Monday, August 13, 2018

Time Capsule Project Manual - August 2018

(Print out this posting to have available as a reference on how to run the Time Capsule Project)
Students study harder knowing roots and goals

================= August 2018 Summary ===================
(Being edited 8-14-18)     

As of August 2018 there are 6 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, and 4 high schools in Dallas ISD that have School Time Capsule Projects.

The project goal is for every child from 3rd through 12th grade to have a set of two annual Language Arts letter writing in-class exercises focused on connecting with their parents, their roots, and planning for their futures.

Each school year begins with a letter to their parents, and/or other important people in their lives, asking for a letter back. Students ask for two things in the return letter: 1) the letter writer's dreams for them, and 2) one story from the writer's life that the writer values enough to want it repeated some day in the future to the student's children. 

(Once the project starts, hopefully parents and the other letter writers will begin quietly planning forward each year thinking of the story they will share in next year’s letter. It may even increase family history talks at home.)


Students immediately read any letter they receive from a parent or relative.  They also immediately ask the writer questions about the letter so that they understand it well. They save the letters until the day they bring them to school for the day the second letter is scheduled to be written.

The first thing they do in school that day is prepare a self-addressed envelope to hold all the letters. This envelope should have email and cell phone numbers on them as well as another relatives address for backup. Then, as the teacher checks for potential errors on the self-addressed envelope at each students desk, the students write a letter to themselves about their own dreams for their future, and how they plan to achieve those dreams.

All letters then go into each student’s self-addressed envelope and into the School Time Capsule Vault, separated by class. They remain in the vault until just before the same writing project the next year when they are returned to students.  The same process is then repeated.

The exceptions to this process are in the 8th and 12th grades when all letters are written planning 10-years into the future. Those two years all letters are then gathered into an adequately large self-addressed envelope that will remain in the School Time Capsule until the 10-year reunions for those classes.  


The 10-year reunions will be planned just before Career Day so that returning students can be asked to volunteer to speak on Career Day.  They will speak about life after 8th or 12th grades, their careers, and give their recommendations for success.

Every school should have volunteers to help make certain the letters follow the students year to year. These volunteers also eventually help plan the 10-year reunions and send out those notifications, both online and through U.S. Mail.  They manage the re-connection with former students.  It is recommended that the last elementary school letters follow the student to middle school, helping to make that often difficult transition more positive one.

================= End Summary ====================

History: The School Time Capsule Project started in 2005 with only 8th graders writing letters to themselves for 10-years into the future. That project immediately showed positive results as the high school most students attended gradually began to have fewer students drop out. More students were successfully transitioning to the next grade. Graduation rates rose from 33% to over 70% within a decade. 
In that same decade the discipline problems at Quintanilla dropped to 14% of what they used to be as counted by referrals made. Student pregnancies dropped significantly. In 2005, the first year 8th graders wrote letters, a girl ran out of the classroom leaving the future planning writing exercise.  She knew she was pregnant. How that would change her future was too much for her to face.  Active written plans for the future are the most effective birth-control available.

It took a decade, but by 2015 the School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) for Quintanilla was the highest of all DISD middle schools.  However, Time Capsule Project changes, that were slowly happening over the years since 2005, now accelerate such school improvement to about 3 years in a normally resourced school.

In 2009 parents were first invited to write letters to their child before the student wrote their letter to themselves planning their future.  This followed a brilliant idea by Ms. Thompson, a teacher.  The principals and/or teachers would send a message home asking for such a letter, but the percentage of students receiving letters back from parents never went above 30%.

That changed dramatically in May of 2016. Quintanilla Language Arts Coach, Nicki Lincoln, had two brilliant ideas to improve the Project.  First she wanted students to write their own parents requesting the letter back themselves.  It would be a Language Arts writing project. Second, she wanted all students in all grades to write such letters and for them all to be active in the School Time Capsule Project. 

This expanded the positive effects of the Time Capsule future focus to the entire school.  All students would receive back the letters they wrote the next year so they could read it and improve the letter they wrote that year.  The 8th graders received back their 7th grade letter, studied it, and then at the end of the year they wrote their final 10-year letter. (As this point, if the school wants and students want, larger envelopes can be used so that all the letters from all three years could be placed into the Time Capsule for safe keeping for the next decade.)

