Saturday, August 29, 2015

DISD making more progress than most districts

Below is a chart that compares DISD with 4 other DFW area districts serving similar populations and with student achievement gaps compared to the percentage of students passing all statewide tests they take each year.  This chart compares DISD with Duncanville, Fort Worth, Irving, and Cedar Hill ISD's:

Study the above chart and you quickly see that Dallas ISD made very solid progress for most of this decade.  It was only surpassed by Cedar Hill ISD for whom the past two years are the worst on the chart, but the achievement remains since 2005.

This chart does not include the 2015 calculations that show the DISD Student Achievement Gap growing another 2 percentage points.  Such calculations are only projections and require time to calculate.

Below is the data used to create the above chart along with the calculations required.


You can see with the last line in the chart above that the average of these 5 schools made a full percentage point gain in shrinking their achievement gap.  Dallas ISD, even if you include the loss from next year, will still be within that level of gain.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Damage continuing in Dallas ISD

Massive damage will continue in any school district, like DISD, where secrecy of public information is allowed.  Last night the DISD Trustees considered policy changes to move the board more in the direction of secrecy.  The mere fact of this discussion, no matter the outcome, again shows that the Dallas ISD crisis is much bigger than any one person.

While it's good the Home Rule Commission stopped the process of changing DISD into a Dallas Home Rule Charter District, everyone agrees that changes are needed.  During the Home Rule Commission meetings the most common phrase spoken was "we need more information."

There is a glut of valuable data on the Dallas ISD and Texas Education Agency web sites for the few people who know how to navigate those web sites.  But that data is old and effectively "secret" due to the few members of the public who know how to find it. 
A mandated monthly system of much more timely and consistent DISD reports is urgently needed. 

Monthly reports must be designed, approved by the trustees, and then consistently attached to the DISD Board Agenda to be presented as part of the Superintendents' Report at each school board meeting.   As issues evolve in DISD the format of monthly reports can be modified, with board guidance and approval, to meet changing needs.


Once a monthly report format is approved by the trustees it must be completed going back monthly at least five years, and then archived online so month to month and year to year patterns are easy to observe. 
 This data must be very visible to the public, and much more easy to navigate.

Dallas should have no more nasty surprises such as the HR crisis made visible the last week of January, 2015.  Such monthly reports (see potential information to include below) would have increased the potential long before such a crisis erupts that there are such problems!  Dallas would have seen the reasons parents were moving students and the reasons that teachers were leaving, and the reasons the best teachers were leaving, and the testing results going down in DISD relative to the rest of Texas.   

Without a much more consistent system for transparency, reforms being attempted inside DISD have little meaning.  The potential for problems to be hidden and grow increases with the level of secrecy, as Dallas is now witnessing.

Dallas ISD Monthly Public Reports should include:

  1. Student movement by school including students entering or leaving DISD, or transferring between schools, including demographic profiles and a third party managed survey to protect privacy asking parents for their three main reasons for the transfer. The monthly report should include notice of DISD schools becoming overcrowded or underutilized due to such movements.
  2. Teacher movement by school including teachers hired and leaving DISD, or transferring between schools, including demographic profiles, CEI averages, and a third party survey to protect privacy of separating teachers asking for their three main reasons for leaving or transferring. The anonymous survey should somehow separate teachers into three general CEI levels to report reasons for leaving by such levels.  (Why is DISD losing their best teachers?)
  3. Use of substitute teachers by school. An additional tabulation must be included by school of the frequency of substitute teachers being needed but not being available, and therefore of any class having to be split up or moved to other locations to spend the day due to the lack of available substitutes. Hopefully all parents of all children involved in such neglect on the part of DISD were informed the same day such incidents happening. Such a public monthly report by school and date of occurrence would help assure that such parental notice is happening!
  4. Reports of any district wide testing results received that month, both by school and for the district, with all the associated details to help in the assessment of performance, should be a normal part of all monthly reports. If the test results are a state test, then how DISD compared with the state averages outside DISD must be provided to help place the data in perspective.

