By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
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"Some issues are common above both groups," Alcorn says. "I wouldn't have any problem meeting with Hispanic leaders over this."
What black and Hispanic leaders in Dallas are excited about is not a bunch of data dealing with kids in Tennessee. It's published reports in academic journals--written by DISD number-crunchers and based on Dallas teachers--showing the same effect here that Sanders found in Tennessee.
Fish got onto the situation here when he saw a confidential report that was being shown around within an elite circle of well-heeled movers and shakers, mainly associated with Texas Instruments and the Dallas Citizens Council. The report, Fish says, showed that there may be as many as 200 teachers in DISD who have a lobotomizing effect on their students.
The Citizens Council, a private fraternal organization of chief executive officers, as well as the people at T.I., knew about the problem because DISD had given them the data. But the same number-crunchers who gave it to top business leaders definitely don't want Fish to have it.
Robert Mendro, a statistician at DISD headquarters, says, "There is a strong possibility that what he is asking for could be used to identify individual kids and teachers. We do not want to be responsible for releasing any kid's score to outsiders."
And what about releasing it to the Citizens Council? Mendro says that was done under a "special contract."
Oh, that's right. They're not outsiders. They're insiders.
Fish, who has already worked out a World Wide Web page in cooperation with the Dallas Examiner, wants to do exactly what Mendro and other public-education professionals fear he will do. He wants to create their nightmare.
"That's the whole Internet strategy," he says. "You've got a question about your kid's education? Every possible question you could have, you are going to be able to see at the touch of your mouse. Just go to the page."
The information Fish would put up on the Web would include a precise, detailed analysis of your kid's school, classroom by classroom. The teachers would not be named, but Fish admits that interested parents "would be able to figure it out."
That's the part that is seen as explosive and leading to chaos by people with a major stake in the system and the status quo. It would create a huge political pressure to blow out the really bad teachers.
But Fish thinks that would be the opposite of chaos. He says what's going on now--people trying to cut each other's throats over Chinese office furniture and love-nests a la Yvonne Gonzalez and Matthew Harden--is chaos.
Being able to see just exactly how DISD under-serves black and Hispanic kids, Fish says, would give people something to fight over that makes sense.
When Fish first asked for the test data, Mendro and others said it was protected from open-records requirements because it was private student information. Fish pointed out immediately that he was asking for the data with the names of students blanked out.
Next, DISD said they could give it to him after all, but it would cost $4,000. He told them he was going to sue. They said they could give it to him for $2,040.
With the help of a nonprofit group called the Texas Justice Foundation, Fish says, he will probably sue anyway. He says that even if they ever agreed on a price, DISD would find other excuses to delay.
"Their pattern is delay, delay, delay on this sort of thing," he says. "The best thing is to put them in court and treat it like abusive-discovery."
Alan Parker, president of the Texas Justice Foundation, represented Fish and others in a similar suit against the Austin schools some years ago.
"We represented Russell and a group of parents," Parker says. "We requested similar data. They gave us a similar runaround. We filed suit, and they gave us the material."
In Austin, the school system had only been giving the ITBS test for a few years. As soon as they realized they were going to have to give the results to Fish and company, Austin stopped giving the test.
But it's too late for that in Dallas. The test has been given for 11 years. DISD's own numbers gurus know and have said in their own published articles that the data here will confirm the results found in Tennessee.
The results, if Fish ever gets them, will show that it's not you. And it's not me.
And that's what DISD doesn't want out.