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Old 03-03-2012, 01:58 AM
 
4 posts, read 7,473 times
Reputation: 14
Smile Dallas ISD Magnet programs and other school related questions from a recent California transplant

1. About us...we just moved to Dallas from San Diego and we have 2 kids (ages 4 and 2.5) with kindergarten start dates of Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 respectively...thus education / safety is our primary concern.

2. Prior to moving out we were told to stay away from Dallas ISD and that if you want a short commute to downtown, Richardson schools were the way to go (ie if you want to go the public route...which we do). Thus we were told to move to either Lake Highlands or Prairie / Canyon Creek.

3. We felt we had some time and decided to rent for a year while we acclimated ourselves to the area and found a lovely home in Royal Highlands. Now we are beginning to regret the decision because there seems to be a lot of crime (sirens every weekend etc.). Additionally, although we were told Dallas ISD is terrible, they are apparently rated the highest in the country in several areas. Sadly, as we found out later...if we had chosen to live within Dallas ISD we could've enrolled our daughter in the pre-k program at Dealey Montessori, which apparently is NOT income based (unlike many others). Unfortunately they only offer enrollment to pre-k and 1st graders...so if we were dead-set on this school, our eldest would have to attend a different kindergarten and then switch the following year (something we are vehemently against). If they receive 800 applicants for 80 spots, why aren't there more programs like this sprouting up?

4. We are ready to buy and would like to stay in the $400K and under range...but could go up to $500K if we absolutely LOVED the place. We would prefer a 4 bedroom 2.5 bath with at least 2500 sq. ft., however we could make a 3 bedroom work if necessary. Now to my questions:

A) Is the wrap against DISD all about race? We are coming from California, so this is not a particularly big deal to us. Yes, we are Caucasian...however sending our kids to a school with a diverse population actually appeals to us. Granted, we do realize that socioeconomic factors can play a large role in the quality of education...but with all of the Magnet programs offered, it seems that they are able to focus on those that value education, regardless of race/creed, etc. I also understand that we are in the bible belt and religious schools are important to people...so I could understand that being a deterrent for many...however it is not for us. Please enlighten me as to why I should or should NOT send my children to the highest rated schools in the country.

B) Many people we have met rave about Lakewood elementary and Stonewall Jackson, yet claim people go private after elementary. Why? Is it difficult to navigate the Magnet system? I do not pretend that my kids are somehow more gifted than others, however my husband and I both have advanced degrees and given all other socioeconomic factors, it is likely that our children will be relatively successful in school...fingers crossed Would it be a gamble to assume they could get into one of the Magnet programs? What are the drawbacks, if any, of the Magnet schools once you are accepted?

C) After careful consideration of our needs/wants, we are looking into Prairie Creek, White Rock, Lakewood and Arthur Kramer elementary schools. We have a real estate agent and are aware of what we can/can’t afford in those respective areas, we just want more answers with regards to the schools and safety of the neighborhood. Here are the pros/cons we see for each:

Praire Creek- Neighborhood seems tranquil and safe. Elementary school is idyllic…the Junior High and High School seem to be the concern. So I suppose we would face the same issues in DISD, correct?

White Rock-See Above…with the added concern of potential nearby crime…however the planned addition of the Town Center (whenever that may occur) is encouraging that the area may be headed in the right direction.

Lakewood-Great neighborhood, plus offers dual language program…only drawback may be the strict learning environment I have read about and nearby crime (plus smaller/older home).

Arthur Kramer-Convenient to everything, dual language program...drawback may be that most of the students are socioeconomically disadvantaged…although from attending their Open House it seemed as if this was not a hindrance to the quality of education and special programs they are able to provide.

Did we miss anything? I would love to hear the brutal truth (either positive or negative) from someone that has actually lived/experienced either of these areas…or can at least speak to our concerns with regards to the Dallas Independent School District.

Regards,
Anxious Mom
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:19 AM
 
Location: Junius Heights
1,245 posts, read 1,911,892 times
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Getting into the Magnet schools is definitely a gamble. Don't make any decision based upon them. Competition is pretty fierce. OTOH those telling you that most people go private after Lakewood, or Stonewall, Or Lipscomb (another excellent school in that area that feeds into the same middle/high school) are wrong. Some do private of course, but many do not, and there has been an active neighborhood movement back to Long and Woodrow. Woodrow is complex. It is largely a set of schools within the school, IB Track, AP Track, Fine Arts Track, etc and those all have to be considered separately from the general ed track. Woodrow is in fact a school people work very hard to transfer kids INTO and there has to be a lot of checking of addresses to make sure someone isn't using grandmas address or a friends address to register their kids. Long has the standard middle school issues (kids from different schools mixing together for the first time, the stuff that comes up when kids become teenagers) but no more so than any other middle school in the world, and with the pre IB program, we are starting to hear from more people trying to transfer INTO Long as well.