If such monthly reports had been made over the past 2 years Dallas would be familiar with the significant decline in DISD student performance in all subjects compared to the State of Texas achievements from 2013 to 2015.  The public would have been demanding more answers a long before the second year of decline was allowed!

Now DISD is starting what may be a third year of decline.   Transparency in such monthly reports should be demanded!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dallas County Birth Rate nearing Zero Population Growth

As we plan new schools in Dallas ISD we must focus on improving all of DISD.  The numbers are very clear that beyond people moving into Dallas County, the birth rate is lowering.  It is closer each year to that magical Zero Population Growth level that most sources say is near 14 births per thousand population.   Here are the most recent numbers in Dallas County:
Dallas County Birth Rates 1990 to 2012
With Dallas County birth rates per 100,000 getting constantly closer to 1,400 births a year, and the pressure from charter schools, Dallas ISD must plan to focus more on improving schools than on expanding capacity for more students.  Unless the progress being made 2007-2012 can resume and accelerate, DISD student population will not be growing. As the community understands the damage of the past 3 years, the charter schools will have more students.  It is as if that was planned.

But one truth survives all the Dallas education debate over charter schools, choice schools, and student achievement.  Most families prefer their neighborhood community school.  Problem is, DISD has lost the “community” aspect of our local schools too often.  It must be regained, especially as the birth rate continues to drop!

In the 1960’s communities were built where almost all homes had many children attending local schools.  Schools were full. Now grandparents and smaller families occupy most of those homes. Many Dallas k-5 schools are below 70% utilization. 

If the currently planned 2015 Bond Election ignores too many of those underutilized schools DISD will be missing a golden opportunity to transform those schools into k-8 schools, utilize that now vacant space, and use some of the current bond election moneys to build needed labs or other facilities for the 6th 7th and 8th graders.  These schools could slowly then keep their 5th grade classes on into the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. This would take advantage of the teachers who already know them well.  

The research all points to the same direction, return to K-8 schools!  See http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2012/02/separate-middle-schools-vs-k-8.html

Behavior problems should never be allowed to grow 400% as they do now between 5th and 6th grades!  That is what is now happening when students move into the middle schools in DISD!

Local community k-8 schools are the answer to the majority of the problems now afflicting DISD. Parents who realize the value of dual-language, two-way schools could request that alternative be available in their local school.  The first school to make this transition was Rosemont, now one of the 12 highest rated school in all of DISD!  It is the only middle school in this category!  DISD must have more!

DISD must allow parents to be truly involved in forming their local school.  The parking places closest to the front door of every school must be re-dedicated to “Parents/Volunteers/Community” so that the transition is very obvious.  This is a Community School!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Third Future Consultants is new firm by Mike Miles

This week a new school consultation business was initiated by Mike Miles.  See www.thirdfutureconsultants.com .

It is recommended that potential customers to ask Mike Miles to explain this data from his 3 years in Dallas ISD:  www.dallasisd.us .

Please let us know what he says.

bbetzen@aol.com 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sam Tasby ended legal segregation in Dallas ISD

Sam Tasby was a DISD parent who in 1970 with the help of a Legal Aid Attorney, Ed Cloutman, filed the lawsuit that ended legal segregation in Dallas ISD.  Then began a long 40 year period of White flight as is reflected in this 44 year history of enrollment records from DISD:
Enrollment Records Dallas ISD 1970 to 2014
Sam Tasby died this past week at the age of 93.  Here is a link to the Dallas Morning News story done on his life, the school named after him, and the critical role he quietly played with dignity in the history of our city.

God Bless Sam Tasby.  Through Sam Tasby God blessed Dallas by exposing and confronting the racism in our city.  Progress was made, but not enough.  We must not forget our history but continue the work needed.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Texas Education Agency School Ratings 2015

The Texas Education Agency came out with their 2015 school ratings last week.  Schools all over Texas improved with "Improvement Required" (IR) numbers going from 733 to only 610 schools, a 17% improvement.  That left about 7% of all Texas schools rated IR for 2015.

