Project FAQs

Model School FAQs for Simmons

What is the model school?

The model school refers to a partnership between Simmons, Dallas ISD, Toyota, and the community support organizations and residents of West Dallas with the collective goal to open, support, and study a PreK-8 STEM school in the Pinkston Feeder Pattern. 

With support from Toyota USA Foundation, SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development is launching a three-year planning period with Dallas ISD’s Office of Transformation and Innovation, the Pinkston Feeder Pattern, and key community stakeholders including The School Zone in the West Dallas 75212 zip code.  The partnership will support a Pre-K through 8th grade STEM school by providing professional development, development of a comprehensive curriculum with a STEM focus, coordination of community-based services, and ongoing research and evaluation.  Dallas ISD will support all building, staffing and other operational needs for the campus.

What are the aims of the model school?

The model school aims to serve West Dallas students and their families while inspiring and preparing students for the next generation of STEM jobs. 

The project and partnership will create a replicable model for a PreK-8 STEM focused school with coordinated, wraparound services.  The model refers to a partnership process and set of tools, practices, and research and evaluation findings that can be studied, adapted and replicated in other settings.

Further, the project seeks to make a substantive contribution to the field of STEM education, developing a framework for operationalizing what STEM can look like when multiple potential features are incorporated (including project-based, industry-informed, technology-integrated) and what plausible student outcomes can be expected.

What are the grant funds for?

Toyota granted Simmons $2 million in order to support the development of the model school.  Funds go to support community development, professional development, curriculum design, and research & evaluation.  Sub-grants are available to non-profits serving model school students and/or families, and funds are available to support Dallas ISD teacher stipends and travel to exemplar sites for learning and planning purposes.

Who will run the model school?

The model school will be fully operated by Dallas ISD and will be led by the Office of Transformation and Innovation.  Simmons will serve as a long-term professional development and research partner and will lead the Toyota planning grant.

What are some key elements of the model school?

Research, evaluation, and frequent innovative formative assessment will be hallmarks of the work.  State of the art data capture methods will be explored, and multiple strands of research will be conducted.  This will allow for the documentation and dissemination of what works (and what doesn’t) with the goal of a replicable model.

The model school will serve as a learning hub and a demonstration site for excellent teaching practices. Simmons will provide ongoing professional development opportunities for model school leaders and teachers and for community-based service providers.  Channels for ongoing educational attainment at Simmons will be explored.

Success in STEM is not only contingent on excellent educational opportunities.  Ensuring opportunities and access to a range of services to augment individual and community wellbeing are as important to the overall approach as the STEM curriculum itself.  The model school will feature strategic partnerships with a range of non-profit community-based service providers to provide co-located and nearby services.  Services ranging from mentoring, mental health, social & emotional learning, and housing & legal aid are all being pursued.  Strategies for coordinating out-of-school delivery of these services with the formal in-school curriculum are being developed.

Valuing the expertise of the STEM industry for anticipating the rapidly emerging workforce needs, industry input will be meaningfully incorporated into the model school design while providing industry-based opportunities for ongoing student, teacher, and parent learning.

Specific needs and opportunities for English Language Learners and Special Education students will be integrated into curricular elements of the school as well as professional development opportunities for teachers and leaders.  Additional out-of-school time support services will take these students’ specific needs into account.

The project is committed to equity, focusing on opportunities to support a historically marginalized community while committing to meaningful co-design with all involved partners.  Early aspects of this work will include meaningful exposure to the history and context of West Dallas and specific consensus building and training opportunities for all participating partners around what equity could and should mean for this project.

Where will the model school be?

Pending approval by the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, the model school will be located at the current site of Pinkston High School (2200 Dennison St).

What will the school look like?

$30 million in Dallas ISD bond-package money will be spent on renovations to retrofit the existing high school into a PreK-8 campus conducive to the STEM and wraparound elements planned for the school.  Current and future students and families, West Dallas community members, Dallas ISD, Simmons, and industry stakeholders will all have opportunities to participate in the co-design of the physical spaces of the school.

Who will attend the school?

All final decisions about the configuration of the school will be made by the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees.  The paramount aim for the partnership is that the school will serve approximately 1,100 PreK-8 West Dallas students first and that any open seats will be available by lottery to others in the district.  The school will not be a magnet school, nor will academic criteria be required for admission.  

Seventh through twelfth graders are currently attending school at this site.  When the “new” school opens, 7th and 8th graders will remain, and PreK-6 will be introduced over time.  The aim is to have all PreK-8 grades fully populated by the 2025-26 school year.

