Archive for September, 2014

COLLEGE PREP TEST RESULTS – ALL TIME HIGHS!

Skyrocketing Pearland ISD averages on the SAT test and other college prep indicators are reasons to celebrate!

The average SAT reading score in Pearland ISD for the class of 2014 is 515, Math 530, and Writing 500. When combined, this is an average score of 1545, compared to a Texas-wide average score of 1432. Our scores increased (in one year!) by 18 points in reading, 21 points in math, and 20 points in writing — while Texas-wide scores decreased on each of the 3 tests! These stellar results were accomplished even though we tested MORE students in 2014 than in 2013. (Approximately 65-70% of our graduating seniors take either or both the SAT and ACT before graduation.)

Similarly, our College Board ACT scores reached an all time high of 22.5. This compares to a state average of 20.9.

Not coincidentally, we’ve also experienced a massive increase in the number of students taking Pre-Advanced Placement and College Board Advanced Placement courses. These college-level courses are the best preparation for university study. Perhaps one of the most amazing statistics for the Pearland ISD graduating class is that 126 students achieved the national honor titled “Scholars with Distinction” for passing 5 or more AP tests. That’s a 40% increase over the previous year.

On top of that, we’ve seen a massive increase in the number of students taking dual credit (college/high school) courses within Pearland ISD. For the current year (2014-15) we have 2,270 students taking such courses — twice the number enrolled 5 years ago.

For charts/graphs on these figures, see this link:  Student Assessment Results – College Readiness

On top of the academic honors, these results represent a combined savings to PARENTS of millions of dollars in tuition when our students enroll in colleges and universities. For example, comparing the college hours earned in Pearland ISD with the tuition charged by Texas A&M, we calculated a collective savings of approximately $5.8 million. As the father of seven children, I can’t begin to tell you how valuable that is!

I am incredibly happy with these district results. Our students, teachers, and principals deserve primary credit. What are some of the contributing factors that accelerated student accomplishment in this area?

  • The massive increase in Pre-AP and AP enrollment over the past several years — beginning in grade 5 and above
  • The massive increase in the number of students taking college-level dual credit courses
  • Last year, we began elective courses in SAT/ACT prep. Approximately 200 students took that course. We’ve also made available other commercially available SAT/ACT prep opportunities.
  • We’re rewarding teachers whose students have both high participation rates and passing rates on AP tests. (We’re expanding our incentives this year to include results on the state-mandated STAAR and EOC tests.)
  • Our Advanced Academics Department has been doing many different things to infuse college-level material/programs/classes into our district-wide efforts — and have tracked results. And new innovations/AP courses have just begun this 2014-15 school year.
  • Our Curriculum & Instruction staff has worked to embed SAT/ACT/AP-level material into the standard curriculum for each grade level — and to train our teachers on its use.

Our people are working hard to sustain and enlarge upon these stellar results. In and of itself, that is a formidable challenge, but our people are incredible!

 

MORE BRICKS WITHOUT STRAW?

I’m underwhelmed by Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams’ response to the excellent (and obvious) recent ruling by Judge Dietz on the Texas school funding case. In that ruling, the judge found our current state funding system inequitable, inadequate, and essentially indefensible. But Commissioner Williams then stated, “It should be our state leaders making those decisions, not a single judge.” His statement inexplicably parrots a few other Texas politicians.

On the other hand, the Commissioner has often and admirably trumpeted higher standards for public schools and specifically the need to address minority/disadvantaged student achievement gaps. And I’m sure he would agree that one’s ZIP code should not determine the level of state funding (unlike today). And I believe he knows less wealthy communities need help to overcome significant educational/societal deficits. Moreover, I just read he is now asking for additional funds for his understaffed Austin-based agency (TEA)! So why not applaud the judge who’s requiring equitable and additional funding for all Texas schools?

Some state politicians with whom our Commissioner must “hobnob” mimic a certain ancient Egyptian pharaoh. When asked to “let the people go,” he was annoyed by their request, told them to increase the quota of bricks they produced, and directed them to find their own straw. We know how that turned out.

How is it that public schools are to provide the additional services required by economically-disadvantaged students — without additional funding? Is it realistic to ask teachers or administrators to work harder or longer? They are already under an incredible burden.

Don’t misunderstand. I do not believe throwing money at problems magically improves results. As I wrote in my previous blog, parental guidance/responsibility is the key variable predicting student achievement for both poor and rich kids. But when the family unit breaks down, the schools are tasked with doing more for those who need it most. Our educators already volunteer way above and beyond — with both their time and their personal funds. They can’t shoulder the burden alone. Additional staff and resources are needed for even more tutoring, mentoring, technology, after-school activity, and other services. Such supplements aren’t free.

Now with regard to Pearland ISD, we are judged by the Texas Comptroller’s Office as a FIVE-STAR district for financial efficiency and student performance. We are one of fewer than a dozen school districts (out of over 1,000) that has achieved this rating every year. Why? In state funding per student, we currently rank 38th out of the 50 school districts in the Houston region — and yet out-perform almost all of them. But like every other district, we have achievement gaps among our student sub-populations. Thus, the phrase “blood out of a turnip” comes to mind. Equitable and adequate funding will help.

Commissioner Williams is an admirable example of an African-American man overcoming obstacles on his rise to the top of Texas leadership. I believe his dedication to increasing minority/disadvantaged achievement is sincere. But educators don’t need sound bites carefully nuanced to placate politicians. Take a stronger stand!

If you want achievement to climb, “let our people go” by empowering educators and students to do more. Equitable and adequate funding helps that happen.