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As the district’s special education population continues to grow, Dallas ISD is committed to providing the services these students and families need to succeed.  

The Dallas ISD special education population increased from 7.7 percent to 8.2 percent of the district’s enrollment from 2016 to 2017, and that trend is expected to continue. 

To recognize National Special Education Day happening Dec. 2, here are some of the innovative practices the district has put in place to serve all children with disabilities:

For many years, Dallas ISD’s specialized classrooms were clustered throughout the district. This year, students have access to the continuum of special education services within each feeder pattern so they’re attending schools closer to their homes. This promotes greater parent engagement, shortens school bus rides for students, and sets the stage to prepare students to live and work in their own communities upon graduation.

This year, Dallas ISD is continuing two programs the district designed and initiated in 2017. The Enrichment Program for Inspiring Children and Functional Occupations and Careers for Unique Students programs serve secondary students as they prepare to graduate.  These programs focus on self-help, social and life skills.  

Dallas ISD is one of the first districts in the state to begin a robust project called Adapted Robotics. The district’s Special Education and STEM Departments have partnered to support more than 15 secondary schools and more than 150 special education students who use science and math to build robots, solve problems and compete.

Dallas ISD has also created a position where the main focus is on improving outcomes for students eligible to receive both special education and bilingual services. About 33 percent of special education students are in this category.

Other innovative ways Dallas ISD now serves special education students include:

  • A program called Partner PE encourages students receiving special education services to engage in physical activity;
  • In 2016, Dallas ISD started Family Network Centers on individual campuses where special education social workers support parents and administrators;
  • For parents with newly diagnosed students, Dallas ISD has a monthly New Navigators orientation to help them understand special education and engage in their child’s education;
  • Dallas ISD recently developed a new electronic Special Education handbook as a one-stop shop for teachers; 
  • A group of special education master teachers regularly meets to develop guidance and tools for campuses;
  • A Special Education Curriculum Advisory Council is a stakeholder group that has been instrumental in providing input regarding special education programming.

I am encouraged to see the district’s increased focus on special education services is starting to pay off. Over the past three years, the district has improved on 15 of 20 Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System special education performance indicators. Meanwhile, dropout rates for Dallas ISD special education students have substantially decreased.

Although we are excited about our progress, we recognize that we still have room for improvement.  As a trustee and advocate for our special needs kids, I am actively seeking input on further ways to improve special education services. I have formed a Special Education Advisory Council that is made up of community members who are familiar with the successes and gaps in Dallas ISD’s approach to special education students. This group is meeting frequently to form recommendations for further improvement which they will share with me in the coming months.  I welcome feedback from the community on this important topic, and I invite any community members with some expertise in this area to contact me at dustinmarshall@dallasisd.org.

In other news…

Now’s the time to apply for a Dallas ISD specialty school for the 2019-2020 school year. Applications can be completed online or stop by the school. The application window is open through January 31. For more info:www.dallasisd.org/yourchoices.

With the halfway mark coming up on the school year, go here to see some of the important remaining dates in the Dallas ISD 2018–19 calendar. 

Dustin Marshall is the District 2 representative on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees.

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