Friday, April 14, 2017

RISD Candidates on RISD's PEG Schools

I asked the candidates for Richardson ISD Board of Trustees their opinions on a range of subjects. To limit bias on my part, I did not phrase the subjects in the form of questions. I invited the candidates to focus on whatever aspect of the subject they think is most important for RISD voters to consider when casting a ballot on May 6. My desire is to publish the candidates' opinions in their own words, so I will post their responses, unedited and without any accompanying editorial comment.

For readability, I've collated the responses by subject and will post the subjects separately. The topic of this post is "RISD's PEG Schools."

Place 3
  • Joseph Armstrong:
    RISD’s PEG schools, to me, are another issue that clearly point to the poor job being done at the legislative level when it comes to education.

    Legislative measure’s involving standardized testing create an atmosphere where students at the low socioeconomic status level are expected to compete comparatively with their upper-class counterparts. The student who is worried about where the next meal will come from is expected to perform on the same level as one who couldn’t imagine going without. From a district level, I have personal experience with this. My wife spent the last three years prior to this school year at a campus who fit this category for a portion of time. While I will say, the district did a good job of providing a listening ear and resources, more must be done, within RISD’s capability to do so. More support staff is needed. Unburdening the staff currently there with items not directly responsible for the success of students is key. This comes from listening to the staff and the leadership on those campuses about what those things are. We must entertain incentives for teaching at our identified high needs campuses, such as stipends for individuals who take on that responsibility, and not just for good test scores. For those who wonder and discuss why district ratings have dropped in recent years, look no further than the attention to our elementary schools that are struggling.

  • Karen Clardy:
    We have five schools that have been identified as PEG schools. This is unacceptable. All five schools are all made up of economically disadvantaged students. There is a very low percentage of homeowners if any in all of these schools. I do believe that the constant change in the state rating system has caused part of the problem. Because of the constant changes in state testing teachers are confused about what to teach our students to help these students successfully pass the state mandated tests. I

    From my past experience of working in a school for so many years, I have seen the resources and extra help pour into underachieving schools in RISD before and how much effort RISD puts in to making sure they bring these schools up to standard. It does take time. Hopefully we will see some progress in the next year or two with these five schools.

    The PTA’s from other schools are a tremendous support to these schools and provide teacher appreciation and other much needed resources. However, the RISD community also needs to reach out to these schools. One-on- one mentoring is probably the single most effective tool to help students who do not have a support system at home. There is a mentoring program currently in place but I am sure more mentors are needed. If I am elected to the board I will be keeping a watchful eye on the progress of these schools. Every child needs to have the opportunity to the best education that will fit their needs. I will also step up and lead by example by mentoring some of these students who need a little push and encouragement.

  • Eric Eager:
    Currently RISD has 5 schools on the PEG (Public Education Grant) list. RISD implemented intervention plans at each of these schools and they are making progress. Every one of the schools "Met Standard" but was still on the list due to performance from prior years. I believe that we should continue to offer additional teaching resources, AVID programs to help first generation college-goers and other programs as deemed necessary.

    While we should not be satisfied with just meeting the minimum requirements, we should also appreciate the progress that has been made by each school. We should focus our attention on the future and how to help these schools to exceed current standards. We need to support these campuses by providing their teachers with good compensation, the tools to do their jobs, and a clear focused direction.

  • Ben Prado:
    The few schools in our district that are designated PEG schools need to have some serious change in instruction, staff programs, and purpose of mission. These schools are a primary example of why some parents might be for School Choice - they live in an area where their assigned school is struggling. As a board member, I vow to make sure we are using every resource at our disposal to make sure we are a district that has no designated PEG schools. As a board member, I promise to make sure we are staying up to date on all possible means of education, and instruction to make sure every school, but most importantly every student, can meet the minimum state standardized testing requirements. If a student does not learn the way that we teach, we need to teach in a way that he learns. This is a critical aspect that is hurting our district: we are micro-managing our staff too much and not allowing room for freedom or growth. The teachers and staff at our PEG schools know they face serious challenges; and they are ready to tackle them and overcome those challenges. We need to stand behind them as a community and ensure they can do so. But if we only focus on passing state exams, we will never succeed in the long run. The Texas Public Education Grant (PEG) Program is there for a reason - but we, as a district, do not need to have any campuses in that program.

Place 6
  • Justin Bono (incumbent):
    RISD currently has five schools on TEA’s Public Education Grant (PEG) list. These schools are on this list even though each of them is currently rated Met Standard under the State assessment system. All RISD schools currently Meet Standard. 4 of the 5 of these schools are on the PEG list for test scores from 2015, even though their 2016 scores are passing, as a school remains on the PEG list for three years regardless of improved performance. The imbalance between the PEG list and the State Accountability system effectively provide two disjointed and separate accountability systems.

    As a district, we are focused on ensuring that all campuses and students are growing their performance on state assessments. The PEG list is currently looking back 2-3 years at former performance which is very different in many cases from how the campus is performing today. We remain proud of our current principals and students all of whom Met Standard in 2016 and all of whom are focused on campus and individual growth. We deal with the PEG list as it is a part of State law, albeit antiquated and ineffective in measuring current student performance.

Place 7
  • Lynn Davenport:
    I don't believe these are failing schools. They are only 'failing' under the invalid accountability system. There is a direct correlation between failing schools and poverty. Unfortunately, PEG schools become drill and kill campuses obsessed with STAAR scores. The teachers and students are under immense pressure to perform. Has RISD ever developed a process where they engaged those closest to the problem? People support that which they create. Maybe the district should start including us in the solution by giving us the truth about our weakest links. Communities are the key to saving schools.

  • Kristin Kuhne (incumbent):
    I believe in accountability and transparency. Parents and taxpayers deserve to know how their schools are performing. I expect every student to realize a year’s growth, regardless of where they start, and supported the board’s goal that every student reaches proficiency over the next five years. These high expectations have already produced demonstrable results. RISD was recently recognized as one of six districts in Dallas County with student growth that outpaced the state. Three campuses on the PEG list demonstrated such significant progress last year that their student achievement is now on par with state standards, transforming their performance from ‘improvement required’ to ‘met standard’. This illustrates the inconsistencies in the state’s rating systems; a campus can be rated ‘met standard’ but must remain on the PEG list for three years. RISD currently has no campuses rated as ‘improvement required’. I am fighting for transparent, unbiased accountability that gives parents meaningful feedback. Professionally, I’ve seen how data used appropriately can shine a light on areas of need so that they can be improved. I will continue to work proactively with the TEA to create accountability systems that are useful.

Part 5 of 6.

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