Mayors’ Report Card on Education: Helping Mayors Better Engage in Their City’s Education Landscape

Last month, Collaborative Communications was delighted to partner with the George W. Bush Institute’s Education Reform Initiative to produce the Mayors’ Report Card on Education, a first-time initiative to present comparable data at the district and city level to help mayors better engage in their city’s education landscape.

The report cards and summary report were unveiled at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting, and are now available to the public here. Read more about from the Dallas Observer, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Politico, and in the Dallas Morning News below.

In D.C., Mike Rawlings presents fellow mayors with Bush Institute’s Report Card on Education

By Robert Wilonsky, Dallas Morning News

On Wednesday, during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meetings in Washington, D.C., Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings unveiled the Mayors’ Report Card on Education, which compares and contrasts the state of the schools in 33 cities. And while it’s far from comprehensive, using in some instances data that’s more than three years old, Rawlings and Spellings say it gives mayors at least a glimpse at the good, the bad and the going-nowhere of their cities’ respective school districts.

“This is just beginning,” says Spellings, now the president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU. She and Rawlings promised during the mayors’ conference in Dallas last June to present the report card this year. “We do have issues with availability of data, but that notwithstanding we tried to help mayors get a handle on what’s going in their cities. While they often don’t have direct authority over education in their cities, they deal with the effects of it — the crime rate, poverty and social safety nets, businesses’ decisions to move to their cities. Graduation rates, ACT scores, early childhood education — these are things that are of interest to mayors.”

In Dallas, says Rawlings, a few things immediately leaped out at him, among them: Dallas Independent School District students’ modest to non-existent gains on National Assessment of Educational Progress math and reading tests, and African-American students’ low test scores.

“We’re not keeping pace with the NAEP scores,” Rawlings says. “If you look at the the trendline in the nation, you see it improving in the last four years, and Dallas has been somewhat flat to slightly up. We’re not doing something someone else is doing. The second thing, I immediately go to minority test score, because we’re a minority district … and when I do that, there are a lot of low scores. But then I see Sacramento, which has nearly double the college-readiness scores for African-American students. I will be with their mayor [and U.S. Conference of Mayors President] Kevin Johnson tonight, and I will ask him, ‘What is happening with your African-American students?’ Maybe there’s an idea we’re not doing here.”

The report also underscores another deficiency: ACT test scores among Dallas ISD students. The national average is a score of 21; in Dallas, it’s 17.2, which puts the DISD near the bottom among the 33 cities that took part in this first-ever mayors’ report card.

“I’ve said this before: We are in the bottom 20 percent of the nation,” says Rawlings. “And how we don’t see that as a huge fire alarm is concerning to me.”

Rawlings acknowledges that the report comes at an “interesting” time — just as the home-rule commission decided not to leave Dallas ISD’s governance as-is. Rawlings had been one of the vocal champions of turning DISD into a home-rule district largely free from the state’s interference. He says he’s disappointed by the outcome, but not surprised. “When the board appointed the individuals they appointed,” he says, “we saw the writing on the wall on this body and what they were going to do.” He says he’s “amazed” there are people who still want Austin to mandate what and how Dallas teaches its students.

That said, Rawlings has also spent most of his first term in office trying to reform the DISD — despite the fact the mayor has no oversight over the school district. Spellings says Rawlings is far from alone on that front, which is why the new report card exists in the first place. In coming months, she says, it will likely become interactive, and will expand far beyond the 33 cities involved in the first go-round.

Rawlings, says Spellings, “is someone with a great big microphone to shine a spotlight on the district. Rawlings is a damned good spotlighter, and I say thank you for that. That’s what we want to do for this report card — make sure the mayors stay focused on these issues. And it’s not just because it’s nice and the moral thing to do, but if we don’t do this job well, the downstream and upstream results are going to affect every city. Crime, safety-net issues, work forces — they all lead to the schools. That’s why we need mayors engaged in this discussion now.”

“Around this hotel today you hear about mayors working at the state level, asking for this or demanding that,” he says. Rawlings says. “I am a data nerd. I love this stuff. And I want to make sure the mayors are going to be as engaged as I am.”

Read the full article here.