“The focus of HPISD is no longer academics but instead values, attitudes, behaviors, and worldviews (SEL), thereby destroying what made HPISD so great,” Meg Bakich, who campaigned for a seat on the Highland Park ISD Board of Trustees, told The Dallas Express. SEL is commonly referred to as Social-Emotional Learning.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the priority of Highland Park ISD is allegedly to increasingly grow the administration and not to educate the children.
Enrollment declined by 3.1%, the number of teachers declined by 4.9%, while the employment of non-teachers increased by 18%, according to an analysis by businessman Spencer Siino, who formerly analyzed distressed companies.
The Dallas Express analyzed data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to assess Texas schools. Student achievement scores are given by the TEA as a part of the Accountability Rating System (ARS). The ARS looks at three factors in attributing a score to a school: student achievement, school progress, and closing the gaps.
The Dallas Express looked specifically at the 2019 student achievement data to evaluate DFW area schools prior to the pandemic, as ratings were suspended for 2020 and 2021.
The data indicated that Highland Park ISD underperformed compared to both Carroll ISD in Tarrant County and Lovejoy ISD in Collin County.
“Highland Park ISD has a history filled with students who went on to do great things because they were given a solid academic foundation of reading, writing, math, and history,” said Meg Bakich. “They were given an education of opportunity but beginning with Dr. Cathy Bryce, a founding member of [Texas Association of School Administrators] TASA’s vision, Dr. Orr, Dr. Trigg, and complicit school board trustees, that education of opportunity is diminishing.”
Dr. Tom Trigg, the superintendent of Highland Park ISD, began overseeing the district in 2016. Between 2016 and 2019, schools in Highland Park ISD saw the third-largest decline in average student achievement scores out of 57 independent school districts in the DFW area.
“Since Tom Trigg has gotten here, we’ve increased spending on everything except for teacher salaries and development,” Siino previously said to The Dallas Express. “Investment in teachers has gone down. Everything else has gone way up.”
Dr. Trigg did not respond to requests for comment. But previously, Highland Park ISD Chief of Staff Jon Dahlander told The Dallas Express, “Because there has been some misleading information sent to some members of the community about recent rankings, etc., HPISD has created a page on its website to provide important context.”
The website page opens with the statement, “Data proves strong, historical performance by students.” Yet, it goes on to neither provide nor reference any specific data. The site boasts ACT and SAT scores that “exceed state and national averages” (yet are not enumerated) and lists various awards and accomplishments.
Looking at HPISD’s historical student achievement scores reveals a decline in the last three years of available data. In 2015 and 2016, HPISD had an impressive score of 97.1, which dropped in 2017 down to 96.6 and even lower in 2018 to 94.6. Not much improvement was seen in 2019 with a slight increase to 94.7.
Meanwhile, Collin, Denton, and Tarrant County public schools outperformed Dallas County public schools, including those in the Highland Park Independent School District (ISD).
With all the schools in the database accounted for, schools located in Dallas County earned an average student achievement score of 76.7, a ‘C’ letter grade, compared to ‘B’ letter grades attributed to Denton County and Collin County schools, who earned scores of 82.7 and 89.0, respectively, or the slightly higher ‘C’ grade, 77.6 average for Tarrant County.