Now the experience these schools provide may or may not be for you or your family, but believe me in any area that goes to Stonewall, Lakewood or Lipscomb private is not necessary.
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:43 AM
 
8,050 posts, read 10,526,704 times
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1. Yes, DISD has some of the top magnet schools in the country. Absolutely first-rate.

2. Yes, the competition is FIERCE for every magnet/ special program in the district, from Dealey to Booker T. Do NOT assume your kids will get in as many very bright kids don't. Some of the schools have % allotments they can accept from each area of DISD so that the magnet schools don't become a shelter for the wealthier DISD neighborhood kids. Trust me, there are enough bright kids in Lakewood or North Dallas to fill an entire magnet school ten-fold, but there are many bright kids all over the district who equally deserve a spot in the magnet programs.

3. Only move to DISD if you are 100% confident in the K-12 track for your neighborhood schools because there is a great chance that is where your kids will be educated, not magnets. Woodrow Wilson HS and IRS feeder schools (particularly Lakewood & Jackson and increasingly Lee and the one in Junius Heighrs whose name escapes me right now) and WT White HS and it's feeder schools (particularly DeGoyler and Pershing Elems) are the best two neighborhood school zones in the district. I recommend you go visit the schools from Elem to Middle to HS in these two areas to see what you think.

4. Yes, many outsiders look at the disrrict's overall performance and the socioeconomic factors and write the whole thing off, regardless of the many great neighborhood and magnet programs.

5. The DISD School Board is completely and totally inept. You should attend a school board meeting or two before deciding to move into the district because those monkeys wil be making decisions regarding your children's academic careers. Recently they voted to close some underpopulated schools for budget reasons, but in the process they closed 2 or 3 of the very best schools in the district, forcing those kids into neighboring schools with less stellar - or downright crummy- results. I get the need to close budget gaps, but rarely agree with their decisions.

6. JJ Pearce HS's feeder zone in RISD will provide a solid, stellar academic experience for your kids should you forgo DISD. JJ Pearce was recently named to the Texas schools honor roll; the only other area high school on the list was Highland Park. JJ Pearce has SAT scores just below HP and the Plano and Flower Mound schools and light years ahead of every DISD school save the SEM Magnet and TAG Magnet.
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Old 03-03-2012, 08:32 AM
 
Location: Grapevine, Texas
6,528 posts, read 10,250,388 times
Reputation: 3614
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandiegotodallas View Post
3. We felt we had some time and decided to rent for a year while we acclimated ourselves to the area and found a lovely home in Royal Highlands. Now we are beginning to regret the decision because there seems to be a lot of crime (sirens every weekend etc.).
Yes, crime in this area is pretty common. The houses are gorgeous, but the apartments nearby are NOT, and the crowd they attract tends to bring the crime with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandiegotodallas View Post
A) Is the wrap against DISD all about race?
Not necessarily. DISD is a BIG urban school district that struggles to educate a very diverse and large student population. While there are bright spots, the overall district struggles with the weight of its load. DISD constantly has budget shortfalls, too. Reference the previous comments about the inept school board, too. Several former superintendents went to prison for embezzling, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandiegotodallas View Post
Praire Creek- Neighborhood seems tranquil and safe. Elementary school is idyllic…the Junior High and High School seem to be the concern. So I suppose we would face the same issues in DISD, correct?
Do you mean the Prairie Creek neighborhood in SE Dallas? I would hardly use the term "idyllic" to describe that neighborhood. Pleasant Grove wasn't nice when my Dad was a kid, and it's downright dangerous now...
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Old 03-03-2012, 10:37 AM
 
105 posts, read 126,106 times
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My poor opinion of DISD has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the recurring scandal and corruption within the school district over the past 25 years that I've been paying attention. I spent just a few minutes trying to find a concise 'copy and paste' of their most recent scandals. No luck. But, trust me, there have been MANY.

One of the most recent, which disgusted me, was an elementary school principal's conscious choice to focus solely on math and reading TAKS scores, to the extent of eliminating, for all intents and purposes, all social studies, science, and arts education for third graders! Why third graders? Because this principal broke the code that great TAKS scores (which, for third graders, are in math and reading only) mean great ratings. And so, she pressured her teachers to fabricate classroom attendance and grades -- and her teachers did so!! And, in fact, 'her' school was rated Exemplary. But when unknowning parents moved and placed their children in different districts, by happenstance, they learned that their kids from this 'exemplary' school couldn't keep up!

