Earlier today we revisited the Dallas Regional Chamber's plan, blessed by Mayor Mike and Lew Blackburn, to save the Dallas Independent School District. And while Commit! is still in its vague, unformed infancy, clearly this is Very Important to a few very important people. Which is why Blackburn wants the trustees to sign off on whatever it is by September 22. After that discussion, the trustees then got 'round to talking about how to fix all those academically unacceptable schools. Among the remedies suggested: opening up magnets to everyone, evaluating feeder patterns to see what happens between high-performing elementaries and failing high schools, and firing educators who can't bail out a sinking ship in, oh, let's say four years.
Or ... the trustees could just get in their cars, or a bus of whatever length they choose, and ride over to Mesquite to see how they officials are running that district -- which counts zero academically unacceptable campuses among its 47 and is recognized by the Texas Education Agency based upon its high TAKS scores. Only reason I mention it: The 71-year-old National School Boards Association announced today that Mesquite ISD is one of three finalists for the 2011 Council of Urban Boards of Education Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence, along with Boston Public Schools and Washoe County School District in Nevada.
So, why Mesquite? Well ...
Texas' Mesquite Independent School District has quietly carved out a niche as a highly successful small urban school district. The 37,000-student school system located less than 20 miles east of Dallas systematically has made major gains in student achievement and significantly closed achievement gaps while successfully rallying community support around the schools. Eighty-four percent of students tested proficient in math in 2010, up from 67 percent in 2004, the percentage proficient in science grew from 52 percent in 2004 to 82 percent in 2010, and reading test scores rose from 82 percent to 91 percent proficient during the same time period, while social studies scores went from 86 percent to 95 percent passing. While all subgroups showed improvement, minority students enjoyed particular gains, and the test score gaps between white and minority students closed significantly in all subject areas.
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Should Mesquite win this award -- and it might, because Boston won the first CUBE award in '04 -- it won't be the first Texas district to do so: Houston Independent School District tied with Miami-Dade's district in '07, and the Brownsville ISD took home took home the honor the following year. Go, Skeeters!