2021 Fall 2021 News

Launching a new model for community collaboration

The pathbreaking partnership igniting an innovative model for pre-K–8 public education marked a milestone in August when the new West Dallas STEM School welcomed its first students.

The pathbreaking partnership igniting an innovative model for pre-K–8 public education marked a milestone in August when the new West Dallas STEM School welcomed its first students.
The new school is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the Dallas Independent School District, SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, the Toyota USA Foundation and the West Dallas community. Every step – from the beginning of the public-private partnership to what’s happening at the school today – is being documented by Simmons School researchers and educators to codify a process that can be successfully duplicated in other Dallas schools and, eventually, across the nation.
From the beginning, bringing neighborhood stakeholders to the table was crucial to understanding the needs and aspirations of the families served by the school, which is housed in the L.G. Pinkston High School building, a West Dallas landmark. The STEM school launched with seventh and eighth grades this year and will eventually enroll students in pre-K through eighth grade.

Science teacher Elizabeth Blue-Allen, the school’s STEM curriculum coordinator, leads project-based lessons with students working in teams.

Simmons School faculty provided their expertise in developing the project-based, industry-informed STEM curriculum meant to inspire and prepare students for college and careers in a rapidly changing world. That readiness also requires addressing issues outside the classroom that can derail learning.
“Wraparound” academic and social services will be delivered by local nonprofits directly to students to help with such issues as literacy, nutrition and after-school care.
“Together with the community, we have worked on everything from building design, teacher development, curriculum and before- and after-school care. This extends also to addressing broader community needs, including access to transportation,” says Sean Suggs, director, Toyota USA Foundation and group vice president, Toyota Social Innovation.

“We want our students to learn new ways of
thinking and find the best solutions to emerging
challenges. For this to happen, guidance is essential,
so we have created strong professional learning
groups for teachers so they can advance, too.”

– Stephanie L. Knight, Leon Simmons Endowed Dean of the Simmons School


01   Shaping the STEM school
02   Watch: Key partners’ perspectives
03   Watch: Transforming education
04   Watch: Virtual groundbreaking
Prior to the school’s opening this fall, the Toyota USA Foundation approved a grant of $3 million to SMU, adding to the $2 million grant the foundation awarded in September 2018. This is in addition to Toyota’s teacher and community grants, West Dallas scholarship and mentorship programs, and the recently launched transportation circulator in the area.
The school’s innovative ecosystem recently received another boost from business leader Carter Creech ’60, an SMU alumnus with a passion for education philanthropy, who pledged an additional $3.5 million, following his initial gift of $1.5 million to the project. Creech’s contribution will go toward a new middle school career and college readiness pilot program at the school, as well as efforts to replicate the West Dallas STEM School.
Master Principal Marion Jackson has described her school as “the jewel of West Dallas.”
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for the students and community of West Dallas,” Jackson said during the virtual groundbreaking for the school in May. “This partnership has afforded us the space to realize what’s possible when we focus our collective efforts on changing how we meet the needs of our students and families.”
As the model school continues to take shape, Simmons School educators and researchers will work alongside DISD teachers on state-of-the-art educational practices, professional development, and continuous monitoring and evaluation of the program.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *