By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
I'll admit it. I'm something of a Jim Schutze fan. Jim usually brings a fresh perspective to the stories he covers. He is not a run-of-the-mill reporter; he usually does his research and presents a balanced, well-reasoned article. In addition to that, he is my neighbor, and I consider him a friend.
Alas, however, even the good reporters sometimes have their off days. Schutze's story, "Some fly, some die [September 10]," attempted to pull together loose strands from several different perspectives on public education in Texas. He tried to mix Governor Bush's "No TAAS, No Pass" plan with that of an outside group that has requested confidential student test data protected under state law. He then added some information about the Dallas Reading Plan and came up with the conclusion that "DISD betrays children of color."
While there is no question that Dallas minority students need to improve their TAAS scores, Schutze failed to recognize or even request a comparison of student test-score data. The results would show him and his readers significant progress over the last five years in nearly every category.
For instance, five years ago, only 47.4 percent of Dallas African-American fourth-graders were passing the TAAS reading exam. This year, that number increased to 69.7 percent, an increase of more than 22 percent.
Let's look even further. The fourth-graders from five years ago were in eighth grade this year. The percentage of African-American eighth-graders who passed the TAAS reading test was 71.3 percent, marking a total increase of close to 24 percent. That's hardly a betrayal. In fact, it's quite an accomplishment.
The same upward trend is true for Hispanic students. Forty-nine percent of fourth-grade Hispanics in 1994 passed the TAAS reading test. This year, nearly 73.8 percent of our Hispanic fourth-graders passed the same test, an increase of 24 percent. Sixty-nine percent of our Hispanic eighth-grade students (fourth-graders in 1994) passed the reading exam this year, marking another increase throughout that period of 20 percent.
You would see similar increases across the board in every grade. Nearly 20 percent more of our African-American and Hispanic students are passing the TAAS reading test compared with four years ago. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. Are there still problems? Absolutely. Rome was not built in a day. Dallas students' test scores will not improve overnight. You have to consider and appreciate long-term progress. To ignore that progress is unfair to the thousands of educators, parents, and students who have put forth a concentrated effort. It also does a disservice to your readers and to the community.
It seems that it has become somewhat fashionable to kick around Dallas' school district, and, admittedly, sometimes there is good reason. This time, however, there really wasn't one. The full story was not told, but whatever was left was passed off to your readers as a detailed analysis.
If more effort would go into identifying all issues fairly and honestly, then perhaps we as a community might be more inclined to solve them together, rather than tearing down an institution that needs our support. Without that community support, this city is destined to fail--not only itself, but its children as well.
Special Assistant to the Superintendent
Dallas Public Schools
For someone who is constantly knocking the Belo Empire, I find it odd how quickly you are following their pattern of one-sided reporting. I refer to Jim Schutze's feature story "Some fly, some die" of September 10. Many of us in the LULAC family knew Russell Fish had Schutze in his pocket, but were certainly taken aback as to the depth.
For the record, LULAC-District III has not taken a vote to join any lawsuit against the Dallas Public Schools. As the Education Committee chair for North Texas LULAC-District III, I have asked Russell Fish for a copy of said lawsuit and responses to our concerns regarding financial liability, the voucher movement, or the veiled witch-hunt on DISD educators. As of this writing, not one person in LULAC-District III has received any response to any of our questions. About the only information Russell Fish relays to us is when he will be in the eye of the media. The guise may be for this lawsuit to benefit minority children in DISD as long as the Mexicans don't ask for information. The Dallas Observer's article was void of any Latino input, which certainly solidifies this position.
The position to collect all student test scores and put them on the Internet for all to see how minorities are doing in DISD raises the question of exactly who is "all"? The average annual income for those who can afford home computers and access to the Internet is $75,000; not many of us in the minority community can afford such luxuries.
The team of attorneys doing the legal work for Russell Fish, LULAC, and the NAACP is, of course, the Texas Justice Foundation. You describe this group as a "generally conservative education reform group," while the San Antonio Express-News recently described them as a "pro-voucher legal aid group."
Only semantics maybe, or an opposing agenda; who knows? So much more was omitted from this story, such as the editor of a local prominent conservative Dallas magazine so desperately wishing to become part of this lawsuit, but was told [that he could be only if he gave] a $25,000 donation.