Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

September 21, 2006

Parental concern

The article’s various titles definitely uses the word “parents” suggesting more than one parent.

Parents call for one way to rate U.S. schools:

Many parents and educators are confused by conflicting U.S., Texas rankings

However, only one parent is even mentioned:

Parents call for one way to rate U.S. schools:

Tiffany Davis thought she had found the perfect school for her daughter. Pilgrim Elementary was fewer than three miles from her office, and on Aug. 1, the state declared it “exemplary” based on student test scores.Davis was sold — until the state made another announcement less than three weeks later: Pilgrim Elementary failed to meet the academic demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The acclaimed Houston Independent School District campus now bore a scarlet letter.

“What’s going on?” Davis said she thought. “It was extremely confusing.”

Although the article does go on to mention “parents” again.

Parents call for one way to rate U.S. schools:

“If we had a national accountability system, then we wouldn’t have this confusion. Parents would have clear information,” said Michael Petrilli, a vice president at the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.

So where are all these parents? The reporter apparently found only one parent who was confused. She’s not reporting about a group of parents who have banded together to question school authorities about test scores. This one parent gets to represent all parents for whom this testing is being done as suggested by Michael Petrilli.

I suspect the reason why the reporter wasn’t able to talk to a group of concerned parents is because no such group exists. Consider the following report about an academically unacceptable school and parental attendance:

Making the grade:

Only a handful of parents showed up Tuesday evening for a public hearing at Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy relating to the campus’ recent rating as academically unacceptable by the Texas Education Agency.According to information from the TEA, the rating resulted from a low math score posted by a freshman student sub-group on the TAKS test administered during the 2005-2006 school year.

Of 26 indicators for the district, Assistant Superintendent David Truitt said Waxahachie ISD posted gains in 25.

Does the fact that hardly anyone showed up mean that parents don’t care about the school? Or could it mean that most parents realized the issue didn’t affect their child directly and choose not to attend? Of course, we will never know the extent of parental concern from the Houston Chronicle article since only one parent mentioned. She is, however, ideally suited for the article.

Parents call for one way to rate U.S. schools:

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, suggests looking at the data behind the labels.

“Once you get the rating, the next question is, ‘Why?’ ” Fallon said. “In some cases, it’s more serious than others.”

Fallon gave the same advice to Tiffany Davis, the concerned mother who works in her office. In the end, Pilgrim Elementary was full, Davis said, so she enrolled her daughter at Memorial Elementary, a state “recognized” school that also met the federal requirements. “I was trying to find a good school,” she said.

Because she found the rating systems so “confusing”, she’s going with a different school that is acceptable by both standards. I have to feel sorry for her daughter’s teachers. Her mother selected a “good” school based on labels that can fit on a school welcome sign. Don’t you just think she’s the kind of parent who will assume that it’s the teacher’s fault when her child fails?

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