It was an immediate success!  Quintanilla teachers were reported in tears due to the results when as many as 85% of student received those valuable letters back from their parents and caretakers.

This started the recommendation of annual letter writing by all students from 3rd grade through 12th to help then connect with their roots and their goals more each year.

This plan was tested in 2016/17 at Browne Middle School, a Time Capsule Project School for 2 years but still in its 5th year as a failing school. Their 8th grade writing Time Capsule Project had just completed the 2 years with some improvement, but Browne Middle School leadership and teachers loved the idea of all students in all grades writing to each of their parents asking for these priceless letters back, and then writing their letters to themselves.  Browne immediately did this in all grades and the results were astounding!

Browne went from 5th year IR, to Meeting Requirements with 4 Distinctions for the 2016/17 school year!  Their School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) went from just "below average" at 47.5 to 61.7, the highest SEI score for any middle school in all of DISD!  This tied the other largest one year gain by a middle school over the past 20 years in DISD! 

By 2016/17 there were 6 active Time Capsule Projects in DISD middle schools.  All of them were comfortably above average in their SEI scores, and 4 of them were among the 5 highest SEI scores of all 33 middle schools in DISD. This was reported to the public.  In 2017/18 a total of 9 new Time Capsule Project were started, ending the year with 6 elementary, 10 middle, and 4 high schools.  By this time the DISD Curriculum Department was involved and monitoring the progress.

The goals for 2018/19 are to activate the all-grade from 3rd through 12th letter writing projects, 2 letters every year, in the 18 additional schools that will join Quintanilla and Browne in their progress.  
   
Letter writing recommendations: These are only recommendations.  The ownership of this project is with each school.  School leadership ultimately decide when and what to do. (It is requested that if schools develop significant improvements that they share their ideas with all schools with Time Capsule Projects, and with us. Bill Betzen)

Timing: all letters except the 10-year letters in 8th and 12th grade should be written during the first half of the school year. (8th and 12th graders could also write letters at the start of the school year and then get those letters back at the end of the year before writing their final 10-year letter. It is an alternative for school leadership to decide.)  The end of October is recommended due to that being when full enrollment is anticipated.  The 10-year letters should be written at the end of the school year so as to sum things up.

Recommendations for first annual letter:
While it is recommended this start in the 3rd grade, teachers have spoken about earlier starts.  That certainly can be done. 


Recommended directions to give to students for writing that first letter to parents:

Here are three sets for directions that can be printed out to share with students with the directions for their letter writing to parents and other relatives they would like to have letters back from.

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Directions for 3rd through 5th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:


What are your dreams for me?
Time Capsule Project Letter Student Directions
Elementary School  3-8-18

Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, other relatives, or even school staff.     

Ask them to write you a letter telling their dreams for you.

Ask them to write one story from your family’s history. It can be a story they want you to someday tell your own children.  

Your parents and/or relatives will finish their letter. Read it with them. Ask them questions so you can best understand their letter.  

Bring the letters you have received to school. Bring them on the day your teacher says you will write a letter to yourself. In this letter write your dreams for your own future.

Place all these letters into one envelope. Put your name and home address on the envelope. 

Your envelope will return to you in one year.


***************************************
Directions for 6th  through 8th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:

What are your dreams for me?
Directions for the first Time Capsule Project letter
Middle School 3-8-18
Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, guardians or other relatives. You may even write to school staff you may be close to.  Write to adults from whom you would like a letter describing their dreams for you.   

You may write your letter in any language. 

You will write such letters each year.  You change a lot in one year.  You will write letters to the adults observing your changes.  They will describe how their dreams for you have changed as you change.

Ask them to each write one story from your family’s history. It can be a story about themselves or any relative.  It should be a story they consider valuable. It should be a story they want you to pass on to your children someday.   

When your parents and/or relatives finish their letter, read it at home with them. Ask them questions so you understand it.  The goal is for you to understand the letter. 

Bring all the letters you have received to your Language Arts Class. Do this on the day planned to write a letter to yourself. On that day your teacher will give you an envelope. It will hold all the letters you have received. Place your name and address on this envelope. You will then write a letter to yourself about your own plans for the future.

You will also place the letter you write into this self-addressed envelope.  You will place that envelope into the School Time-Capsule.  This will happen each year until you graduate. 

