When DISD’s Irma Rangel, the first all-girls public school in Texas opened in 2004, administrators struggled to get 100 kids enrolled there.
Today, the Fair Park school originally built for elementary students, is bursting at the seams with 500 mostly teenaged students and 100 more on a waiting list. Its excellent track record of graduating girls, getting them ready for college and helping them snag some $9 million in college scholarship offers has made it an attractive choice for parents.
This is a true success story. And one Dallas should figure a way to expand.
The results are hard to dispute. Rangel has a 100 percent graduation rate. Almost 45 percent of its girls graduate from college in six years. That might not sound like much until you realize that that’s five times the national average of 9 percent for students with similar backgrounds.
Something remarkable is going on.
The 6th-through-12th-grade school is part of the Young Women’s Preparatory Network that now has seven other all-girls’ college prep schools in Grand Prairie, Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock and San Antonio and El Paso. Rangel in Dallas was the first. It’s the inspiration for the all-girls Solar Prep K-8 campus in East Dallas and the Balch Springs middle school transformation next year.
DISD has pledged to open 35 “choice” schools by 2020. That’s a good goal. The lion’s share will be at existing campuses; roughly eight to 10 will be brand-new “transformational” schools. All will be open to any kid in the district, meaning that unlike Rangel, they will have no entry-test requirements.
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The district believes that’s the best way to move the needle on closing the achievement gap throughout the district.
DISD has many wants and needs; we get that its time and resources are finite. Some schools with pressing needs didn’t even make the recently-passed $1.6 billion bond issue. It obviously has to prioritize.
That makes the Young Women’s Prep Network’s call for three new Rangel-like college prep schools – one in each quandrant of Dallas ISD – a tough ask in the near future.
Still, it’s incumbent of the district, the city and the Network’s leaders to be creative in helping Rangel reach its full potential for as many DISD students as possible.
Finding ways to double down on what’s working and pull back on what’s not benefits the entire district.
Editor’s note: This has been updated to correct that Rangel’s college graduation rate is five times the national average, not three times, for students with similar backgrounds.