Many of Our Public Schools Are Terrible

Dallas ISD school bus | Image by Chaseyodreams101

If your feelings get hurt when our elected leaders are criticized, you might want to skip over this article. In fact, you probably shouldn’t be reading The Dallas Express at all, because we are all about accountability at this newspaper — especially accountability for our elected officials. And if our local government isn’t absolutely excellent, then our leaders will be hearing from this newspaper. So, prepare yourself. Back to the point:

Our public schools are terrible. They really are. But no one wants to say it. Why is that? How can we possibly improve something unless we objectively call it out? Our failing public schools are one of the reasons we founded The Dallas Express two years ago.

For reasons we don’t understand, other publications in town refuse to hold our public schools’ administration and board trustees accountable. It seems like they actually want our schools to be awful year after year.

By and large, our teachers are fantastic, hard-working people. But the very top administrators and the elected trustees are just awful. They have these monthly meetings where they rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic while it’s sinking lower and lower into the Atlantic.

Many, many schools in DISD are absolutely, completely, and wholly terrible. Shame on our elected officials and our top administrators. Shame.

The opening Op Ed of this newspaper two years ago was by the former superintendent of DISD. The crux of the article was about how naughty those Jan. 6 protestors were in D.C. (What does that have to do with Dallas’ secondary education?) and more or less that the schools are terrible because of “systemic racism.”

The irony was lost on that former superintendent that for years he oversaw (and was responsible for) the very structure that produced this systemic racism … Yet somehow, as he implied, it wasn’t his fault. I wonder if he knows what he was hired for if he couldn’t solve the problems the district was facing.

The trustees seem to employ the same failed programs year after year expecting different results. They spend over a billion dollars annually trying to educate our kids, and they still fail. Can you imagine? A billion dollars and it’s still performing so terribly?

My fellow Dallasites, the king has no clothes. We at The Dallas Express will not stand for such underperformance, and we know that many of you are with us on this.

So we developed “The Bad Apple of the Quarter” to highlight those DISD trustees (and trustees in other ISDs in the coming months and years) that are performing exceptionally poorly as measured by the number of students in their geographic districts whose schools have atrocious academic performance despite the continuous, valiant efforts of our hard-working teachers.

You may have heard that Houston ISD has just been taken over by the State of Texas because they’ve performed so poorly. My question is, why has DISD been spared this fate? I imagine it’s just a matter of time.

In launching this publication, we put forward that the only reason it was started was so that we could help make Dallas a better place to live and work. That’s impossible with such a terrible school system.

Businesses don’t move to the City of Dallas (they move to the suburbs) –- and one of the main reasons cited is because of the subpar schools. Who’d want to move their business here and then face their employees and tell them their kids have to go to DISD? Absolutely no one.

So every quarter we’re going to call out that particular Dallas ISD trustee that has abandoned and failed the most students by having such terrible schools in their geographic district. Don’t feel sorry for them. They signed up for this. They decided to run for trustee. And how else should their performance be measured if not by reviewing the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) scores for the schools in their districts?

Hilariously, DISD has received an overall score from the TEA of “B.”  This is contrived through creative use of non-academic factors and COVID-19 exceptions, because we live in a world where everyone wants a trophy — no matter how poorly they may perform.

Make no mistake fellow citizens, DISD is not a “B.”  If it were graded fairly, I estimate it would get a “D.”  And don’t be fooled by the selected metrics the district will no doubt roll out in response to this article. They’ll try and explain that despite the fact that tens of thousands of district students are in terrible schools, somehow everything is fantastic.

That’s why we’re here. We will cut through the public relations and give you the truth.

We’ve done this for the Crime Boss series. We give you the unvarnished truth (as reported by the City itself) on crime statistics. It’s amusing for us to see City officials claim — erroneously of course — that they’re making massive strides in crime reduction. Again, that’s why you have us.

So sit back and read our coverage of those DISD trustees that are letting us down. We wish it weren’t so and do not celebrate this fact. But we will not ignore it either. Let’s hope this coverage inspires our trustees to improve the awful state of education in our city.

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  1. Michael Stapleton


  2. LaNeisa Jackson

    With 5 grands in this failing system, I can loudly agree with this preliminary analysis from personal experience. Let’s hear it. Thank you.

  3. Jim

    Couldn’t agree more. We seem to be a society that can’t stand the truth about anything. We always want to deflect it elsewhere!

  4. Derrah Jackson

    My wife and I are educators who live in Dallas and are ’65 and ’68 graduates of DISD High Schools. When homeschooling is a better option today than sending your kids to DISD schools, we are in serious trouble as a city. As the statistics show, anyone who can provide another option for their children has done so already. Thanks for raising this issue!

  5. Mary

    It’s not just DISD many ISD in the neighboring suburbs are having issues too and it’s bleeding into colleges as well. Your article calls the district out but would love to read more examples and how we fix this, besides firing everyone.

    • Daniel Peters

      Privatize and hold to standards

    • Robert Egan

      Our State ranks about 33rd out of 50, as does our funding for teachers, and per pupil. You get what you pay for.

      • Ford

        No one suggested the teachers were bad. On the contrary, the premise is that very good teachers have to deal with a terrible framework implemented by a terrible administration. It’s not about money. It’s about leadership.

  6. Daniel Peters

    Write about the massive amount of people who get six figure salaries to administer this DISD failure. It is truly staggering

  7. Bill

    Hallelujah! The DISD just like the HISD have lost sight of what eduction is. They continuously think throwing money at the problem is the answer. Many schools push sports more than academics and we know that from the lack graduation rates in high school as well as college. Grades K-12 is NOT about diversity/equity or inclusion its about reading/writing and arithmetic. We allowed the people at the top to push politics and an agenda and it shows. Parents play a big role in their Childs education as well. As a parent are you attending Every PTA meeting? If not You are part of the problem.

  8. Brentz Lawton

    What can be done to keep these kids from skipping school daily? Glen Meadow park is no longer a park families can take their children to play. Large groups of junior high kids from Marsh and High school kids from WT White gather there from morning until it’s time to go home. ALL DAY LONG! They meet up staggering throughout the day to smoke weed, vandalize, and steal mail. The police are aware, the schools are aware, district 13 councilwoman Gay Willis is aware. Yet, it still happens daily. If there are dozens of kids skipping daily from both schools, you can’t expect test scores to be any good. Part of the problem could be fixed by stopping this nonsense. What happened to truancy tickets and court? There are no punishments for these delinquent kids. They will become a bigger problem for us in 5+ years. They are spreading their problems around our neighborhood instead of going to school like they should. Why? Because they are allowed to. They aren’t held accountable for their actions. It’s not fair to us neighbors who live near these schools. They shouldn’t be allowed to show up to school if they are going to immediately leave just to be a menace to the surrounding area. Summer can’t come soon enough. The problem disappears during summer time.

    • Brentz Lawton

      I will say, DPD is doing what they can to help. It shouldn’t be on them though. The principals, campus police, school board trustees, and parents should be the ones in charge of making a change to this issue. Maybe a better security system in place and fewer exit doors for them to sneak out? The schools could and should be doing more to make this their priority.

  9. Edward H. Sebesta

    I would avoid being drawn into a false opposite of whether the DISD administration is incompetence versus systemic racism. It could be that there is an issue of incompetence AND issues of race. Also, what better way to cover up for incompetence and misdirect your opponents by getting your opponents to buy into a false opposite.

    I own abou 35 or more American history text books, supposed the usual or supposedly progressive ones as well as the conservative ones. They aren’t good.

    When I wrote the chapter on slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction for a book on the Texas teaching standards, I made it clear to the editor, that the previous textbooks were bad also.

    Education starts with you being inspired to want to learn. The books I read as a youth inspired me to think that if I learned things there was a world of opportunity for me. And it turned out to be so.

    For minorities, our history books are basically defamatory of their human worth. .In our popular culture the enslavement of white people is never excused.

    Errol Flynn’s piracy is excused since he is doing it because he is enslaved. Victor Mature is held to be heroic when he kills his enslaver. When the enslavers of the Israelites are drowned or killed otherwise to in Cecil DeMille’s move, “Ten Commandments” our sympathies are in agreement with the deaths of the enslavers. In Spartacus we are in sympathy of the rebel slaves.

