Students at Emeline Carpenter and Fredonia Elementary Schools and the communities that rely on them are the true victims of the growing crisis that NISD is struggling to respond to. Understanding the context of this crisis requires stepping back to the early part of this century before George W. Bush ran for president. Back then changes in population demographics were sending the educational testing industry into a death spiral. Their solution was to heavily invest in the candidacy of George W. Bush for president. He paid them back handsomely with his “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) program, which is better understood to be “No Educational Testing Company Left Behind.” NCLB proved to be a boon for this profit-seeking private industry and has plagued education ever since. 

A study published in September 2017 by the Economic Policy Institute, “Education Inequalities at the School Starting Gate,” make it clear that testing can, at best, only reveal the problem. “Extensive research has conclusively demonstrated that children’s social class is one of the most significant predictors—if not the single most significant predictor—of their educational success. Moreover, it is increasingly apparent that performance gaps by social class take root in the earliest years of children’s lives and fail to narrow in the years that follow. That is, children who start behind stay behind—they are rarely able to make up the lost ground.” 

At a recent meeting of the Democratic Women of Nacogdoches, I was shocked to see that they were taking up a collection to acquire pencils, tape, and staplers for Carpenter Elementary school. A school district that can’t afford to provide these basic supplies shouldn’t wonder if students are failing to achieve adequate STAAR scores. The whole thrust of the state of Texas’s approach overlooks the socio-economic status of struggling school districts, preferring to blame teachers, principals, and students for poor results. Rather than addressing the fundamentals causing the problem, ISD’s are threatened with having to surrender their schools to management by Charter organizations. This is the height of injustice. Unnecessary privatization by the testing industry is part of the problem and to compound it by offering privatized solutions is totally unacceptable.

We need to work on solutions that build up our communities with sensible and effective economic development approaches. The State of Texas and Nacogdoches can do much better than terrorize communities that have been neglected through no fault of their own. We must challenge our State and local leadership to rise to the occasion and not punish the victims of reckless privatization with more of the same.