Dallas ISD Supt. talks plans to raise minority test scores

DISD Superintendent Mike Miles says some teachers may be moved to different schools in an effort to improve test scores for minorities, with a focus on African-American students.

Miles says that despite nine years of trying to raise African-American scores on state-mandated tests, the district has not succeeded, and he now says that effort will increase.

The school board will get the numbers update on minority learning Tuesday night.

While the problem is not new, in some areas it's worse than it was.

The district is putting more money in place by adding more staff into schools where minorities lag behind, but Miles feels strongly that mentors and the best teachers being moved to teach the most struggling students will make a difference

The district acknowledges with disappointment that minorities, especially African-Americans in Dallas ISD, are not learning, and the gap is widening between black and whites throughout the district and the state.

"Probably the biggest reason is that we have students who are challenged by poverty, but we also need an effective teacher in front of every kid," said Miles.

Miles says the new Teacher Excellence Initiative, which changes how teachers are evaluated and compensated, will identify the best teachers.

"And then we're gonna do an analysis of where those effective teachers are," said Miles.

"In terms of what schools they're in, what classrooms?" said FOX 4's Shaun Rabb.

"In terms of what schools they are in, and we'll see are our most effective teachers teaching our most struggling campuses?" said Miles.

Miles says he's heard the complaints about too much student assessment, and the districts cut back, but "Teachers use data from the assessments to say, ‘OK, what do the students need? What am I not teaching well? What are they not getting? How can I adjust the instruction?' …the greatest gains have been in math, without a question. But we're not breaking out any champagne. We got a long way to go and we lost a little bit in reading last year, no question about that."

The math gains are credited to the African-American student initiative started in 2006, which will expand across the learning curriculum.

Miles welcomes the mentoring movement that African-American pastors are making toward the district.

"People are buying in to what you've been telling them about the changes for this district, so you have to stay and see it through," said Rabb.

"You know, this is not a short game, right," said Miles. "This is a yard-by-yard thing that we're trying to do…it's gonna take a while to get the gains, but we've put in systemic reform, not just a silver bullet."

"You anticipate scoring at the end of the day?" said Rabb.

"At the end of the day, if we don't score, you know...we haven't really won," said Miles.

There's a lot of work to do, though. For example, in the south Oak Cliff feeder pattern, 29 percent of African-American students passed the English I end-of-course exam, compared to 53 percent of students in the rest of the state.

The goals of the African-American student initiative are to close the gaps between blacks and whites on STARR tests and increase ACT and SAT scores for minority students.

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