Superintendent Michael Hinojosa will leave his post at the end of the coming school year. Sadly, as he runs for the door in pursuit of the fame and fortune of high office, he leaves behind over 150,000 students at Dallas ISD—mostly students of color many of whom will never graduate high school let alone go to college or pursue fruitful careers. Instead, many of our students will instead fall victim to a school-to-prison pipeline that Superintendent Hinojosa lacked the courage to end.
Hinojosa called himself a reformer but failed to deal with some of the major issues impacting the racial disparity in education outcomes.
- He refused to put in a system of teacher accountability to reward the best teachers and get rid of the worst ones. His ‘merit pay’ system had only a carrot and no stick. Moreover, the best teachers who received 6-figure compensation were rarely if ever sent to majority black schools. Our communities were burdened with the worst teachers who Hinojosa refused to fire.
- He strongly resisted any attempt by parents to convert failing Dallas ISD schools into charter schools even when those schools have fallen to a failing grade (below 60). The student achievement scores are already subject to grade inflation (administrators want to help fellow administrators look good) so anything below ‘90’ is poor and anything below ‘80’ is more or less failing. So a school with below a 60 ranking is barely a school at all.
- He constantly blamed Dallas ISD’s poor performance relative to surrounding ISDs to lack of funding. However, the data shows in fact this is a lie. The average Student Achievement Score at Dallas ISD is 71. The average student Achievement Score at Highland Park ISD is 96.
According to the Texas Education Agency, Dallas ISD spends $14,981 per student annually while Highland Park ISD spends an average of $15,080 per student annually. This is a difference of $99 per year per student. Does Mr. Hinojosa think communities of color are so stupid to believe that $99 per student per year is the difference between an “A+” school and a “D” school? Maybe Highland Park ISD has better performance because they hold teachers and administrators accountable for results and fire non-performers. Maybe they also have better performance because the administrators know the parents can easily afford to move their kids to a private school. Low-income communities of color lack that option so Hinojosa knows he has captive customers.
So, what do we need from a new Superintendent:
First, they must live and breathe a culture of accountability. In my opinion, teachers and administrators must be evaluated on graduation rates, college acceptance rates, and test scores. If they fail to perform, they must be fired. Period. Unfortunately, most professional school administrators do not come from the culture of accountability—we need someone who is willing to make the entrenched white power structures on the Board of Trustees and at the teachers’ unions uncomfortable.
Second, they must support school choice for communities of color. We want the same right to choose our school given to wealthy whites in Highland Park. The current education system in Dallas is not Jim Crow 2.0, it is simply a continuation of Jim Crow which never really ended here.
Third, they must never attempt to give excuses for poor performance. If they can’t get Dallas ISD to at least a 90 in Student Achievement Scores within 2 years, they must resign.
With the right Superintendent, Dallas ISD can begin to reverse its long shameful history of being a force for white supremacy and segregation and finally give students of color the education they deserve.