Every year you will receive back this envelope with your letters. The only differences will be in the 8th and 12th grade. Those years you will write letters planning your life 10-years into the future.  Those same years the relatives writing to you will also describe their dreams for you 10-years into the future. These 10-year letters will remain inside the school time capsule for 10 years.


In 10 years your class will have a 10-year reunion. At that reunion you will receive these envelopes back. School staff will invite you to speak with the then current students in your former middle school.  You will give your recommendations for success to them. You will describe life after middle school.


***************************************
Directions for 9th through 12th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:

What are your dreams for me?
Directions for the first Time Capsule Project letter
High School Students 3-8-18
Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, guardians or other relatives. You may also write to school staff you may be close to.  Write to adults from whom you would like a letter describing their dreams for you.   

You may write your letters in any language. 

You will be writing such letters each year.  You change a lot in a year.  You will write letters to the adults observing your changes.  They will describe how their dreams for you have changed as you change.

Ask them to each include one story from your family’s history in their letter. It can be a story about themselves or any relative.  It should be a story they consider valuable. It should be a story they want you to pass on to your children someday.   

When your parents and/or relatives finish their letter, read it with them. Ask them questions so you understand it.  The goal is for you to understand the letter. 

Bring all the letters you have received to your Language Arts Class. Do this on the day planned to write a letter to yourself. On that day your teacher will give you an envelope. It will hold all the letters you have received. Place your name and address on this envelope. You will then write a letter to yourself about your own plans for the future.

You will also place the letter you write into your self-addressed envelope.  You will place that envelope into the School Time-Capsule.  This will happen each year until you graduate. 

Every year you will receive back this envelope with your letters. The only differences will be in the 12th grade. That year you will write a letter planning your life 10-years into the future.  Your senior year the relatives writing to you will also describe their dreams for you 10-years into the future. Your senior year letters will remain inside the school time capsule for 10 years.

In 10 years your class will have your first 10-year class reunion. At that reunion you will receive these envelopes back. School staff will invite you to speak with the then current students in your former high school.  You will give your recommendations for success to them. You will describe life after high school.  You will give the recommendations you wish you had received. You can also talk about the recommendations you did receive and now regret not having followed.


But for now, plan the future you want and describe how you will achieve it.


(TO BE CONTINUED BELOW – 8-14-18 EDITING STOPPED HERE)

It is most possible that DISD students can begin writing such letters in the 3rd grade. They continue this focus on their own futures through graduation. The letters are stored by grade in a large vault in the school lobby.  Each year before the annual letter writing starts, the letters from the previous year are returned so your child can see what was written the year before.  They will also bring home the letters you wrote the year before.  It is good to see how dreams and goals grow over time.  Every year new letters are written about life, but always including updated life goals. A priceless record is being created, one that helps your child better understand how they themselves can change things over time. They will see how education gives power!
All letters are sealed each year into one self addressed envelope for each student. The only letters not returned to your student the next year are those written in the 8th and 12th grade.  In those grades all letters are written planning 10-years into the future. Those letters stay in the vault for 10 years.
At the class 10-year reunion, they will no longer be children but 23 years old or older.  They will pick up their letters and be asked to speak with current students in their former school on Career Day. They give their own recommendations for success, filling in gaps after 8th grade.
The fourth such 10-year reunion will happen this year at Quintanilla, the first Time Capsule Project School, started in 2005. Quintanilla used to be a normal DISD middle school, but last summer Superintendent Dr. Hinojosa, named Quintanilla the best DISD middle school.
Such progress now happens much more rapidly in new Time Capsule Project Schools due to expanded, every grade, letter writing. It will not take a decade!
For more details on this open-sourced, low budget, volunteer-based project, see http://www.StudentMotivation.org, and the attached blog.
Expect a letter from your child!                          Bill Betzen, 1-25-18, bbetzen@aol.com

Monday, April 30, 2018

Quintanilla Class of 2008 10-year Reunion, May 9th 6-7

The 8th grade Class of 2008 is being welcomed back to Quintanilla on Wednesday, May 9th, from 6 to 7 in the Quintanilla Cafeteria, remodeled since 2008.  Presentations will begin at 6:15 pm regarding the May 23rd morning Career Day events.  Would you like to talk with Quintanilla Students about life after 8th grade and your career choices, giving the advice you wish you had received a decade ago?