    Yet, our textbooks flail about finding excuses for the slave owner American founders.

    I suggest that there is enough incompetence to report on to sustain a series of investigative articles. When they make reference to systemic racism, we should present it has something they are hiding behind, but not attack the concept itself.

    After all the primary victims of the public schools are minorities.

  10. Edward H. Sebesta

    I don’t think the seriousness of the failure of our major urban schools to our national security is appreciated.

    The 21st century will be led by nations which master science and technology. Increasingly this isn’t the United States. The two leading cutting edge semiconductor firms are in Korea and Taiwan.

    The United States has been failing at education for sometime in science and technology and the US was neve very good at it. It is not accidental that in old movies the scientist often has a generic European accent.

    The failure of our education system has been masked by what is called the “brain drain,” were we get talent from all over the world coming to the United States. That world is coming to an end. There are great opportunities now in Taiwan and China and in India things are improving. Also, other nations are working to recruit technical talent.

    We will increasingly in the future need to rely on American youth to fill the ranks, and in that regards we are going to be failing. The Am. Assoc. for the Adv. of Science (AAAS) has even coined a term Under Represented Minorities (URM) for the lack of Latino, African American and Indigenous STEM persons. We have plenty of minorities in science so we have the term URM.

    The percentage of youth who are minorities is higher every year. Science and technology is facing a catastrophe.

    Our public schools are a disaster. It will lead to a United States that is 2nd or 3rd tier in the world economy. Where other nations shift production or economic activity that they don’t want.

  11. Robert Egan

    Yes! And let’s not kid ourselves that it’s just DISD! Texas as a whole ranks between 31 and 44 out of 50 States depending on the ranking, so the issue is Statewide.

    Teacher pay in Texas is 64% of that in top States ($58,887 vs. $92,222).

    Funding per student is 50% of that in top States ($10,314 vs. $20,600). We rank #38 in funding. The textbooks my teachers could offer my kids in Plano were from 1985! So I bought my kids textbooks from Amazon. They were the only kids in class with textbooks. Plano!!

    Indeed, Texas is cheap to live in, but with many things in life, you get what you pay for!

  12. Steve Upham

    IMHO… Education is a process – of labor (teachers, staff / principals), of physical assets (school buildings, technology, etc),, of governance (trustees, SBOE, State government),, etc. We have tried all sorts of machinations on the these; perhaps it’s past time to address another part of the process – the raw materials of children that unprepared parents are dropping into the Education process. My hypothesis is there is a strong correlation between failing schools and unprepared parents. One small measure is the rate of teen pregnancy – Dallas County has had the highest teen birth rate of the largest 20 US Counties (largest meaning the counties with the most 15 to 19 year old females) every year since at least 1995. And it’s not unique to Dallas… Over 1.1M children have been “born into a Texas future” to a Texas teenager since 1995, outpacing much more (teen) populous California.

    • Travis

      This! Exactly this, and with republicans banning abortions, it’ll just feed into the problems. They don’t want to address the real issue which is a failed healthcare system that doesn’t provide sex education or help for impoverished families. So when children are having children, they are left with a burden of medical and child rearing costs, keeping them from obtaining higher education or a well-paying job.

      Pointing fingers at the district in a propagandist format isn’t helping anything — other than to fuel the republican agenda of defunding education to privatize it and ruin it that way. An uneducated society is easier to control. Education leads to critical thinking and asking questions (see book banning).

      Dallas Express is nothing more than a right wing propaganda machine.

      • Joyce

        Many years ago I went to M.B. Lamar elementary school, deep in the heart of south Dallas (I am white, but what difference should that make?). My brother went to City Park. My family worked in the cotton mill, at that time on Corinth street, by the Corinth Street viaduct. We didn’t have help from the government. The only help we received was a bag of oranges from the workers at Compton Citidel, a religious organization in the area. I had wonderful teachers. Why should the school provide sex education? Why don’t the parents provide that? The problem is within the people. They don’t marry and have intact homes. Why are children having children? Whose fault is that? They don’t take responsibility for themselves and their children. They, like you seem to, blame everybody else. Yes, this is what right-wing teaches.

      • Concerned Voter
        1. There is one paper in the metroplex that may provide the Conservative perspective on any issue. That appears to be one too many to some. Whether some like it or not, half of the nation leans Conservative and the numbers are growing.
        2. According to NBC News, since Feb 2021, 6 million immigrants have crossed our Southern border. How many different languages do our teachers now have to deal with because of this unplanned challenge? How does this unplanned challenge affect Texas Public School teachers and students?
        3. How about the Teachers Unions that spent nearly $50 million in 2022 alone on Democratic candidates and liberal organizations. These two Unions spent $0 dollars on Republican candidates or Conservative organizations. Follow the money. That means that Democrats are controlling our public schools. So, what group is responsible?

        Abortion, come on. Public education was ruined by the Democrats in charge, so if it is under attack, Democrats should look into the mirror for the answer.

  13. Eve

    I have heard that DISD has terrible schoolsI. I do not live in DISD but what about the new 15+ transformation and innovation schools. I have heard good feedback from people. Are those schools showing a promising future? I know it’s not all the schools but if it’s working then they need to expand the program.

  14. Nurse

    Let me give you the two best fixes that I know of: 1, provide trauma-informed care to all the students who need it. (This is a high percentage of Dallas students). Traumatized children have great difficulty making academic progress, and Dallas schools are filled with traumatized children. Youth and Family centers exist in most Dallas communities, yet it’s nearly impossible to connect the traumatized children to appropriate mental health support. Six sessions with the campus counselor, who it does not specialize in trauma, is not at all adequate. 2. Ditch “No Child Left Behind” and replace it with personalized learning. Under the current system, a huge amount of resources go to disabled children and to children who have very little academic potential. Not every human being needs to be a scholar. All these resources could be re-structured to allow every child to make academic progress that is individualized to their aptitudes, interests, and goals. There could be more classes that focus on basic life skills, and far more classrooms that are truly college preparatory. And then in the middle, you have the average student, who is much better off focusing on mastering the basic 3Rs — bilingual 3Rs would be even better — while getting excited about a future in trade school or business school or vocational school. The current system unrealistically assumes that most students should go to college. If we would be realistic about our students’ needs, then we could set achievable objectives and let the teachers educate the students that are in front of them, not the imaginary students that live in the administrators’ heads.

  15. Rodney Brown

    Houston had one underperforming school that consistently made the list of poor performing schools. Dallas ISD has three of the top six high schools in the state of Texas. Schools are a reflection of cities, some are good while others struggle. It is irresponsible to label Dallas schools as terrible without pointing out the excellent ones as well.

  16. Tim

    As usual there are way Too Many Bosses and not enough Workers. The Amin all school districts are bloated taking money from parts that really need it.

  17. Hollie Plemons

    When you’re ready to expose FWISD let me know! I’d love to help.

  18. R Reason

    In other words, the beatings will be increased until morale improves.

  19. David

    You should probably expand this to all of North Texas. Kudos for the article.

  20. Al Overholt

    You spend way too much effort laying blame on the public servants who struggle to address the many issues that contribute to poverty, homelessness, racism, and discrimination. Changing leaders without addressing these basic problems in a meaningful way will not solve the problems. Your publication has the potential to be a great asset if you focus more on the solutions then on the people. Take the challenge.

  21. Joseph

    This seems like a pretty lazy “article”. If you’re going to make the argument that the schools are bad, shouldn’t there be some supporting information on what makes you arrive at that idea? I’m not sure there was a single metric used to show why the schools are bad, but instead trashing DISD for the metics you say they’ll use to disprove your idea. I understand this is an opinion piece, but still pretty lazy “journalism”.

    • Robert Egan

      Yeah, you are right. They could have EASILY cited innumerable statistics! Texas as a whole ranks between 31 and 44 out of 50 States depending on the ranking, so the issue is Statewide.

      Teacher pay in Texas is 64% of that in top States ($58,887 vs. $92,222).

      Funding per student is 50% of that in top States ($10,314 vs. $20,600). We rank #38 in funding.

      So, the results shouldn’t surprise anyone!

  22. Jenn

    They are bad (mom of 4 year old here). It is also infuriating that the mayor continues to highlight how amazing and “family friendly” Dallas is despite the major school system problems. I’m calling his newsletter a propaganda rag at this point.


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