SEM Expansion

SEM is Pleased to Announce That We Are Expanding

Dear SEM Family, Community Advocates and New SEM Family Members,

The School of Science and Engineering is pleased to announce that we are expanding! This year, we have accepted 175 freshmen, and we anticipate continuing this pattern. We have been slowly expanding our student body over the past few years and we are excited about being able to move forward with expansion on a larger scale.

This is uncharted – mostly exciting – territory. SEM will have more resources, more flexibility, and be able to serve more Dallas students. However, change always carries risk. We need help from all members of the community – students, parents, teachers, and administrators – to brainstorm ideas and concerns and to implement them in ways that will ensure that we maintain our unique culture and high standards.

We have answered the most common questions we have received about this expansion below. If you have other questions or concerns, please submit them at this link:

Andrew Palacios Principal

Expansion FAQ

How many new students were accepted to SEM?
SEM typically accepts 100-115 new freshmen each year; this year 175 were accepted.

Were admissions standards relaxed?
In no way were admissions standards relaxed; the additional students met the exact same qualifications as students in years past. We typically have a large waitlist full of qualified students we do not have room to accept; this year that waitlist is smaller, but there are still more qualified applicants than spaces.

Why were parents and the community not informed of this decision earlier?
The concept of expanding SEM has been under consideration for a few years; however, the decision to expand with this particular class was made at the district level a few days before admission letters were mailed.

What are the benefits of expanding SEM?
Many! First and foremost, expanding SEM helps ensure that all Dallas ISD students who want the most rigorous STEM education in the country and who have the skills needed to pursue it at an accelerated rate will have the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, expanding SEM allows us to offer a wider variety of robust STEM pathways, especially in engineering and computer science.

Will class size increase?
The district has increased our teacher allotment in proportion to the increase in enrollment. We do not project any change the student/teacher ratio.

Will faculty quality decrease?
No! We have launched a nation-wide search to find teachers with the skills, attitude, and experience to work with extremely high-performing students in an intensive academic atmosphere. We are excited about the chance to welcome in some new people with new ideas and fresh eyes.

Will we be able to maintain all the programs and courses that makes SEM unique!
Absolutely! We will continue to offer the same catalog of AP and PLTW courses; furthermore, as we expand, we anticipate the increased resources will allow us to offer even more robust choices for our students.

Will college access suffer with a larger graduating class?
No! It is a myth that highly selective colleges have “caps” on the number of students they accept: for example, last year SEM had 5 accepted by MIT, 3 by Harvard, and 3 by Stanford. Over 20 were accepted by UT and another 20 by TAMU. Good schools know SEM and compete for SEM’s students. They will be glad to have more of us to go around!

How will this impact academic competitions?
It will make us more competitive. Because we are a selective magnet, we already compete as a 6A school, facing off against schools with populations of 2200 or more—and hundreds of faculty available to coach or sponsor. More potential competitors will expand the number of competitive teams we can field in everything from debate to Ac-Dec to UIL. More faculty will be able to support a wider variety of activities.

Overall, is this a good change or a bad change?
We think it is a very good change. SEM has been at around 400 students for decades. In that time, we have developed a program that is nearly unique among high-poverty schools: our average student performs at above the 90% on every standard assessment despite the extremely high rate of poverty within our student body. We are proud of what we have here, but we want to grow it: we want to extend the opportunity we offer to more students, and we want to push the students we have even further, with more advanced electives in STEM fields, more inspiring faculty, more resources. Right now, SEM is a hidden gem—but we are excited about the possibility of becoming more widely recognized as a national leader of STEM education in urban and high-poverty environments.