Often in education we hear the term “data-driven”, and this is supposed to reassure us that the data has been accurately analyzed. More and more it seems that data is naively analyzed, leading to misrepresentations and flawed narratives. If the narrative is repeated enough times it becomes assumed accurate.
Case in point:
In February of 2018, Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa presented to the Texas Commission on Public School Finance and stated that the District’s ACE program had shown great gains, particularly in elementary schools:
Dr. Michael Dryden was a principal evaluator in Dallas ISD for 20 years. When he analyzed the ACE program he found that the above statement claiming "significant success with elementary schools" was true for only two of the ACE elementary schools. And in five of the seven ACE campuses the performance of students did not exceed the performance of similar campuses to any meaningful extent.
How is it that Dr. Hinojosa and DISD claimed such great success?
The analysis used by DISD only shows the growth of students crossing the cut point for “approaches” and “meets” standards on the STAAR exam. This is a highly limited analysis given it ignores those students above and below the cut point that grew or declined in achievement but never moved across the cut point threshold. In contrast, Dr. Dryden’s analysis included ALL students. We informed DISD of our concern with utilizing this limited analysis, and never received a response.
The initial seven DISD ACE campuses cost $6.3 million, where are they now?
One has to question the expansion of the ACE program within the state given the cost and these lackluster results in Dallas. Kendall Pace, former Austin ISD School Board President compared the 4th grade STAAR "Meets Grade Level" results of urban districts in 2018 (Math, Reading) and statewide in 2019 (Math, Reading). Take a look at where the DISD ACE schools rank.
Micah Taylor, a Texas educator, posted this ACE evaluation on his blog Educatorship. He compares Titche and Pease elementary schools and sums up nicely why ACE is an unsustainable bandaid. It's well worth a read.
In 2020 let's resolve to ensure that "data-driven" education programs and policies are in fact objectively analyzed without prejudice so that we can truly create and sustain lasting improvement.