This is just ONE story of many scandalous DISD stories over the years -- their boards, their staff, their teachers. Misappropriation of funds, unethical practices, lying, fighting. Ugh. From this reader's perspective, it's rampant. (I know it's very likely not a MAJORITY of people who partake in such practices, but there's enough to routinely make the news. Lots of other districts in the area don't make the news.)

(Full disclosure: I have not raised kids within DISD's boundaries.)

Sure, there are a few excellent magnet schools within DISD. But there also appears to be a lot of corruption.

(And, just as with college rankings, I don't place a whole lot of stock in national rankings. They do not necessarily give the complete picture of a place. Lots of really great schools don't make the very top marks -- and some schools that make the very best marks aren't, in reality, that much better than schools that don't. Lots of funky things can go into rankings -- take this elementary's exemplary rating, for example. It was manipulated. And colleges, for example, are known to manipulate their statistics in order to achieve the best rankings, with the knowledge that the best rankings will earn them the best applicants, which will bring in the most money. For example, one of the latest trends is to get multitudes of students to apply (via mass marketing) with no intention of accepting the vast majority, so that their selectivity rankings will go up, thereby making them more desirable to future unsuspecting applicants. And so on. Schools, like many other organizations, learn to break the code -- what makes for good rankings? -- okay, we'll manipulate this data or we'll make these 'business' decisions to improve our rankings. Keeping up appearances.)

Hmm. I promise, I'm really not as cynical as all that just sounded! But I DO think that rankings are not 'all that.' And I do think that one must be wary of DISD. Some great schools. Lots of bad governance.

Last edited by SimpleLife2; 03-03-2012 at 11:50 AM..
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Old 03-03-2012, 11:32 AM
 
285 posts, read 384,101 times
Reputation: 134
I have sort of been keeping tabs on these news stories about the scandals but not in detail and what shocks me is that the principal got another job. In most professions, you would think that kind of thing would prevent someone from hiring you!
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Old 03-03-2012, 11:49 AM
 
105 posts, read 126,106 times
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^Exactly!! I was SHOCKED to learn that she got another job! What the what??
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Old 03-03-2012, 12:27 PM
 
2,190 posts, read 4,028,454 times
Reputation: 1337
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandiegotodallas View Post
3. We felt we had some time and decided to rent for a year while we acclimated ourselves to the area and found a lovely home in Royal Highlands. Now we are beginning to regret the decision because there seems to be a lot of crime (sirens every weekend etc.). Additionally, although we were told Dallas ISD is terrible, they are apparently rated the highest in the country in several areas. Sadly, as we found out later...if we had chosen to live within Dallas ISD we could've enrolled our daughter in the pre-k program at Dealey Montessori, which apparently is NOT income based (unlike many others). Unfortunately they only offer enrollment to pre-k and 1st graders...so if we were dead-set on this school, our eldest would have to attend a different kindergarten and then switch the following year (something we are vehemently against). If they receive 800 applicants for 80 spots, why aren't there more programs like this sprouting up?

...

A) Is the wrap against DISD all about race? We are coming from California, so this is not a particularly big deal to us. Yes, we are Caucasian...however sending our kids to a school with a diverse population actually appeals to us.
You actually answered your own question. Poor management in every possible way is why people try to deter you from DISD. Yes, there are some very strong parts of DISD. But the board refuses to make the appropriate decisions to create a district that encourages and enables ALL children to learn.
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:46 PM
 
