TSPR Dallas Independent School District - Intro
Skip to content
Quick Start for:

DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
PROGRESS REPORT

Transmittal Letter
Improving the TSPR
TSPR in the Dallas ISD
DISD in Profile
Dallas ISD Report Card
Exemplary Programs and Practices
TSPR Key Recommendations
What Still Needs to Be Done
DISD's Ideas for Improving the TSPR

Appendix A - Status of Recommendations and Savings

Introduction

In June 2001, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn released the results of her school performance review of the Dallas Independent School District (DISD). Based upon more than seven months of work, this report identified 193 recommendations that could, if fully implemented, result in net savings of more than $53.8 million over the next five years. In December 2001, at the request of Superintendent Dr. Mike Moses, TSPR returned to assess the district's six-month progress and, where necessary, answer questions or assist the district in developing implementation strategies. At that time, the district was making significant progress, well on their way toward full implementation. In September 2002, TSPR returned to assess the district's one-year progress in implementing the recommendations.

Improving the Texas School Performance Review

Comptroller Strayhorn, who took office in January 1999, consulted school district officials, parents and teachers from across Texas and carefully examined past reviews and progress reports in an effort to make TSPR more valuable, even vital, to the state's more than 1,000 school districts. With the perspective of having served as a teacher, and later a school board president, the Comptroller has vowed to steer TSPR toward being more accountable to local school districts and the communities they represent.

Comptroller Strayhorn began by establishing new criteria for selecting school districts for future reviews. Priority is now given to districts judged poor performing academically or financially, and to hands-on reviews that will benefit the greatest number of students.

Recognizing that only about 51 cents of every education dollar is spent on instruction, Comptroller Strayhorn's goal is to drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom. In addition, no longer are school districts' best practices and exemplary models left buried inside individual TSPR reports. Instead, Comptroller Strayhorn has ordered best practices and exemplary programs to be shared quickly and systematically among all the state's school districts and with anyone who requests such information. There is simply no reason for a district that has solved a problem to keep the solution to itself. Comptroller Strayhorn has directed TSPR to serve as an active clearinghouse of the best and brightest ideas in Texas public education. Best practices identified in the original review are now included in the Comptroller's best practices database, A+ Ideas for Managing Schools (AIMS), which is accessible on the Web at www.aimsdatabase.org.

Under Comptroller Strayhorn's approach, the TSPR team and consultants work with districts to:

  • ensure students and teachers receive the support and resources necessary to succeed;
  • identify innovative options to address core management challenges;
  • ensure administrative activities are performed efficiently, without duplication and in a manner that spurs education;
  • develop strategies to ensure the districts' processes and programs are continuously assessed and improved;
  • understand the links among the districts' functional areas and determine ways to provide a seamless system of services;
  • challenge any process, procedure, program or policy that impedes instruction and recommend ways to reduce or eliminate obstacles; and
  • put goods and services to the "Yellow Pages test" - government should do no job if there is a business in the Yellow Pages that can do that job better and at a lower cost.

Finally, Comptroller Strayhorn has opened her door to Texans who share her optimism about TSPR's potential. Suggestions to improve school reviews are welcome at any time. The Comptroller is a staunch believer in public education and public accountability.

Detailed information can be obtained from TSPR by calling 1-800-531-5441 extension 5-3676, or by visiting the Comptroller's Web site at www.window.state.tx.us.

TSPR in the Dallas Independent School District

On August 24, 2000, the DISD Board of Trustees asked Comptroller Strayhorn to conduct a performance review of the district's operations and agreed to pay one-fourth of the review's cost, or $200,000 of $800,000. Work began in Dallas in November 2000. In the final report issued in June 2001, the greatest challenges facing DISD included:

  • an inadequate focus on the district's primary mission of educating students;
  • a basic lack of accountability at all levels of district operations;
  • leadership instability and board turmoil;
  • poorly planned and managed contract services; and
  • the failure of core business functions, including human resources, facilities, purchasing and financial management, to meet basic district needs and comply with state and federal laws, rules and regulations.

The June 2001 review marked the second time that TSPR had reviewed DISD. A 1992 TSPR review of DISD contained 296 recommendations that promised to generate $60.5 million in savings. A 1995 progress report showed that 99 percent of the recommendations had been implemented, with reported savings of $24.8 million to date.

