'No More Excuses, Tyler ISD!' demands academic improvement before new buildings
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
The coalition taking a stand against the bond says they are not against new buildings, but they say they just do not believe new buildings should be a priority right now.
The "No More Excuses, Tyler ISD!" coalition" says Tyler schools are not performing well academically and the bond will cost tax payers more than they think.
"We're just trying to get people to pay attention to the most important thing and that is what this school district actually produces," says coalition member JoAnn Fleming.
According to the most recent data from the Texas Education Agency, the accountability rating of Tyler schools has been declining. Of the 17 elementary school campuses, five were rated as academically acceptable ten schools were rated as recognized and two were exemplary in 2010. In 2011, those two exemplary campuses stayed that way, but six elementary schools fell from recognized to acceptable.
The academic rating sloped downward in Tyler middle schools, too. In 2010, half of TISD middle schools were rated as acceptable, the other half were recognized. In 2011, the recognized schools fell to acceptable. All six middle schools were most recently rated as "acceptable."
The two high schools that were rated as academically acceptable in 2010 became academically unacceptable in 2011.
"These are just some of the problems that we're faced with, but the biggest problem is, our school board and our administration continue to ignore it," says Cedrick Granberry.
Granberry, who is a Tyler ISD parent and No More Excuses coalition member, says he's more concerned with what's going on in the classroom, not with what the classroom looks like.
"It's very much in the air that this curriculum is questionable as far as the progress that our students are making and the freedom that it gives our teachers to teach the children," says Granberry.
Granberry says facilities that are safe and structurally sound are important, but he wants to see the curriculum be a district priority. Right now, many Texas school districts, including TISD, require their teachers to adhere to a classroom curriculum called CSCOPE. Under CSCOPE, teachers continue to say their ability to teach is stifled. They say CSCOPE's structure doesn't let teachers be creative and teach the lessons the way the want to. It's also fast-paced and doesn't allow time for teachers to spend more time on the lessons their students haven't grasped.
"We do not deny that new buildings are definitely a benefit, what the problem is, is we're not emphasizing what is more important," says Granberry.
Along with curriculum, he's concerned with classroom diversity
"We have campuses here in Tyler ISD, elementary and middle school that are above 66 percent-- some are in the 90 percentile-- of minority students. For me, for the district to ignore that, it definitely can before a tragedy," Granberry says.
"Do you worry that if this bond passes, you'll have a lot of the old problems in new buildings?" we ask him.
"I'm not worried. I'm convinced that it's going to maximize the problem even more," he says.
"What makes you think you can continue doing the same thing you've been doing and will now get some different results?" says coalition member Niles Smith, Ph.D.
In the 2008 bond election, voters chose to replace 5 elementary campuses--- Clarkston, Griffin, Orr, Jones and Woods.
All of those campuses were rated as academically recognized in 2010, with the exception of griffin, which was rated as academically acceptable. Now, the other 4 new campuses have fallen from recognized to acceptable.
Then, there are concerns about what the bond will cost tax payers.
"The folks that are running around saying it's 160.5 million dollars and it's not going to cost you anything, that's not accurate," says Fleming.
The purchase price of the bond is $160.5 Million, but No More Excuses, Tyler ISD! estimates that when you take interest, financing and debt in place into account, the end cost of the bond by the time it's paid off, will be $254.1 Million.
"You showed me how much money you are going to put into the building. How much money are you going to put into the curriculum? Show me," says Smith.
"Say this bond fails. What's next for the coalition?" we ask.
"We're going to call on the community. Everybody that has been on the bandwagon being a cheerleader for the buildings, we're going to ask them to come get on the band wagon with those of us who are cheering for the kids," replies Fleming. "Whether it fails or it passes, we're going to ask those folks, 'What are you going to do now? Are you going to be a cheerleader for high academic standards and a higher community standard?' ...because this conversation is not just about buildings. It is not just about buildings," she says.
The "No More Excuses, TISD!" coalition says they do not want the City of Tyler torn apart over the bond. However, they're convinced that if the bond does pass, the internal issues within Tyler ISD will not be addressed and repaired.