Lower SAT Scores Disprove Allegations Against DISD's Mike Miles, Which Were Nuts Anyway

Categories: Schutze

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Dallas Observer
Low-scoring SAT-takers leaving the Dallas school district under duress?

Good piece yesterday by Matt Haag on The Dallas Morning News education blog reporting that fewer public school seniors received at least a 990 score -- that's the number that means a student is "college ready" -- on the SAT exam, reflecting school Superintendent Mike Miles' push to have more kids tested. Among the many interesting numbers included in Haag's report, I only wish he had thought to give us the district-wide average SAT score, but I have a question in to the district's hard-working communications staff, and I will let you know as soon as I hear from them.

Here is my bit. Miles has been telling us for a year that his initiative to have more kids take the SAT will produce lower average SAT scores. Turns out he was right. In terms of the district-wide averages, he got what he was going for.

He wants lower scores? No, he wants a more rigorous picture of what the district is teaching its students. The SAT is one of several national tests that can give us at least a snapshot of what students know at the end of a 12-year DISD career compared with what kids know elsewhere. Because the state tests and local tests are so extremely susceptible to political pressure, the national tests serve as a welcome dose of truth serum. So Miles is telling us that the bitter truth is better than a buttered up falsehood.

Secondly, please remember that Miles' critics have been on a two-year jihad accusing him of driving students out of the district in order to raise test scores. It was always a crazy assertion, basically that school principals, on orders from above, were calling in families and telling them to get their kids out of the district. Strangely, not a single family ever emerged to say such a thing had happened to them, reducing the entire disappearing families narrative to the level of a really boring zombie movie.

But retired school teacher Bill Betzen, with backing from UT Austin Education School professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, kept making the case that Miles had a secret under-the-radar mechanism for forcing families to leave the school district so that their low-scoring kids wouldn't be around to pollute Miles' test score averages.

See also: What the Numbers Say (and What Critics Won't) about Mike Miles' Tenure in Colorado

Again, the charge was never remotely credible, and neither Betzen nor Vasquez Heilig ever offered persuasive evidence. In fact when I asked Betzen to tell me what hard evidence he had to support the charge, he said, "I only have that secondhand. It is only allegations." When another person took Vasquez Heilig to task, he wrote back, "Please do not send me another threatening email, or I will refer this matter to the police."

I guess that would have been a charge of "insulting my integrity." Only in ed school academe.

So let's mark this moment, OK? Rather than institute testing policies designed to inflate scores falsely, Miles has instituted policies intended to bring the scores back down where they belong -- to deflate the scores, in other words. If you compare Dallas with other major Texas cities, Miles' move looks especially courageous.

Using Texas Education Agency data, I looked at six Texas cities yesterday. Last year, in the most recent available information, Dallas was second to last among those six in district-wide average SAT scores. The averages were Austin 1014, Houston 915, Fort Worth 905, Brownsville 904, Dallas 863, San Antonio 828.

But Dallas last year had the highest percentage among those six cities of senior students who took the SAT. The percentages who took the test were Dallas 78.8, Austin 77.7, Houston 75.2, Fort Worth 64, San Antonio 60.5, Brownsville 41.3. Looked at another way, Miles had the smallest pool of non-test-takers.

So here is how I read that: Of superintendents in those six cities, Miles had the most to lose by expanding his pool of senior test-takers. With the rate of test-takers already at the high end, the only place to go to expand the pool was straight into the low end of the achievement spectrum.

Did it anyway. Worth noting. It doesn't merely make Betzen and Vasquez-Heilig wrong. It turns their accusation into unsubstantiated character assassination. Some day it would be awfully nice to hear some acknowledgement of error from one or both of them.

UPDATE: Commenter Mike Dryden below is correct in saying that I have used an obsolete database for the SAT scores above. By directing me to the right one, he has enabled me to offer the following corrected numbers: the correct 2012 SAT participation rates according to the TEA are Houston 99.8%, Dallas 77%, Austin 72.3%, San Antonio 62.8%, Brownsville 51.6%. The average SAT scores for 2012 were Austin 1496, Brownsville 1289, Dallas 1272, Houston 1253, San Antonio 1217.



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46 comments
bbetzen
bbetzen

The history of 12th grade enrollment loss under Mike Miles, ultimately shrinking graduation classes, existed long before he came to Dallas.After two years of normal 12th grade growth in his previous district, Harrison, that growth stopped in 2009.The Harrison Class of 2010 enrollment then dropped 7%, the Class of 2011 dropped 18%, and the Class of 2012 dropped 11%.  Finally the Class of 2013 dropped 12%, but by that time Mr. Miles was in Dallas where 6 years of record 12th grade enrollment growth suddenly also stopped. Within the year, the 12th grade enrollment for the Class of 2014 had dropped 6%!This is the largest DISD 12th grade enrollment drop in decades!


Jim Schutze, do you really believe that DISD is heading in the right direction with record staff turnover and movement back toward the old dropout problems?


See http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2013/05/damage-by-mike-miles-in-colorado.html for the Colorado Data, and http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2014/06/2014-dallas-isd-graduation-rate-numbers.html for the Dallas data.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Kudos to Woodrow Wilson, which increased its number of college-ready (990 or above as defined by Miles) students by 137%.  It also had the highest average score for comprehensive high schools in the district.

Williams
Williams

College ready is career ready.   We have thousands and thousands of jobs locally that cannot be filled because we are not adequately preparing our students, with our first failure being that we have somehow convinced ourselves that demography is destiny and that poor students can't excel.


When you are in a hole, to climb out its important to know how far you need to climb.  Now we know.  Time to start climbing.   Put the excuses back in the closet, get everyone to get engaged….educators, business, non-profits, foundations, city leaders, etc.   No more finger pointing, no more conspiracy theories, and we don't need a 10th superintendent in 20 years because nine superintendents was more than enough.   I can't name one successful organization with that much turnover.  We tried that strategy and its failed our city and more importantly our kids.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

So Miles' point is to find out where you stand before you try to map your way out. F'in revolutionary.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Wouldn't a more important metric to measure the success of the District be the percentage of 9th graders who manage to make it to and successfully complete the senior year?  After all, the purpose of High School is NOT to make every kid ready for college.  The purpose of HS is to prepare every kid (or as many as possible) to be contributing adult citizens.   I'm not quibbling your point here, Jim, I agree with you that the increase in those taking the tests is a welcome sign, even if the results are disheartening.  Baby steps.  Miles understands that to get the stats to improve, the district needs to engage the students in their own education.

I just think that, before we set our sights on the lofty goal of sending every kid to college, maybe we should focus on getting all of them through HS first.  Might even manage to keep a few in HS if we stop pretending that the only reason HS exists is college prep.  If you're a kid with no ambition to go to college, for what would you need four years of college preparation?

MikeDryden
MikeDryden

Jim,

You must be using old data for participation rates. Houston has been testing all students on the SAT before Dallas. I bet you are using AEIS and not the TAPR website. Increased participation is not the major factor for the lower SAT rate in Dallas. It turns out 195 fewer students reached the 990 criterion despite the fact that 2,426 more students took the test than the previous year. If that is an apples to apples comparison that is just plain horrible and a dramatic drop.

Also, it is inappropriate to compare districts on a measure so sensitive to poverty when the districts vary widely in level of poverty. Go to TAPR and find the percent reaching the state criterion of 1100 among students on free or reduced lunch.

When you look at the data no urban district is doing very well with children of poverty and it seems like Dallas is regressing. This needs to be reversed ASAP.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Once Dallas got on the national radar as perennially rating 9th from the bottom (dead last in its size class) in graduating ninth graders (circa 2007), suddenly DISD's performance made the greatest comeback since humans crawled from the slime.

This piece shows how the numbers can be cooked to protect the bureaucracy machine, to the detriment of the students.

