DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Thousands of students across North Texas went back to school on Monday, and many are starting their first year in the Dallas Independent School District. The area’s largest school system has 2,000 new teachers and even more students under the age of 5 taking pre-kindergarten classes.
In fact, the district’s pre-kindergarten enrollment could surpass 8,000 children this year.
Still, the first day of classes has a familiar ring to it, in what Superintendent Mike Miles calls “staying the course.” The district is focusing this year on those youngest students, as well as moving the progress needle at under-performing campuses in the southern and western parts of the city.
“We have to continue to focus on the classroom,” said Miles. “Then, we have to shift attention to early childhood and school choice. A lot to do, but most of it is not shifting course.”
Tori Davis is one of the district’s new teachers who joined the team at Cary Middle School, a northwest neighborhood campus for around 700 kids, which also carries the state’s lowest academic performance rating. Davis is one of 1,200 rookie teachers for the DISD. She was hired to her first real teaching job in order to help motivate kids and build momentum within the school system.
“I believe in public schools,” Davis said. “It’s one of our earliest institutions we offer the public, and we need people in these schools who care about these students.”
Davis and the other 10,000 district educators will be the first to have the classroom performance of their students become a component in their job evaluation — pay for performance.
The Dallas ISD educates around 160,000 students.
“My expectation is that they are getting education and also protected,” said parent Alissa Russell. “I also expect that they will have homework, so I can support the teacher in the classroom. I really want to help them out.”
DISD reported the highest first-day student total since at least the year 2000 and the lowest teacher vacancy of all time.
The official first day student count is 143,552 students, which is 303 more students than attended DISD schools on the first day of last year.
DISD also predicts an additional 7,000 students will show up at schools tomorrow based on past years’ trends.
The district started 2014-2015 school year with 14 teacher vacancies.
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