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August 6, 2013

Editorial: Involve the whole city in tutoring Dallas students

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings rightly has made quality schools a key element of his campaign to improve life in southern Dallas. Without strong schools, neighborhoods will never realize their potential. More important, students who attend failing schools will have a limited future.

The mayor approaches education with a sense of urgency. In fact, Rawlings speaks more like a parent than a mayor when he discusses the need to turn around low-performing schools.

This newspaper couldn’t agree more with that urgency. Many others around this city — individuals, businesses and organizations — share that attitude. They want to build up Dallas’ public schools.

That’s why we suggest the mayor create an “I Tutor Dallas” campaign as part of his education push. The city has initiatives built around biking, parks and the arts. Why not one that mobilizes the city to help schools intervene with struggling students?

An “I Tutor Dallas” campaign could become a major part of the mayor’s priority of elevating student performance. Rawlings could test this effort with schools that feed into Lincoln, Madison and Adamson High Schools, where his Grow South initiative is focusing its education attention.

We’re not talking about random work or feel-good assignments. This would be a strategic campaign that draws on some of Dallas’ best educational resources.

Dallas is rife with expertise.

For example, experts at Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development could advise schools, parents and volunteers in the most appropriate ways to help kids who are behind in subjects such as math.

Reading Partners already trains individuals to serve as tutors in Dallas schools. In the 2012-13 school year, 457 volunteers served 500 students on 10 Dallas ISD campuses. Organizations like this are ready to serve.

Similarly, businesses like Texas Instruments and numerous others have talented people with expertise in math, science and the liberal arts. An “I Tutor” campaign could connect them with experts who prep adults with tutoring techniques.

There also are urban models to study. Seattle has a coalition of organizations involved in a tutoring campaign. As part of its work, the coalition sponsors training seminars for volunteers.

DISD certainly could use a similar initiative. This year’s STAAR math and reading exams for fifth- and eighth-graders showed that students made substantial gains over last year. Still, the passing rates were troubling.

Thirty-eight percent of eighth-graders failed the math test; 23 percent did not pass the reading test. The failing students are the ones the city must worry about. What will happen to them?

The answer may be grim, unless the mayor and the rest of the city can maintain this sense of urgency. That includes intervening early and often with struggling students.

Start here DISD feeder patterns where Rawlings could launch an “I Tutor Dallas” campaign:

Lincoln High School
Anderson Middle School
Rhoads Elementary School
Rice Elementary School
Silberstein Elementary School
Adamson High School
Garcia Middle School
Botello Elementary School
Bowie Elementary School
Hogg Elementary School
Peeler Elementary School
Reagan Elementary School
Madison High School
Dade Middle School
Dunbar Elementary School
King Elementary School
Roberts Elementary School

Editorial Dallas Morning News Source

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