The Comptroller contracted with McConnell, Jones, Lanier and Murphy, a Houston-based firm, to assist with the present review. The review team interviewed district employees, school board members, parents, business leaders and community members and held 15 public forums at various district high schools on November 13, 14 and 16, 2000. To obtain additional comments, the review team conducted 27 focus group sessions with various district and community organizations.

About 3,160 persons completed and returned written surveys, including 120 campus and central administrators and support staff, 167 principals and assistant principals, 781 teachers and 2,092 students. In addition, TSPR conducted a random telephone survey of 1,223 area households. The Comptroller's office also received letters, e-mails and phone calls from a number of parents, teachers and community members. The review team also consulted two databases of comparative educational information maintained by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) - the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) and the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS).

DISD selected several "peer districts" for comparisons based on similarities in student enrollment, student performance and community and student demographics. The districts selected included Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. TSPR also compared DISD to district averages in TEA's Regional Education Service Center X (Region 10), to which DISD belongs, and the state as a whole.

DISD in Profile

At the release of the June 2001 report, DISD ranked as the nation's 11thlargest school district; it has since been surpassed by the Hillsborough County, Florida public school system and now stands as the 12th largest school district. As the second-largest district in Texas (exceeded only by Houston ISD), DISD served more than 163,000 students in 2001-02. DISD's enrollment has risen steadily since 1996-97, from 154,847 to 163,562 in 2001-02. The district consists of 218 schools: 156 elementary schools; 25 middle schools; 28 high schools; and nine alternative education programs.

The families who live in the "majority minority" district speak 58 different languages. In 2001-02, the district student ethnic composition was 56.8 percent Hispanic; 34.3 percent African American; 7.2 percent Anglo; 1.3 percent Asian/Pacific Islander; and 0.4 percent Native American. Economically disadvantaged students total 76.1 percent of the student population.

In 2001-02, 27 DISD schools received an Exemplary rating from TEA, a 238-percent increase from 1999-2000's eight Exemplary schools; 40 schools received a Recognized rating, a 150-percent increase from 1999-2000's 16 Recognized schools; 129 rated as Acceptable, an 18-percent decrease from the 157 schools with that rating in 1999-2000; and 15 received a Low Performing rating, a 46-percent reduction from the 1999-2000's 28 Low Performing schools. The district received an overall Academically Acceptable rating. George Bannerman Dealey Montessori School (seventh and eighth grades) was named a 2001-02 National Blue Ribbon School.

In 2001-02, 82.4 percent of all students passed the reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test; 84.9 percent passed the math portion; 77.3 percent passed the writing portion; and 71 percent of students passed all tests.

In 2001-02, the district employed a staff of 19,241 employees, with teachers accounting for 10,443, or more than 54 percent, of DISD staffing. The district had expenditures of $1.23 billion. This same year, DISD generated its budget revenues from the following sources: 68 percent through local taxes; 17 percent from federal sources; 12 percent from the state; and 3 percent from other local and intermediate sources. In 2001-02, DISD budgeted 53.6 cents of every tax dollar on classroom instruction compared to the state average of 51 cents.

Over the last year, significant changes have occurred in the district.

  • In January 2002, voters approved the district's largest-ever bond program, $1.37 billion, to build 20 new schools and renovate or add to the 218 existing schools. Construction, scheduled to begin in early 2003, will take five to eight years.
  • Census changes required new elections in spring 2002 for each of the nine positions of the single-member board district. All but two board members, who had resigned, were re-elected.
  • The district developed a plan to attract and retain a qualified teaching workforce that included: increasing the beginning teacher salary from $34,000 to $37,000; offering a $1,500 sign-on bonus for new hires; adding a $500 English as a Second Language (ESL) stipend; and providing $250 to every teacher for supplies. As a result of an intensive regional recruitment effort, DISD started 2002-03 with only 28 teacher vacancies.
  • The district created a curriculum scope and sequence, which is aligned with the state's educational accountability system and is accessible on-line for improved service delivery to campuses and teachers.

While work continues in the district, DISD has made stellar progress in a short amount of time. The district implemented 178 recommendations and have 14 in progress. The district rejected only one recommendation.

While some districts reviewed by TSPR have focused on implementing only the most basic elements of the recommendations, it is important to note that DISD felt that it was important to look past the letter of the recommendations when necessary and implement the spirit of the recommendation; changes that ultimately took the improvements and savings to even higher levels than originally envisioned. TSPR applauds DISD’s efforts and believes this “can do” attitude has allowed the district to quickly and efficiently improve and streamline overall operations. (See Appendix A for details on the recommendations' status.)

