Texas Education

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North Forest in the news…again :-(

Posted by Texas Education on August 9, 2008

From the Chron’s blogging device…School Zone, a couple of articles about how bad things are at North Forest ISD. I don’t really have to tell you that. Based on my experience, and what I’ve witnessed in the news, it just seems they are in over their heads. If someone would just put their foot down, and HELP them. Couldn’t hurt…for your summer reading,

With TEA watching, schools appeared to play by rules during TAKS

Trying to stop those pesky allegations of cheating, the TEA once again tried to surprise schools in the spring with outside monitors who kept a watchful eye on testing day.

Not to be cynical but, with the 2007-08 school ratings now out, can you believe that the ratings are based on legit TAKS scores? Yes, if you believe the monitors (at least in those schools that had monitors).

Under the Texas Public Information Act, I recently requested copies of the testing monitors’ reports for any of the Houston-area schools observed during the spring testing dates. I received 23 letters from the TEA to district or charter school superintendents, and all but three — North Forest ISD, Mainland Preparatory Academy in La Marque and Stafford ISD — received an A+. The infractions were mostly a result of disorganization, not blatant cheating — though some Forest Brook students apparently were denied calculators on the science TAKS.

The North Forest report addressed problems during three testing days at Forest Brook High School (which ended up being rated “academically unacceptable” for the third year in a row). The memo pretty much summarizes what we already reported: students were talking to each other during a restroom break, a student armed with a cell phone took several trips to the restroom, a test administrator gave a student a test without knowing whether she was actually supposed to take it.

Also, one test administrator at Forest Brook gave wrong directions for the 10th-grade science test (the TEA memo did not specify what was wrong) and did not give students calculators. I don’t know how much the calculators would have helped (teachers/students, can you enlighten us?), or whether the monitor could have rounded up calculators. But Forest Brook, like Smiley, did not do well on the science TAKS. At Forest Brook, 39 percent of the students (not just 10th-graders) passed. At Smiley, where students presumably had calculators, the passing rate was one percentage point lower.

At Mainland Preparatory, the report said that not all test monitors were “actively monitoring during testing” and the school didn’t retain inventory records. In Stafford, one student was spotted with a cell phone, while another broke the testing seal for the wrong section (now that’s a tough testing monitor!).

For the other districts checked, this paragraph was standard:

“Based on the recent on-site TAKS monitoring conducted in your district, test security and confidentiality requirements and procedures were followed consistently. School staff demonstrated effective planning and monitoring of the administration to ensure a quality testing program. Further Agency review or intervention is not necessary at this time.”

For the districts cited, this sentence was repeated:

“Upon careful review of the irregularities, the Testing Monitor Program recommends no further action be taken by the Agency.”

Here’s a list of the districts and charter schools in Region 4 that had monitors in at least some schools (it’s not clear which schools were observed in all the districts):

Continue reading “With TEA watching, schools appeared to play by rules during TAKS”

Posted by Ericka Mellon

The North Forest trustees actually agree on something

During a special called meeting Monday night, the board voted 7-0 to ask Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott to reverse his decision to overthrow the elected board and appoint his own three-person board of managers. The board also plans to appeal to the U.S. Department of Justice, which must sign off on the state’s decision. Some trustees even encouraged residents to start a letter-writing campaign to the feds.

We knew from Saturday’s news conference that four trustees — Tobie Ross Jr., Allen Provost, Silvia Brooks Williams and T. Marie McCall — disapproved of Scott’s order. The other trustees — Charles Taylor Sr., Barbara Gaston and Albert Lemons — were not at the media event but they, too, said on Monday that they wanted to keep their unpaid jobs.

Taylor raised a new point though. He noted that three trustees (himself, Silvia Brooks Williams and T. Marie McCall, I believe) will be up for re-election in November. The U.S. DOJ is not expected to rule on the board’s ouster until October. So Taylor suggested that the TEA hold off until the regularly scheduled election takes place to see whether voters oust the incumbents on their own. Of course, only three of the seven trustees are on the ballot. And the bankruptcy clock is ticking, as North Forest is $11.8 million in the red.

When I asked the TEA’s Ron Rowell about Taylor’s argument, Rowell did not seem persuaded. Perhaps he cannot forget the 17 pages of problems documented in this TEA investigative audit [pdf, slow download]: multiple years of inflating student attendance figures, a lack of internal controls, possible wrongful spending in the special education department, etc.

In the most recent election, in November 2007, Albert Lemons, the principal of HISD’s Atherton Elementary School, won the seat being vacated by Maxine Lane-Seals, and voters re-elected incumbents Provost and Williams. Williams won by six votes. (If I understand things correctly, Williams’ seat is up for election again because she was only serving the remainder of Jarvis Jermaine Clark’s term. Clark, who pled guilty to taking district funds for training sessions he did not attend, was forced to resign as part of a plea deal with the DA’s office.)

On Monday night, trustees lobbed harsh criticism against the TEA. Rowell, the TEA representative who has been attending the board’s meetings as the commissioner’s eyes and ears, pretty much stayed silent.

“I am totally against the commissioner’s decision,” Lemons said. “I think it’s retaliation. I’m tired of being blamed for things that happened before I got here.”

Lemons said he previously had considered stepping down from the board out of frustration, but the commissioner’s decision has reinvigorated him. “I refuse to … be kicked off a board that I think we have tried to rectify some of the wrong that has been done,” he said.

Continue reading “The North Forest trustees actually agree on something”

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