggling students in Dallas, and are excited to see their future successes!

Fidelity Investments: We’d like to give a shout-out to Fidelity Investments, one of our generous corporate partners! Fidelity has provided financial consulting and planning to Americans for over 60 years. They strive to exemplify good corporate citizenship, and are dedicated to improving the communities in which they work. Not only do they provide grants and philanthropic support to a number of non-profit organizations and initiatives, they also encourage their employees to volunteer on the ground. Fidelity is particularly committed to working with disadvantaged middle schools, and is currently partnered with TC Marsh here in Dallas. We thank Fidelity for their partnership, and applaud their 30 years of community outreach and support in North Texas!

West Dallas Community Centers: Say hello to West Dallas Community Centers, Inc., a private non-profit that has been impacting the families of West Dallas for over 80 years. Open year-round, their facilities provide a nurturing and inspiring environment for over 600 kids annually. They offer a number of free programs designed to develop the knowledge, skills, self-respect, and positive attitude of their participants: Cultural Expressions, led by local artists, encourages expression and creativity; World Explorers focuses on science, health, and nutrition; Imagine Me a Millionaire encourages youth to practice their math and computer skill and learn about finance and self-sufficiency; We All Read provides specialized literacy and comprehension tutoring; and Positive Directions seeks to prevent truancy and educate about the risks of substance abuse. Together we hope to continue to provide youth with the resources to make healthy choices, excel in the classroom, and be leaders in their communities. Thanks for your decades of dedicated work!

Shining the Light on our Partners!

July 17, 2013
17 Jul 2013

Trinity River Audubon Center: Please say hello to our friends at the Trinity River Audubon Center! Built on a former landfill in the largest urban hardwood forest in the country, the Center has beautified and conserved an invaluable piece of land for the benefit of our community. For almost five years they have enriched the lives of Dallasites through their hands-on workshops – covering everything from survival skills, to edible bugs, to bird watching – that engage people of all ages in the exploration and conservation of nature. Coordinated with the state’s pre-K through 6th grade TEKS curriculum, visiting students work on their observation, critical thinking, and problem solving skills through immersion in the local ecology. The Center even offers workshops for educators that provide extra knowledge to bring into the classroom! We applaud the Audubon Center’s efforts to instill in local children a love for their natural habitat, and their overall commitment to youth education.

Educational First Steps: We’d like to highlight Educational First Steps as a valuable partner in the work to provide economically disadvantaged families with access to high-quality early childhood education. Through strategic and cooperative partnerships with child care providers, EFS mentors teachers and directors on site and contributes essential educational materials. They currently serve about 5,500 children, and have guided 40 centers to accreditation to date! Their efforts are vital in the push towards leveling the playing field for all students entering kindergarten, and in eventually closing the achievement gap. We thank Education First Steps for over 20 years of dedication to North Texas and look forward to our continued partnership!

The Hockaday School: We’d like to recognize The Hockaday School, which has been preparing young women for leadership and success for 100 years! Serving pre-K through 12th grade, Hockaday is the largest all-girls private preparatory school in the country. Their well-rounded program ensures that 100 percent of graduating seniors are accepted to prestigious universities and that they are prepared to excel both academically and professionally. In addition to their demanding academic curriculum, a strong emphasis is placed on fine arts and athletics. Extracurricular opportunities abound, with dozens of clubs and community service projects available. Hockaday strives to have a diverse student body, and makes efforts by providing an English immersion program for international students, as well as generous need-based financial aid. We admire The Hockaday School’s holistic and enormously successful program, and appreciate their partnership!

Commit! Partners

July 11, 2013
11 Jul 2013

J Erik Jonsson Community School: We’d like to introduce you to the J Erik Jonsson Community School, a Commit! partner that is dedicated to providing an engaging, high quality education to economically disadvantaged students in Oak Cliff. Stemming from the century-old Salesmanship Club of Dallas, the J Erik Jonsson Community School opened its doors in 1997 and now serves approximately 232 children from pre-K through 5th grade. The School not only sets high academic expectations for its students, but also focuses on molding them into socially and emotionally developed global citizens and life-long learners. They place a strong emphasis on building solid and caring relationships between teachers, students, their families, and the community, and maintain a thriving culture of parent engagement. The J Erik Jonsson School is committed to sharing and learning through an open exchange of ideas, and the data they collect and analyze is used with the goal of improving not only their own program, but also those of other area institutions of learning – a strategy and spirit that Commit! commends.

The Concilio: Please welcome The Concilio, one of our valued partners that has served DFW families for over 30 years! The Concilio is a community-based nonprofit whose mission is to build stronger communities by empowering parents to improve the education and health of their families. Through the multifaceted Parents Advocating for Student Excellence (PASE) program, parents learn their responsibilities and rights within the school system, gain knowledge and skills to enable better navigation through the academic world, and are encouraged to be actively engaged in their children’s education. The Concilio displays true dedication to improving the quality of life and learning for local students and their families, and we look forward to furthering that mission side by side!

