The Bottom Seven Percent
by Alden Nellis
Dr. Tim Miller said that being in the bottom 7% of Texas schools is not acceptable. “We should be in the top 7%,” he said.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has given CISD academic ratings 17 of the past 18 years. During those 17 years, there were six campus ratings of Exemplary, 46 of Recognized, 104 of Acceptable, and 4 of Unacceptable. This puts CISD on the low end of the performance curve – at just barely acceptable.
There was one bright star in those 18 years. Adams Elementary got four out of the six exemplary ratings. WhenAdamswas getting Exemplary and Recognized ratings, the campus was alive with the “Gator Spirit” – students, teachers and parents, all. Then the Board and Administration decided to fix what wasn’t broken. They built a newAdamscampus and redistricted.Adamshas not been the same since.
Except for a couple of small upticks the trend in ratings over the 18 year period has been down (lower). Trustee Teddy Martyniuk was right at a recent Board Meeting when he said we have been talking about changing for three different administrations and it is now time to stop talking and start doing. The doing must come from within the Board and the administration. It cannot come from an outside foundation which is trying to usurp the functions of the Board and Administration. It cannot come from the “naysayers” (as Trustee Jay Wilson recently called them) who try to influence administrative decisions. Change must come from within a motivated Board and Administration. Change MUST come. When you are in the bottom 7%, you cannot continue the downward trend or you will soon be the absolute bottom.
Trustee Wendell Dempsey also made a good point at a recent Board meeting when he said “We can motivate the teachers and motivate the administrators, but until we get the students motivated, we aren’t going to go anywhere.” My wife, Micki, had a mother who used to say, as they rested a minute in the shade while chopping cotton, “You go to school and get a good education and you won’t have to work like this the rest of your life.” All the kids finished college with honors. Today we would say the odds of a dirt poor, uneducated and culturally ignorant backwoods Oklahoma family having four college graduates would be close to zero. They were motivated.
Retired administrator Carolyn Cody recently told the Board that CISD had made great strides in the past three and a half years. That is not true with respect to academic ratings. She is right about administrative management and finances. Even that was not a change that was done voluntarily or willingly. It was done because of TEA sanctions and by the monitor TEA appointed to oversee operations at CISD. It did have the unanticipated effect of getting CISD in a position to weather the financial storm currently raging throughTexas. (Thank you “naysayers” for getting that ball rolling!)
Now we need to make a similar change in academics at CISD. This will not happen with the good ole boy club operating “as we always have.” The Board will have to shed their good ole boy uniforms and become motivated CISD reformers, just as the Adams campus was motivated when it was excelling. The Administration will have to look past “that is the way we have always done it inTexas education,” and try some innovative techniques.
With one or two possible exceptions the Board is capable of making that change.
Dr. Miller is young and inexperienced, so maybe that is good. At least we can hope he will be open to new and innovative ideas.
There has been a lot of talk and even blame placed on “sub pop” groups – Blacks, Hispanics, English impaired, economically disadvantaged, etc. The sub pops are not the problem. We have had them as far back as I can remember. The problem is the way we teach the sub pops. Good education has never been a one plan fits all process. No matter how much lazy administrators and teachers and computerized programs try to make one plan fit all, it will not happen – except at the peril to some students. As our population becomes more diverse, the number of at-peril students will increase.
In the past we had one room schools with one teacher and eight grades. Each student was treated as a unique person and allowed to develop to the maximum of his ability. I know we cannot go back to that, but maybe we can step back and relearn some of the teaching techniques used in that environment.
Being in the bottom 7% ofTexasschools is not acceptable. We must move up the TEA rating scale. To do that we have to change the way we educate.
C-Scope may sound good – get all campuses teaching the same level material in each grade. But, let’s look at it. A campus like the original Adams that is motivated to excel will be dumbed down by the C-Scope governor to the lowest denominator. Lazy administrators / teachers and cookie cutter computer programs are going to produce lowest common denominator student cookies – students without the inspiration, motivation and drive to excel. The past 18 years at CISD has proved that. We must change the way we teach.
If previous generations had taught the way we do at CISD, would we have the great standard of living we now enjoy? Would we even have the great country we have? Or would we all be dumbed down slaves of China or India or some other super power?
The trend of the past 18 years is taking us to the position of the bottom school in theTexaseducation system. We do not want to go there.
Dr. Miller was right. Being in the bottom 7% is not acceptable. Teddy Martyniuk was right. It is time to stop talking and start doing. Wendell Dempsey was right when he said it takes motivated students.
Let us try changing the way we teach at CISD. If our first attempt at change does not work, then let’s try something different. Let’s keep trying until we establish an upward trend in our TEA ratings.