Grand Prairie ISD Offer School Choice for Parents and Students

by Dr. Jerry R. Burkett
Originally Published: January 24, 2012

As mentioned in the Texas Observer and Empower Texans.

Last school year, Grand Prairie ISD launched a new concept for public schools that legislators like Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Senator Dan Patrick have been have been calling for students in Texas….school choice for parents.

Through the halls, cafeteria, and gymnasium of a local high school, an entire school district came together to promote a concept traditionally exclusive to non-public education — school choice.

Grand Prairie ISD introduced its school choice model to the community on January 21, 2012 and turned South Grand Prairie High School into a showcase for each of their campuses while highlighting schools with individual academies. This year, they continue the trend. On Saturday, January 12, at Dubiski High School, GPISD will host the “GPISD Experience” which will showcase all GPISD schools for parents in the cities of Grand Prairie, Arlington, Mansfield, Irving, and Dallas, Texas.

The school of choice model offers parents what they have been asking for — to choose a pathway of education for their children. The schools of choice are concept schools that offer students an extension of traditional curriculum, providing students academy options with specialized focus. Under this model, parents and students can choose the type of educational experience that best fits the needs of the individual student. If a student shows a propensity for leadership, fine arts, or math and science, GPISD offers “schools within schools” to advance those interests and skills for their children while also offering traditional schools.

To spread the word about this new concept, the district advertised through newspapers, postcards, Facebook, Twitter, and email to invite parents, teachers, and anyone else interested to take a closer look at GPISD schools. The district also invested in billboards and a pamphlet that was mailed to homes in cities surrounding Grand Prairie.

Aside from presenting the traditional schools in the Grand Prairie ISD, the district will offer parents an opportunity to apply for slots for their children in several elementary schools, middle school, and high school campuses that are labeled in the district as “schools/programs of choice”:

  • Garner Fine Arts Academy (@GarnerFineArts), and the Whitt Fine Arts Academy, offer a fine arts curriculum for students including music, art, dance, and the performing arts.
  • Bonham Early Childhood Center offers an early childhood and Pre-kindergarten curriculum with daycare facilities for GPISD employees.
  • David Daniels Academy of Science and Math offers an emphasis on math and science while grooming elementary students for leadership positions.
  • Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy will focus on preparing students for real-world work experiences with empahsis on leadership traits and interpersonal skills
  • The STEM Academy at the Crockett 5th Grade Center will offer a comprehensive curriculum for 5th grade students with increased emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • The Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy at Ben Milam Elementary (@EllenOchoaSTEM) will offer a comprehensive engineering curriculum for students in Pre-K through 5th grade in a new, state of art, two-story school that is slated to open in fall of 2013.
  • The Lorenzo de Zavala Environmental Science Academy will offer the first environmental science elementary school in the state of Texas.
  • The Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Bill Arnold Middle School will offer a comprehensive leadership academy in grades 6-8 for girls only while the Young Men’s Leadership Academy at John F. Kennedy Middle School will offer the same for boys only.
  • The Fine Arts Academy at Reagan Middle School, a feeder school for Garner Fine Arts Academy, will build on the skills students have gained from Garner offering a more rigorous fine arts curriculum for middle school students.

Other major programs include:

  • Fine Arts Academy at GPHS 9th Grade Center
  • Fine Arts Academy at Grand Prairie High School
  • Center of Law & Public Safety at Grand Prairie High School
  • Center for Sports Medicine at SGP 9th Grade Center
  • Center for Sports Medicine at South Grand Prairie High School
  • The School of Environmental Science and Technology at South Grand Prairie High School*

The district anticipates adding more schools of choice in 2014 with additional pilot programs and increased emphasis on advanced academics. These schools provide many of the benefits and innovation that parents had previously turned to charter schools and private schools to access. The GPISD schools of choice model offers parents the same focused curriculum of charter schools and private schools, but with the accountability structure and access to state of Texas-certified/highly qualified educators required of public school districts.

Through school choice, GPISD is satisfying the desires of its community – providing access to high performing and academically successful campuses that meet the specific needs of the individual students. Despite funding constraints and budget cuts, GPISD is thinking outside of the box and breaking the traditional public education mold. GPISD is a leader, blazing the trail in what will likely become the new norm for school districts.

To follow the GPISD Experience on Twitter, check #GPISDChoice for information.

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