Earlier this year, Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles launched his Imagine 2020 program to help boost achievement and morale in beleaguered schools concentrated in the neighborhoods of West Dallas and Fair Park. As the Dallas Morning News’s web portal Dallas News explains, students at higher-risk schools in these neighborhoods face additional challenges which directly impact school retention, student performance, and overall morale. In lower-income areas where mealtimes are not necessarily givens, where residents may lack access to proper medical care, and where gang violence can be socially sanctioned and indifferently accorded a place in everyday life, students may break under supplementary stressors and opt to discontinue their education. Imagine 2020 aims to break this cycle and provide students a more personalized, tailored experience which implementers hope will ultimately “decrease achievement gaps…increase college and career readiness by accelerating student instruction…and increase teacher effectiveness by providing enhanced professional development opportunities.”
Imagine 2020 will effect these changes by increasing the school day by one hour, filling this additional window with tutoring, face-time with teachers, career preparation programs, and arts enrichment modules. While teachers will be expected to participate in career enhancement seminars, faculty at target schools will be expanded to include heightened human capital in college/career, anti-truancy, and student support services. Moreover, the plan envisions hiring “urban specialists” at schools, i.e. community-based adults who will “interact with students and parents” and “keep teachers and administrators apprised on how particularly weighty issues might affect a student’s academic performance,” according to Dallas News. Administrators are hoping this grassroots involvement, taken in concert with increased adult-student channels of communication, will counteract the perennial cycle of commercial atrophy, spiking violence, and staggering graduation rates.
The program is slated to begin in the 2013-2014 school year and include twenty-one local schools (high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools alike) in higher-risk areas. For more information, please visit the official Imagine 2020 site on the Dallas ISD’s webpage.