What’s New and Next in Education:
Back-to-School Edition

Tech Edventures collaborates with Shelton School. A unique new school in Keller ISD. City Lab High School opens in DISD. These stories and more in our education roundup.

Tech EdVenture Founder Allen Selis at Tech Wildcatters in 2016. Beginning this fall, Shelton will collaborate with Dallas-based startup Tech EdVentures to expand its computer science curriculum.

Back-to-school. We’re in the thick of it, and we know many of our Dallas Innovators are too. There’s a lot happening in the education landscape in Dallas-Fort Worth this week.

Here’s some of the best of what’s new and next.


Beginning this fall, Shelton will collaborate with Dallas-based startup Tech EdVentures to expand its computer science curriculum. It’s a move they say will eventually touch students at every grade level, Pre-Primary (PP) through Grade 12.

“It’s no secret that everyone is clamoring for 21st-century students grounded in the STEM approach,” Shelton Executive Director Suzanne Stell said in a statement. “We know our students will work in a world where technology is changing with exponential speed. We’ll be a dynamic duo in teaching to the future.”

“It’s no secret that everyone is clamoring for 21st-century students grounded in the STEM approach.”
Suzanne Stell

By teaming with Tech EdVentures to expand the computer science curriculum the programming will eventually touch students at every grade level, according to the school’s report. Tech EdVentures offers a platform designed to cultivate technology skills through programs with core competencies in problem solving, automation, collaboration, and ethics.

The connection to Tech EdVentures was through Shelton board member Terri West — a former Shelton parent and a Texas Instruments (TI) executive. West shared with Stell that TI was challenged to find enough STEM-qualified candidates for their job openings. Because Stell was interested to expand computer literacy to Shelton’s younger students, an exploration of a collaboration began. In the fall of 2016, Shelton brought Tech EdVentures on board through after-school activities.

The new joint venture is a three-year project that will complement Shelton’s multi sensory approach, and give students better skills for adapting to a rapidly changing future. Shelton Head of School Linda Knees said in a report, “Many of those skills will be highly technical.”

Tech EdVentures CEO Allen Selis said, “We’re going to be a branch grafted onto the tree of Shelton. We plan to show and teach in partnership with Shelton, ultimately returning all leadership to Shelton at the end of our joint-venture learning process.” Read more here. 


Summer ended early for students with the Keller Independent School District, as school started Aug. 15. Some of those students — 250, to be exact — are in attendance at the district’s newest school, Vista Ridge Middle School in Fort Worth.

The facility, which currently houses fifth and sixth grades, is not your average school building, however. Windows in classrooms are the size of garage doors — and actually open, to let in the fresh air. Meanwhile, main passageways boast wide “learning steps,” where students and teachers can hang out, sit, and talk before and after school, and in between classes. The building came from $40 million approved from a 2014 bond referendum.

Local CBS affiliate KTVT-CBS Dallas/Fort Worth reports that two additional grade levels will be added to the Vista Ridge campus within the next two years.

“This school is going to focus on innovation,” Vista Ridge Middle School principal Chelsea Allison said in an interview. “It’s going to focus on students being risk takers and student-led learnings.”


The school year for Keller ISD students began earlier than other districts. The reason, said Superintendent Rick Westphall, was because Districts of Innovation (of which the Keller is one) are allowed to open early. 

“We can complete a semester in a way that balances fall and spring. It was a big deal for the high schools,” Westphall told WFAA-TV reporter Chris Sadeghi. “Now we are out [of school] before Memorial Day weekend, so it helps balance things out.”

Speaking of “new,” Westphall is, too. The 2017-2018 school year marks his first as Keller’s superintendent, though he isn’t a stranger to the area. He was Keller High School’s principal from 2008-2011, according to KTVT-CBS Dallas/Fort Worth


Kids will be headed to Dallas ISD campuses beginning Aug. 28. For some students, the first day of school will take place at the City Lab High School on South Ervay, near downtown Dallas.

The just-opened City Lab High School is a Choice School; in other words, students from all over the district can apply to its program, which consists of instruction in urban development. “It’s a new high school, two blocks away from city hall,” DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said on a recent “Fox 4 Good Day” show. “We have kids coming in from all over town, even the suburbs, so they can study urban development, design and planning, and even how to live in the city.”

And, being so close to city hall, Hinojosa said there would be the opportunity for what he called “true-life internships down the street.” Basically, City Lab will give students the opportunity to use the city of Dallas as a real-life, hands-on laboratory, when it comes to urban planning.


Dallas-based Texas Instruments has teamed up with mathematician John Urschel, a former player for the Baltimore Ravens NFL football team, to kick off an educational type of contest. Urschel, who played guard and center during his days with the Ravens, recently retired to pursue a mathematics doctoral degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Thanks to a series of video clips and endorsements, Urschel is encouraging the youth of America to share what it likes most about the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields — STEM.

Urschel is spreading the word about a contest dubbed #GenSTEM. There are two ways in which students ages 13 and older can participate.

First, participants can take a brief quiz to determine their “inner STEM strength.” The quiz automatically enrolls participants in a drawing for a TI graphing calculator.

Second, participants can take a photo of themselves doing something they like to do — a hobby or educational activity — and tie in how STEM learning is useful to that activity. The participants share the photos on the #GenSTEM website and social media. Urschel will select the winning photo, and the winner will receive a grand prize package that includes a $500 gift card and an expense-paid trip to Dallas to star in Texas Instruments’ next “STEM Behind Cool Careers” activity. The contest is open through Sept. 25, 2017. For more information, log on here.


Meanwhile, in the Keller ISD, students arriving for their first day of classes at Parkwood Hill Intermediate School in Fort Worth were greeted by teachers, staff, friends . . . and a huge, green corkscrew slide. The slide can take people on a fast, dizzying ride from the second floor to the first. 

However, the green corkscrew is more than fun and games. It’s a reward.

Parkwood Hill, a fifth- and sixth-grade campus, and Hillwood Middle, across the street, which houses the seventh- and eighth-graders, are divided into “houses.” Think Harry Potter. The students then compete for academic rewards, one of which is being cheered by many others while taking a wild ride down the green slide.

Parkwood Hill Intermediate School

[Image via Facebook @Parkwoodhill]

“We want all of our kids to really be able to go down the slide but also see it as a reward and something that they can earn for doing a host of different things,” Parkwood Hill assistant principal Charley Erwin told WFAA-TV reporter Kevin Reece.

As for the kids, they’re looking forward to the prospect of sliding as a reward. “Some kids don’t like school but I hope that this will make them enjoy it more,” sixth-grader Angelina Vidal told WFAA.

Lance Murray contributed this report.


Dallas ISD’s IDEA Tackles Students’ Emotional Well-being Along With Academics
The Innovation Design and Entrepreneurship Academy, which has a startup vibe, was recently featured in a national publication for its restorative practices toward discipline.


Students study at The Innovation Design and Entrepreneurship Academy in Dallas. [Screenshot via Dallas ISD video]


Dallas Innovates, every day

One quick signup, and you’ll be on the list.   
View previous emails.

R E A D   N E X T