Come with your ID so you can pick up the letter your wrote in 2008 to yourself in 2018 with your dreams and plans.  If it is impossible for you to join with us on May the 9th, after that date you can connect with Ms. LaShonda Roberson who was a science teacher some of you may remember.  She is now the Quintanilla Librarian.  After May the 9th she will have the remaining letters not yet picked up. They remain in the Library at Quintanilla.  Just come during school hours and bring your ID to pick up your letter but only after May the 9th.  Ms. Roberson's email is LaRoberson@dallasisd.org

See you on May the 9th at 6 pm.  I hope to be there by 5:30 pm to begin handing out letters. Bring your ID.   The reunion is in the Cafeteria at Quintanilla.

Former Computer Applications Teacher,

Bill Betzen
bbetzen@al.com

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Beginning a School Time Capsule Project

A School Time Capsule Project can be started within a few weeks in any school serving grades from 3 through 12. It only requires a principal and staff who want to see over 80% of the parents of their students actively involved. They become involved by writing letters to their child both recording their dreams for their students and writing family history stories they want their child to pass on to grandchildren someday.


Two annual writing projects in Language Arts Class achieve these goals. The first is a letter written by students to their parents and other important adults in their life.  That letter asks for a letter back to the student answering two questions of the adult: 1) "What are your dreams for me?" and 2) "Will you write me a story from your history that you want me to pass on to my children someday?"

About two weeks after that first letter, when most students will have received and studied the letters received back from all the people they wrote to, the second writing project happens.  It involves the students writing a letter to themselves about their own futures.

All these letters are then placed into one self-addressed envelope for each student.  These envelopes are then placed into the School Time Capsule, usually a 500 to 700-pound vault located in a central location in the school lobby.

Before these writing projects each year students and parents are given back the letters they wrote the year before. Children change a lot in one year. The quality of the letters almost always improves year to year.  It is good for both parents and students to see those changes reflected in their letters.

The only big change in the annual letter writing is in the 8th and 12th grades when students, and everyone writing to them, write letters planning dreams for a decade into the future.  These are the letters that remain in the vault for a decade.  At their class 10-year reunion these letters are returned.


We are now planning the 4th such reunion at Quintanilla Middle School which, after 14 years of the School Time Capsule Project, is one of the highest performing middle schools of all 33 DISD middle schools. 

The reunions are always planned a week or more before Career Day so that the returning former students can volunteer to speak that day with current students about their lives after middle school and how they chose their professions.

As students become more future-focused they also become more well-motivated. Behavior problems decrease. The School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) scores for all schools with active Time Capsule Projects have risen this past decade to be among the highest in all of Dallas ISD.  See more details about progress in Time Capsule Project Schools in this report filed last November: http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2017/11/school-time-capsule-project-update-11-6.html

To begin this project you must simply schedule the two writing projects for all students in all grades. Plans to secure a vault must be made, but you do not need the vault to begin. It only needs to be secured before the next school year. A 43 cubic 700-pound vault is now recommended, but if your school has classes closer to only 100 students each, a smaller vault will be adequate.  We are currently ordering the 700-pound 43 cubic vault from Costco.com that sells for $900, online at https://www.costco.com/Cannon-43.8-Cu-Ft-Executive-Series-Safe%2c-60-min-Fire-Protection.product.100341405.html  Smaller vaults are available but this vault gives potential for growth in the amount of materiel students can store in their letters. Larger envelopes can be used to allow all the letters to be collected for storage until the 10-year reunion.

Below are examples of directions recommended for students for the writing of that first letter to their parents, and other adults in their lives such as grandparents.  They were written using  https://readable.io/text/ so that they are written for three different reading levels.

***************************************
Directions for 3rd through 5th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:

What are your dreams for me?  
Time Capsule Project Letter Student Directions
Elementary School  3-8-18

Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, other relatives, or even school staff.    

Ask them to write you a letter telling their dreams for you.

Ask them to write one story from your family’s history. It can be a story they want you to someday tell your own children. 

Your parents and/or relatives will finish their letter. Read it with them. Ask them questions so you can best understand their letter. 

Bring the letters you have received to school. Bring them on the day your teacher says you will write a letter to yourself. In this letter write your dreams for your own future.

Place all these letters into one envelope. Put your name and home address on the envelope.

Your envelope will return to you in one year.