Dallas ISD Report Card

Exemplary Programs and Practices

DISD is a school district with some notable successes, and TSPR has identified numerous "best practices." Through commendations in each chapter, the original report highlighted model programs, operations and services provided by DISD administrators, teachers and staff members. Other school districts throughout Texas are encouraged to examine these exemplary programs and services to see if they could be adapted to meet local needs. TSPR's commendations are listed below followed by updated information on each topic in italics.

  • Medicaid reimbursement - DISD aggressively pursues Medicaid reimbursements for the services it provides to students with disabilities. In 2000-01, DISD switched its contract for the administration of this program from a private sector company to Houston ISD, which was able to provide the service at a lower cost, thus increasing the net revenue generated for DISD. Through continual evaluation and improvement of processes for obtaining Medicaid reimbursement for eligible costs under the SHARS (school health and related services) and MAC (Medicaid administrative claiming) programs, the district has obtained $9.8 million since 1997.

    DISD continues to aggressively pursue Medicaid reimbursements through its contract with Houston ISD. In 2002-03, DISD centralized its Medicaid coordination into one department, enabling it to refine service provider procedures in the SHARS program and to develop staff-specific training in the MAC program. Since 1997, the district has netted more than $12.5 million from these programs' reimbursements.

  • Meeting local workforce needs - By working closely with campus-based and districtwide advisory committees, the Career and Technology Education (CATE) program has ensured that its offerings are relevant to the needs of area employers. In addition, graduates receive computer-based information about occupations, seminars and job referrals through the district's Graduate Placement Center. In addition, special education students at the Multiple Career Magnet Center are trained in workplace skills to help them find and keep jobs and live independently.

    Through its advisory committees, DISD continues to work with Dallas-area employers to review programs and provide up-to-date curriculum for students. In April 2002, the Graduate Placement Center conducted a job fair for high school graduates. The Multiple Career Magnet Center continues to implement and improve its transition-focused education emphasizing employment and living in the community. In addition, the district introduced principals and teachers to a new Teacher Prep Dallas! Program that encourages students to consider Career and Technology Education courses exploring teaching careers.

  • Student health services - Since 1974, the district has forged partnerships with state, local and private health service organizations to provide medical and mental health services to its students. Its nine Youth and Family Centers (YFCs) serve a group of 20 to 25 campuses. In 1999-2000, YFCs treated 11,911 clients, 62.5 percent of whom were economically disadvantaged; 99 percent had no private medical insurance.

    Following the review, DISD constructed a new Youth and Family Center facility in the southeast sector of the city at Seagoville Middle School. Plans are underway for another center at Lincoln Humanities and Communications Magnet School.

    According to the Youth and Family Center's 2001-02 program evaluation, clients made statistically significant performance gains over the previous year on education accountability tests. During 2001-02, the Youth and Family Centers provided 11,698 students with 59,803 physical and mental health care services. Almost 80 percent of the students served were economically disadvantaged and 99.9 percent of the clients reported that they did not have health insurance. More than 97 percent of students and family members receiving services reported in recent satisfaction questionnaires that they were happy with the services and said they would return if services were required. School personnel reported significant improvement in student attendance and student behavior for Youth and Family Center clients. All principals surveyed reported that the Youth and Family Centers provide quality services to students and their families.

  • Electronic validation of teaching and professional staff certifications - With almost 15,000 teachers and other professional staff requiring certification, verification of certification data maintained by the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) is a major task. By electronically matching DISD's list of teachers and professional staff with SBEC's master list of current certifications, the district has made the process more efficient. Since August 2000, the district identified seven employees with sanctioned or revoked certifications.

    DISD continues to communicate with SBEC to match the local district certification codes to their current certification codes. Additionally, Texas has implemented new certification standards and DISD is aligning its data fields to those maintained by SBEC. The district expects to finalize this process soon and repeat the electronic match of certification records in fall 2002.

  • Integrating technology in the classroom - Institutions of higher education, community groups and businesses have partnered with DISD providing the district with 1,150 networked computers for 23 schools, 10 printers and specialized training for 20 master teachers. These 20 master teachers will train 20 additional teachers each year in techniques for integrating technology into the curriculum. In addition, DISD is participating in an intradistrict distance learning pilot program that will allow students from throughout the district to receive instruction from a master teacher located in one of the district's six participating high schools.

