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WHY THE RICHARDSON ISD COMMUNITY HAS AN INFLATED VIEW OF STUDENT ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

Aug 16, 2017 by

by Bill Ames –

A recent editorial in the Dallas Morning News described an April, 2017 document that revealed a “sobering disconnect between perception and reality in (public school) academic achievement”.

District of Columbia-based Learning Heroes surveyed 1,374 parents of public school children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The report, “Parents 2016: Hearts and Minds of Public School Parents in an Uncertain World”, revealed that ninety percent of parents believed that their children were performing at or above grade level in reading and math.

The survey results were overly optimistic.  The 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress found that just over one third of students performed above grade level.

Bibb Hubbard, Learning Heroes founder, called the results “a heartbreaking wake-up call”.

Why do parents have such an inflated view of student performance?

As a resident of Dallas-area Richardson ISD, I find the answer to be simple.

The school district publishes only the good news.  Bad news is not allowed to leak through to the community.  Borderline performance is twisted or revised to look good.  So regardless of what is actually happening academically, parents are spoon-fed a serendipity view of district performance.

A couple of examples.

On May 1, 2017, Richardson ISD staff presented STAAR test results for 5th and 8th grade reading and math.  It was an enthusiastic, upbeat presentation, due to RISD beating the Texas state averages.  Assistant superintendent Tabitha Branum said that she is “incredibly proud” of this performance.  Trustees gushed over the results.  Outgoing trustee Kris Oliver “thanked you guys”.  Trustee Eron Linn spoke of “crossing the goal line”…???   Outgoing board president Kim Caston thanked all for their hard work because it’s “paying off for the kiddos”.

Curious….. about the district declaring victory by “beating the Texas average”, since Richardson touts itself as being “one of the best”, superior to most other districts in a relatively low-performing state.

But if a citizen drilled down into the data, he found that the results are not cause for celebration.

42% of 5th graders do not meet math grade level expectations.

44% of 8th graders do not meet math grade level expectations.

46% of 8th graders do not meet reading grade level expectations.

52% (over half) of 5th graders do not meet reading grade level expectations.  The result of this number is stunning.  Nearly 1500 5th graders, spread across RISD’s 40+ elementary schools, do not read to grade level expectations.

There was no discussion by the trustees (who are elected by the community to oversee district performance) that the RISD District Improvement Plan called for these students to achieve a 70% passing grade, far above the 48% attained.  There was no trustee discussion about consequences for this significant failure.

RISD has been in academic decline since it adopted the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) vision in 2010.  In a recent school board election debate, challenger Lynn Davenport called for a return to academic focus: reading, writing, math.  Incumbent Kristin Kuhne scoffed, “We teach the Whole Child”.  Unfortunately, whole child education focuses on social and emotional learning and behavior modification.  Academics take a back seat.

Parents and community members will not learn about RISD academic deficiencies in the district’s School Times electronic newsletter.  Only the good stuff.

What to do with these 1500 kids who don’t read well?   A district legislative priority is to “Oppose any legislation/program* that diverts public tax dollars away from public schools. (*vouchers, education savings plans, tax credits, tuition reimbursements, etc.)”

This says the district wants to keep these students trapped in schools that seem incapable of teaching them to read well, even sending its taxpayer-funded lobbyist to Austin to oppose a funded education alternative for student victims and their families.

Trapping the kids is a severe problem.  Life is unforgiving for children who can’t read well.  80% of high school dropouts are struggling readers.  85% of teenagers in the juvenile justice system are functionally illiterate.   Dropouts make up 90% of welfare recipients and 75% of food stamp recipients.  Richardson ISD is creating its own dreaded school to prison and poverty pipeline…..due to deficient reading programs.

Here is another example of RISD whitewashing its performance.  In April 2016, the U. S. News and World Report published its “Best High Schools” list.

The marquee at Richardson high school immediately boasted, “RHS named in 2016 Best High School ranking by U. S. News & World Report and The Washington Post”.

Drilling down into the data, however, the reader determined that RHS was in fact ranked #96 in Texas and #747 nationally.

Enough said.  These examples make it abundantly clear that parents (and the taxpaying community) are being fed a distorted view of public school students’ academic performance.

Bill Ames is a conservative education activist who lives in Dallas, within the boundaries of the Richardson Independent School District. Ames reviewed CSCOPE lessons as part of the State Board of Education’s Ad Hoc Committee Project. His work in his local school district resulted in Board reviews of both its Social Studies Curriculum and Project Based Learning implementation, as well as securing a superintendent commitment to modify the AP History course to be Texas standards (TEKS) compliant.

Ames’ book, “TEXAS TROUNCES THE  LEFT’S WAR ON HISTORY”  (WNAenterprises.com) tells the story of his experience in developing Texas’ U. S. history standard in 2009-2010. He welcomes reader comments at billames@prodigy.net

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