TheKyleReportThe Kyle Report is an opinion column written by Kyle resident, Pete Oppel, that covers city leadership issues. You can follow The Kyle Report here on the Kyle Life or by subscribing to Mr. Oppel’s blog, The Kyle TX Report.

The Texas Education Agency confirmed today what U.S. News and World Report has been reporting for years and what most objective observers already knew — at least intuitively — and that’s the public schools around these parts aren’t very good. They aren’t adequately preparing students for a life after public school.

This is the first year the TEA will be grading schools just like students in those schools are graded — on an A to F basis. This year, however, the agency issued every school in the state a separate grade in four different categories. From here on out, each school and each district will simply receive one overall grade.

The four grades for the Hays Consolidated Independent School District averaged out to a D+— certainly nothing to brag about. But the in the category that really matters — the one that grades districts on how well they are preparing students for college and post-secondary school careers — Hays got a flat D. That’s not good.

One the bright side — if one needs a bright side to this — four of the 15 Austin-area school districts (Elgin, Bastrop, Georgetown and San Marcos) received lower overall grades than Hays. The highest ranked was Eanes, ISD; Lake Travis ISD was second followed by Austin and Round Rock, tied for third and fourth. Dripping Springs and Hutto tied for fifth and sixth place. The other districts in the area scoring higher than Hays were Del Valle, Leander and Pflugerville.

In fact, in that important category of career preparedness, Hays finished in the bottom third of the entire state of Texas. That, too, is not good.

Now, I, for one, would expect the school district’s response to this report card be something along the lines of “this is totally unacceptable and we plan to take immediate steps to improve our educational product.” Instead Superintendent Michael McKie released a statement that said: “Sadly, the new rating systems is deficient in capturing all of the positive things happening in our classrooms and in schools across the state. In fact, this new rating system is damaging because it creates a false impression about students, ignores the unique strengths of each school, and unfairly reduces each student’s worth to the school’s assigned grade.”

Wait a minute! A student’s individual report card does exactly the same thing! “Sorry, mom! Sorry, dad, that I got all Ds and Fs on my report card, but it really isn’t my fault. This report card is going to give you a false impression of my worth to the school.” Sure. Fine, Whatever.

Additionally McKie tries to fault the system by saying “the standards for these letter grades were set by comparing scores for campuses and districts across the state; which is a departure from the current system that compares schools with similar demographics.”

I hate to break this news to you, Superintendent McKie, but college admissions are also going to be based largely on comparing scores of students “across the state” and also “across the nation.” Your students are going to be competing for jobs not only with those “across the state,” but job seekers all over the world. Comparing scores is how the system works. The kid with the highest score gets admitted to the prestige school. The job applicant with the highest score gets the position. And the scores come from standardized tests taken by everyone. The SAT is a standardized test and, fairly or not, a student’s score on that one standardized test will most likely affect the rest of his or her life. That was true when I took the SAT almost 60 years ago and it’s still true today.

So McKie’s response appears on its face to be an outright admission that he and his staff will not be working to improve the delivery of a high quality education to the students in Hays school, but, instead, an attack on the system. If you don’t like the message, kill the messenger. That’s why he also said, “This month, we will propose to our Board of Trustees a resolution, developed by TASA, that would place our district on a growing list of more than 150 other Texas school districts that are united in calling for the repeal of this new and inadequate rating system.”

I also hate to break this news to you, Superintendent McKie, but TEA isn’t the only educational “rating system” that says schools in the Hays CISD are lousy. Check out whatU.S. News & World Report — whose school ranking system, not only for Texas schools, but schools across the nation, is considered the gold standard — has to say about Hays’ high schools. U.S. News ranks schools according to a College Readiness Index, the percentage of graduating students with a proficiency in mathematics and the percentage of students with a proficiency in English. The scores for Hays CISD in those three categories were 28.3, 24 percent and 31 percent. Hays High School’s grades were 35.2, 29 percent and 46 percent. The scores for Lehman High School were really abysmal: 21.4, 18 percent and 31 percent. Compare those numbers to those of, say, the TAG Magnet High School in Dallas: 100, 67 percent, 100 percent. Or take the Ann Richards High School in Austin: 79.8, 86 percent, 95 percent.

You see, Superintendent McKie, higher scores are possible and it’s simply wrong-headed and irresponsible for you to blame the TRA’s system when there is supporting evidence for the system’s results.

Now you might be asking yourself what does all this have to do with city government, since this journal is supposed to be dedicated to city government. City government is actively trying to promote business development in the area— trying to lure businesses to Kyle to help offset the property tax burden currently borne largely by homeowners. But businesses are not coming to an area with schools ranked among the lowest third in the entire state of Texas. That means an increasingly high percentage of the costs of local government is going to be the responsibility of homeowners.

But a report like this could also have a significantly negative impact on property values in the area. In fact, I have already had conversations with a few city officials who are anticipating such a negative impact. That means, in order to achieve a consistent level of government services, it might be absolutely necessary to raise the tax rate.

And there’s also the case where the school district is going to be asking the voters to approve a bond sale to finance capital expenditures. I also hate to break this news to you, Superintendent McKie, but capital expenditures have absolutely no effect on the quality of the education delivered. And this report card from the TEA supported by the findings of U.S. News & World Report should be a wake-up call that you should be directing all your efforts into improving the educational product, not building things, especially when you’ve almost guaranteed that the property values that will be used to fund these bonds will be decreasing.

What these reports reveal quite clearly is that it’s time for the citizens of Kyle to wake up and quit blindly supporting the Hays schools, the Hays school district, the Hays school administrators and, most of all, the Hays School Board and, instead, start supporting the future of your student-children.

Here are the TEA’s preparing students for college and career grades for the schools in the Hays CISD:

  • Armando Chapa Middle School D
  • Blanco Vista Elementary C
  • Buda Elementary C
  • Camino Real Elementary D
  • Carpenter Hill Elementary B
  • D.J. Red Simon Middle School F
  • Elm Grove Elementary B
  • Eric Dahlstrom Middle School B
  • Hemphill Elementary D
  • Jack C. Hays High School C
  • Kyle Elementary C
  • Laura B. Negley Elementary B
  • Laura B. Wallace Middle School C
  • Lehman High School F
  • Live Oak Academy B
  • R.C. Barton Middle School B
  • Ralph Pfluger Elementary D
  • Science Hall Elementary C
  • Susie Fuentes Elementary C
  • Tobias Elementary C
  • Tom Green Elementary D