    Since the review, DISD has pursued additional partnerships, including state and federal educational agencies, and has expanded the specialized training to include hundreds of teachers. In addition, the distance learning pilot program expanded into a full program now operating in the district's 10 participating high schools.

    DISD's multi-year programs include Intel Teach to the Future, the Technology Outreach Program and the Technology Immersion Project. New partnerships that focus on technology integration include Voyager University, a consortium that includes the Technology Infrastructure Fund Board (TIF), the University of North Texas, Voyager Inc., the district and three additional TIF awards - Special Projects, PS 10, and PS 11. The distance learning program is continuing into its fourth year with the videoconferencing labs in 10 high schools that are now connected to three Regional Education Service Center X (Region 10) videoconferencing labs in the district.

  • Three-step annual evaluations of principals - In August, area superintendents conduct a "pre-conference" with principals to develop mutually agreed-upon, measurable goals. In January, a mid-year evaluation is held to review peer observations. In June, a final, summary evaluation measures progress toward the established goals.

    In 2002-03, the three-step process expanded to include all campuses, not just low-performing campuses. By fall 2002, the area superintendents will complete the first step, which involves individual campus analysis of AEIS data regarding campus academic performance, attendance, and dropout rate. If a principal's score falls below 70 percent on the overall improvement rating on the evaluation, the area superintendent and the principal will develop an intervention plan. Each principal will conduct mid-year and end-of-year conferences to provide ongoing assistance and review and to complete the process.

  • Arts-in-education initiative - ArtsPartners is a citywide arts-in-education initiative launched by the City of Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission in partnership with DISD. Through the program, which operates during the school day, students attend arts and cultural events; have music, dancing and art lessons; or attend the opera, theater or zoo. This program is integrated into the curricula and gives access to cultural events to children from all backgrounds.

    During 2002-03, approximately 101,000 students and 4,500 teachers - all elementary students and teachers in DISD - will benefit from ArtsPartners programs. Teachers will receive ongoing professional development through a new curriculum, which can be applied across curriculum areas. In addition, ArtsPartners launched a Web site providing teachers access to a searchable program database and professional development tools, as well as curriculum models and best practices in arts education. ArtsPartners is also in the second year of a three-year longitudinal study in partnership with the Annenberg Center that is measuring the effects of an integrated arts and culture curriculum, specifically on literacy and academic achievement.

  • Cash Management - The district maintains only five checking accounts for normal business operations. This results in lower bank service fees and requires less employee time reconciling accounts and overall administration of the accounts.

    The district has implemented the use of Internet-based banking technology in its treasury and financial areas, including online investing and reporting and bank account information reporting. Transactions are protected with encryption technology to prevent an unauthorized user from obtaining or disseminating district financial data.

    DISD's use of multiple Internet technology programs made available by the district's depository bank enhances its transaction-handling capabilities geographically. Transactions may be initiated and approved, via Internet, from anywhere in the world. In addition, information reporting is available to multiple users regardless of geographic location. The ease by which multiple user access can be granted to pre-approved DISD personnel reduces administrative tasks, paper-handling and copying costs.

  • Contracts for vehicle parts supply services - DISD contracts with a nationally recognized parts company to provide a guaranteed price for 85 percent of all auto parts on demand and 95 percent of all auto parts that are delivered by the next business day after ordering. The contract also requires full manufacturer's warranties on all parts and a fixed 10 percent net profit for the contractor.

    Since the review, the district's Fleet Maintenance Division has reduced vehicle and equipment downtime. With repair parts readily available, repair backlogs have been reduced allowing more time for preventative maintenance work on vehicles and equipment. Reduced equipment downtime provides increased productivity while providing reliable equipment for personnel. The actual percent of parts received on demand exceeded the 85 percent guaranteed.

    Since the review, DISD has identified additional model programs, operations and services that have been submitted and accepted for inclusion on the Comptroller's AIMS database. A sample of those additional programs follows.

