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Keeping an eye on Katy ISD

This could be interesting.

Some of the details of George Scott’s “shadow school board” are still that – shadowy.

But as the conservative blogger has assembled a group to meet regularly to reach its own conclusions about the business of the fast-growing Katy ISD board, his mission is clear: to use public data to take aim at the district’s use of high-stakes testing.

He hopes the approach has far-reaching effects beyond the Katy ISD boundaries and will serve as a model for other districts.

“I’ve known George since I first became the president of the local, well over 30 years” said Gayle Fallon, the recently retired president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. “He and I have not always agreed, but I think he’s got a good idea here and one that if it takes off, could have a national impact.”

Scott and Fallon don’t necessarily see eye to eye on many things. But their interests align when it comes to the burden that they say standardized tests have placed on classroom teachers and students.

“With this new emphasis on data,” said Fallon, “teachers spend hours they used to spend with kids just doing data for school districts.”

[…]

If he can raise $13,000 through his Kickstarter campaign, Scott said the board will meet on Saturdays starting next year for all-day sessions reviewing data from ongoing public information requests. The money would go toward information requests, facility rentals and meals during the meetings but participants wouldn’t be otherwise compensated, according to Scott. If he raises more than expected, then the shadow board would prepare a budget. All the financials would be publicly available. In April, the board would produce a position paper with recommendations on how to push back on testing’s impact in the classroom as well as on other issues.

“There is an immense amount of data and the typical school board member hasn’t a clue,” said Scott. “They don’t have anybody getting a real actual understanding of the correlation between all of this testing they have and what it means in the organization and delivery at the campus level and the concept of holding people accountable.”

As noted, Scott is a blogger and former member of the Board of Managers of the Harris County Hospital District, among many other things. He’s also been a voice for fairness and transparency in how properties, especially commercial properties, are appraised – I’ve cited his work here more than once. Like Gayle Fallon, I don’t see eye to eye with him on many things, but I respect him and his work, and I think this is a worthwhile project, whatever they ultimately do or don’t find. I wish you and your team good luck, George, and feel free to send me a press release any time you unearth something interesting.

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One Comment

  1. George Scott says:

    Hi,

    This comes as a very welcomed honor from you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this Kickstarter project has captured the ‘lightning in the bottle’ from rank and file parents I had hoped. There is still time but it is not looking all that positive in terms of funding.

    In one sense, there’s a lot of irony here. I have received no flack from major media (The Chronicle, The Houston Press, Channel 26 upcoming and the local Covering Katy website – huge numbers) about the $13,000 budget for data. Yet, I have been pushed by some parents as to why I need $13,000 as if I am trying to make a profit on this.

    As I think you know from my service on the Hospital District Board years ago, my recent public health series, and the focus on corporate breaks in the tax arena, I am not a social or ideological conservative. (Yes, I took a slam at McNair, but that was a reasonable thing to do I believe.) However, I am conservative and that has created problems in fundraising. Conservative and liberal groups that I initially tried to raise money from have to come to understand neither side controls me.

    I had hoped that I could raise the bare minimum of dollars needs for actual data that Shadow Board would get from Katy ISD, Dallas ISD, Houston ISD, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating board from parents. However, because many of the activists in the parent ranks have totally turned against testing, my support of focused, rational testing hurts fundraising there.

    I am dedicated, however, to this project as a legacy project. If Kickstarter fails I will try a different path.

    My goal is to gather data; put honest and independent experts in statistics and policy; and present this for debate to a Shadow Board comprised of actual diversity.

    One of my would-be Shadow Board members is a liberal, civil rights attorney who believes Obama is the greatest president in the history of our country. One is a true social conservative who might still be looking for a birth certificate. Including them and in between are really smart, good people who have experience in public education.

    This is a really good idea; my background makes me a good director for this project. If it doesn’t happen with Kickstarter, I’ll keep working at it.

    In the meantime, thank you so very much for your kind words. It means that people I respect have respect for the idea. Thank you.

    George