University of Texas at Dallas: Please say hello to the University of Texas at Dallas, a valued Commit! partner that has been a presence in the community since 1969. UTD attracts diverse, bright minds with its first-tier reputation, wealth of undergraduate and graduate degree offerings, world-class science, engineering, and business programs, and its focus on research. UTD’s Office of Diversity and Community Engagement puts great effort into reaching out to underserved local students and forging lasting partnerships with local organizations, businesses, and community colleges, and school districts. They offer free tutoring and mentoring programs in many Dallas high schools, and lead enrichment programs like Introduce a Girl to Engineering at the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, which encourages middle school girls to pursue scientific interests. We love UTD’s dedication to growing minds of all ages, and their enthusiastic participation in TxCAN and Commit!’s greater partnership is much appreciated!

Continue the Conversation from the 83rd Session Education Legislative Recap

July 2, 2013
02 Jul 2013

The 83rd Session Education Legislative Recap was held on June 21st, 2013. For those who did not have a chance to make it out, we’d still like to connect you with other Dallas education advocates on issues that are important to you.

Continue Collaborating

The goal of our Education Legislative recap was to encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration among the advocacy groups in Dallas so that we can all be more effective. If we all know where our priorities overlap, it sets the stage for much stronger collaboration and thereby more successful advocacy. Here are two tools to encourage this collaboration:

  • Continue the Conversation – Survey about what is important to you. Please take this short survey to indicate which issues you want to keep in the loop on as we continue conversations. We will connect all those indicating a desire to be involved on a particular issue by email so that you can continue the conversation.
  • Summary recap of legislation important to participants. We invited all participants to submit summaries of education bills important to them (both passed and failed bills). Over 12 organizations participated. Click here to download a copy of the Participant Legislative Recap Summary. The Recap includes contact information for each bill os you can connect to participants submitting the summary of bills that are also important to you.
  • Break-Out Session Notes
    The break out sessions provided a deeper dive into each topic area with experts on the issues. Click here to see summaries of the break out sessions.

    Copy of Panelist Presentations
    Many of you have asked for electronic copies of our panelists’ presentations which provide excellent overviews of the education issues addressed by the 83rd legislative session on each topic. Click here to download the presentations.

    Thank you for your participation. Together we are stronger advocates for the students of Dallas County.

David Chard on the National Council of Teacher Quality report on the state of schools of education

July 2, 2013
02 Jul 2013

By , Dallas Morning News

The National Council on Teacher Quality recently released a much-discussed report about the work schools of education are doing in preparing teachers for the classroom. David Chard, dean of SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, answered these questions about the report and SMU’s rating during an email exchange last week:

What is the significance of the National Council on Teacher Quality report that assesses how well colleges of education are preparing teachers for life in the classroom? Other than providing more research information, what are we to take away from it?

The National Council on Teacher Quality set out over a decade ago to work to improve teacher preparation standards nationally. They have conducted several state level evaluations of teacher preparation programs. This is the first evaluation of its kind at a national scale.

Their effort involved reviewing course descriptions, syllabi, and textbooks used by teacher preparation programs offered by institutions of higher education. While their findings are limited to the quality of the information that NCTQ was able to get from each program, there are some key findings that merit attention.

For example, after decades of research on how to teach early reading so that the largest number of students learns to read proficiently, very few programs across the country provide adequate coursework on the science of teaching beginning reading. Additionally, most programs fail to provide teachers with adequate content in mathematics, support for students who are learning English, or classroom management.

These findings suggest that as a nation we are under-equipping new teachers for the needs of today’s classroom.

SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development received a score of 2 out of 4 possible points. How do you interpret that grade?

First, I think it is important to note that the SMU Simmons School eagerly participated in the NCTQ review. We participated earlier in their review of Texas Educator Preparation programs in 2010. At that time, our programs were determined to be one of only a few well-designed programs.

The current national review added several standards and required further evaluation of our programs. NCTQ determined that our preparation of teachers to teach reading is one of only a few that is well-designed.

We were disappointed in our overall score of 2 stars, however. We think this doesn’t accurately reflect all of the features of our programs. We have been in contact with NCTQ staff and are planning to work with them in July to ensure that they have accurate data. I am certain this will result in a more favorable score.

In other instances, the NCTQ review has pointed out areas that we need to improve. We are also using the outcome of the NCTQ review to determine exactly how to optimize our preparation programs. Schools and colleges of education preparing teachers for public education should be open to evaluation and should be prepared to act on the results. That is the culture we have developed at SMU Simmons.

If schools of education aren’t doing a good job teaching classroom management, or providing adequate math content, what is it that they are supposed to do? In other words, how do schools start to deal with the deficiencies the report highlights?

I think the first step is to determine whether the deficiency pointed out in the review is valid. This will require that the school carefully review the NCTQ scoring rubric and, if necessary, communicate with staff at NCTQ to determine how their score was derived.

If the deficiency is valid, then the school and its faculty should examine how the standard can be met. For example, when NCTQ completed its review of Texas programs, we determined that it was critical for us to increase the amount of mathematics content that our elementary school teachers were receiving. This content needed to be specific to the foundational knowledge that related to concepts taught in the elementary grades including the concept of number, number systems, pre-algebraic reasoning, etc.

We worked with our undergraduate curriculum council to determine the best way to make this pre-requisite to our teacher preparation program. Similar processes will need to be examined at each institution that wants to respond to NCTQ’s review in a constructive manner.