An analysis of Texas Education Agency (TEA) data indicates that Dallas County comes in dead last among the Lone Star State’s top six big-city counties when it comes to public schools’ student achievement scores, and it looks like Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is responsible for the dismal ranking.
TEA publishes annual accountability reports for every campus, measuring student achievement through STAAR exam performance and weighing that against graduation rates and a college/military readiness metric when applicable. The report lists a numerical score out of 100 and a standard letter grade.
The Dallas Express looked at the 2021-2022 academic year data for Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis Counties, the six counties whose county seats constitute the six most populated cities in Texas. A weighted average of all the schools in each county yielded the following scores:
1. El Paso County – 78.1
2. Travis County – 77.6
3. Harris County – 77.4
4. Tarrant County – 77.3
5. Bexar County – 74.4
6. Dallas County – 74.2
All six counties scored a C letter grade, with El Paso County on the higher end and Dallas County bringing up the rear. Their rankings were primarily driven by each county’s biggest school district, which in all cases overlapped with the county seat, which explains a thing or two about Dallas County.
A closer look at the data shows that DISD dragged Dallas County down in the rankings. It had more campuses than any other district in the county (237) and the biggest number of schools that earned a D or F letter grade in student achievement.
Out of the 129 campuses that received a D letter grade from TEA, 57 are in DISD, just over 44% of the total. Similar figures follow when it comes to failing schools, with 38% of Dallas County’s F- rated schools belonging to DISD, 29 out of a total of 76.
DISD’s districtwide performance during the 2021-2022 academic year proved alarming when the TEA published its report, with nearly 20% of high school students in the class of 2022 failing to graduate on time and just over 40% of all students scoring at grade level on the STAAR exam.
DISD’s failure to adequately educate its students could also be figuring into a bizarre dynamic in migration flows into North Texas.
While the region is enjoying a steady influx of hundreds of thousands of new residents, the vast majority are settling down in surrounding counties, including Collin, Denton, and Tarrant. In fact, Dallas County is losing residents.
“Think about that. The region is booming, but Dallas County, whose heart is the city of Dallas, is losing population,” read an editorial by The Dallas Morning News.
According to estimates published by the U.S. Census Bureau, Dallas County lost more than 27,000 residents between 2020 and 2021. Nearly 16,000 of those that left moved out of Dallas city limits. Both the county and the city lost more than 1% of their respective populations in that time, bucking the broader trend and narrative of North Texas boom times.
“Competitiveness is the sum of little things that add up to big things — reliable city services, lower crime, a fairer and less cumbersome zoning and permitting process, and strong schools,” the editorial went on to read, commenting on areas where the city has been consistently lacking for years.
A poll conducted in early September found that a plurality of respondents believed that “mismanagement” was the reason DISD was one of the worst-performing school districts in the state, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.
“Taxpayers in the district and parents who previously had children in DISD schools are overwhelmingly disappointed with what they’re seeing,” stated Kelly Neidert of Protect Texas Kids.
It is unclear if DISD will continue to underperform and what impact it will have on the population health of the city and county. The school board recently installed a new superintendent, Stephanie Elizalde, who was hired out of Austin Independent School District.
If Elizalde’s reputation in Austin is any indication, more DISD parents, students, residents, and taxpayers could set their sights on greener pastures out in North Texas.