Are Mike Morath and Dallas ISD's Home-Rule Backers Overstating How Terrible the Schools Are?

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Dallas ISD Trustee Mike Morath, who came forward yesterday to explain his role as the watchmaker who set into motion Support Our Public Schools, is Rain Man-like in his ability to spout off statistics. He -- and Mayor Mike Rawlings and the others behind the home-rule push -- have been dropping a lot of numbers recently, giving the general impression that DISD is an abject and irredeemable failure.

But Morath et al might be overstating things just a bit. DISD isn't Highland Park, but is it really as awful as they say?

The short answer is no. The Dallas Morning News' Matthew Haag does a solid job of picking apart one of SOPS' claims, that "Only 7% of DISD seniors graduate high school prepared to go to college." (In his weekend Q&A with the DMN, Morath puts the figure at 8.1 percent).

See also: Dallas ISD Trustees Are Skeptical of Shadowy Home-Rule District Push

As Haag goes on to explain, the exact percentage depends on whom you ask. The Texas Education Agency defines college readiness as a 24 composite score on the ACT or an 1,110 on the math and reading portions of the SAT; DISD's standard is a 21 on the ACT or 990 on the SAT. In 2012, 14.4 percent of graduating seniors met DISD's criteria, with 10.5 percent considered college-ready by the state.

By either measure Morath's number is inflated. A 10.5-percent college-readiness rate isn't good, but compared with other large Texas school districts with lots of impoverished students, it really isn't all that bad.

Then there's the broader question, of whether any meaningful assessment of "college readiness" can be based solely on the SAT and ACT. The staunchly anti-reform DISD Blog made that point last night. SAT scores are better indicators of family income and the ability to pay for test prep as they are of one's ability to succeed in post-secondary education.

When you look at the number of kids who enroll in college and go on to graduate, the picture gets somewhat rosier. According to data compiled by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 37.7 percent of Pinkston's class of 2012 enrolled in a two-year or four-year Texas college. At Carter, it's 40.6 percent. Spruce is 30 percent. (Hillcrest comes in with a 46.9 percent.)

See also: The Arguments Against Dallas ISD's Home-Rule Charter Push Are All Pretty Terrible

Enrolling in college doesn't imply college-readiness, but state data for DISD suggest that the majority of those students (83 percent attending a public four-year school, 62 percent at two-year colleges) will enroll for a second year. Not all of those students get a degree, but many do. Of DISD's 2006 class, 18.3 percent had graduated from college by 2012.

These numbers are nothing to boast about, especially given that DISD's goal is to make all students college-ready. And it doesn't mean the school board isn't dysfunctional and in need of reform. But certainly with as sizable a war chest as SOPS has, they can at least come up with accurate statistics.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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22 comments
mindingthestore
mindingthestore

Why is DISD's goal to make everyone college ready? It's as infeasible as NCLB's goal of

having everyone at grade level by 2014. Just set an impossible goal and then brand everyone a failure is the way this works for the pro-charter folks.

The state of Texas residents have approximately 27% college graduates. So why expect

of DISD what the state is not even close to accomplishing? It's nothing but a recipe for

failure.

We abandoned vocational education when we shouldn't have. We need plumbers, electricians, computer technicians and other skilled workers in the trades. Instead, DISD put EVERYONE on a college track, and then kids failed.

DISD needs to rethink its goals and allow state of the art vocational courses back into

the curriculum for those who want it. We can still have a college track, but we need to stop

forcing kids who don't want it and can't afford it to be in a curriculum ill-designed for

them.

missxedu
missxedu

Don't forget our illustrious Mayor, who, in the same week that he went on little PR bus jaunts of the special DISD zone at the end of the Calatrava bridge, said in the DMN that DISD kids are caught in a "doom loop," then declared to his select crowd at the meeting the other night "Well the facts are that our public schools are dark places without hope..." !!!

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

Would not this be the best reason to not vote for Morath? The guy brought in the guy who us supposed to fix all this. Is this  his backup plan, or was this  his plan all along, just stick the knife in DISD's back just before he pushes it off the cliff?

WylieH
WylieH

A few things:


1)  A 21 on the ACT or 990 on the SAT are NOT "college ready" scores, no matter what DISD says.

2)  It looks like you cherry picked high schools where a fair number of people enrolled in college (assuming they didn't drop out along the way), ignoring the rest with far less favorable statistics.  But even you admit that enrollment isn't an indication of achievement.

3)  I looked at the state report you linked to, and many of the "colleges" in which DISD students are enrolling aren't really more than glorified high schools... the level and quality of education in some of them is inferior to a top-performing high school. 

4)  If you take the total universe of students that enter DISD high schools, and then track them through to see how many ultimately graduate from a 4-year college, the number is shockingly low.  Even if you just look at how many manage to qualify for admission to a half-way decent college,  the percentage is shockingly low.

ruddski
ruddski

Las escuelas de Dallas son las mejores escuelas del norte de México.

missxedu
missxedu

@oakclifftownie  Who doesn't enjoy putting together a good collage? Sometimes, the kids are even given the assignment of making a collaged poster about the college they would most like to attend.

Alexander
Alexander

@WylieH What you should have said was, "4) If you take the total universe of students that enter American high schools, and then track them through to see how many ultimately graduate from a 4-year college, the number is shockingly low.  Even if you just look at how many manage to qualify for admission to a half-way decent college, the percentage is shockingly low."

When Rawlings says that we have a "civil rights issue" and paints DISD as a moral failing, he is making the accusation that DISD is uniquely failing its students. But the data does not hold that out. The data essentially says we have a lot of poor kids.

89% of DISD students are in the two lowest income groups in this chart: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/can-the-new-sat-solve-the-tests-inequality-problem/284265/

DISD don't send a lot of kids to college, but you know what? I'm 30 and census data says only 35% of my peers have a college degree-- 2/3 of them from 'noncompetitive colleges': https://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/education/data/cps/2013/tables.html

I'm not seeing any good reasons to change DISD. I am seeing lots of good reasons to change the whole country, but let's not experiment on my kids, mkay?




ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Alexander  "I'm not seeing any good reasons to change DISD."  

Well then your kids are fucked.  Even someone who staunchly supports DISD will tell you things need to change, they just disagree on what that is

WylieH
WylieH

@Alexander  DISD is a failed institution... and I don't think we should be throwing in the towel just because these kids happen to come from impoverished families.  These kids deserve better.

mindingthestore
mindingthestore

Most poor kids of color can't compete in the job market with middle class Anglo kids. After all, who's doing the hiring and would rather hire people who look like them? Duh!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bvckvs @Alexander sure they graduate, but they cant even compete with the kids from other local districts graduating and trying to get into the big schools

ruddski
ruddski

@ScottsMerkin

The racism charge isn't always a result of actual racism, it's also used to attack those who dare question Progressive beliefs and policies pertaining to race.

If there was a Progressive policy that promoted beating Mexicans on sight for whatever reason and you spoke against that policy as damaging to Mexicans, you'd be classified a racist.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Alexander @ScottsMerkin  so bc DISD is good for White affluent people, nothing should change to help the mexicans and the blacks or the poor whites?   A perfect example of what is wrong with DISD

Alexander
Alexander

@ScottsMerkin Just like I was fucked, right? And my classmates who went to Ivy League schools? 


DISD is slightly below par for poor kids, it's above par for kids who live in a household making more than $45K a year. DISD does black kids no favors, but it does well by the affluent whites who show up and don't run away to Collin County. 


The things I would like to change are not "DISD things"; they are national level changes. Projecting that onto DISD is not helping anyone, and that is exactly what Morath and Rawlings are doing.

Curiouser_II
Curiouser_II

@WylieH @Alexander  

Wow, can we really place all our society's failings on the shoulders of DISD?  DISD has our kids for maybe 8 hours a day -- more when we count after school activities.  But, that still leaves more than 50% of the day, not to mention the first 4 years of their lives.  


Per my WASP middle class child who attended both a selective magnet and our neighborhood comprehensive schools, "Among minority students, the gap between the 'haves' and 'have nots' was more noticeable among the black students."  Why was that, "Because they were fxxx'd up before they even got to school."  My point is that at some point, we have to stop blaming public education for all the ills of our society. 


Among my kids' economically disadvantaged peers were some who had such unstable lives outside of school, they didn't know for certain where they'd be sleeping any given night. And, during high school, it seemed like they were always hungry.   I came to deeply admire these youths for the mere act of overcoming their personal obstacles of just getting themselves TO school everyday.  And, when these kids walked the graduation stage, to become the first person in their family to earn a diploma, I was honored to know them and to have my own kids among them.  


But guess what, smart and tough as these kids are, most can't afford to pay for the ACT/SAT.  Plus, their immediate post h.s. reality doesn't include  a 4 year college -- further disincentive to take the ACT/SAT.  And, those going to a 2 year college, don't need SAT/ACT. So they get counted in the denominator for calculating the SOPS/Mayor's/Morath's college readiness score, but they aren't in the numerator -- thus, creating a distorted measurement of the success of DISD schools....because that one measurement is a long ways from encompassing all of DISD's successes.


Do I think public schools need reform and constant improvement -- absolutely! I staunchly support common sense reform.  But, are DISD schools the colossal failure being sales-pitched by Mayor Rawlings, SOPS, et al....NOT!  Our public school teachers are heroes and in many instances the one thing saving the lives of our least desirable youths. 


Yes, for sure DISD and Texas public schools need major, continuous, common sense improvements; but we are excluding from this discussion other, more major root problems at the core of our youth not graduating as prepared as needed for entering society -- root problems being categorically ignored by Mr. Rawlings, SOPS, et al; and dumped on the shoulders of public schools. That's just wrong.  


Now, if the crux of Mayor Rawlings, Mr. Morath, SOPS, Mr. Arnold, et al  is to change the culture of parent/community involvement among the 'have nots' by taking control of the education of their youths and turning it over to charter schools, then just say so.  I dunno, maybe that's what has to be done -- but be prepared for more flight by the "haves" from public schools.  Because while you're fixing it for the have-nots, the 'haves' aren't going to standby and see how it might impact them, they'll up and leave.  

Alexander
Alexander

@WylieH More like we live in a failed country. Where do poor kids do significantly better? NYC, LA, or Chicago? No. Ft Worth or Houston? Also no? Berlin? Yeah, probably...

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