Katy school separates races for TAKS assemblies
Houston Chronicle

March 29, 2007

Copyright 2007

Administrators at a Katy school are facing criticism from parents after holding separate assemblies for black, white and Hispanic students to address low scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.
The assemblies at Mayde Creek High were held for ninth- and 10th-grade students of different ethnicities to discuss steps to boost scores on the state-required test, said district spokesman Steve Stanford. He said only students at risk because of their scores were called to the meetings, and that no negative message was intended.
"The purpose was to encourage and to help at-risk students," Stanford said.
But Amber Queen, whose son is in the ninth grade, disagreed with the decision.
"I would think that they would bring all kids and talk to them at once," she said.
School principal O.D. Tompkins, who is black, decided to hold the sessions, Stanford said. He said test scores at Mayde Creek have lagged, and a higher proportion of students are at risk of failing the math and science portions than at some other district high schools.
The first meeting, held before spring break, assembled black students. The sessions for Hispanic and white students were held after spring break.
Tompkins didn't consider it humiliating or discriminatory, Stanford said.
Kevin Tatum, co-founder of the Katy Citizen Watchdogs, which monitors school performance and spending, said he did not yet have all the facts. "But if they did separate by race, what was the point?" he asked.
Stanford said students were segregated because that's how the state looks at and reports achievement. The separate assemblies apparently did not violate district rules, Stanford said.

March 30, 2007
TAKS preparation shouldn't include ethnically segregated assemblies, expert says
A spokeswoman with the Texas Education Agency and a director of a national testing organization said the ethnically divided assemblies held at a Katy school district  <http://www.katyisd.org/> campus to tackle lagging Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test scores were not appropriate.
Administrators at Mayde Creek High School took some heat from parents after holding the separate pep talks for black, white and Hispanic students  <http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nb/katy/news/4670351.html> to target ways to boost performance on the TAKS.
Robert Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing <http://www.fairtest.org/> , said it is most important to look at individual needs when trying to raise achievement levels. He said:

It makes more sense to deal with students one-on-one and not by color. When testing pushes schools into targeting students by race, it's a great concern.
The Massachusetts-based center was founded in the mid-1980s by leaders of groups that promote racial equality and student advocacy. The goal is to monitor educational practices and promote better forms of testing.
The sessions at the school were for ninth- and 10th-grade students at risk of failing the TAKS. The first session, for black students, was held before spring break. After the break, sessions were held for Hispanic and white students.
Administrators say they thought targeted intervention would be an advantage to at-risk students. The step was taken in a "positive light," school district spokesman Steve Stanford said.
Stanford said the students were separated by ethnicity because it coincides with the way the state reports achievement. The state reporting is broken down by ethnicity, poverty levels and by enrollment in special education programs, etc.
Stanford said:
They are looking at how well we do with each subset. The principal thought it would help the students succeed, not just on the TAKS, but also overall in their education.
TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said she does not support segregated assemblies. Ratcliffe said Katy ISD officials told her that the message of the talks was largely the same for all students. She said that while the state does not regulate school assemblies and the school district did not violate any rules, the state does not encourage separating pupils by ethnicity for TAKS preparation.
She said:
We want schools to work with students who are struggling to improve performance, but we certainly think there are better ways to accomplish this. In hindsight they (school administrators) realize it was not the best approach.
Stanford said he was not sure whether the school will try the same approach next year.
Schaeffer said mounting pressure from the federal government on the No Child Left Behind mandate encourages schools to look at students less as individuals but more as special groups by race, poverty levels and special needs. Under that mandate, all groups must show continuous improvement. He said:
This fixation on test scores lead schools into practices that are not educationally sound.
You can check out the ethnic profile and academic rankings for Mayde Creek and other Katy ISD campuses by going to the TEA Web site <http://www.tea.state.tx.us/> and clicking on the 2006 Academic Excellence Indicator System report. Then click on data resources and research, then click on the Academic Excellence Indicator System. Then click on AIES Reports for 2005-06 and on "campus report" to search campuses by name.
What do you think is the best way to boost scores for underperforming groups on the TAKS? Since schools have to report to the state in subgroups, should they address pupils by the same groups for improvement?
Posted by HelenE at March 30, 2007 11:53 AM

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