Search This Blog


Bus drivers concern them, but does educational quality?

The incident involving a school bus driver who had black children sit at the back of the bus is not likely to go away given the agitation dozens seemed to have over the Red River Parish School Board’s decision to accept her resignation and to leave it at that. Without the bus driver to kick around, many now blame the School Board and top system employees for allowing the driver to “escape” punishment and have called for their replacement.

To gain perspective on this situation, it’s useful to review the demographic and academic statistics of the parish, which have shown the same basic trend over the past several years. Using the latest statistics available:

  • On the LEAP tests, only fourth graders begin to approach the level where at least half the students are classified as “basic and above,” meaning at least the other half comprise the two lowest categories. It gets worse for eighth graders and worst of all for those in high school (Graduate Exit Exam). The Iowa Basic Test shows all tested grade levels well below the national averages. Dropout rates double those of the state average. The average ACT score at 17.2 was so low that the typical graduate could not get into any selective-admission college in the state.
  • All three district schools (two others are excluded because one is alternative, the other correctional) are rated in the second-lowest category on the accountability scale (although two are showing demonstrable improvement, even as that is not difficult when they are so far down to begin with, one was a “school in decline”). This means they can be punished by the state if they don’t improve soon.
  • The parish’s school-age population is roughly even in terms of black and white children, but black students outnumber whites two-to-one. This is because 16 percent of the school-age population attends private schools, all but two of these students being white. Given performance indicators above, it’s no surprise families of one-sixth of the children would opt out of the district’s public schools.
  • Meanwhile, in the parish the percentage of persons living in poverty, about 30 percent, is more than twice that of the national average, while the proportion of children living in poverty at about 40 percent is 2.5 times that of the national average, perhaps due to the fact that 14 percent of households are headed by single females (over twice the national average) and the teenage birth rate at about 20 percent is also more than twice the national average.
  • Simultaneously, the average revenue per student is well over the state average, over 25 percent, while the expenditure per pupil is 18 percent higher. Given that the state runs a slight deficit in its averages that means that Red River Parish’s revenues outstrip its expenditures on a per student basis by 17 percent.

    Dozens of parents marched to the school board meeting over an alleged, unproven instance of racial discrimination. But where were they every year when statistics like this were coming out with certainty about the performance of their schools? Why no marches designed to pressure the School Board and system to improve its district’s shoddy educational performance? Was this the first time many of these parents even bothered to attend a School Board meeting? How many of them even voted in the last School Board contests? And is this the first time some of them even bothered to involve themselves in any meaningful way in supporting their children’s education?

    The bus driver problem has been solved, but many don’t want to leave it at that. The academic performance problem has not been solved, but many never seemed to have cared about that. Misplaced priorities such as these probably explain why these parents continue to tolerate the substandard education of their children.
  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Perfectly worded from a RRP native!