The ninth-grader grad ratio was complied nationally in D.C., from sources produced by the TEA, but locally the DISD wasn't paying attention to that metric.  When they began being hit over the head with it (50% graduation rate), SHAZAAAM! 

the numbers shot up.

imagine that.

Good to see the Team Effort exists between the TEA and the DISD when their system existence is on the line.

The current SNAFU on the SAT scores is but a short term obstacle to overcome.  And the new and improved numbers won't/don't lie, of course.

Now it's just a matter of pinioning Miles' future to these numbers, in order to make him look like he was shot out of a cannon.

Guesty
Guesty

"fewer public school seniors received at least a 990 score ... on the SAT exam"

The strange thing is that while many more students took the test, the number of seniors who scored over 990 went down, not just the percentage.  The drop was significant.  If you assume that none of the additional test takers scored over 990, you still have to deal with a 20% drop in the number of kids scoring over 990 from year-to-year.  I don't know the reason and wouldn't blame Miles or anyone else in particular for a one year drop, but it isn't good.

And 990 is a terribly low bar.  We are not talking about a score that projects out to graduate school, or even an undergraduate degree.  We are talking about a number that I suspect most likely leads to dropping out of college without a degree.  I don't believe our test for success should be making every kid "college ready" because some kids don't have that ambition, but if we are going to define it, it should be a term with some meaning.      

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

787... just, wow!  I had to have at least 1300 before being accepted to NYU.  What a tragedy for this generation of kids. 

jamesjodi
jamesjodi

are other cities stats for all districts in the city or for the city name district?  San Antonio stands out as a big loser, possibly explained if you're only looking at SAISD and not including North Side and North East districts. 

MatthewHaag
MatthewHaag

Ask and you shall receive.


The average SAT score this year was a 778. Maximum score is a 1,600 on math and reading exams combined.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Williams

I'll grant you that "college ready" is "career ready", but to pretend that every single student that attends high school has the need, the resources, the support, the desire or the ability to be "college ready" is disingenuous.

Many of those "thousands and thousands of jobs" looking for applicants don't require college readiness, just someone that will actually show up each day willing to work. These are also skills and values that can be taught and modeled without forcing students into some arbitrary "college readiness" requirement.

leftocenter
leftocenter

@RTGolden1

The purpose of high school is to prepare kids for life.  For many, that includes college.  For others it doesn't.  I'm glad to see DISD getting a more realistic measure of college readiness, but with that knowledge they need to acknowledge the other track, the non-college track, as well.

Out here in the burbs, every kid is supposed to be in the top 10 percent.  When we make college the "right" track, we sell short kids whose gifts are in areas other than academics.  We need people who can be good skilled laborers and run businesses.  Who is going to make those fancy plantation shutters or build those custom cabinets for your $500,000 home?  Want to disparage hairdressers?  live with a bad haircut for a couple of weeks (worse for women).

Graduating HIgh School gives you options.  Good SAT scores give you more options.  Creative talent gives you different options.  Focus on the whole person, vocational training for those who want it, and getting them a diploma on graduation day.

MikeDryden
MikeDryden

@RTGolden. The state looks at the ninth grade cohort and calculates the graduation rate. The issue is that many students are coded out of the calculation, some legitimate others bogus.

If you are suggesting that we take the percentage of ninth graders that graduate four years later, regardless of mobility and other factors then you are endorsing one of Bill Betzen's formulas, See Manhattan Institute formula.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@MikeDryden

These sound like important points. I would be startled to find that the AEIS SAT numbers are flat wrong, but I am checking that with TEA as we speak. And of course class and privilege affect scores, never meant to say they do not. But if your method for raising urban SAT scores is to eliminate class and privilege, then I'm afraid we are on very different pages. 

bbetzen
bbetzen

@holmantx The improvement in the percentage of 9th grade enrollment reflected in diplomas given out 3.5 years later is a very valid improvement from 2007 to 2013.  It improved every years until a total 20+ percentage point improvement had been achieved.  This year the improvement either slowed down or stopped depending on how you measured it.  We definitely have the smallest graduation class in years!

