The City of McKinney uses the slogan “Unique by Nature” and McKinney Independent School District (MISD) leads Texas with the highest tax rate and the only district in Texas, to utilize use student Socio-Economic status to integrate and balance attendance zones. While most school district across the United States have stopped forced busing, in favor of options, such as magnet or charter schools, MISD leadership overrides parental choice and dictates which students, typically minority students from poorer neighborhoods, will be forced to ride a bus, rather than walk to their closest neighborhood school.
Ironically, MISD outraged parents in 2004, by closing the districts only exemplary, magnet style school, Act Academy, citing “budget cuts”.
Predictably, the cost of transporting students is high, and increasing rapidly. Since 2000, MISD transportation cost per student has nearly doubled, from $176 in 2000 to $338 in 2013. In 2013, MISD spent over $2 million more for transportation, than the average comparable school.
Over the years, the district adheres to the belief that the policy improves the academic performance of Economically Disadvantaged (ECD) youth.An analysis of the standardized testing data provide by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) proves otherwise. It shows the policy may actually be hurting the academic performance of the minority students, rather than helping.
This graph shows the passing rates of McKinney ECD students compared to comparable non-busing districts, indicates a severe drop-off beginning in 2006, the same year that Boyd High School was opened.
- The following graph shows that White MISD students have experienced a drop in academic performance, they have never scored worse than comparable non-busing districts.
- The test passing rates for McKinney Hispanic students has fallen below the Hispanic student average of comparable districts.
- It is clear that the busing policy has done nothing to improve the test scores of African American students.
Over the years, MISD leadership routinely disregards parental complaints about the policy. In 2008, the Dallas Morning News stated:
“McKinney school officials should stop talking and start listening. Trustees and Superintendent Tom Crowe need to quit defending the district’s divisive busing plan and listen to the chorus of parents who despise it. The administration recently blew a perfect opportunity to ditch busing, a concept as outdated as disco. The district plans to open a new middle school next fall, its fifth. Instead of returning to neighborhood schools, trustees adopted a new gerrymandered busing map to accommodate the campus. They chose to perpetuate a problem instead of carrying out the will of people who elected them.”
MISD Trustees and Administration adhere to the belief that that busing, leads to academic success for ECD students:
- They quote the work of Richard Kahlenerg “The data clearly shows that the economically disadvantaged students benefit from attending middle-class schools and that in middle-class schools peers are more motivated, parents more powerful and teachers more qualified.”
- Tom Crowe, the 2008 superintendent credited the busing program proclaiming “there has been great success in the academic progress made by all of our students”.
- McKinney ISD Redistribution of Students” boasted about McKinney ECD student test scores versus comparable Non-Busing districts in Texas.
Some officials admitted there were looming problems with Student Redistribution:
- McKinney ISD “Student Redistribution” began in 1995, by the then superintendent Jack Cockrill. At the 2008 opening of the middle school named after him, Cockrill, expressed concern about the program stating “I wouldn’t even want to try to think about what the right decision would be at this time, there is not any doubt that as the community continues to grow that that concept will be more difficult to implement.”
- While announcing her intention to leave MISD board in 2006, outgoing President Geralyn Kever, asserted her support for the “district’s practice of busing students across the district to achieve a socio-economic balance” noting the “philosophy will be harder to carry on as the district grows, but she still supports it” and she hoped “the district continues to focus on academics as the population swells and new schools are needed.”
Trustees have typically dismissed parents, over their complaints and concerns. In 2005 Kever stated that dealing with transfer requests were too time-consuming noting “If we’re not firm in the boundaries and transfers are something that are easily solicited on the part of the citizenry, you end up spending significant manpower on those types of issues.” Trustee Wade Johnson told parents they should just “deal with” the inconvenience.
Student Redistribution is alive and well in McKinney in 2015:
- The 2014-2015 District Improvement Plan states: “Despite the challenges associated with having a diverse population, the McKinney ISD Administration and the Board of Trustees continue to be pioneers in the state of Texas in the area of zoning for economic diversity within our secondary schools. Our commitment to equity and access are the driving indicators for zoning decisions at the secondary level within McKinney ISD.”
- Current MISD Elementary Zones show children in one neighborhood being driven past the nearby Webb Elementary, to Press Elementary. McKinney middle schools (Faubion, Reuben Johnson and Dowell) all have two distinct islands of attendance zones.
There are hints, that MISD is aware of the academic shortcomings of their targeted demographic students. In his 2011 dissertation, Daniel Ledbetter, now a vice principal at Evans Middle School concluded that the “academic indicators appear inconclusive” and blamed “lack of academic outcomes” on low enrollment in advanced courses. This chart shows that MISD does have higher African American students enrolled in the advanced courses. Unfortunately, MISD still has lower passing rates.
If the district is aware of the policies shortcomings, they are keeping it quiet. In 2013, they boasted MISD “outperformed state averages”.
It is time for McKinney ISD administration and trustees to stop the policy and the attitude, that was described as “We’re the education experts, and we know what’s best for your kids.” Although the policy probably did help minority students in the early days, recent history shows no clear evidence that MISD’s pioneering Student Redistribution policy is improving the academic accomplishments of McKinney minority students.
The evidence is clear. It is time to look for new methods of helping the students who are the most needy.