I delivered to the Fort Worth City Council the Fort Worth Education Partnership’s annual report that shows how the children of Fort Worth are performing academically today. Here is the text of my remarks to the Council and a link to our full report:
I live across the street from De Zavala Elementary School in Fort Worth. Technically, we live across the street from De Zavala’s playground and their dumpsters. I love hearing the sweet sounds of the children playing on the playground at recess when I am home on a school day. I don’t love as much hearing the earth-shaking banging sounds of the dumpsters being emptied at 6:00 am.
Both things are true. It’s both/and, not either/or.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said that the test of intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
In the spring of 2021 only 22% of the kids at De Zavala met grade level standards on state tests. But this past year, they made huge gains. The number of kids meeting grade level increased by 26 percentage points in just one year.
And it is also true that even after a 26-point gain, which makes De Zavala a better than average school in Fort Worth, still fewer half of the kids I hear playing on the playground at recess are reading and doing math at grade level—48%.
Improvement? Absolutely. Good enough for our kids? Absolutely not. Both/and.
Thank you so much for allowing me this time today in what I know will be a very full meeting. We are putting out our annual report that shows how our children are performing academically in every public school in the city, organized by council district.
There are 160,000 students in public schools in the City of Fort Worth. Of those,
less than half, 44%, are in FWISD schools,
45% are in other ISDs, and
11% are in public charter schools.
There are 12 different ISDs that have schools in Fort Worth.
There are also a number of charter schools and charter networks with schools in Fort Worth.
The education of Fort Worth kids is not a single ISD issue. It is a city issue.
Thank you for the way you as council members and mayor have leaned in on the issue of the education of our children in our city. I have seen many of you do this in a number of ways.
One of you went to a FWISD school board meeting and spoke on behalf of the kids in school in your council district. Another of you went down to Austin to speak on behalf of a new school for your council district.
Mayor Parker has made this a top priority.
Because we can’t have a healthy city, we can’t have healthy council districts, without effective schools and children performing at grade level academically.
This report we are sharing with you today focuses on the percentage of kids scoring at the “meets grade level” standard on state tests. This is the clearest metric available every year that tells us if we are fulfilling the promise of a great education for all students in our city.
The state’s A-F ratings system gives us a solid understanding of all the different aspects of how schools are doing, but the clearest and most straightforward way to know how our kids are doing is to look at the state’s “meets grade level” metric.
What we really want to know is, Are our kids reading at grade-level? Are they doing math at grade-level?
That’s why FWEP reports on how our city, our council districts, and our schools are doing at getting students to grade level.
There has been an extraordinary effort by many schools, teachers, and families to get students back on track after the pandemic. And we commend everyone involved. It is also true that despite the progress in meeting grade level over the last year, still just over a third of the public school students in the City of Fort Worth are on grade level.
If you’ll look at page three of the report, you’ll see that overall in the City of Fort Worth 36% of the kids are meeting grade-level standards. That is up from 28% last year. It is still a little short of where we were in 2019 before COVID.
I would like to very quickly go through and call your attention to each council district. And notice the right hand column on each page. This highlights the growth each school had from 2021 to 2022.
Council district 2 on page 4. 31% of the kids meeting grade level. Only 3 schools are above 50%. In District 2, fewer than half of the kids are in FWISD schools. Also note Lake Worth—this is a small district that struggles but often gets overlooked.
Council district 3 on the next page. 39% of kids meeting grade level—the same as pre-Covid. The five highest performing schools are from Aledo ISD, FWISD, and charter schools.
Council district 4 on page 6. 40% at grade level. Still down 7 points from pre-Covid. Most of the schools are Keller ISD, and you also have the low-performing IL Texas charter schools.
Council district 5. 27% of kids at grade level. About the same as before COVID. The top performing schools are a mix of HEB ISD, charter schools, and two FWISD schools—a charter partnership and a FWISD school of choice.
Council district 6. 32% of kids meeting grade level. Just a little behind 2019. This is the home of the school that made the highest growth in the city last year—David L. Walker Elementary in Crowley ISD with a 32% point gain in one year moving from 12% at grade level to 44%. Fewer than 1/3 of the kids are in FWISD schools.
Council district 7. 48% meeting grade level. Down 6 points from pre-Covid. Of the over 30,000 children in school in district 7, only 1,500 are in FWISD schools (5%)
Council district 8. 25% of kids meeting grade level. Close to 2019. The top 3 schools in district 8 are IDEA schools followed closely by FWISD’s Meadowbrook Elementary, which grew 18 percentage points from the year before.
Council district 9. 34% of kids are at grade level. Close to pre-Covid. There are 5 different FWISD schools of choice here. No other council district has more than one.
We know that there has been an extraordinary effort to get students back on track and we have seen real progress that gets us close to where we were before the pandemic. That’s good. And this is also true: where we were before COVID was not acceptable to any of us.
Just over a third of our kids in Fort Worth public schools are on grade level.
When you see the school buses lined up for drop-off in the morning, we have to face the reality that nearly 2 out of every 3 buses are filled with students who are not at grade level.
We could fill up AT&T Stadium with the just over 100,000 students in Fort Worth who are still not where they need to be.
I know every one of us in this room cares deeply about the kids in our city. Thank you for putting me on the agenda today to talk about this with you.
*We received coverage of our report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Fort Worth Report.