  • Customer Service Center - In March 2002, the district opened its Customer Service Center with four main goals: to improve the district's credibility with the community; to ensure accurate and consistent dissemination of information; to ensure uniform resolution standards across the district; and to provide management reports to target problem areas and prioritize resources. The Center's customer service operators route calls from parents, employees or the general public to the appropriate persons and/or departments within the district in a timely, efficient and courteous manner. Customer service representatives handle callers with concerns and/or complaints about district matters, its departments or personnel. The staff enters all concerns or complaints into an automated call-tracking system that generates performance reports. In addition, the Center provides assistance to all district departments interested in improving operational processes by evaluating their processes and then formulating recommendations for improvement that includes the tools necessary for implementation of those improvements.
  • AlignDesign - By developing a deep understanding of the relationship between the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) state objectives and the new state assessment - Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) - in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies, grades K-12, DISD is working to align its curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development. AlignDesign includes an innovative process that promotes student success on the TAKS by effectively implementing the TEKS and the district's curriculum design with a focus on higher standards in classroom instruction and assessment through the development and implementation of a district/vertical team curriculum and assessment staff development plan.
  • Oasis (Objective Alignment System in Schools) - Oasis, a web-based curriculum service, accelerates and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of lesson planning, delivery of instruction, assessment of student performance and connectivity with instruction resources. It is designed to provide immediate access to the TEKS, TAKS objectives, lesson-planning format, local and state curriculum resources, classroom strategies and activities. In addition, through the "Taught Report," teachers can document curriculum objectives completed and enter lesson plans on-line. Oasis allows DISD to standardize instructional products and services districtwide, accelerating teacher and administrative access to curriculum and lesson plans.
  • DISD Teacher Recruitment CD-ROM - The Human Resource Services Department provides prospective teachers a CD ROM, eliminating the need for paper folders of DISD information and hard copy application forms. The CD ROM provides a direct link to the district's Web site where prospects complete on-line applications. It also provides promotional videos from teachers and information. The CD ROM indicates the district's commitment to technology to prospective teachers.
  • DISD Parent - The district created a new publication to forge a stronger partnership with parents. The publication's objectives seek to provide parents with important and interesting information about DISD, educational opportunities and ways to support their children and their children's education. The district prints 164,000 copies of the publication, which is available in English and Spanish. Two issues were published in 2002. The district distributed the first issue through the schools and mailed the second issue to students' homes. Parent response to the publication has been excellent.
  • District 30-Second Promotional Video at American Airlines Center - A contract agreement with the American Airlines Center allows DISD to air a 30-second promotional video at every event in the arena for the next 10 years. Rather than hiring a marketing agency to develop the videos, district staff wrote and created two spots that ran throughout 2001-02. The videos seek to change public perceptions about DISD. The first spot highlighted the number of exemplary, recognized and U.S. Blue Ribbon schools within DISD. The second spot featured famous graduates of the school district including Karen Hughes, counselor to the president, and Michael Johnson, Olympic Gold Medalist and world record holder. Audiences at the arena have actually cheered following airing of the spots.
  • School Zone Dallas Television Program - School Zone Dallas, a new fast-paced and energetic program hosted by enthusiastic students at various schools, seeks to inform the general public about DISD activities. The show will broadcast monthly on KERA 2, a channel accessible to everyone in North Texas. Each show will originate from a different DISD school and contain six feature stories. Features have included the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Jazz combo on location at the Monterey Jazz Festival, a high school cheerleader with Down Syndrome and DISD's Teacher of the Year. The district promotes the show through posters, 30-second ads on KERA 2, its cable channels and a full page ad in DISD's annual football program. Currently, the district is investigating the possibility of placing ads on city buses. Student hosts, who must have a 3.0 grade point average, were chosen through a videotaped audition.
  • DISD Intranet Site - The district's new Intranet site, Inet, provides a valuable resource for employees seeking information on topics such as employee benefits and policies, handbooks, district information, curriculum, phone numbers and district forms. The site quickly and easily supplies employees access to information and forms previously provided only in hard copy, if at all. Inet contains the district's style guide and template for letters and memos; the districtwide calendar to help schedule an event; information for use in preparing the campus improvement plans; curriculum; and the district logo. Even though school was not in session, the site received almost 10,000 hits between
    June 1, 2002, and August 26, 2002.
  • Sick Leave Bank - The district created a Sick Leave Bank and Sick Leave Gift Program to benefit full-time district employees who suffer a catastrophic injury or illness. The bank provides a pool of local sick leave days contributed by employees to be used by bank members who suffer a qualifying incapacitating personal illness, accident or qualifying family member's terminal illness that extends beyond their own accumulated sick and personal leave. The Sick Leave Gift Program allows an employee to donate sick leave to a specific individual. It also allows an individual to receive local leave days donated by other employees. Participation in the Sick Leave Bank and Sick Leave Gift Program is voluntary.
  • Building Detail Report - To assist DISD's insurance underwriter in determining the risk to DISD property, the district designed a new building report. In addition to a digital picture, the report contains the following information on each facility: description, year built, square footage, fire protection (including whether or not the building contains a sprinkler system), the name of the building supervisor and the number of portables. It also includes general building characteristics, services, features and insurable value. The district allows the fire department access to the information to locate gas, electrical and water cutoff locations.
  • Energy Efficiency - The district employed Energy Star's ® Portfolio Manager to benchmark, label and track DISD schools' energy efficiency. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Portfolio Manager contains the only national energy performance rating systems for schools. The system allows the energy management department to track improvements over time and compare the energy consumption of district facilities. The Energy Star rating system measures the energy performance of each school facility on a scale of 1 to 100. The score illustrates the comparison of energy consumption to other DISD facilities and to districts nationwide. The rating system provides useful baseline information to assist DISD in establishing energy performance targets and planning energy efficiency improvements. Each facility that scores 75 or higher and meets indoor air quality targets receives an Energy Star label that is a bronze plaque to affix to the facility. Energy Star symbolizes the district's commitment to energy efficiency and protecting the environment.
  • "Real Time" Business Functions by School Cafeterias - Cafeterias now access internally-developed databases to streamline many functions that previously required extensive paperwork and several hours of labor. School cafeterias in 205 remote sites access central databases in "real time" through the district's Intranet to submit bread orders; determine student eligibility; inventory kitchen equipment; track equipment work orders; and maintain personnel assignment and history. The district is in the process of expanding the database to include milk and produce orders, training modules and daily financial and cash forms. Previously, forms were completed at school sites, copied and mailed or faxed to the Food Service central office. Documents were retrieved, organized and compiled for submission to vendors and/or other administrative offices and then filed for recordkeeping.
  • Improved Dropout and Attendance Rates through a Program of Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery - In its seventh year of operation, DISD's Attendance Improvement and Truancy Reduction Program focuses on increasing student attendance; parents' educational awareness; DISD staff's dropout prevention awareness; and collaborations with community social agencies/policy makers. The district uses attendance enforcement (judicial action), early notification of attendance issues for parents, prevention and intervention strategies and, when warranted, social services referrals for students and families to achieve a positive pattern of school attendance. In 2002, the National Dropout Prevention Network awarded DISD's initiative the Crystal Star Program Award of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention and Prevention.

