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Mexia ISD letter stirs controversy

By Noel Brennan

MEXIA - A letter citing poor test scores of African American students in one Mexia ISD school has a number of parents upset.

Karen Primm's daughter is a fifth grade student at R.Q. Sims Intermediate School in Mexia. Primm remembers the day in mid-January when her 11 year-old brought home the letter and started asking questions.

"She said, 'what's this African American, African American stuff?'" Primm described. "I sat down and I kind of explained to her what that letter was."

The letter from Mexia ISD Superintendent John Turpin informed parents that R.Q. Sims Intermediate was deemed "academically unacceptable" by the Texas Education Agency because of poor TAKS scores.

However, the letter cited the writing, reading and math scores of only the African American students as the reason behind the "unacceptable" rating.

According to data on the TEA website, African American students did have the lowest scores in those categories, but other populations missed the mark as well. In fact, scores were low across the board for all population groups in math.

 "For the children that passed the TAKS test, the African American children," explained Primm, "that just throws them right there in the same group. It's a stereotypical comment."

Mexia ISD Superintendent John Turpin admitted the letter bearing his signature should have included the scores from all five population groups - "All Students," "African American," "Hispanic," "White," and "Economically Disadvantaged."

"We apologize. We know it's caused some concern with the African American community," Turpin said. "That was not our desire and we did not want that at all."

Turpin insisted everything written in the letter was accurate, but he added that the district could have been more sensitive about how they presented the information."

"We've struggled with these letters for years, because the fact that you have to include that information on there, and again, if it's just one population group, that makes it very difficult," Turpin added. 

For parents like Karen Primm, the damage has already been done. She's considering moving her daughter to a school in a different district. She's also started a petition asking for disciplinary action to be taken against Superintendent Turpin.

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