DISD is facing some pretty hefty budget cuts. They are paying teachers to resign while at the same time trying to keep schools who continue to rank “academically unacceptable” above water. Dallas currently has the highest number of “academically unacceptable” schools in the state, but it spends as much per pupil as districts who have fewer or no “unacceptable” schools.
I’m getting my information from the Texas Education Agency’s 2008-2009 District Performance Summary for Dallas, which is the latest available report. Dallas ISD faces some pretty major problems. It ranks at the bottom of the state on percentage of students passing standardized tests and has one of the highest dropout rates in the state. All the while we rank above average on amount spent per student, and our superintendent got paid almost three times the state average in 2008-2009 (Michael Hinojosa got $317,444 that year. The state average was $110,203. Only three superintendents got paid more).
I know Hinojosa is a “rock star” amongst those in the know about superintendents. But it seems to me that when faced with laying off 65 people in a full time staff of only 90 at Townview Magnet Center, and a new average class size of 35 students all over the district, it might behoove DISD to take a few glances at what it pays its top administrators.
The rankings on the 08-09 list went up slightly in 2010, but from what I can find, the TEA Performance Summary for 2010 isn’t available. To be specific, 65 schools improved, but only because of the controversial Texas Projection Measure, which allows schools to include students who are “projected” to pass future TAKS tests even though they have failed previous ones. According to the Dallas Morning News, here’s how it would have looked otherwise:
Hinojosa says this shouldn’t discount the progress being made, but I’m not sure I buy that. I certainly wouldn’t want my child going to a school that only squeezed past being ranked “academically unacceptable” because they got to project success upon previously unprepared students.
But DISD has a few shining stars among its batch of schools. Townview Magnet Center’s Gifted and Talented Magnet is currently ranked no. 1 in the nation by Newsweek, their Science and Engineering Magnet ranks fourth, and Booker T. Washington, Dallas’ arts magnet, frequently churns out Julliard-worthy students. Unfortunately, these schools have gotten the new 35 students per class rule applied to them too.
Tell me, DISD, how do you teach a specialized engineering class to 35 people at one time? How about piano or dance? I teach dance, and I can only imagine the chaos of teaching 35 people how to do a grand jete across the floor and how ineffective I would be in trying to make sure they were all doing it properly.
I realize that many of the issues that these schools have are not the fault of the teachers or the administrators, and that poor parenting or lack of concern by students plays a part. But magnet schools are the saving grace for students who want more out of their education than an academically unacceptable school can provide.
It seems to me that DISD has a lot more than financial issues to figure out. Even though we have these stunningly low passage rates on standardized tests, for some reason 98 percent of teachers receive “meets” or “exceeds expectations” on their DISD evaluations because of how little they measure. Thankfully, the DISD Board of Trustees will be considering more than that if they go forward with the use of performance as an indicator for which teachers to let go.
Oh, and the sign above. It’s real. A friend of my Dad’s sent it to him via text message last week. Fox 4 even did a bit of a write up on it. Even if it was a mistake by a janitor that was fixed on the same day, it’s somewhat symbolic of the low TAKS scores for DISD, especially because our lowest comparative ranking is in reading.