MikeDryden
MikeDryden

About half the DISD students who earn a 4 year degree earned less than 990 on the SAT composite score. Among urban students factors outside performance on national tests are much better predictors. HIgh school GPA is one such metric. It is a surrogate measure for many things, punctuality, doing assignments, tenacity, effort and the judgment of over 25 teachers on the student's ability as compared to a single test score.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz

Mesquite 930, Plano 1142, Highland Park 1215 (still not good enough for NYU).

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

@CogitoErgoSum @ozonelarryb That's more than Hinojosa was doing.


I don't agree with Schutze and Miles on everything, but I do agree on this. Test that come from outside of Austin, be it the SAT, ACT, Iowa or whatever are far better tools for measuring DISD's progress or lack thereof.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@MikeDryden The main point I was trying to make is we need to stop pretending high school is college prep.  It isn't.  That wasn't the intent when the education department was established, and it wasn't the reasoning behind having public education in the first place.  Not all kids belong in college, and, this may be a shocker to some of you, not all kids want to go to college.  I had the grades to go to college, was even offered a couple of scholarships and an appointment.  College was not for me, I opted for the military instead, and I don't regret the decision.  Telling a kid who doesn't want to go to college that the purpose of HS is to prepare him or her for college automatically puts HS in the 'useless shit I have to endure' category.  Telling that same kid that HS will provide a basic foundation for the rest of his life might make a difference and just might convince a few to stay and finish it.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@bbetzen @holmantx

And who says you can't herd cats!

given the proper motivation, why the sky's the limit.  

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

If you're saying high school students can avoid taking algebra altogether, I disagree. One of the required STAAR tests for graduation is algebra, so that would seem to indicate that it is still mandatory.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@MatthewHaag

Wowzer. 868 to 787? That's pretty dramatic, eh? And thanks. To my considerable embarrassment and humiliation, I have not yet rated a response from DISD communications. Can I just ask you these questions directly in the future?

leftocenter
leftocenter

LOL :) sell kids short.  Selling short kids wouldn't bring much - the tall ones can do volleyball and basketball.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@RTGolden1 @MikeDryden 


I agree about college for all not being for all, but that's a larger conversation in which we should include topics like real vocational ed, magnet schools, etc. While the SAT is priming for college, it at least provides a standardized, nationwide (even international, I believe) test that's not subject to SBOE or district fads. 

Billy
Billy

@JimSX @MatthewHaag


I might be mistaken, but I thought the number Matt Haag is reporting was a juniors only sample of 7663 students from the Feb 26 2014 SAT? Were the 5237 students from the cited 2013 data also juniors only?  I thought the 5237 referred to seniors graduating in 2013.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

@wcvemail @RTGolden1 @MikeDryden The other problems is that, if you've tracked DISD over the years, there has been a tendency to hand out diplomas as opposed to graduating students, if you take my meaning. There are lots of reports of teachers being pressured to pass kids so they would "graduate" to make the numbers look good.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin

Incoming 2013 Freshman average SAT score at UT-Austin was 1859.

NYU average Freshman SAT score was 1340 in 2012. That isn't broken out for the various NYU campuses like UT-Austin is...

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@mavdog Didnt the SAT number revert back to the old scale of 1600?

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

Uh, sounds like you don't get it. Let me spell it out: you made something up, I called you out on it and even proved you were wrong by citing an authoritative a source. No student will be allowed to take a more advanced course than Algebra II without first taking Algebra II, meaning that to receive the mandatory minimum three credits for graduation, students must have taken both Algebra I and II.

If you don't like it when someone points out your mistakes, stop spouting off without first confirming your assumptions.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin 

I believe they are still doing the 3, 800 point exams: reading. writing and math.

could be wrong, it has been over 4 years since the last of my kids took one.

edit: wiki says the SAT will go back to the 1600 scale in 2016

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

Oh yeah? Well, yo mama so fat, Sea World trainers throw fish at her.

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