“DISD leads the nation in advanced placement scores for minorities.”
There, I’ve said it. Local news outlets have been chastised for not picking up on this newsworthy item from Dallas ISD’s HUB newsfeed and shouting it from the rooftops, along with the obligatory bow to Superintendent Mike Miles who, of course, orchestrated this achievement.
But what exactly was the accomplishment? According to the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) release, “ a minority student in Dallas is more than twice as likely to earn a qualifying score on an AP math or science exam than in any other large urban school district in the country. “
Now Dallas ISD puts it another way, saying “This group of students led the nation in the number of qualifying scores on AP exams in subjects such as math, science and English.”
Or we can just dispense with formalities and simply say we’re the best. But we would not be telling the whole story.
The Dallas ISD newsfeed states:
For every 1,000 minority junior and senior students in Dallas ISD, there were 102 qualifying exams with scores of three or higher.
Well, yes, that’s true if you only count juniors and seniors. But freshman and sophomores take AP exams too. If their passing scores are included in these totals why aren’t their numbers also part of the equation? That calculation, 33,610 minority students and 1,557 exams passed, shows that for every 1,000 minority students in Dallas ISD there were only 46 qualifying exams.
This doesn’t sound nearly as impressive, especially when the district’s 2,587 white and Asian students had 3,203 qualifying scores.
Digging a little deeper, we find 804 qualifying scores were Spanish Language and Literature exams. Realizing many of our minority students are not native Spanish speakers and many non- Hispanics take this exam, I don’t want to make too big a deal out of this, but a perusal of scores on MyDataPortal shows that, by far, the greatest number of passing scores at predominantly minority comprehensives were on the Spanish Language exam, a test that has listening and speaking as a major component.
The touted math and science scores? Most comprehensives are in the single digits on these tests. Two passing scores, maybe 4, with a smattering of 12 or 15 in math, almost all Calculus AB. This is out of an enrollment of 1-2,000 at each campus. Of course Woodrow, White, and Hillcrest did better but since we can’t tease out the Anglo kids from district-level data we can’t tell if minority students do any better in these schools. I suspect that they do, if only because obviously the program is working in these schools.
The newly released data by NMSI is an indicator that Destination 2020, the district’s strategic plan to ensure that all students are college- and career-ready by the year 2020, is beginning to yield results.
Hmmm. Well, something is always better than nothing.
I believe NMSI when they say Dallas ISD minority students are twice as likely to do well on AP tests as their counterparts in other large urban schools. But that doesn’t make the actual numbers anything to be proud of.
Our kids are smart. That many of them can pass Spanish AP tests is perhaps an indication that we have not prepared our non- native English speaking students for the complexities of college level reading. Maybe, despite the efforts of the NMSI partners, we still don’t have enough qualified AP teachers.
The fact that so many of our high school graduates don’t have the academic edge that successful completion of AP classes brings is nothing to be proud of, but this fact certainly doesn’t doom these students to failure.
Ultimately, 18% of Dallas ISD graduates will earn a two or four year degree.
That’s a number to make us hopeful.
But let’s not manipulate the data and adjust the language to put lipstick on this pig, just so Mike Miles can claim progress. If anything, Dallas ISD students are successful in spite of Miles’ policies, not because of them.