The news last week that DISD’s Stonewall Jackson Elementary on Mockingbird dropped two rungs from “exemplary” to “acceptable” in the latest state TAKS education ratings brought plenty of outrage — some outraged because the school supposedly (and suddenly) isn’t as good as they thought it was, and some outraged because nothing is really different at the school except outside perceptions.
Longtime Stonewall principal Olivia Henderson told the DMN that a small group of deaf/hard-of-hearing students not previously required to take the state test brought the overall scores down this time. And the numbers seemed to bear out her statement — it looks like a matter of five or 10 or 15 students in a couple of categories did poorly on specific sections of the test and pulled down the overall scores enough to drop the school’s ranking. Interestingly, Stonewall’s inclusion of deaf/hard-of-hearing students in the school population generally is considered to be a plus for the entire campus; these students also move on to J.L. Long Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School, both of which typically have similar TAKS ratings issues.
Bottom line: Stonewall is essentially the same “exemplary” school it was yesterday with the same student body and faculty; only the perception has changed.
Another interesting point in the DMN story: Supposedly, a Realtor who has a house listed in the Stonewall neighborhood advised the seller to sell the home for a lower price before other home prices inevitably fall along with the school’s ratings.
So now we have the holy grail of trouble in a neighborhood: Supposedly “bad” schools causing lower home prices and creating resentment all around.
As always with discussions of DISD schools, the story serves to crank up families on the fence about neighborhood schools; the “bad news” with the TAKS test results proves to those families that DISD schools aren’t worthy of their children. And if you really don’t know anything about DISD schools except what you read in the DMN, watch on TV and hear on the radio, I can’t blame you for being frightened every time something like this comes out.
But speaking as one of two parents who have “sentenced” our two sons to attend DISD schools throughout their lives (the youngest is a high school senior this year), I have to laugh: Never once in our journey through DISD have our kids attended a school that was rated “exemplary” or even, if my memory serves me correctly, “recognized”. We’ve always been on the “acceptable” or, more frequently, “academically unacceptable” side of the proverbial fence. Friends have silently questioned our intelligence (you can see it in their eyes), people who don’t know us but hear that our kids attend DISD schools can barely contain their disgust with our parenting, and even we have had our doubts from time to time.
But our sons, even when given the opportunity to transfer elsewhere, declined to move; they said they were learning what they needed to learn academically, along with plenty more socially, by mixing and mingling with students from throughout our neighborhood as opposed to those from a select few streets or social classes. The oldest wound up at a decent out-of-state college, and from what I can tell, the youngest seems to be heading the same direction after his graduation next year.
You can panic about Stonewall’s dropping rating if you want, or you can do what I do every time one of these so-called “school ratings” is released — take it all with huge grain of salt. There are a lot of DISD students (most of them, actually) who come from horrible home situations with little or no support from parents, but there are an awful lot of dedicated students, parents, caregivers, teachers and administrators who are doing their best to educate those who want to be educated.
If your child puts in the time and does the schoolwork, you’ll likely be happy with the end result; if your child needs someone holding his or her hand throughout the day or doesn’t mix well with kids who aren’t like him or her, I guarantee you’ll be able to find something wrong with just about all of DISD’s schools.
And maybe that means public schooling in Dallas just isn’t for you and yours.
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