Education

Another Blast of T.J. Patriot Pride: Will Feds' Funds Screw Up DISD School On the Rise?

The Texas Tribune's Brian Thevenot has been studying the U.S. Department of Education's latest pile of funds slated for Texas schools -- $390 million aimed at rescuing the lowest performers -- and asks whether the program's good intentions will wreak havoc on schools doing their best to do better. Take, for instance, Thomas Jefferson High School -- easily, the best high school in the history of the Dallas Independent School District, especially when compared to, oh, W.T. White.

At T.J., the principal -- one Edward Conger, former Marine -- has been known to get very Joe Clark on his students: "If his students don't do their homework, it generates an immediate call home and a mandatory two-hour stay after school." (OK, so it's Joe Clark Lite.) Conger's also tough on teachers. And it's working to turn around T.J., writes Thevenot: "Just 18 months after Conger's arrival, the school has upped its overall ranking from 19th out of the 22 DISD high schools to sixth. In math, 72 percent of its students posted a passing rate on the TAKS test this year, compared to just 42 percent last year."

Still, the school -- which proudly displays a ginormous banner (I see it twice a day) advertising its achievements -- is considered "struggling." And if it wants a piece of the feds' pie, it'll have to do one of four things ... two of which involve axing the principal and most of the teachers. (The other two: going charter or going away altogether.) T.J. could use a few million, absolutely, but I wouldn't mess with the Marine.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky