This is the first in a series of stories highlighting ways school districts in Texas are increasingly offering students options in public education.
Grand Prairie ISD
Texas public school districts face consistent criticism by proponents of school choice, for not offering students and parents more options. However, many school districts currently offer families multiple school options, and recent legislation provides districts with more tools for innovation and heightened autonomy to increase choice in and among public schools, while preserving accountability, transparency, and local control. Public schools now also are in a position to provide students more personalized curriculum and college and career pathways to graduation. We decided to visit and profile some of the districts and campuses embracing public school choice and those working to expand the options available to Texas students. In this first installment of our series, we take a look at Grand Prairie ISD, and how they’re turning public school into a rich, personal experience for each student.
What kid wakes up on a weekend morning raring to head to school?
In the Grand Prairie area, at least once a year, thousands do. Their parents, too – entire families rise early on a Saturday to converge on a campus-turned-community square.
To apply for a chance of entry into one of Grand Prairie ISD’s nearly 20 open-enrollment, public schools of choice.
The district has come to call it, simply, The GPISD Experience.
Think academic open house with a festival feel. Families meet one-on-one with school teachers, principals, and administrators. They view student galleries, exhibits, and demonstrations. The GPISD Experience has evolved to include food trucks, a petting zoo, live performances – even an NFL football tv-watching zone.
But the primary goal is to give every family an opportunity to learn about the many educational programs and options available – free of charge – within the Grand Prairie public school district.
Dr. Susan Hull – a third-generation school educator – is the superintendent of Grand Prairie ISD. She rides a Harley and exudes an engaging brand of Texas brash and bravado, which likely helped her spearhead the district transformation from one that a few years ago, after a $15 million revenue loss, was struggling to keep campuses open, to the thriving, 29,000-student strong district that exists today. Hull is driven by a passion for busting boundaries. And she says other public school leaders can follow suit by asking themselves what kinds of choices do they want to make available to their students?
“A parent has a right to choose to home-school, and a parent has a right to pay $40,000 a year in tuition,” Hull said. “But every parent can’t, so as a public school superintendent, I have an obligation to give every parent an opportunity to exercise their right to make a choice for their child – a choice that’s best for their child, and a choice that they want to be vested in.”
Read more about The GPISD Experience.