Nation’s best, but sub-par in Texas school ratings

September 18, 2009

In discussing the Broad Prize won yesterday by Aldine Independent School District (near Houston), William McKenzie, an editorial writer at the Dallas Morning News unintentionally summed up part of the problem with Texas’s testing-uber-alles school ratings, at the DMN’s blog site:

Like Brownsville last year, the state only recognized Aldine as an “acceptable” district, not a “recognized” or “exemplary” one. That could be for several reasons, but the best way to look at the difference between the state’s ranking and Aldine’s Broad Prize is that Aldine is showing substantial progress but still has a high mountain to climb before it’s on a par with suburban districts that do reach the exemplary level.

It doesn’t matter if your district has two of the top high schools in the nation on the Newsweek ratings, as Dallas ISD does.  It doesn’t matter if 85% of a high school’s kids go to great colleges with lots of scholarship money.  A school can get hammered by statistical flukes.

Too often teachers are pushed to focus on getting the subpar up to mediocre.  A school gets no additional credit, in state rankings, for championship performance in the top tier of its students — and so some of the best performing schools in Texas have rankings less than they should have.

It’s nice that Aldine ISD got the Broad Prize.  That prize recognizes outstanding achievement by students in many areas.  But it counts for absolutely nothing in the state’s rankings of schools and districts.

Remember, Texas is one of those states where International Baccalaureate programs come under fire for requiring kids to read “suspect” books, and study hard, and where AP-required course material is dismissed as wrong by members of the State Board of Education.

For teachers in Texas, daily floggings will continue until teacher morale improves enough to push scores up.  Or until someone in authority gets rid of the flogging (I was going to say “shoots the flogger,” but this is Texas; somebody might start shooting).

Broad Prize winner: Aldine ISD, near Houston

September 17, 2009

Aldine ISD, in the Houston metroplex, won the Broad Prize for Urban Education.

Earlier Texas winners are Houston ISD and Brownsville ISD.

From the press release from the Broad Foundation:

WASHINGTON – The Aldine Independent School District (AISD) outside Houston won the 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education, the largest education award in the country, and as a result will receive $1 million in college scholarships, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced today.  Aldine, where four out of five students qualify for free and reduced-priced school lunch, has shown some of the most consistent student achievement gains nationally in the last decade and has been recognized as one of the top five most improved urban American school systems in four of the last six years.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined philanthropist Eli Broad and members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to announce the winner. Aldine ISD was selected by a bipartisan jury of eight prominent American leaders from government, education, business and civic sectors, including three former U.S. secretaries of education.

The $2 million Broad (rhymes with “road”) Prize is an annual award that honors the five large urban school districts that demonstrate the strongest student achievement and improvement while narrowing achievement gaps between income and ethnic groups. The money goes directly to graduating high school seniors for college scholarships.

“Aldine shows us that it’s possible for a district facing tough circumstances to get excellent results,” said Secretary Arne Duncan, who opened up the envelope and announced the winner. “We need to highlight the success of Aldine and districts like it so that others can follow their examples and lift up all students.”

As the winner of The Broad Prize, the Aldine Independent School District will receive $1 million in college scholarships for graduating seniors next spring. The four finalists—Broward County Public Schools in southern Florida; Gwinnett County Public Schools outside Atlanta; the Long Beach Unified School District in California; and the Socorro Independent School District in Texas—will each receive $250,000 in college scholarships. Long Beach won the 2003 Broad Prize, and this marked the third year that the former winner returned as a finalist. Broward is a two-time finalist for the award, while this was Gwinnett’s and Socorro’s first year in the running.

How does that sit with us in Dallas?  Gossip at the Dallas Morning News blog, DallasISD:

I don’t know if you all have noticed but talk of DISD winning the Broad Prize for Urban Education by 2010 is nearly non-existent. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa used to always refer to the district’s goal to obtain the award, and he gave himself five years to do it shortly after his arrival in 2005. DISD has obviously made academic gains, but not much is uttered anymore about the “Road to Broad,” the district’s nickname for the roadmap to its reform effort.

Which is to say in other words, Dallas is concentrating on getting performance up, while cleaning up a few nasty administrative messes.  On the teacher level, the work towards excellence doesn’t change much whether Dallas administrators talk about the Broad Prize or not.

Congratulations to Aldine.  Teachers there worked their butts off.

Can anyone find any correlation between Aldine’s winning the award and anything Texas has done as a state?  Did performance pay help out in any way?  Have poor science standards and the assault on social studies standards helped, or hurt Aldine’s performance?

Who really wins the award?

Aldine parent Carlos Deleon, who has had three children educated in the district, attributed its success to “the community, the parent involvement and, of course, most important, the good teachers.”

“When I hear they’re awarded more scholarships,” Deleon said of the students, “wow, that’s great. These kids work so hard.”

Broad Prize winners from the past:  2002, Houston ISD; 2003, Long Beach Unified School District, California; 2004, Garden Grove Unified School District, California; 2005, Norfolk Public Schools; 2006, Boston Public Schools; 2007, New York City Department of Education; 2008, Brownsville ISD (Texas)


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