Editorial: A campus far from exemplary — Field Elementary in Dallas
In third grade, the world opens to children. They learn about magnets and volcanoes, frogs and ladybugs, the marvels of the solar system. They are introduced to biographies and to the lofty concept that people can, through their deeds, change communities. These essential lessons in science and social studies build on themselves, year after year.
It is only when you look at this rich curriculum that you can appreciate the injustice inflicted on the children at Tom W. Field Elementary School in northwest Dallas. For an entire year, third-graders were essentially denied science and social studies instruction in favor of math and reading, all so they could improve their scores on standardized tests and earn the school a high ranking.
The intense pressure to boost student performance has produced some bizarre results around the nation, but short of outright cheating, few examples rise to the level of what took place at Field. By fiat, the principal declared that the required curriculum simply did not apply. Science and social studies instructors instead were forced to focus on math and reading. Music and gym were sacrificed. To compound matters, false grades were entered for the subjects that were not taught.
We know all this because an anonymous complaint was filed on Jan. 6, prompting an investigation by the Dallas Independent School District. The result is a lengthy report that includes sworn affidavits by teachers and damaging emails, all pointing to a systemic failure that merits more investigation. Until the formal inquiry began, no teacher at Field had sounded the alarm and no administrator seems to have had a clue that this extreme policy was in place.
Among the many failings is the school system’s decision not to inform parents that this had happened or to begin to address the significant impact on children who are now ill-prepared for fourth grade and beyond. It was only when Dallas Morning News reporter Tawnell Hobbs obtained a copy of the report — it was completed in July and labeled “highly classified” — that the wider school community began to learn about Field’s lost academic year.
More troubling still is the timeline laid out by the report. As early as March, two months after the first complaint, investigators appear to have confirmed many of the central issues. There was still time to save at least part of the school year and to inform parents. Neither appears to have happened. The only actions were administrative. The principal, Roslyn Carter, is on paid leave after denying many of the accusations.
It is reasonable to ask how Carter could have done this without parents knowing. The answer is in the demographics. About 93 percent of the children at Field are Hispanic; three-quarters of the school is classified as having limited proficiency in English. It is no secret that parents of these children are often not engaged with or not inclined to challenge the system. To the detriment of their children, now they know the cost of both.
BY THE NUMBERS AT FIELD ELEMENTARY
“This is a very high stakes year and we cannot afford to have students’ TAKS scores drop in third grade. I have looked at reading and math assessments and I am very disappointed. There is much work to be done in Reading and Math and these two subjects have to be the focus.”
•Field principal Roslyn Carter in an email to teachers, sent Oct. 2, 2010
School rating: Exemplary
Hispanic (415 students) 92.6 percent
Black (24 students) 5.4 percent
White (6 students) 1.3 percent
Other (3 students) 0.6 percent
Economically disadvantaged: 98 percent (the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch)
Limited English proficiency: 75 percent
SOURCE: Texas Education Agency, 2010-11 school year
9:18 AM on 11/22/2011
How do you know that no teacher sounded the alarm? District gossip is that they did and no one would listen. You might want to see if there was a complaint made to the state… that is what other teachers are hearing. Most of us had heard of her “management style” as the editioral staff is so fond of calling it.
This is what you get when all avenues of real communication are dismantled and turned into a show for the public. Teachers really have no means of reporting since AD’s are also promoting this since their paycheck also depends on “scores” and that is all. Teachers are treated like hourly employees and so everyone seems surprised when the act like it and do as they are told to keep their jobs. Make no mistake about it, teachers are bullied all the time and since most are the breadwinners of their families they must keep their jobs. It sounds so easy to sound the alarm yet check to see what has happened to the teachers who have? I bet you will be surprised! Teachers on the other hand won’t be. The only teachers to sound the alarm will be ones who are retiring or leaving teaching altogether. No one will risk thier income for retribution from administrators.