4 posts, read 7,473 times
Reputation: 14
Wow…what a truly amazing site this is. I have spent weeks scouring the web; reading reviews and talking to everyone I meet…however after a night of obsessive/frantic panicking I seem to have finally found the right source. Thank you all for the prompt and informative responses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Macbeth2003 View Post
Getting into the Magnet schools is definitely a gamble. Don't make any decision based upon them. Competition is pretty fierce.
Is there any way to find out specifically what percentage of students are accepted…ie top 10%, top 5%...or which elementary schools have limitation quotas and what those are?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Macbeth2003 View Post
OTOH those telling you that most people go private after Lakewood, or Stonewall, Or Lipscomb (another excellent school in that area that feeds into the same middle/high school) are wrong. Some do private of course, but many do not, and there has been an active neighborhood movement back to Long and Woodrow[…]Now the experience these schools provide may or may not be for you or your family, but believe me in any area that goes to Stonewall, Lakewood or Lipscomb private is not necessary.
This is very encouraging and I am glad to hear this. Lakewood seems to be the “right” (according to my tastes) combination of socioeconomic factors (highly educated, open minded and involved parents that we seek. My only fears are the nearby crime, inconvenience to everything else Dallas has to offer and that the competition may perhaps be a bit more fierce in that environment (which could be both good and bad). Do you happen to have any insight as to why so many parents rate the Lakewood Elementary negatively (ie especially with regards to their principal)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TurtleCreek80 View Post
JJ Pearce HS's feeder zone in RISD will provide a solid, stellar academic experience for your kids should you forgo DISD. JJ Pearce was recently named to the Texas schools honor roll; the only other area high school on the list was Highland Park. JJ Pearce has SAT scores just below HP and the Plano and Flower Mound schools and light years ahead of every DISD school save the SEM Magnet and TAG Magnet.
Glad to hear…just wish they had a dual-language program, however if that is their only drawback, I suppose we could deal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TurtleCreek80 View Post
Only move to DISD if you are 100% confident in the K-12 track for your neighborhood schools because there is a great chance that is where your kids will be educated, not magnets. Woodrow Wilson HS and IRS feeder schools (particularly Lakewood & Jackson and increasingly Lee and the one in Junius Heighrs whose name escapes me right now) and WT White HS and it's feeder schools (particularly DeGoyler and Pershing Elems) are the best two neighborhood school zones in the district. I recommend you go visit the schools from Elem to Middle to HS in these two areas to see what you think.[…]The DISD School Board is completely and totally inept. You should attend a school board meeting or two before deciding to move into the district because those monkeys wil be making decisions regarding your children's academic careers. Recently they voted to close some underpopulated schools for budget reasons, but in the process they closed 2 or 3 of the very best schools in the district, forcing those kids into neighboring schools with less stellar - or downright crummy- results. I get the need to close budget gaps, but rarely agree with their decisions.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SimpleLife2 View Post
(Full disclosure: I have not raised kids within DISD's boundaries.)

Sure, there are a few excellent magnet schools within DISD. But there also appears to be a lot of corruption.

(And, just as with college rankings, I don't place a whole lot of stock in national rankings. They do not necessarily give the complete picture of a place. Lots of really great schools don't make the very top marks -- and some schools that make the very best marks aren't, in reality, that much better than schools that don't. Lots of funky things can go into rankings -- take this elementary's exemplary rating, for example. It was manipulated. And colleges, for example, are known to manipulate their statistics in order to achieve the best rankings, with the knowledge that the best rankings will earn them the best applicants, which will bring in the most money. For example, one of the latest trends is to get multitudes of students to apply (via mass marketing) with no intention of accepting the vast majority, so that their selectivity rankings will go up, thereby making them more desirable to future unsuspecting applicants. And so on. Schools, like many other organizations, learn to break the code -- what makes for good rankings? -- okay, we'll manipulate this data or we'll make these 'business' decisions to improve our rankings. Keeping up appearances.)

Hmm. I promise, I'm really not as cynical as all that just sounded! But I DO think that rankings are not 'all that.' And I do think that one must be wary of DISD. Some great schools. Lots of bad governance.
Oscar Wilde once said, “The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of an expanding bureaucracy.” It seems I couldn’t agree more that bad governance is most often the cause of many problems and that parental involvement is usually the only cure. Having said that, I pay increasingly less attention to test score ratings and more so to the amount of extracurricular programs (ie language, music, art, etc) and the existence of a well organized PTA. However, I also believe that safety is every living being’s primary concern…and if a child does not feel safe in their environment, they are not going to be able to focus on learning, regardless of parental involvement.
I am encouraged that there appears to be a movement back to the public arena (which is hopefully not solely due to the economy, although admittedly there must be some truth in that). Does anyone have any insight as to whether this is happening in the upper middle class neighborhoods of North Dallas? Arthur Kramer and Dealey Montessori seem to have a lot of positives…we would love to hear more about these and other similar schools, such as DeGoyler and Pershing…along with their respective K-12 tracks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristieP View Post
Do you mean the Prairie Creek neighborhood in SE Dallas? I would hardly use the term "idyllic" to describe that neighborhood. Pleasant Grove wasn't nice when my Dad was a kid, and it's downright dangerous now.
Actually, we were referring to the Prairie Creek neighborhood in Richardson…sorry for the confusion. I found the area in SE Dallas you were referring to and wanted to clarify that we were not looking at that neighborhood.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MurphyPl1 View Post
You actually answered your own question. Poor management in every possible way is why people try to deter you from DISD. Yes, there are some very strong parts of DISD. But the board refuses to make the appropriate decisions to create a district that encourages and enables ALL children to learn.
True, however I’ve also read that Magnet schools often get additional funding from private sources such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, so their implementation elsewhere is not always feasible.
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Old 03-03-2012, 06:36 PM
 
