The East Dallas Report: Will That Drop in Stonewall Jackson’s Academic Ratings Rattle Lakewood Real Estate?

Published October 5, 2011 by Candy Evans

By Bruce Felps, editor of the East Dallas Times

Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, near the border of the M Streets-Greenland Hills neighborhood, recently took an academic rating hit from the Texas Education Agency.

TEA dropped Stonewall’s rating from “exemplary” to “acceptable,” a drop of two rungs in the course of one school year.

The decline could change the perception of prospective homebuyers with elementary school-age children when considering a home within the Stonewall attendance zone. Then again, the resale market for existing homes might remain business as usual.

So, which factor became reality so far?

Scott Carlson, a 30-year veteran of East Dallas residential real estate, said any market evidence just two months after the TEA announced its analysis would be strictly anecdotal.

“Unless you went into MLS, looked at sales stats, and called buyers to see if the rating played any role in their decision there’s no way to know. Bottom line is you can’t do that,” he said. “I don’t think it really matters anyway. Stonewall and Lakewood [Elementary in the adjacent attendance zone to the east] are our two most desired elementary schools.”

Carlson’s assessment of the rating drop not mattering rings true in the eyes of the Dallas Central Appraisal District, the agency that ascribes home valuations for taxation purposes.

Cheryl Jordan, community relations spokeswoman for DCAD, said appraisers ignore buyers’ reasoning and look only at resale prices in a given area.

“We don’t analyze the market, we reflect its activity, past-tense,” she said. “We look at the bottom line not why it happened.”

Darren Dattalo, a real estate agent who sits on the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association board of directors, wrote in an e-mail message that the market has yet to react to TEA’s action.

“I believe it’s far too soon to see a statistical impact to this. Ask again in a year and we’ll have enough data to really tell,” he wrote. “Anecdotally speaking, the word is out and buyers are talking. But buyers and agents who know the area also know the whole story and know that Stonewall is just as good as it ever was. And while bad news travels faster than good news, the truth will make itself known.”

Olivia Henderson, Stonewall’s principal, understandably echoed Dattalo’s assertion that Stonewall remains an exemplary school despite the state’s findings. TEA, she explained in a letter to parents originally published in the Stonewall PTA newsletter, said the agency simply changed its rating matrix.

“According to the TEA’s testing program, 2011 was the year that all students would be tested on grade level and that all student test scores would count. This included our small group of Deaf Education students who have previously taken a modified version of the TAKS test. This is the first year that the state has aggregated their scores with the general education population,” she wrote.

Prospective buyers, when considering a home in a given school attendance zone, might be better served discussing the school with PTA members rather than listening to a state agency. The neighborhood level, in this case, likely matters more than the prevailing bureaucratic winds.

Bruce Felps owns and operates East Dallas Times.We are happy to have him as a Contributor to CandysDirt. Even better: he’s a product of the Dallas ISD, and he turned out just fine. But don’t tell that to his shrink.


— Daily Local Real Estate Dish By Dallas Real Estate Insider — Candy Evans at