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NCLB Outrages

A Campus Far From Exemplary

Ohanian Comment: I recommend this not for the editorial comment but for the reader take down of the editorial comment.

Reader Comment: "Until the formal inquiry began, no teacher at Field had sounded the alarm and no administrator seems to have had a clue that this extreme policy was in place."

So the DMN is aghast that teachers didn't sound the alarm at Field Elementary? Really? Really?

Go back through ALL your editorials advocating school change and reflect on your bias against teachers. Revisit your promotion of "business" models that promote more power to principals over those pesky teachers. Applaud your stance on increasing teacher accountability (DISD is spending $1.2 million to develop a new evaluation model) with no mention of increased pay.

This paper, the State of Texas, the DISD trustees, the business community, and the public have subjugated teachers to the status of factory labor (with no right to strike!) and are then incensed when they don't rise to report abuse of policy! You want top-down management of education but are bewildered when events unfold as they have at Field Elementary. You want teachers to shut up and do as they're told and then fulminate when they protect their income rather than speak up. You asked for this mess and now you've got it!

And here's another news flash: The practices at Field Elementary are MUCH more the rule than the exception in DISD schools than anyone outside the system dares to imagine.

Since another ingrained DISD policy is to intimidate whistle-blowers and protect management at all costs, guess we'll just have to rely on the integrity of those in administration and the trustees to set the standard for a high level of integrity in the schools. ...how's that been workin' for ya so far?

Ohanian Comment: Note how the Editors shift blame to the parents.


In third grade, the world opens to children. They learn about magnets and volcanoes, frogs and ladybugs, the marvels of the solar system. They are introduced to biographies and to the lofty concept that people can, through their deeds, change communities. These essential lessons in science and social studies build on themselves, year after year.

It is only when you look at this rich curriculum that you can appreciate the injustice inflicted on the children at Tom W. Field Elementary School in northwest Dallas. For an entire year, third-graders were essentially denied science and social studies instruction in favor of math and reading, all so they could improve their scores on standardized tests and earn the school a high ranking.

The intense pressure to boost student performance has produced some bizarre results around the nation, but short of outright cheating, few examples rise to the level of what took place at Field. By fiat, the principal declared that the required curriculum simply did not apply. Science and social studies instructors instead were forced to focus on math and reading. Music and gym were sacrificed. To compound matters, false grades were entered for the subjects that were not taught.

We know all this because an anonymous complaint was filed on Jan. 6, prompting an investigation by the Dallas Independent School District. The result is a lengthy report that includes sworn affidavits by teachers and damaging emails, all pointing to a systemic failure that merits more investigation. Until the formal inquiry began, no teacher at Field had sounded the alarm and no administrator seems to have had a clue that this extreme policy was in place.

Among the many failings is the school system’s decision not to inform parents that this had happened or to begin to address the significant impact on children who are now ill-prepared for fourth grade and beyond. It was only when Dallas Morning News reporter Tawnell Hobbs obtained a copy of the report -- it was completed in July and labeled “highly classified” — that the wider school community began to learn about Field’s lost academic year.

More troubling still is the timeline laid out by the report. As early as March, two months after the first complaint, investigators appear to have confirmed many of the central issues. There was still time to save at least part of the school year and to inform parents. Neither appears to have happened. The only actions were administrative. The principal, Roslyn Carter, is on paid leave after denying many of the accusations.

It is reasonable to ask how Carter could have done this without parents knowing. The answer is in the demographics. About 93 percent of the children at Field are Hispanic; three-quarters of the school is classified as having limited proficiency in English. It is no secret that parents of these children are often not engaged with or not inclined to challenge the system. To the detriment of their children, now they know the cost of both.


“This is a very high stakes year and we cannot afford to have students’ TAKS scores drop in third grade. I have looked at reading and math assessments and I am very disappointed. There is much work to be done in Reading and Math and these two subjects have to be the focus.”
Field principal Roslyn Carter in an email to teachers, sent Oct. 2, 2010

School rating: Exemplary

Ethnic distribution:

Hispanic (415 students) 92.6 percent

Black (24 students) 5.4 percent

White (6 students) 1.3 percent

Other (3 students) 0.6 percent

Economically disadvantaged: 98 percent (the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch)

Limited English proficiency: 75 percent

SOURCE: Texas Education Agency, 2010-11 school year

— Editorial
Dallas Morning News


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