Dallas ISD: Instruction Drives Technology

How a Strategic Plan for Instruction and Learning Drives Technology and Digital Fluency in Dallas ISD

Disctric Snapshot of Digital Fluency

When used effectively, technology is a tool that can aid in improving student engagement and academic performance. Technology skills are a necessity for students to thrive in an increasingly complex and digitally reliant world. However, it has only been in the last decade that many of the nation’s underperforming urban schools have gained access to the kind of education technology (edtech) and digital learning tools designed to bridge the equity gap with higher performing schools.

Dallas Independent School District (ISD)

Dallas ISD is the second largest school district in Texas. Among its 230 schools, you’ll find 22,000+ educators, leaders, and staff members and a diverse population of 153,861 students in preK-12. 85.1% of students are economically disadvantaged, and 48% have limited English language proficiency. 

Each year, public school districts make massive investments in edtech and infrastructure intended to modernize the learning experience, accelerate student achievement, and increase engagement. But each year, school districts are also seeing these same tools do little to move the needle for student achievement and engagement. 

The Problem

In 2017, then-superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa knew that Dallas ISD was at risk of falling into the trap of spending millions of dollars on technology that did not actually lead to better results for students.

The Dallas ISD community had just approved a $100 million technology bond for the district, and Dr. Hinojosa wanted to ensure that:
(a) District stakeholders had a voice in how the money was spent, and 
(b) Purchases made with bond dollars aligned to the district’s desired outcomes for learners and reimagined the learning environment. 

The Solution

Dallas ISD partnered with engage2learn (e2L) to facilitate a 3-phase technology planning process that resulted in a 5-year plan for technology purchases that were strategically aligned to a vision for learning created by district and community stakeholders.

e2L is a talent development partner for public schools. Founded in 2011 by 20-year professional educator and thought leader Shannon Buerk, e2L is a trusted leader of Education Intelligence that has achieved considerable success in School Improvement and Transformation partnering with school districts in:

  1. Strategic learning design and planning
  2. Education Analytics and Data informed growth 
  3. Educational leadership, staff, and teacher coaching
  4. Ongoing coach development through learning pathways


Phase 1: Community Engagement

To start, e2L engaged multiple stakeholder groups in summits, focus groups, and discussions to gather input, resulting in the participation of 1,252 teachers, families, leaders, community members, and students who shared their desires and highest hopes for Dallas ISD students.

Phase 2: Vision for Learning

Next, e2L professionals met with a design team of 217 stakeholders to create a clear and concise expression of the district’s vision for learning that included learner outcomes and the learning experience. Twelve design principles were also created as criteria for assessing the efficacy and alignment of technology to the district’s vision.

Phase 3: Technology Profile

The design team also drafted a set of technology standards for each classroom in the district. This technology profile was then paired with e2L’s district-wide technology and facilities needs-assessment survey that determined the current state of alignment to the district’s vision for learning.

The Results

The resulting Long-Range Technology Plan provided Dallas ISD with a strategic, outcomes-driven plan to guide and inform the district’s technology purchases for the next five years.


Strategic Digital Fluency Initiatives

Dr. Hinojosa and his team of innovative leaders knew that while this Long-Range Technology Plan set a strong foundation for technology purchases, the work of ensuring its impact on improving learner outcomes was just beginning. Dallas ISD again partnered with e2L on two strategic initiatives aimed at enhancing the digital fluency of teachers and their students.

Strategic Initiative #1: Content Customizations

e2L created custom professional learning rubrics for Dallas ISD, including a rubric based on the AASL Standards and Best Practices for Virtual Learning aligned to the Dallas ISD Teacher Evaluation system. e2L coaching focused on the effective implementation of the technology purchases, including iPads and Chromebooks.

Strategic Initiative #2: Reimagining the Librarian

There has been a growing trend in recent years to digitize school libraries and replace librarians with other staff positions. But instead of replacing its library program, Dallas ISD’s visionary leadership wondered:

“What if we coached and supported librarians in creating and implementing innovative programs that align to, extend, and enhance what is happening in the classroom?”

In conjunction with the rollout of its Long-Range Technology Plan, Dallas ISD set out to revitalize its school library program through training and instructional coaching from e2L. Over the course of three years, cohorts of school librarians would receive personalized coaching on the National School Library Standards from the American Association of School Librarians as well as the e2L Coach Standards. The resulting growth would allow participating librarians to be utilized as additional teacher support personnel and enable schools to leverage the assets of the school library program to help drive innovation and school improvement. 

Dallas ISD


Dallas ISD 2020 & Beyond: AIMing for the Middle

For the 2020-2021 school year, Dallas ISD took a strategic focus on improving middle school students’ outcomes with its Achieving in the Middle (AIM) initiative. Part of AIM was the creation and staffing of Instructional Lead Teacher (ILT) positions to teach a few classes while also providing instructional support to other teachers at their school. Deputy Chief of School Leadership, Dr. Mark Ramirez, explained that while the district had focused mostly on staffing changes, they hadn’t yet seen the improvement they needed; however, this initiative with e2L would integrate the additional components of creating a positive, responsive culture to get the desired results for learners.

In addition, to enhance the technology proficiency of teachers during COVID, Dallas ISD decided to leverage their ILT positions to provide strategic support at their lowest-performing middle schools. To do this, e2L was engaged to train and provide instructional coaching to 87 ILTs to implement e2L’s proven, highly efficient coaching for educators system. In the process, e2L would also be coaching teachers on how to best use the various digital tools at their disposal to create and facilitate mastery learning in every classroom in a fraction of the time.