For over a decade, Education Opens Doors has worked in the middle school space to equip students to make informed decisions about their futures. In 2022, EOD worked closely with Dallas ISD to create a customized curriculum that speaks directly to the needs of one of Texas’ largest school districts. Dallas ISD students have a myriad of incredible college and career readiness opportunities to choose from as they prepare for the future. For example, if aware of all pathways available to them, students in this district can leave the district as certified EMTs, with an Associate’s Degree from a cooperating community college or as trained chefs. Dallas ISD is a choice district that offers students options to engage in IB World Schools, P-Tech schools or comprehensive neighborhood schools. These opportunities represent just the tip of an iceberg, one that surely seems exciting and thrilling but could potentially feel overwhelming to students without the tools to navigate a landscape full of choice effectively – let alone do so in the 8th grade. Students in this situation have to make a lot of decisions as 8th graders. Every student has dozens of decisions to make before they ever darken the door of a high school – so what’s the best first step?
“Every student has dozens of decisions to make before they ever darken the door of a high school – so what’s the best first step?”
This is where EOD’s customized curriculum comes in. When creating this curriculum, EOD worked directly with leaders of Dallas ISD to ensure that students are well versed in their specific Dallas ISD options. EOD focused on creating a curriculum that will be used for a full semester and that every single 7th grader in the district will walk through. Lessons are engaging and student-centered, and seek to elevate and honor students’ voices and experiences. Much of the curriculum is based on the intentional design research of leading education voices such as Philip Schletchy and Sandra Kaplan. This curriculum creates a landscape for students to “do”. Throughout the lessons, students have opportunities to engage in debate, student action-centered mini projects, community-facing work and focused research. Students will engage in career research and tie their goals to the various paths available to them in their district. Ultimately, the students will create a capstone project in which they tie together the valuable information they have gathered through the semester and present it creatively to their peers. They’ll weave together their knowledge of choice within their district, the career clusters that are available to them and envision various ways to achieve their desired career with a deep understanding of the positive ways that they can impact their community in the future. In short, students will have full access to the exceptional options available to them in an exciting, engaging and research-based format.
“Lessons are engaging and student-centered and seek to elevate and honor students’ voices and experiences.”
When reflecting on the concept of student choice, perhaps the most integral factor to student success is just the knowledge of the options available to them. As mentioned before, options go far beyond the electives that a student can take in many situations. As many states in the United States continue to encourage districts to offer more career and college readiness opportunities, it is feasible to imagine that the options for students will continue to grow. Districts should consider offering increased education on the choices middle school students will face as they make broader curriculum decisions. It is a great loss for us if just one student misses an incredible opportunity simply because they did not know it existed. Offering an exceptional education is fantastic, but offering the knowledge of how to access that education is imperative.
“Students will have full access to the exceptional options available to them in an exciting, engaging and research-based format.”
EOD is proud to have worked with Dallas ISD on a project about which we are so passionate. This project truly embodies our vision – that when doors open, lives change. We are privileged to play a role in opening the doors for students in Dallas ISD and look forward to working with other districts in similar capacities in the future.
“Offering an exceptional education is fantastic, but offering the knowledge of how to access that education is imperative.”