LHHSAt Richardson ISD’s admin building, the day TEA announces public accountability ratings for Texas public schools is a little like report card day used to be at the four-child Toler house. Some kids (and some campuses) are up. Some are down. One child may have boosted his grades in one subject, one demographic subgroup has seen scores fall in another academic area. It can be a roller coaster ride without the candy apple. In this case, big stakes and big money are at risk, including teacher salaries and home property values. Realtors say home buyers are drawn to schools with strong academic reputations and carefully avoid others considered “struggling.”

If you read last Friday’s edition of the Dallas Morning News, you may have been buoyed by the chart that gives Lake Highlands High School a star for being in the “Top 25.” You have to read the fine print to see that – while that’s accurate, it’s a measure of “student progress.” Our kids showed improvement over their past academic performance.

The Texas Education Agency reported 4 measures – (1) student achievement, (2) student progress, (3) closing performance gaps, and (4) postsecondary readiness. Only in student progress were we first in RISD. Lake Highlands High School ranked last in the other three measures when compared to the other RISD high schools.

Now, make no mistake, Lake Highlands and the other RISD high schools performed well. Lake Highlands met state standards and earned distinction in three areas – academic achievement in Reading/English/Language Arts, academic achievement in Mathematics, and ranking in the top 25% statewide in individual student progress. In most instances, scores improved.

But, for the competitive among us, and for those who seek continuous improvement for our kids and our neighborhood, a graduation rate of 87.4% is simply not acceptable. (No other RISD high school fell below Berkner’s 92.5%. The grad rate is the TEA’s primary measure of postsecondary readiness.)

Our achievement gap between the haves and the have-nots remains a chasm too large for many LH kids to overcome. The percentage of tests passed by all students in all subjects at LHHS is 82, but for white students, it’s 96. At no other RISD school is the gap that big.

On the other hand, in fairness to teachers and staff, I’ve witnessed LHHS students head off to college this week academically equipped as well as any in the country. My coverage in the spring of award winners and scholarship recipients left me awestruck of their accomplishments and grateful to educators and administrators who’ve prepared them well.

But we still have work to do.