Dallas Schools' Effectiveness Varies Widely By Race, Aptitude

NCPA Study Shows 6th Grade Test Scores Could Rise if Schools Focus on "What They Do Best"

DALLAS (May 8, 2003) -- Schools in the Dallas area differ widely in their ability to teach students, according to a new report by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). The report found that differences within schools are almost as great as the differences among schools.

The NCPA report ranks schools for the first time on their ability to teach different student subpopulations, including Hispanic, black, economically disadvantaged and high- and low-achievers. There are 41 schools in the Dallas area that rank in the top ten in teaching at least one category of student in the sixth grade. But most schools that excel in one category are mediocre in other categories. Parents can learn where their child's school ranked online.

"Some schools are good at everything and some are bad at everything," said Matt Moore, NCPA policy analyst. "But most schools are better with some student groups than others." For example:

  • Degolyer Elementary School in north Dallas ranks 97th overall in the Dallas area, but ranks 4th for its ability to teach low-achieving students. By contrast, Moseley Elementary in south east Dallas ranks 8th for teaching high-achievers but only 278th overall.
  • Carpenter Elementary in south Dallas is the top ranked school in the Dallas area for teaching Hispanic children, but only ranks 89th for teaching black children; while Field Elementary in north west Dallas is the 2nd best school in the Dallas area for teaching black children, but ranks 49th for teaching Hispanics.

Additionally, some of the study's findings counter conventional wisdom. For example:

  • Eight of the top ten most effective schools overall in the Dallas area are DISD schools (See attached charts), while four of the ten least effective schools are in the Garland ISD.
  • One of the best schools in the Dallas area is Harrell Budd Elementary in south Dallas, where nearly 99 percent of the students are minority and 92 percent are economically disadvantaged.
  • Another south Dallas school Kennedy-Curry Elementary (Wilmer-Hutchins ISD), with a similar student population, ranks near the bottom.

"We would probably get better results for everyone if we allow schools to specialize in what they do best," said NCPA President John C Goodman. The study concludes that informed public school choice has the potential to improve student performance across the board.

The NCPA's rankings are devised using state-of-the-art techniques for calculating the value added by the school, as opposed to the value added by parents and other factors. The report is based on test scores of sixth grade students on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), and the ranks are based on the changes in the scores of individual students, rather than school averages. Dr. Lori Taylor, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas provided the data for the report.