Location: Junius Heights
1,245 posts, read 1,911,892 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandiegotodallas View Post

Is there any way to find out specifically what percentage of students are accepted…ie top 10%, top 5%...or which elementary schools have limitation quotas and what those are?
I don't know if there is specific data on that, and of course it depends on the school, and the number of slots each year. The process differs per school, for example we just did a vanguard application process (and got my son's acceptance letter today )
Our application was to Lanier, the arts vanguard. The application required meeting an academic set of requirements, and then writing two brief essays in a classroom, and a roughly 20-30 minute interview with a panel of three teachers. For Travis (the TAG vanguard/magnet) you have to meet an academic cutoff, write an essay, and take a test. Whatever criteria they use, they fill 30% of their available slots by selecting the top applicants. The rest must be divided evenly between the four DISD quadrants (NE, NW, SE, SW)

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandiegotodallas View Post
This is very encouraging and I am glad to hear this. Lakewood seems to be the “right” (according to my tastes) combination of socioeconomic factors (highly educated, open minded and involved parents that we seek. My only fears are the nearby crime, inconvenience to everything else Dallas has to offer and that the competition may perhaps be a bit more fierce in that environment (which could be both good and bad). Do you happen to have any insight as to why so many parents rate the Lakewood Elementary negatively (ie especially with regards to their principal)?
Overall Lakewood is rated highly, people move heaven and earth to get their kids into that school, and neighborhoods have fought tooth and nail to have - frankly bizarre - school boundaries drawn to ensure their kids go to Lakewood Elementary. I think the principal, from what I have heard - we do not attend - can be of a somewhat autocratic nature, but has also done a fine job of keeping Lakewood an excellent school with good academics and great programs. I do know some parents were upset she wanted no part of the pre-IB elementary program, others supported her.
Lakewood is an excellent school. Having said that, when we knew that this part of Dallas was where we wanted to settle we found places in Lakewood Elementary's ,and Lipscomb Elementary's area that we liked, and visited both. I can ONLY state my experience, and say that I know for a fact of people who have had the same experience I did, and people who have had a completely different experience. From this distance I think i simply ran into the wrong group of people, but there is this group - albeit it a small one. We toured the school and talked with some parents. We were chatting and they asked if we would be renting or buying. We said we would be renting at least at first. The tone got very cold... "Oh well we would advise you not to get too involved in the school then. We are really looking for people who will be here for the long term and can help support the school with time, and financially." This was part of what led us to choose Lipscomb and Junius Heights historic district, which we never regretted, we rented for a few years, and now have a house here.

Crime is simply not an issue any more than in the suburbs in Lakewood Proper, or Junius Heights, Hollywood Heights, Munger Place, Hollywood Heights, etc. There are some neighborhoods nearby where it can be a problem, but you would have to seek them out and go into them. As for convenience, what is it you are seeking to be convenient to? If work, then YES make sure you live within a reasonable commute distance. Dallas traffic is terrible. Otherwise the usual selling point of the Lakewood/Old East Dallas area is convenience. 5 minutes from White Rock Lake and the Arboretum. 10 minutes max from Uptown, Downtown (with the museums and theatres), Fair Park, Expo Park, Deep Ellum. 15 minutes from Oak Cliff, Oak Lawn, or the zoo. Unless you need to spend a lot of time in 972 Lakewood is likely to be a very convenient spot.

Incidentally I am with you on Test Scores, etc. One thing many of the schools in this area have going for them is that they do have great programs, Most have gardens, we all have full time Art teachers, Music teachers, and Librarians. This is, of course, because so many parents, with the ability to do otherwise, choose the public schools, and create the support and even more important the advocacy needed.

Also TC80 is right - as usual. If considering a suburban area, you could not do better than Richardson and J. J. Pearce. She is also right when she says go to the schools. Talk to parents, talk to teachers, observe kids playing after school, go to a PTA meeting. You will learn more from that than anything else. A "great" school, may not be a great school for your family.

Best of Luck.
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