Compensatory Education in Texas, Who Pays?: Closing Argument Part Three

In Part Three of his closing argument in behalf of Edgewood Intervenors in the 2004 Texas school funding trial, attorney David Hinojosa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) argues that when it comes to the needs of economically disadvantaged students, Texas continues to discount students who deserve premium attention.

The general purpose and theory of comp ed in our nation and state is to compensate for low investments in low income children, low community investment, family advantages, low health investment, access to a history of success.

The evidence shows that parents of economically disadvantaged students often have low educational levels, poor housing, and they must overcome these obstacles created by poverty, including the lack of resources in their local public schools. And when the intensity of poverty increases, as the evidence shows, within a school or a school district, research has shown that the negative effects upon the economically disadvantaged are magnified.

Within the Edgewood intervenor districts, the intensity of poverty ranged from 70 percent economically disadvantaged to 96 percent economically disadvantaged. And while the West Orange-Cove plaintiff superintendent testified about the new struggle in dealing with an increasing number of economically disadvantaged children, our districts have been struggling at higher levels for a much longer period of time.

But as each witness testified, save for one, Dr. Armor, these children can succeed with appropriate resources. Even with the limited resources under TAAS our clients managed to pull up from below one year to reach recognized and exemplary status. Of course, it took about seven to eight years to get to that level because the resources were still insufficient at the time.

Now, as a whole, under TAAS the economically disadvantaged, the African-American and the Hispanic in the state were all the success that the State wanted to talk about those groups reaching. They never reached the 80 percent, all tests taken, standard under TAAS as a group, even after nine years of testing. They remained about 14 percentage points behind whites, which is further evidence that the comp ed weight is underestimated.

And as the testimony has shown, TAKS as a whole is a new ball game with low cut scores on each subject matter except in the initial year, and economically disadvantaged students still pass the TAKS test at least 10 percentage points behind the first test takers of the TAAS. And as Dr. Cloudt, for the State, agreed, the gap is back, even though it never went away. Looking at the comp ed test scores on TAKS, which we showed earlier, I’ll briefly go through this.

Well, before we look at the TAKS scores I want to show you where some of these economically disadvantaged children are coming from. And those photos are from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo that were offered. And in that region here’s a student community. They’re also known as colonias. Here’s another student home. This is the environment that our children leave and go to school. This is the environment providing them the in-house training that they need, or not providing that training.

And going to the fifth grade TAKS scores for the economically disadvantaged in 2003, you can still see the gap between fifth grade economically disadvantaged and all students, which actually also includes the economically disadvantaged, so it actually brings it down a little. The eighth graders trail as well. The eleventh graders trail as well.

Looking at the 2004, it’s no different. Only one-half of the fifth graders, one-half of the eighth graders and just over one-half of the eleventh graders of the economically disadvantaged total are passing the TAKS all-test standard.

And the eleventh graders need to pass it in order to graduate. 42 percent of the economically disadvantaged will either have to take it again and again and again, or else not get that high school diploma. And even with State aid, each superintendent for West Orange-Cove, the Alvarado, and the Edgewood intervenors all identified numerous critical-area needs which are special and immediate concerns, given the rising Texas standards imposed by our state and nation.

Harder tests have led to higher failure rates and the need for more intensive services for our at-risk and economically disadvantaged students. And the great need for additional necessary resources was identified through a sample of districts by Dr. Reyes.

Comparing the TAKS test scores for 2002-2003 — or comparing the on-time completion and potential for higher education graduation rates, the seven districts was a comparison of seven wealthy districts who averaged zero to 20 percent of economically disadvantaged, excluding Austin, and comparing it to a group of Edgewood intervenor districts which had economically disadvantaged students, 79 to 96 percent, economically disadvantaged. And the percentage difference shown is the percentage that it would take the economically disadvantaged in order to get up to the average of the non-economically disadvantaged districts.

The next slide shows potential for higher ed, SAT/ACT at or above criterion. The wealthiest districts had 54.4 percent of their kids pass. The poor districts had only 4 percent.

The next slide shows the achievement differences between the two sample districts, showing marked differences between the average of all students in one set of districts versus another set of districts.

The next slide shows that, even when you combine sample one and sample two — let’s lump them together. We’re not going to take them apart. When you look at the percentage difference of SED versus non-SED in the districts, you see the marked difference.

In the third grade see that it’s only 8.6 and 8.8 percent, and it grows all the way up to 72.8 percent by the tenth grade. And this next one shows when you look at within the district, the property poor districts, when you look at them and then you look at the percentage differences of at-risk versus non-at-risk students, you see that once again there is an incredible gap between the performance of the at-risk students.

The State would probably write them off and say “Well, they’re not supposed to pass. They’re at risk. That’s why they are at risk. The ones at-risk are moving out.” Well, the whole purpose of compensatory education is to eliminate the achievement differences, not to reduce it, not to put it aside.

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