Local News

Leading Off (9/29/21)

A lackluster report on DISD teacher pay, some good COVID news, and a suspected serial killer caught in Fort Worth

Is DISD’s Teacher Evaluation Scheme Flawed? Frankly, this DMN “investigation” by the daily’s privately funded “Education Lab” didn’t really settle the issue for me. First off, you have to read very deep into the story before you get any hard data or new information. Secondly, their analysis is of data that dates back to the 2018-2019 school year. More recent data aren’t available because of COVID. The DMN tries to make this sound like the district is being difficult, at best, or, worse, shady. (“The News asked for more recent data, district officials declined to provide it. . .”) The reason DISD didn’t provide the data is because COVID made it virtually impossible to gather any good testing info on kids, as anyone with children who have lived through schooling during the pandemic knows all too well. In the end, the DMN points out that a couple of years ago it looked like teachers who were already at high performing schools or magnet schools were evaluated more favorably according to the district’s “performance pay” metrics than at struggling neighborhood schools. But what does that really tell us? Not a whole lot. DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa admits that there is an equity issue in DISD — not enough great teachers at under performing schools. But he says the district used its “performance pay” model to identify good teachers at high performing schools and offer them incentives to transfer to lower performing schools — which sounds like the evaluation scheme working as designed. Then there is the issue that the performance evaluation model may underrate teachers at struggling schools because students’ test scores may not accurately reflect their quality, which is why the school board was considering tweaking the model right before the pandemic struck. Plus, what are you going to do, punish good schools by stripping them of their good teachers? In the end, I came away from this “investigation” with the impression that while there are always problems with relying too much on standardized testing, DISD understands the issues at stake and is doing its best to tackle the impossible problem that is public schooling in urban America. It’s a lot of words for not a lot of story.

Some Good News on COVID. Hospitalizations are declining in North Texas. Parents are suing school districts for not implementing mask mandates. About 70 percent of American Airlines pilots are vaccinated, though the pilots’ union has concerns over the new federal vaccine mandate.

Alleged Murderer Behind Grisly Killing Spree Arrested in Fort Worth. The suspected serial killer burned three dismembered bodies in a dumpster in Fort Worth last week, and he is also being investigated for the murders of two additional victims, including a former girlfriend, in Arizona. The police used surveillance video of the man dumping the bodies to trace a SUV back to Jason Alan Thornburg, who had been previously investigated for the suspicious death of a roommate who died in a gas explosion in their apartment back in May. According to police, Thornburg had a “deep knowledge of the Bible” and believed he was “called to perform sacrifices.”

 

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