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.
One certainly would be remiss to imply that there is no validity to looking into teacher performance, but it should not be implied that teachers are solely responsible for student success or failure. In the next five years alone, DISD will lose more than 50 percent of its educator workforce because of retirement, which raises the obvious question of who will take their place. I would venture to say the doors of DISD will be even more silent than today because of this hidden pro-voucher movement now upon us.
In closing, you have done the Dallas Latino community a severe disservice by not allowing Latino input into this article. Furthermore, we do not wish to be accused again of riding the coattails of the African-Americans. Certainly no offense to that community, but merely stating facts. Please spare us the "We stand behind our story" line, as it only adds to the insult.
Alfred B. Carrizales
North Texas LULAC-District III
Jim Schutze responds: The improvement in Dallas test scores has to be viewed against a parallel improvement in test scores statewide. The only way to distinguish between genuine improvements in DISD's performance and possible test-score inflation is to measure DISD against similar school districts. Mr. Dahlander doesn't touch the issue of glaring contrasts between student test scores in Houston and test scores of their ethnic counterparts in Dallas.
Regarding Mr. Carrizales' letter: Deputy State Director Ramon Palomares confirms that his organization is indeed a party to the lawsuit, and that a recent attempt by Mr. Carrizales to persuade LULAC to withdraw was a failure.
I am writing in response to the critique of the McKinney Avenue Truluck's by Mark Stuertz ["Clawing for success," September 3]. Yo, Mark, great form, but I disagree with your content. Most of it, anyway.
First, I am still wondering about the importance of dedicating approximately six paragraphs to the harvesting and mutilation of stone crabs. Now that makes my mouth water. In a review of a steak house, will Stuertz give us as many paragraphs describing the slaughter of the Angus filet before us? I can't wait for that article, because I know I will want to run out immediately and buy some dead red flesh at whichever restaurant Mark's describing. Appetizing. Yum.
Next, I can understand having my feelings hurt by a rude and unresponsive server. That same annoying thing happened to me once at Fish. The food sucked, so I haven't gone back. You see, Mark, it happens to everyone. Bad service is inexcusable. But you need to get over it and go on.
Which is why I love Truluck's on McKinney. Man, do they kiss up to us. The servers are so nice and professional. No one cops an attitude. We always receive the menu immediately. On our second visit, the server knew our drink order. I've never had bad service there, I've never even had mediocre service, just excellent service every single time.
Sounds like Mark had a waiter who was having a really bad night. Stuertz should be reminded that it is well within a customer's rights to ask for another server. The management at any restaurant needs to know that they have a potentially "postal" worker, or your everyday common variety of jerk-jerkette causing havoc amongst the customers. Hey, not all personalities work together. My point is, Mark and his companion should not have been treated badly, but he should have complained once he was.
The food at Truluck's, as your critic has already grudgingly admitted, is very good. It's a deal for the price.
I think I'll go to Truluck's tonight, and I will try not to contemplate those poor little stone crabs' demise as my teeth clamps around their delicious little claws. If I see a guy getting treated like dirt, I'll know to go up and introduce myself to Mark Stuertz.
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