In the latest issue of Texas Monthly, several Tyler middle schools are named among the best in the state. One of those, Dogan Middle School was called one of the worst in Texas by the TEA just two years ago.
In 2000, Dogan Middle School was labeled low performing. But principal George Faber never felt that ranking truly represented what was going on inside the classroom.
"When you're talking about TAAS, at that point, you're only talking about maybe one area. And, even in that area, you're only talking about maybe one subgroup, and you could be talking about one child."
There are signs things have gotten better. Take the sign out front. It reads Texas Monthly Magazine gave Dogan Five Stars. Now, Dogan's one of the best in the state.
"Really, we feel like we're doing more to make a more well rounded student," said Faber. "And I think that's what Texas Monthly looks at."
In it's rankings, Texas Monthly looks at more factors than just TAAS scores. The magazine also takes into account economics. For example, here at Dogan, 90 percent of the students are on the school lunch program. And a majority of the parents don't speak English at home. The five star ranking means Dogan does a better job of overcoming those challenges than schools in the same category.
English as a Second Language teacher John Booker is part of the reason why. It's his job to make sure new students who come to Dogan only speaking Spannish are ready to pass the TAAS or TAKS in English in just three years. "Our campus has a special relationship with the community. And, we're really working hard to meet all the needs, not only for the students, but with the parents."
The Texas Monthly ranking doesn't mean the teachers at Dogan can relax. Next year's TAKS test will be much harder than the TAAS. But, the magazine believes Dogan is on the right path.
"If a kid comes to us in the sixth grade," says Faber, "What Texas Monthly says is when they leave, they're going to be a better student if they stay with us all three years."