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Waco public schools are failing, and they show almost no signs of improving any time soon.

In fact, five Waco ISD schools are performing so poorly that the State is recommending they be shut down. These five schools – Brook Avenue Elementary, JH Hines Elementary, Alta Vista Elementary, GW Carver Middle School, and Indian Spring Middle School – have a two-year window in which to improve, or else their doors will be closed permanently. This temporary extension was granted to Waco ISD due to their partnership with Prosper Waco, a non-profit which will assist the district in improving these at-risk schools.

Poor performance is not limited to just these schools, though.

All of Waco ISD performs horribly relative to other districts in Texas and the United States at-large. Waco ISD’s graduation rate stands at 77.5%, far below the state average of 89.1% and still well below the national average of 84%. And even those Waco ISD students who do manage to graduate are unlikely to attend college, as the average SAT score for the district is a 1237 (out of 2400), while the national average was 1484 for that same time period.

These failures largely fall on the shoulders of former Superintendent Bonny Cain, but current Superintendent Marcus Nelson’s plans for improvement may not produce any tangible results.

Under the direction of the former, nearly all measures by which schools and school districts are judged worsened for Waco ISD. The high-school dropout rate, in particular, increased significantly under Cain’s tenure.

Under the direction of the latter, parents and students may suffer more of the same.

Despite this, both were/are compensated generously. Cain drew a salary of $218,741, whereas Nelson draws an even higher salary of $272,000. For context, the average superintendent salary for the 2016-2017 school year was $142,154, according to a survey conducted by the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators.

One of the main proposals Nelson has for improving Waco ISD is to put tablets or laptops in the hands of every Waco ISD student, a part of his “blended learning model.” However, this proposal would cost millions of dollars, and may not have any real impact on educational performance.

According to an article in the Boston Globe on an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report regarding the usefulness of technology in education, “…greater availability and use of technology at school doesn’t necessarily lead to better educational outcomes.” It further states that the report “found that while students who use computers moderately at school have somewhat better outcomes than those who don’t use them at all, those who use them very frequently tend to do significantly worse, even after accounting for students’ and schools’ socioeconomic status.”

If Nelson has his way, Waco ISD’s primary initiative to improve educational performance will entail spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a program which not only may have no measurable effect on performance, but may in fact decrease performance significantly. All while drawing a salary more than eight times higher than the median household income of the city he serves.

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