Letters to the Editor

Man with the Plan DISD's New Math

Creating controversy: After reading Jim Schutze's article, "Sinking Fast" (September 14), I now understand the term "meat-cleaver journalism." The readers of the Dallas Observer have been offered misinformation that has been diced, sliced, and chopped, then served as investigative reporting. The column implies that I want to help develop an alternative plan to the City of Dallas' Trinity River project. I do not. If Jim Schutze were the least bit interested in accuracy, he would have reported that I am in full support of the current plan. It's amazing that such a seasoned reporter could be so misleading and have such disregard for facts.

Recently, council member Laura Miller asked that I participate on a radio talk show with her, Jim, and Karen Walz. I accepted, believing that we would discuss important business and economic development issues that have been completed or are being proposed in and around the City of Dallas. As chairman of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, I am always advocating business growth and prosperity in as many venues as possible. In hindsight, I made a terrible mistake in accepting Laura's invitation. I regret that Jim felt motivated to exploit my willingness to make myself available to discuss such important issues.

During the talk show, Laura began to focus on the Trinity River project. She suggested that a community forum be organized to discuss the various components of the Trinity River Plan. She asked if I could help organize such a meeting. I suggested that as a council member, she had the ability to arrange the meeting herself, but if she needed my help, I would be willing. Another mistake. I regret offering to assist Laura in something that is continuously made available through community hearings that I now understand she is more than welcome to attend. Jim has created conflict and controversy when communication and cooperation is required for the Trinity River project to be successful.

I can no longer trust Jim Schutze as a reporter. Knowing that he prepared his column without speaking to me directly or doing any research concerning my opinions about the Trinity River project is reprehensible and inexcusable. I have learned my lesson--stay away from the butcher! His "meat-cleaver journalism" has hurt the Observer's credibility even further.

The saddest matter is that the readers have been cut short on such an important issue. I recommend that Jim Schutze be reprimanded.

Albert C. Black Jr.
Chairman
Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce
Jim Schutze responds: It is reprehensible of Albert Black to claim that I did not speak with him directly about his views on the Trinity River project before writing my column. In fact, I called him and spoke to him at length. Specifically, I warned him that I didn't think he understood how much pressure would be brought to bear on him to back off from the idea of an open forum on the river. He told me he believed his being in the position of chairman of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce should change "the way we've always done business around here for 90 years." He told me he thought "Laura Miller only wants to compete in the theater of ideas," and that he thought competition of ideas was healthy.

I hung up thinking Albert Black really did represent a new wave in Dallas leadership. I was wrong. I think Mr. Black didn't understand the stakes here. He didn't realize how bitterly opposed the downtown business leadership is to any free or open discussion on the river, and obviously someone has since set him straight. By the way, Mr. Black revealed in his remarks on the radio that he has been discussing strategies for a Cadillac Heights buy-out, which would represent a major departure from the existing river plan. I tried to reach Mr. Black by phone and by fax to discuss his letter, but he did not respond.

Fudging ACP test scores: Your "Follow the Grades: The real fraud at DISD is in test scores, not money" article (August 31) was excellent reporting. Standardized tests are used to get people into law and medical school--LSAT/MCAT. We all know we used standardized tests to get admitted into college--SAT/ACT. Even this state's educational benchmark, the Texas Assessment of Academics Skills Test, is a standardized exit exam. Recent legislation moves the high school exit exam from the 10th to the 11th grade, adds a 9th-grade TAAS test, and increases both subjects tested and the number of tests in grades 3-8. To end social promotion, students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade will have three chances before advancing to the next level. The Dallas Independent School District has its own end-of-semester course standardized test exam (ACP). The DISD exam must be quite a challenge, since many students appear to fail, or rather pass, if you ask Dr. Mendro, the chief statistician at DISD.

In its semi-annual report titled "Report submitted by the Dallas Independent School District, dated August 15, 2000" on desegregation, required by Judge Barefoot Sanders to the United States Federal District Court on desegregation, Dr. Robert Payton acknowledges DISD gives the test to middle and high school students and reports the number of students passing and failing the ACP exams on table 62-67. The district presents distorted facts and explains on page 194 that the scores are awarded on a scale:

"ACP Tests are District-Developed, End of Semester Exams. Results for ACP test by Magnet High Schools and other District High Schools are grouped by subject area in Table 62-67. For each area (Language, Reading, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, Foreign Language), the number of students tested, the mean scale score, (actual test scores awarded)."

How outrageous! The desegregation court auditor, Sandra Malone, should point out these inconsistencies to the court. The auditor's report is due to the judge in 60 days. Regardless of whether the tests are "criterion reference tests" or "normed tests," the actual test results should be recorded as earned. Dr. Mendro, a statistician, should report the true grades when reporting these figures to the federal court. Dr. Mendro sends a wrong message to the children of Dallas. He is rewarding failure. Worse than that, he is ruining the careers of these young children by allowing them to fail in the end-of-semester exams, knowing full well that these children will be taking other standardized tests in their lifetime. Furthermore, Dr. Mendro sends these distorted facts not only to the federal court but also to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). What honest statistician would do that?

Obviously, these distorted facts cost money. But, if the Dallas Independent School District is going to achieve its mission--delivering an education to these children--then these scores should be reported accurately. Not reporting scores properly has hurt the children who have actually failed and think they passed. When children know that they have done poorly in their exams, then they and their teachers can focus on those areas that they failed to learn and failed to teach. Exacting standards identify specific needs. Instead of compiling distorted scores, why doesn't Dr. Mendro examine classroom performance and analyze what improvements need to be made in each classroom? Excuses don't hold water.

Worse yet, how does this renowned statistician project future improvements in student performance with distorted facts? Teachers should be allowed to look at their individual student end-of-semester score exams and assess strengths and weaknesses without fear of reprisal from their superiors. However, how can a teacher do this if he/she must curve the test results?

As the League of United Latin American Citizens, we are not saying that we agree with standardized tests as the only means of evaluating our schoolchildren. But when the federal government, TEA, and local school districts set benchmarks, then we believe that the test scores should be reported accurately to the public, parents, students, and the federal and state governments.

Dr. Mendro has failed the children of Dallas. He has not been an exemplar of a public servant. Perhaps it would be wise for Dr. Mendro to follow the path taken recently by that arrogant misfit who left about as fast as he arrived. Dr. Payton should acknowledge that he has also failed the district by perpetuating and reporting these statistics to the federal courts in the district's report on desegregation that he sent to the courts in August.

Harry O. Trujillo
Education chair
Dallas County LULAC Council 4642

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