***************************************
Directions for 6th  through 8th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:

What are your dreams for me?  
Directions for the first Time Capsule Project letter
Middle School 3-8-18
Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, guardians or other relatives. You may even write to school staff you may be close to.  Write to adults from whom you would like a letter describing their dreams for you.  

You may write your letter in any language.

You will write such letters each year.  You change a lot in one year.  You will write letters to the adults observing your changes.  They will describe how their dreams for you have changed as you change.

Ask them to each write one story from your family’s history. It can be a story about themselves or any relative.  It should be a story they consider valuable. It should be a story they want you to pass on to your children someday.  

When your parents and/or relatives finish their letter, read it at home with them. Ask them questions so you understand it.  The goal is for you to understand the letter.

Bring all the letters you have received to your Language Arts Class. Do this on the day planned to write a letter to yourself. On that day your teacher will give you an envelope. It will hold all the letters you have received. Place your name and address on this envelope. You will then write a letter to yourself about your own plans for the future.

You will also place the letter you write into this self-addressed envelope.  You will place that envelope into the School Time-Capsule.  This will happen each year until you graduate.

Every year you will receive back this envelope with your letters. The only differences will be in the 8th and 12th grade. Those years you will write letters planning your life 10-years into the future.  Those same years the relatives writing to you will also describe their dreams for you 10-years into the future. These 10-year letters will remain inside the school time capsule for 10 years.

In 10 years your class will have a 10-year reunion. At that reunion you will receive these envelopes back. School staff will invite you to speak with the then current students in your former middle school.  You will give your recommendations for success to them. You will describe life after middle school.


***************************************
Directions for 9th through 12th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:

What are your dreams for me?  
Directions for the first Time Capsule Project letter
High School Students 3-8-18
Write a letter to each of the most important adults in your life. Write to your parents, grandparents, guardians or other relatives. You may also write to school staff you may be close to.  Write to adults from whom you would like a letter describing their dreams for you.  

You may write your letters in any language.

You will be writing such letters each year.  You change a lot in a year.  You will write letters to the adults observing your changes.  They will describe how their dreams for you have changed as you change.

Ask them to each include one story from your family’s history in their letter. It can be a story about themselves or any relative.  It should be a story they consider valuable. It should be a story they want you to pass on to your children someday.  

When your parents and/or relatives finish their letter, read it with them. Ask them questions so you understand it.  The goal is for you to understand the letter.

Bring all the letters you have received to your Language Arts Class. Do this on the day planned to write a letter to yourself. On that day your teacher will give you an envelope. It will hold all the letters you have received. Place your name and address on this envelope. You will then write a letter to yourself about your own plans for the future.

You will also place the letter you write into your self-addressed envelope.  You will place that envelope into the School Time-Capsule.  This will happen each year until you graduate.

Every year you will receive back this envelope with your letters. The only differences will be in the 12th grade. That year you will write a letter planning your life 10-years into the future.  Your senior year the relatives writing to you will also describe their dreams for you 10-years into the future. Your senior year letters will remain inside the school time capsule for 10 years.

In 10 years your class will have your first 10-year class reunion. At that reunion you will receive these envelopes back. School staff will invite you to speak with the then current students in your former high school.  You will give your recommendations for success to them. You will describe life after high school.  You will give the recommendations you wish you had received. You can also talk about the recommendations you did receive and now regret not having followed.

But for now, plan the future you want and describe how you will achieve it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Costco sale on 43-cubic ft vault continued till 12-31-17!

I found out yesterday that the $775 sale saving $125 on the 43-cubic ft vault has been extended until 12-31-17!  For those of us working as volunteers on the Time Capsule Project, this is news to spread!

This is the new vault delivered to C. F. Carr Elementary School:

This is the new vault at Carter High School.  Both vaults remain on the pallet so they can be easily moved if another location is decided on for them in the school.  Due to planned remodeling at Carter such moves are certain. Then they will be taken off the pallet in the permanent location.


Monday, December 18, 2017

What are your dreams for me? Tell me a story from your history. Students letter to parents.

Suggestions to students:

Write a letter to your parents, and/or other adults, asking them to write a letter back to you about their dreams for you, and a story from their history.

(Term “parent” below includes important adults you would like a letter from: aunts, uncles, grandparents, any adult who is special in your life.)

