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Fort Worth's State Of Education: Students Have Made Progress, But Challenges Remain

Stella M. Chávez
The Fort Worth school district's honor choir performs during the Chamber's State of Education luncheon.

Fort Worth’s new superintendent Kent Scribner officially begins his new job next week. But he’s already been spending a lot of time getting to know staff members and the community. Today, he and interim Superintendent Patricia Linares spoke about what the district has accomplished and where it’s headed.

The Fort Worth school district continues to grow, adding about 700 to 1,000 students each year. What’s surprising is that many kids who’ve left are returning to the district. That’s according to Interim Superintendent Patricia Linares who spoke to a packed room at the Fort Worth chamber’s State of Education luncheon.

“In fact, our Gold Seals Programs and schools of choice have turned out to be quite the draw,” Linares said. “Over the past four years, they have pulled in more than a 1,000 students from private, charter and out of district schools.”

And just how are students doing? Linares cited accountability scores released this summer. Twelve of the district’s 143 campuses that needed improvement attained the state’s “met standard” rating.

And all but one high school and one middle school campus also met the standard. She said not all elementary schools hit the state mark, but 99 percent of them did meet the standard on Index 2, which is student progress.

“Make no mistake, our students are achieving,” Linares said.

Still, there’s a lot of work to do, incoming Superintendent Kent Scribner noted. Three out of four students in Fort Worth are economically disadvantaged and many of them face other challenges.

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Incoming Fort Worth Superintendent Kent Scribner spoke about the district's challenges, including a high poverty rate among students.

“The two-parent white picket fence household is not the norm for our students,” he said. “So we need to provide them that stable environment – that safe place to go to school – so that academic achievement can take off and continue on a positive trajectory.”

Scribner drew comparisons to Phoenix where he’s led for 7 years. He said the business community there is dealing with a shortage of qualified workers in health, information technology and STEM-related fields.

In response, he said, the district developed partnerships with the local university and business community.

“If we do not invest in our students today, it’s not a question of ‘How do we want our students to perform today?’” he said. “It’s a question of what kind of Fort Worth do we want to live in in a decade? What kind of Texas do we want to live in in the decades to come, and I think investing today is good business.”

Glenn Lewis, a local attorney, says he liked what he heard and feels the district is moving in the right direction. He does, however, have a concern: students are so glued to their mobile devices that they’ve become deficient in other areas.

“Some of them lack some communication skills and, like, when I say that, I mean the ability to hold a conversation, an actual conversation person to person, and the ability to write effectively,” Lewis said.

That’s one of the many tasks, Scribner and his staff will have to tackle.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.