DISD update: Rankings, rumblings and retirements

Here’s a quick roundup of DISD-related issues in the news lately …

1) Newsweek magazine’s latest public school ratings made a few DISD schools look pretty good; thanks to Louisa Meyer for passing the information along. The TAG magnet ranked 2nd, W.T. White ranked 131, Woodrow ranked 526, and Hillcrest ranked 547. These rankings were compiled by taking the number of Advanced Placement-like courses taken by students at each school and dividing by the school’s enrollment to determine a ratio; the higher the ratio, the higher the ranking. All of the schools listed were in the top five percent of public schools nationwide.
2) About 116 DISD teachers who otherwise qualified to receive federal grant money because their students improved significantly in academic measurements instead received nothing because their principals accidentally didn’t comply with procedures necessary to obtain the funds from the federal government. DISD said most of the problems occurred with principals new to the district and unfamiliar with the federal compliance requirements, according to a DMN story. Supt. Michael Hinojosa told the school board he wanted to use district funds to pay the teachers, but trustee Lew Blackburn pointed out the obvious — DISD doesn’t happen to have $400,000 extra lying around. The board is considering how to proceed.

3) DISD’s academic leader since 2004, Dr. Denise Collier, announced her retirement from DISD, effective August 2009. Collier says she’s not taking another job, she’s just retiring. Collier has been credited with the academic gains made by DISD students since Hinojosa took over the top job and brought her to DISD. She also has been blamed for controversy surrounding DISD grading changes made prior to the beginning of this school year that, under certain circumstances, allows students to retake major tests for an improved grade if they score better. It sounded like a dramatic change when announced, but I have two sons in a DISD high school, and I really haven’t noticed any significant grading changes from last year.

4) Speaking of AP classes, check out this New York Times story about a Scarsdale high school that expects to stop offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses, favoring instead Advanced Topic (AT) courses. As any helicopter-inclined parent knows, AP courses are promoted as college-prep courses, offering high school students college-level academic rigor in exchange for extra grade-point credit (at least at this point in time, although the Texas board of education is considering altering or ending that practice). Many upper-tier colleges seem to prefer students who load up on, and do well in, AP courses, but the powers-that-be in Scarsdale believe that concentrating on smaller segments of advanced topics (hence, AT) is a better way to teach kids than pouring every element of American history into their brains in a short period of time, primarily to prepare them to take and pass the AP proficiency exam. As far as I know, DISD hasn’t taken any stance on the AP/AT issue yet.


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