TSPR Key Recommendations

What Still Needs to be Done?

DISD has made steady progress in implementing TSPR recommendations. The district has implemented 178 recommendations and has 14 in various stages of progress. The district did reject one recommendation. This section addresses the key areas requiring additional attention.

Desegregation Order

DISD has made great progress in implementing recommendation #23 to prepare a short-term plan to comply with the desegregation order. The district has completed its analysis and submitted documents to the courts for review. And, most recently, the district has requested a hearing, which could be held as early as March 2003. Because DISD’s ethnic composition has changed over the last 31 years, with more than half of its students population being Hispanic and one-third being African American, some of the concerns surrounding the original order appear to no longer exist. One of TSPR’s major concerns in making this recommendation was the fact that in some cases the order was preventing the district from moving needed resources to the under-performing campuses in the district, clearly not the intent of the original order. TSPR applauds DISD for its efforts to be in compliance with the original order. Once the court has ruled, TSPR encourages the district to move forward in distributing its resources, including personnel, in equitably addressing the needs of all children in the district.

Legal Services

Although DISD's monitoring of its legal services has improved, additional work remains. The district should continue to find ways to better manage those services (Recommendations 20 and 21). The district should issue a request for proposals for external legal services to hire a minimum of three and a maximum of five law firms with specific school-law experience to reduce legal fees and case-management activities. DISD continues to contract with external law firms, but hopes to reduce the number of contracted law firms by February 2003. TSPR encourages the district to continue to decrease the amount of legal work that is assigned to the outside counsel. TSPR believes the district must adopt a policy to allow the general counsel to manage all legal case assignments regardless of whether they originated at the district or board level. Even though it may be easier for external counsel to meet directly with board members, overall district legal services cannot be effectively managed under this scenario.