First, select the people to whom you would like to write a letter.  They should be the most important adults in your life, each of your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, pastor, teachers, anyone to which you would like to write a letter asking them to write back to you answering your question: “What are your dreams for me?” The number of letters is your decision, but at least one. You can send letters to relatives who do not live with you or who even live in other countries.  It is certain they would love to get your letters.

Second, write separate letters to each adult in the above list, i.e. one for your dad and one for you mom. Your letter to them, and their letters back to you, can be in any language that you understand, or that you can have translated for you. 

Third, ask them to also write one story from their family or community history into their letter to you. That is why you write separate letters to each adult.  They all have different histories to share with you. It should be a story from their history that is also your history, stories they would like you to someday tell your children. These can include stories from your community history and events. This is also why you want to include older members of your family, people with more history from your family.

Find the street addresses of the people you want to write to you and bring that information back to class for the envelopes if they do not live with you.

Such letters will be written each year to request another letter from parents and/or others. You change a lot in one year.  The goal is for parents and the other adults to observe your changes and write about how their own dreams for you as they also are changing.  They are probably gaining more detail each year as you grow.

The stories written about can be about the person writing the letter, or grandparents, or aunts or uncles, a valuable family story that they want passed on to your children someday. These letters will help you gather a collection of valuable family stories by the time you graduate.

When any parents, or other letter writer, is finished with their letter and gives it back to you, immediately read it. Ask the person who wrote the letter any questions you may have about the letter. You must clearly understand it.  The goal is clear communication. Priceless conversations can happen at this time. You are encouraged to ask questions. Be certain to say thank you.

After these letters are collected and brought to school, the next step in this process will be when you write a letter to yourself about your goals for life.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Suggestions for Christmas letter writing, encouraging priceless family talks!

Time Capsule Project schools are encouraged to have the following writing assignment before Christmas break, but any school can do this without a time capsule as well.  See the wonderful gains by Time Capsule Project schools, due partly to such letters, described below in the posting dated 11-6-2017.  Browne Middle School went from the danger of a 5th year as IR in 2016/17, to meeting standards with 4 distinctions instead! All students wrote such letters home for the first time! Letters like this help to change school climate toward being more goal-focused and grounded in personal family history.

Students will bring home these letters that they write in class to deliver to the people they are intended for.  Such letters by students have led to as many as 80% of recipients writing potentially priceless letters back to the student. As students read these letters and ask questions it could lead to some priceless family conversations, especially over Christmas break, conversations about dreams, goals, and family history. It will help fill the gap with their own culture too many of our students suffer from. It will help ease the multi-cultural blending we are all part of.

A more sound foundation for academic achievement is built.

===========================================================

Suggestions - Time Capsule Project First Letter(s),
to each parent and/or other important relatives
(Term “parent” includes all important relatives student would like a letter from.)

This is a description of the letter writing process that is the first step in each year’s Time Capsule Project letter writing. 

First, any older letters students may have written in previous years that are in the school’s time capsule are returned to students.  They must be read and studied again by students who wrote them, and by each of the parents who wrote letters last year.  This is in preparation for the current year’s letter writing process.

Have students write a persuasive letter to each parent. Students will be asking for each parent to give their response to the question: “What are your dreams for me?”.  Students will ask for as many details as the person writing is comfortable with. Students also ask for each parent to write one story from their family history, or community history, that parents want the student to remember.  They consider it valuable enough that they want the student to pass it on to their own children someday.

As students consider to whom they will send such letters, they should think of older family members who have a longer history and possibly more stories of interest that they may write about. All letters can be written in any language both student and writer understand, or that the student can have translated.

Such letters will be written each year to request another letter from parents and/or others.  Every student changes a lot in one year.  The goal is for parents and the other adults to observe those changes and write about how their own dreams for the student are changing and gaining more detail each year as the student grows.

The stories written about can be about the letter writer, or about grandparents, or aunts or uncles, a valuable family story that they want passed on to the students’ children someday. These letters will help students gather a collection of valuable family history stories by the time they graduate.
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When parents are finished with their letter and give them to the student, the student should immediately read them. The student should ask the person who wrote the letter any questions they may have about the letter.  They must clearly understand it.  The goal is clear communication. Potentially priceless conversations happen in the process during such conversations.

This letter will go into the self-addressed envelopes along with all the letters received from parents and other adults. This will be repeated each year.

