Most Misleading Headline of The Day

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The following post is based on:

Grand Prairie High School principal singles out black students to improve their TAKS scores
By STELLA M. CHÁVEZ / The Dallas Morning News
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/DN-GPPrincipal_25met.ART.State.Edition2.4a78dbc.html

This is one sorry example of a headline. A headline should tell the story, and this one tells it in a rather negative light. Here are the facts:

1. Mr. Showell called in an identified group of struggling students and explained to them why they were struggling, what they should do and then challenged them to do it.

2. The meeting, along with all the other things his staff and students have done in the past year, worked!

3. More students are passing the test and the accountability ranking of the school has improved!

So my first comment is to ask why the headline wasn’t, “GPHS Principal Goes the Extra Mile to Ensure Student Success.”

The article throws out a number of potentially inflammatory comments that seem to question the judgement of Mr. Showell. Questions that are completely unwarranted. For example, “To some, a principal talking to students about racial subgroups in the TAKS system seemed unorthodox.”

It may be unorthodox, but I would expect nothing less from a Brown guy. Brown guys are famous for solving the problems that other principals either can’t solve or don’t even know exist. Now before you freak out, let me explain what a “Brown Guy or Gal” is. It has nothing to do with race. A Brown Guy or Gal is a school leader that has been mentored and/or coached by E. Don Brown and aspires to the levels or compassion, expertise, innovation and student focus that E. Don Brown has exemplified throughout his career. Mr. Showell is a Brown Guy. He knew the scope of the challenge when he accepted his job and he is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure his students are successful.

Another example is, “Gerald Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said he’d never heard of a principal actually sitting down with an ethnic subgroup of students to explain how their performance plays into a school’s ranking.”

As for the comment from Mr. Tirozzi, he needs to get out of the office and get in the trenches more. Good principals pull specific groups of students and talk to them about specific issues all the time. During my tenure as a principal, I can recall meeting with the following groups: Boys; Girls; Grade Levels; Individual Classes; Individual Lunch Groups; Individual Bus Routes; ISS Students; GT Students; African American Students; Hispanic Students; Teams; and Gang Members, just to name a few. If there was an issue (academic, behavioral, social) that needed to be addressed, it was addressed.

And finally, “The idea was one of numerous initiatives listed in the campus improvement plan. So the TEA knew about the principal’s meetings with individual subgroups.”

As for the above TEA comment, yes TEA knew. Meeting with students who are in danger of failing is a recognized best practice. If the school’s plan didn’t address meeting with students, it would have indicated that the school wasn’t serious about addressing its performance issue. How do I know this? I created TEA’s parameters for rapid school improvement.

I admit, I know nothing about the author of this article. It seems that she was trying to present both sides of the story. But in this case, she missed the boat. There aren’t two sides here, Mr. Showell acted proactively in the best interest of his students and his school, end of story. As for Mr. Showell, great job! The hard work and personal attention that you and your staff are providing to your students will change their lives for the better.

Note #1: There are Brown Guys and Gals all across the country. You can recognize them because they are challenging conventional wisdom, out-performing their peers and generally raising the performance bar for everyone. A few examples in Texas include: Mike Laird in Splendora ISD, Mike Seabolt in Atlanta ISD, John Montelongo in San Antonio ISD and of course, Joseph Showell in Grand Prairie ISD.

Note #2: I’m a Brown Guy.

Think. Work. Achieve.

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