Teacher Fights for Kid's Rights to Skip Grade

The Dallas Morning News
By Karel Holloway

The problem was to find the fifth root of 714,924,299. In less than 10 seconds, three students correctly answered 59.

The adults, armed with calculators, took more than a minute. Some never finished the problem.

The display by 7- and 8-year-olds was arranged by teacher Miles Jones. The students from Sam Houston Elementary School in Oak Lawn answered nine out of 12 problems correctly and did so faster than the panel of adult educators.

The boys and girls met each of the problems eagerly. They wrote them down quickly and did most of the math in their heads. Dr. Jones staged the demonstration last week to support his assertion that the students were being treated unfairly by the Dallas school district and their school. He has even filed a civil rights complaint on the behalf of the students, who are Hispanic. The students' principal says they have learned to work certain complicated math problems but lack basic real-world skills.

The students were part of an accelerated learning program that Dr Jones used last year at Sam Houston. He worked with the bilingual first-grade students during their class time, after school and on Saturdays. By the end of the school year, he believed that 13 of the 20 students could skip second grade and move on to third.

The principal, Ricardo Weir, agreed to double-promote the students on the condition that they be carefully monitored in their third-grade classrooms. At the end of the first six-week grading period, six of the 13 students were sent back to second grade.

"I have all the work from all the kids, I met with the teachers and talked about each of the kids individually," Mr. Weir said. "We don't want the kids to be unsuccessful. If you push them too hard and put them at a level where they don't belong, they are not going to be successful."

Dr. Jones said the school doesn't want the children to be successful, that less is expected of them because they are Hispanic.

At the demonstration last week, he said that under state law, students must place in the 90th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills - a standardized test given only in English - to be promoted to the next grade. "That's not going to happen. That's discriminatory," he said.

Dr. Jones said that the 20 students took a standardized test in Spanish and, while most did better than average, only five reached the 90th percentile.

Mr. Weir said that the results of another test given to all third-graders at the beginning of the school year supported the decision to move these particular students back to second grade. "Simple word problems they weren't able to do. I'm talking about counting money: How much is two nickels and a dime? That's basic third-grade math," Mr. Weir said.