Dallas ISD also improved, but not quite as much, going from 43 IR schools last year to 37 this year, a 14% improvement for Dallas ISD compared to the 17% improvement for the rest of Texas.  DISD continued to fall behind.   This chart shows this trend for the past three years.


See these accountability ratings in more detail for all of Texas at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/2015/index.html .

At the other end of the scale DISD now has more of the most highly rated schools than any district in Texas, even Houston.  DISD had 12 our of the 224 schools rated as meeting standards with 7 distinctions.  Houston only had 11.   See the detailed list at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/2015/dd_all.pdf .

Dallas ISD is like Dallas and reflective of extremes, the most best schools, and the most at the other end of the scale. 2015 was the second year in a row that the balance of low performing schools, AKA PEG or Public Education Grant schools, was a massive increase. PEG stands for Public Education Grant and provides money for any parent to move their child from these low performing schools to other public schools. See http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/peg_faq.html for more details.

For the 2013-14 school year DISD had 35 PEG schools.  In the 14-15 school year the DISD PEG list had 57 schools.  This year there are 73 PEG schools.

The constant increase in PEG schools in DISD must stop.  Here is the list of current schools on the PEG list: http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/peg/2014/peg_list_2015-16.pdf

Friday, July 31, 2015

Dallas ISD Bond Election fails w/o transparency - Split it into two elections for time for transparency

Dallas ISD urgently needs the $1.6 billion bond election to pass this November, but it will fail due to lack of trustee credibility.

Yes, new DISD schools and additions are needed, especially additional pre-k classrooms, but in the current form the bond election will not pass due to the recent history of secrecy and manipulation within DISD. Such adult issues have already led, within just the past two years, to the loss of 7 years of student achievement progress.  DISD has reverted to student achievement levels of 2007/08, a major loss!

The Future Facilities Task Force (FFTF) staff came to the 7-22-15 DISD board meeting, after a year of work, very poorly prepared. They did not have basic data such as:
  1. A report on the many community meetings they managed asking for public input.  How many residents attended? What were their questions?  Where there questions repeated at each meeting? What was the level of general public support for a bond election?  
  2. A report from the Attendance Zone Committee affirming bond needs presented by FFTF.  That committee has not even been meeting!  As Trustee Foreman pointed out, DISD has overcrowded schools and underutilized schools.  We must know that busing or other alternatives are not available.
  3.  A report on the 2008 Bond Program as to how it worked out.  What did DISD say they would do with the money? What was actually done?  Too many people in the community speak about previous bond program promises that have not been completed.  This data through February is on the 2008 Bond Election web site at http://www.dallasisd2008bond.org/
  4.  A report on the private and charter school capacity under construction or recently completed in DISD.  How can a bond election happen without some assessment of what the DISD competition is doing?
  5. A report on the current capacity and utilization of choice schools already open in DISD.  Only 3 are filled to capacity with the remaining being as little as 40% utilized.  Can FFTF document the need without the slanted surveys they used with the public, and then did not report on?
There is not enough time now to properly answer the questions related to these and many more areas of concern on the $1.6 bond program.  However student’s needs cannot be ignored. 

If the election were to be split into two bond elections, $400 million this November and the balance in November of 2017, the chance of it passing would improve significantly with no delay in the planned funding.

If the full $1.6 bond were to pass in November, the first $400 million in bonds was planned to go out in March 2016 with the next $600 million in bonds going out in March 2018, and the final $600 million in March 2020.  This planned process does not need to change in splitting the election for the $400 million this November and the remaining balance in November 2017.

It would be well worth the estimated $300,000 expense of an additional bond election in 2017 for both DISD and the general public to be more certain of the direction DISD is going with these $1.6 billion in public money.  The bond elections would pass with better information.  Public certainty is critical for this election to pass! 

By November 2017 DISD may see enough growth in both student achievement and enrollment that an even larger bond program may be needed, and passed, by that time.  Let’s plan for two elections if there is a real urgency. Transparency, public trust, and a certainty that this bond election will succeed, are the issues.

Bill Betzen