No pobrecitos in Brownsville

This year’s Broad Prize for Urban Education, which includes $1 million in scholarships, goes to Brownsville, Texas schools, which educate some of the poorest children in the U.S. without succumbing to the pobrecito mentality. (Oh, those poor, unfortunates.) From U.S. News:

(Superintendent Hector) Gonzales sat in his modest office and explained his district’s credo: “Success is not an accident.” “We believe that every child can learn,” he says. “It’s not that every child can learn except Juanito.”

Nearly all students come from low-income Hispanic families, yet elementary school scores are as good or better than the Texas average; middle and high school scores are equal or slightly lower.

Every year, new students arrive from Mexico, some with nothing but the clothes on their back. Most can’t read or write fluently in either English or Spanish. Yet, 80 percent of Brownsville’s students become proficient in English by the end of third grade. In fourth grade, most of them are taught primarily in English. At the district’s five regular high schools, participation and scores on the SAT and Advanced Placement tests have risen steadily.

Teachers use data to determine who needs extra help; the longer school day makes it possible to provide tutoring, as well as music and chess programs. Brownsville also offers classes to parents.

Update: Eduwonkette’s Skoolboy writes about Brownsville’s poverty. Half the adults have less than a high school education. His wife grew up there and taught in Brownsville schools.

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  1. Margo/Mom says:

    I love the Superintendent’s credo “success is not an accident.” It is so much more appropriate than the “failure is not an option,” that has been embraced by so many more than are willing to understand the meaning. I remember the “failure is not an option” banner flying in the lobby of my son’s middle school–where failure abounded. I always wanted to ask–if it’s not an option here–is it a guarantee?

  2. But, but, that’s impossible!

    I wonder what kind of reading, language, and math instruction they use there….

  3. not an option, but standard equipment

  4. Too bad the article forgets to mention, as does Joanne, that Brownsville ISD has failed its AYP requirements under federal law, for the 2nd year in a row.

    So which is it? Brownsville ISD is a failing school? Or is it worthy of a pseudo-prize from an “education” group?

    From the NYTIMEs article by Sam Dillon:

    The Brownsville Independent School District in Texas won what may be the nation’s most important prize for excellence in urban education on Tuesday, the same day that Texas authorities announced that the district had failed to meet achievement targets for two years under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

  5. Since you don’t like NCLB maybe TAKS would suit you better:

    Looks like Brownsville is comfortably above state averages in most categories and at, or on the way to being above, state averages in the remaining categories.

  6. Allen, if Brownsville ISD is so great as to get a Broad Foundation award, then why in the heck is it on the govt’s failing list?

    Could it be the whole NCLB/AYP program is crap?

  7. Oh, don’t be coy.

    What’s crap is the notion that there ought to be any consequences beyond feeling a bit guilty for not doing your job.

    But you know, there’s just a lot of crap around.

    There’s the idea that pay ought to be related to performance. Crap right? Pay ought to be a function of specious degrees, time-in-job and your own estimation of your worth.

    And look who’s in charge! Politicians! More crap.

    Oh sure, they’re the elected representatives of the people who pay for the system but they shouldn’t try to act as if they’re in charge. That should be left up to the employees whose sense of responsibility, competence and fairness mustn’t be doubted.

    There’s just a river of crap out there. A veritable scatological Amazon within which far too much of the public education system resides comfortably.

  8. GoogleMaster says:

    What’s crap is the Broad Prize. Houston ISD received the inaugural Broad Prize in 2002 back when Rod Paige was superintendent, and afterward, the actual situation on the ground was found to be less than rosy. Dropout figures were found to be totally made up, test scores were manipulated, whistleblowers were fired and subsquently sued the district, etc.
    Google: Houston ISD dropout broad prize
    Or this one:
    When the state of Texas bestowed “exemplary” status on Austin High School in August 2002, ecstatic administrators compared the honor to winning the Super Bowl. There was more cheering and pompom-waving a few weeks later when a private foundation honored Houston for having the nation’s best urban school district.
    JUST a year later, the high school has been downgraded to “low-performing,” the lowest possible rating. And the Houston Independent School District — showcase for the “Texas educational miracle” that President Bush has touted as a model for the rest of the nation — is fending off accusations that it inflated its achievements through fuzzy math.

  9. Also, check out NYC Educator’s posts about New York winning the Broad Prize. Joanne has a link to his site.

  10. Just as long as we’re in agreement that public school districts, public schools and public school teachers are all doing an exemplary job, that public school districts are permanently under-funded, teachers permanently under-paid and that doubting any of the aforementioned truths is evidence of either moral or mental defect.

    Can I get an “Amen”?

  11. What’s the matter,Allen? Can’t come up with any facts to support your claims?