Mike Moses got the message loud and clear last week from his former associates at the Texas Education Agency. If Dr. Moses had any questions about the severity of the problems at the Dallas Independent School District where he will become superintendent next month, the state answered them in a stunning statewide report card.
One-fifth of Texas’ low performing public schools are right here in the Dallas school district. Forty-two of Dallas County’s 48 low-performing schools are right here in the Dallas school district. Any more questions?
The former Texas education commissioner is coming to a district that has doubled its number of low-performing schools in the past year. Compare those numbers to the Fort Worth Independent School District, where only four schools were on the state’s dirty list.
The Texas Education Agency will permit families of students in the low-performing Dallas schools to transfer their children to other schools. That’s an important option. The state should encourage other school districts to accept these students and allocate funds for their transportation.
But the ability of students to transfer doesn’t answer the more critical issues about the Dallas schools. Dr. Moses, school trustees and the community have got to solve this dilemma before it devours public education in Dallas.
It isn’t enough to explain that there are more low-performing schools because the state required more students to take standardized tests this year. School officials have to recognize why those students cannot pass and make the necessary changes.
Most of the schools on the low-performing list have large Hispanic student populations. The school district’s bilingual education programs and efforts to mainstream Hispanic students obviously are not working. The Dallas school district must improve its ability to educate students with limited English skills. It also must find ways to convince them not to drop out before reaching high school – a problem approaching epidemic proportions here.
There also are major disappointments in South Dallas, where most students are African-American. Just a few years ago, Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School was winning top honors for its reading programs. This year it is rated low-performing.
The Texas Education Agency has handed Dallas its marching orders as far as public education is concerned. With the Dallas school district now in a full throttle downward spiral, no one can afford to ignore the call.