In the 8th and 12th grade all letters written will be focused 10-years into the future.  What do students hope they will be doing and how will they get there? These are goals 10-years into the future.  The final 8th grade and 12th grade letters, and letters parents and others have written about their dreams for students 10 years into the future, will all remain inside the student’s self-addressed envelope and inside the vault for 10 years.

Emphasize that life plans almost always change.  The goal is to develop the ability to change, with education providing many more choices to be available during any change.       
12-10-17 Bill Betzen, bbetzen@aol.com

Monday, November 6, 2017

Improving 20 DISD Schools with a Time Capsule Project

The School Time Capsule Project exists to motivate students toward the highest achievement possible.  That achievement is driven by students who know where they came from, their roots, and where they are going, their plans. Students and parents must discuss as much as possible the history they share. With that foundation students focus more completely on their own goals by constantly updating them. Such grounded student motivation is the mission of the School Time Capsule Project.

After 14 years of improvements due to constant input, one of the 6 active Time Capsule Project middle schools have had the highest annual School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) score of all 33 Dallas ISD middle schools for three of the past 4 years!  This past year that number one school had been in danger of being a fifth year IR, failing, school.  Instead, with full, all grade, involvement in the Time Capsule Project, and most parents writing letters to their child, the school not only met standards but achieved 4 distinctions, and their School Effectiveness Indices went from only 47 to 61, the greatest one year increase in a DISD Middle School in 8 years, and the highest SEI among all 33 middle schools!

On 10-19-17, when the most recent SEI data was released, it was also discovered that four of the five DISD middle schools with the highest SEI's this past year were Time Capsule Project Schools!  (The School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) is a DISD measurement of school performance that has been used 20+ years to measure performance in each DISD school every year.) 

It must be emphasized that there are only 6 active Time Capsule Project middle schools among the 33 DISD middle schools, and four of them are among the highest 5 middle school SEI scores in all of DISD.  There are two additional inactive Time Capsule Project schools which have no letters written in recent years.  They are not counted as "active" and all have SEI scores below the 6 schools counted as active. 

See page 2 of the 2016-17 Summary List at https://mydata.dallasisd.org/SL/SD/SEI/Default.jsp for the middle school listings which are repeated in the chart below. Notice below that the 'worst' SEI for an active Time Capsule Project school still places them better-than-average as 13th best among 33 middle schools. 
Dallas ISD Middle Schools in order by 2017 School Effectiveness Indices Scores

The Time Capsule Project is expanding this year to 9 more schools, including elementary schools for the first time. From third grade through 12th grade there will be two annual lessons:

1.   Students write a persuasive letter to their parents, and/or other relatives, asking for them to write a letter back. Students ask for two things in these letters: "What are your dreams for me?" and "Please write one story from your personal family history that you want me to pass on to my children someday." As many as 80% of families have responded and write potentially priceless letters since this change was made in 2016.  
Students then talk with anyone they asked to write a letter about what they have written. Students must be certain they understand the letter. Such conversations can be priceless, reinforcing family relationships.


2.   The resulting letters from lesson 1, or copies if the family wants to keep the originals, are brought back to Language Arts Class where each student prepares one self-addressed envelope to hold them. Then the student writes their second letter, this time to themselves about their own goals and dreams. All letters then go into that self-addressed envelope for each student. The date this envelope is sealed must be on the envelope near the return address.  This is critical in the sorting and management of letters.

These envelopes go inside a 500-pound, or larger, School Time Capsule Vault in the school lobby. The first 11 vaults were 25 cubic feet inside, weighing 500 pounds and bolted to the floor, costing $1,200 each.  In 2017/18 we are focusing on a 700-pound, 43 cubic foot inside measurement Costco vault costing $900 delivered and no longer bolted to the floor due to the weight. 


The previous year’s letters are always studied by students before the next letter-writing actions. In 8th and 12th grades all letters are written focusing on goals 10 years into the future. Students know they will be invited back for a 10-year reunion to pick up their envelopes, usually scheduled just before Career Day. At that reunion they will be asked to return and speak on Career Day with then current students about their recommendations for success, their profession, and life after 8th or 12th grade.

The fourth such 10-year reunion will happen this year at Quintanilla, the first Time Capsule Project School. It is still a 95% high-poverty school, but Dr. Hinojosa, DISD Superintendent, last summer named Quintanilla as the best middle school, the model middle school inside DISD.

