Fort Worth 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 Fort Worth 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 46 schools in the Fort Worth area that rank in the top 20 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:

  • Souder Elementary in Everman ranks 3rd for teaching high-achievers but only 88th for low-achievers. By contrast, Sherrod Elementary in Arlington ranks 13th for low-achievers but only 72nd for high-achievers.
  • West Hurst Elementary is ranked 7th in the Fort Worth area for teaching black children, but only ranks 57th for teaching Hispanic children; while Amos Elementary in Arlington is ranks 5th in the Fort Worth area for teaching Hispanic children, but ranks 55th for teaching blacks.

"We would probably get better results for everyone if we would 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.

Additionally, the study found that parents generally have a much greater chance finding an effective school in Arlington than in Fort Worth.

  • Eight of the top ten most effective schools overall in the area are in Arlington (See attached charts), while seven of the ten least effective schools are in Fort Worth.
  • Top ranked Knox Elementary in Arlington gets very high marks, regardless of who is sitting in the classroom, ranking 2nd for teaching blacks, Hispanics, economically disadvantaged and low-achieving students, and 4th for high-achievers.
  • By contrast, Morningside Middle in Fort Worth ranked last among the 161 schools examined and seems to do a uniformly poor job, regardless of who is sitting in the classroom.

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.