Personnel Management

DISD is currently revising job titles/job descriptions and preparing new compensation schedules (Recommendations 13, 66, 67 and 184). The district has also studied its compensation system and is designing a performance appraisal instrument. DISD needs to complete its studies and implement the plan. Timeliness in implementing such issues is critical to ensure that all DISD staff are held accountable now for their job performance based on mutually agreed-upon performance measures. Monetary incentives should be given to reward good performance.

Activity Funds

TSPR commends the district for taking actions to improve the oversight of activity funds, including requiring two signatures on activity fund checks, establishing a staggered audit schedule and ensuring that all schools use the activity fund software. However, TSPR's recommendation #116 to centralize middle and high school activity funds has not been acted upon. TSPR encourages the district to centralize the management of the activity funds in the area offices. Activity monies are collected by and expended for the benefit of individual schools and their students, including campus activity funds and student activity or club funds. TSPR urges DISD to budget resources for oversight of the activity fund transactions to improve internal controls and transaction reporting. In fiscal 2000, there was an activity fund balance of more than $5 million. This money continues to be managed individually at each school with limited controls. Consolidated management would result in overall improved controls of these resources.

DISD's Ideas for Improving the Texas School Performance Review

The Texas School Performance Review team does not assume that its process for performing school reviews works so well that it cannot be improved. Therefore, as part of the progress report preparation, TSPR asked Dallas ISD board members, staff members and administrators to discuss how the process could be improved.

The feedback TSPR has received from other districts led to improvements in the review process. For example, early reports did not include implementation strategies, and districts told TSPR they needed help in getting started. As a result, the reports now include implementation strategies and timelines to complement the recommendations. Districts have told TSPR these blueprints are invaluable to achieving the desired results. It is important for TSPR to continually be mindful of those things that did not work as intended so that the review process can be improved.

Superintendent Dr. Mike Moses and DISD administrators were very complimentary of the TSPR review. They said the review offered a blueprint to assist the district in making tough decisions, such as reorganizing the administration and tightening control of contracts. The district did offer the following suggestions for improving TSPR's process.

District administrators said that TSPR should focus more on instruction rather than on a district's business functions, since learning and instruction are part of the district's core mission. DISD also said that there were some key cross-functional processes and policing issues that could have been covered more thoroughly. TSPR is continually improving each of the 12 audit protocols to ensure they accurately capture the characteristics of the functional area and identify cross-functional components. TSPR has invited DISD staff to help expand and improve on each of the areas reviewed. The educational service delivery chapter will be reviewed to expand the types of activities, programs and services reviewed. The safety and security chapter will be reviewed to ensure the audit protocols address the issues related to small and large districts having their own police department like DISD.

Some DISD staff said that review team members did not spend adequate time reviewing each department to gain a thorough understanding of district operations. DISD staff suggested that TSPR increase the length of time for consultants to visit with each department and to interview district staff. While the consultants were thorough in their questions and assessments, the district perceived that staff did not have enough opportunity to share specifics as to the varied activities that are related to programs and practices. For example, the Communications Department said that the review team overlooked many of their processes and operations and would have appreciated more time in the review process. TSPR appreciates and understands the district's concern and, in the future, TSPR will confirm that each department reviewed has provided any and all information to the review team for consideration.

DISD staff said that TSPR's implementation strategies were too prescriptive in some cases, while others felt the implementation strategies were not detailed enough. Implementation strategies are intended to provide direction to the district about who should do what by when. They are intended to guide implementation, but clearly there is more than one way to achieve the same results. In the future, TSPR will give more attention to implementation strategies to ensure that they are clear and concise without being prescriptive.

Some district staff felt that it was difficult to determine how costs and savings were derived in some cases. For example, DISD cited the calculation of custodial allocations as a difficult fiscal methodology to replicate. The district also said that it would have been helpful if the fiscal impacts were reviewed with the district to determine if the dollars were realistic. Fiscal impacts are an integral part of the TSPR process. TSPR will continue to carefully document and verify facts with the district prior to the release of the report.

Finally, DISD said that it would have been helpful if the district staff had more clearly understood what information could have been provided to familiarize the consultants and TSPR team with the district before onsite work began. TSPR sends districts a detailed preliminary data request which is shared with consultants a few days before work begins. TSPR also encourages districts to submit additional information, but tries to limit the burden placed on the district's staff to reports not specifically requested. In the future, TSPR will more strongly emphasize the importance of the data to the districts and will provide the data to the consulting team far enough in advance of the beginning of onsite work to allow them every opportunity to fully digest that information.