What do we mean by West Dallas "community"?

This refers to the geographic area of the Pinkston Feeder Pattern.  It includes current residents with or without children in Dallas ISD schools and includes current parents and students in Dallas ISD schools.  It includes business and non-profit leaders and staff, including those in The School Zone as well as those who are not School Zone members.   This is a purposefully broad term, and Simmons will work to recruit representation from many sectors. 

How does the model school serve the West Dallas community/Pinkston Feeder Pattern?

The work of the model school is closely tied to The Budd Center’s signature initiative, The School Zone, which focuses on coordinating social sector non-profits toward common goals.  This focus for the work acknowledges that the health of the surrounding community—outside the walls of the school-- is as important to long term outcomes for students and families as the instruction and educational experiences that students may receive inside the school.  To that end, there are additional opportunities for small and pilot projects affiliated with the model school or with additional schools in the West Dallas/Pinkston feeder pattern.  Leveraging and expanding the strategic partnerships established by The School Zone and emerging partnerships with Dallas ISD catalyzed by the model school may introduce opportunities for research-practice initiatives like hosting summer camps, afterschool programming, parent engagement, or other teacher or school-based initiatives.

When will this work take place?

The three-year planning period started July 1, 2018 and will last until June 30, 2021.  Year One will consist of co-design work with all partners.  While co-design will continue throughout the project, the emphasis in Years Two and Three will shift to professional development and pilot-testing to ensure readiness to open all aspects of the school in the fall of 2021.

Year One of the planning grant includes co-design, consensus building, and development of a written implementation plan.  A Project Director will be hired by the end of Year One. 

Co-design and further development of the project details will continue into Years Two and Three, and the focus will additionally shift to developing the range of skills, capacities, and affordances necessary to implement the design with excellence.  While iterative design will continue throughout the duration of the project, the emphases in Years Two and Three will be more active – piloting strategies and providing professional development and other capacity building initiatives in order to be ready for the school’s opening in August of 2021.

What is the grant deliverable?

All project partners will work collaboratively to develop a comprehensive implementation and evaluation plan.  This planning document will serve as the raw material for a Public School Choice (PSC) application to be submitted to Dallas ISD’s Office of Transformation and Innovation during Year Two. While SMU will take primary responsibility for organizing and warehousing these resources, they will be collaboratively developed and shared with other project partners, namely Dallas ISD and West Dallas community non-profits participating in the work. The bulk of this deliverable will be developed in Year One but also dynamically modified and updated throughout the project.

What happens after Year Three?

Simmons and Dallas ISD are committed to a long-term partnership to support the PreK-8 STEM school and the West Dallas community more broadly.  Simmons will actively pursue additional corporate, foundation and research grants to support ongoing professional and community development, alongside sustained research and evaluation of the model school.  

The PreK-8 school is envisioned as the anchor project with long-term goals for extension projects into early childhood, high school, and postsecondary settings, thereby creating a true cradle to career pipeline of support and rich educational opportunities.

Additional grant opportunities leveraging research and practice within the model school are encouraged. A task of Year One will be establishing a protocol and practice within Simmons for deciding which grants and research projects will take place at the school.

What is Simmons' role?

Toyota has granted Simmons $2 million to serve as the backbone agency for this work.  Simmons will co-lead several strands of work, including curriculum co-design, professional and community development, and documenting and studying the model itself.  A Year One deliverable for the grant is a comprehensive implementation and evaluation plan that will serve as the basis for a public school choice application to Dallas ISD and as a guide for the long-term project.

What do we mean by "STEM"?

Especially during Year One, but extending through the three-year design phase of the work, all partners will work collaboratively to operationalize what STEM will mean in this context. 

The co-design process will work backwards from envisioning desired college and career readiness, especially for the emerging STEM workforce, to designing and implementing a curriculum and set of experiences that will most enable student success.  The work will integrate existing strong practices within Dallas ISD and from other local and national exemplars with evidence-based best practice and innovative new ideas.

Ideas and terminology that have been used for this project include: STEM, STEM-focused, STEAM, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, design thinking and industry-informed.  A major initial task for the grant will be to build consensus around operational definitions for these terms in this context.

Are we writing a new curriculum?

No.  The task will be to identify existing curricula both locally and nationwide that are evidence based or promising, to adapt them to fit the context of the model school, and to design supports like professional development and assessment that will facilitate excellent implementation of the chosen curriculum or hybrid curricula.