Just last week Sharon Grigsby jumped the shark over at Belo and showed us how little our local journalists understand the educational data in our state. Grigsby made defamatory remarks about principal Marian Willard by stating that Willard had a one percent college readiness in her students while the state average was 49.3% of students.
The actual state average on students passing an Advanced Placement test was a little over 3% and the state demographics don’t match Madison High School. Willard’s college readiness scores are in line or better than other schools around the state with her demographics.
Arrogant Belo has not printed a retraction, nor has Jim Schutze at the Observer. Shutze, certainly not a credible source of education data, was the source of Grisby’s contemptuous and inaccurate assumptions and continues his hysterical tirades at a local rag where the reader must peek at content adrift in a sea of sexual advertisements and content. We have yet to read a peer-reviewed article on educational research at the Observer.
If Belo reporters had tried just a bit, they could have could have explored several matches to Madison High School here in Dallas by traveling south down the interstate to Houston.
There, Superintendent Terry Grier, another Broad Toad, circled some of his lowest performing high schools, named them Apollo 20, and injected $2,000 extra per student in each along with consulting advice from Harvard’s Roland Fryer who insisted that charter methods would change Houston’s lowest performing high schools. School days at these small high schools were extended, the best data experts were hauled in, intensive tutoring for the TAKS began, and these schools were given resources Willard didn’t and doesn’t have.
Grier began churning through principals and teachers. He used a value added measure for teachers that was found to be incredulously inaccurate and drove away talented, experienced teachers.
Grier turned up the heat on the Apollo 20 schools and boiled them with principal turnover and more middle managers. He took $10 million from other Houston schools to initially fund his program, just like Miles intends to overspend on his pilots while under funding other comprehensive high schools.
After spending as much as $14,000 per student on the high schools in the Apollo 20 trial, Madison’s peer high schools don’t look much different than Madison. A little better and a little worse than Madison’s scores, Harvard’s Fryer has already declared victory and says Apollo 20 high schools are now “average,” when their test scores look remarkably similar to those at Madison.
Before Miles takes Dallas ISD down the same road traveled by Superintendent Grier, the Dallas board might want to read about the constant chaos in Houston’s schools. Grier seemed on the verge of not having his contract renewed when he came up with the grand idea of a $1.5 billion bond package to rebuild all of Houston’s high schools. In the middle of a recession, Houston’s business community decided Grier looked much better and bought his contract renewal the same way the Dallas business community buys board candidates.
In Miles’ case, he is about to start the typical Broad principal churn that goes nowhere. Dallas schools already have Title I comparability issues that are ignored because the public and TEA are not paying attention to huge spending differentials between campuses or because the parents whose children benefit from overspending on their campuses are the most powerful in Dallas public schools.
Miles is also blatantly ignoring parent complaints about double-digit numbers of vacancies on high school campuses. These complaints have surfaced in community meetings where Miles simply overlooks the fact that Dallas comprehensive high schools are not even staffed with teachers in core academics.
Added to a lack of true Title I comparability and lack of teachers is Miles’ arbitrary and capricious performance evaluation system that measures learning objectives and multiple strategy responses. Good luck with that in court, trustees. It is purely subjective and gives Miles the rope to hang all of you.
But back to the original defamation around college readiness numbers that were misinterpreted by Sharon Grigsby and by Jim Schutze, those numbers that look no better in Houston’s small, under enrolled high schools than they do in Dallas’ under enrolled schools, even after massive intervention and constant firings of principals and teachers.
Houston has open enrollment across its public schools. Kids have free transportation to the schools of their choice. Students in low income neighborhoods who are highly motivated can apply for Houston’s magnet schools which are some of the best in the nation or attend its good high schools. Houston is also flush with charters that drain motivated parents and students.
Many times, in Houston and Dallas, that leaves pockets and neighborhoods of extreme poverty with small, homogeneous populations of students who for love of sports or lack of test scores to get into a magnet, attend their local high schools.
Yet, we measure these schools with college readiness SAT tests normed on white males from middle and upper income schools. We continue to push for similar outcomes from those students in dire straits that we have from the entitled or from magnet schools that filter off the top performing minority students from these neighborhoods. In Dallas, our two Early Colleges are packed with high achieving, minority students. These schools are over-enrolled while enrollment at the low performers continues to dwindle both in Houston and Dallas.
But we are insistent that these neighborhood high schools in high poverty areas with declining enrollment perform at middle class standards on instruments normed for middle class kids even after their neighborhood’s high achieving students have left. We continue to insist these students can grow more on SAT scores within the four years of high school than is possible.
And when principals can’t produce middle class outcomes, we decide that constant churn through principals and the inherent churn of TFA will help.
Find one urban district in the nation, including Houston, where that formula has worked.