The newest recommendation is, when possible, that a school secure the large 43-cubic-foot vault below, now on sale at Costco for $775. With such a large vault every student can be given a large 9"x11" envelope to use in storing their envelopes every year in the vault.  Each year students can read what they have written before as they plan that years letter.  Ultimately the school can leave all letters in the vault for the 10 years.  Fewer letters will be lost. The 10-year reunion will become more significant, especially with letters from parents and other relatives each year.

Quintanilla has had SEI scores among the top 20% of DISD middle schools every year for the past 4 years. Such progress will now happen much more rapidly in new Time Capsule Project Schools due to improvements outlined above. It will not take a decade!

One or more volunteers are needed to function as Time Capsule Masters at each school to help manage the Time Capsule Project.  They sort and help teachers return each year the letters from the previous year by each student.  Once the 10-year reunions begin, these volunteers help manage the reunions. This is exceptionally rewarding volunteer work. I have done it for over a decade, one of many volunteers with many wonderful stories to tell from the Project. We need more volunteers, at least one at each school.

Last year Browne had all students in all grades write letters as described above. Parents responded wonderfully! The photo below shows today’s Browne Time Capsule with the results:

Notice that the shelf for this year’s 8th grade class, 2018, as well as next year’s 8th grade class, 2019, are already filled with letters. These are the letters written last year by then 6th and 7th graders.  They will be returned to those students, and read, before this year’s letter writing. By the end of this year new letters will fill these shelves. The only difference will be that shelf “2018” will hold letters about dreams and plans for 2028. Those letters stay on that shelf until 2028.  

It is recommended 6th and 7th grade classes write letters at the beginning of the year to have the greatest effect on achievement that year. It is best 8th graders wait until the end of their 8th grade year to be able to reflect on more of their middle school experience as they write their letters planning 10-years into the future. Such future-focus by all students was one of many factors that helped Browne achieve the highest SEI scores of any of the 33 middle schools in DISD for 2016/17.  

The year these letters were written by all Brown students the SEI for Browne went up 14.2 points in just one year to being the highest SEI score for any DISD middle school!  Browne went from 5th year IR to not only meeting standards but also achieving 4 distinctions!  See https://www.dallasisd.org/Domain/621 

A School Time Capsule Project only works in a school that is already a high functioning school under solid leadership. Once you have that, and add to it the grounding in family history and planning for the future reinforced by the Time Capsule Project, you have even greater achievement due to stronger student motivation. Positive student behaviors increase!  

School Time Capsule Vaults should be located in the highest student traffic area of a school, usually the lobby, to remind students daily of their parents’ letters, and their own plans.
For more details on this open-sourced, low budget, volunteer-based project, see http://www.StudentMotivation.org, and the attached blog. Please share.

If you want to help another Dallas ISD school purchase a vault to start their Time Capsule Project, please send donations to: Time Capsule Project, c/o Lulac National Education Service Center, 345 S. Edgefield Ave., Dallas, Texas 75208. If you want to help a specific school, talk with that principal to see if they are willing to start a Time Capsule Project, and then specify which school you want your money used for.

You also may just buy a vault and bring it to the school, and help install the needed 10 shelves inside the vault.  This is a very flexible system!  Help your local schools!  Below is one large vault on sale until 12-31-17 for $775 from Costco, a large 770-pound 43 cu. ft. vault.


Any school can start a Time Capsule Project on their own with any modifications they may want.  We only ask that if you come up with what is considered a very successful improvement, that you share the details with us so more students can benefit.  The students are the only reason for this project.

Finally, this is year old data that is still correct if you looks at the DISD Data Portal enrollment for today: Sunset High School has the largest senior class relative to freshman class size of any of the 22 non-magnet high schools in DISD.  This chart was made a year ago, October of 2016, but shows how Sunset is the best at keeping student to graduation.
Sunset stands out for many reasons due to Mr. Tony Tovar who turned it around during his 7 years as principal, and due to the wonderful staff who remain at Sunset.  It also stands out due to the future-focus, one grounded in family history, that these students begin in the middle schools feeding into Sunset: Rosemont, Quintanilla and Greiner who all have active Time Capsule Projects.  Then the same focus continues with the Time Capsule Project at Sunset.