Friday, February 27, 2015

Dallas ISD Scandal Summary as of noon 02-27-15

It is exceptionally difficult to keep track of the scandals coming from Dallas ISD over the past 32 months.  I will attempt to begin to list them here with links to data sources for each scandal.  This cannot pretend to be a comprehensive list.  It will be an ongoing work in progress.

The list begins with the most recent:

2-26-2015


Dallas ISD officials deny misleading trustees in hiring request
Some trustees remain skeptical about whether they were told the truth about the need to to approve $6.4 million to hire 137 teachers last fall. 


 TEA faults Dallas ISD for poor background check process
The state agency recommends sending a monitor to the district to ensure hiring procedures are followed, including the required fingerprinting.


2-25-2015
Black students in Dallas ISD suspended at disproportionate rate

About a quarter of black students in middle school and high school in Dallas ISD were suspended in the 2011-12 school year, according to a new report.  

Starfish and streetlights: Using data to evaluate public education in Dallas


Those of us who use data as a lens to evaluate the school system have to be careful not to put too much weight on Streetlight Data and not to undervalue Starfish Data.  

2-24-2015

3 Dallas ISD trustees want to discuss firing Superintendent Mike Miles (Note over 450 comments!)
The trustees question whether district leaders misled them in October about the need for $6.4 million to hire more teachers.

2-22-2015

Instant messages raise concerns about $6.4M for new teachers

Some Dallas school board members question whether administrators misled the board about the need for more teachers.

2-17-2015

Dallas ISD auditor launches investigations of HR department

After grilling by board, auditor Mike Singleton internal announces investigations into possible broken laws.


Report clears Dallas ISD trustee Bernadette Nutall of wrongdoing

The findings by a former U.S. attorney raise questions about Superintendent Mike Miles’ role in starting the investigation.

 

DISD auditor says he shared HR officials' disparaging messages in hopes Miles would act

During the Dallas ISD school board's hours-long meeting Monday night, trustees honed in on the timeline of when the district's internal audit department began its review of top human resources officials and when it notified Superintendent Mike Miles.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Texas Graduation Rate is not 88%!

The Texas Education Agency is claiming that in 2013 Texas had a graduation rate of 88%: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/08/05/texas-posts-top-high-school-graduation-rates-again/

They are claiming that this is the highest graduation rate in the US due to the chart they quote in this press release today: http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Press_Releases/2015/Texas__high_school_graduation_rate_for_Class_of_2013_again_exceeds_national_average/

The only problem with this claim is obvious when you look at the enrollment by grade patterns over the past decade for Texas:


Texas Enrollment by Grade 1997-2014
Click to enlarge image.
Notice the Promotion Rate line above in the chart, 5 lines from the bottom.  Yes, Texas has made constant progress, but when only 79% of 9th graders are even making it to 12th grade, how do you have a graduation rate of 88%?   

When the Cumulative Promotion Index, the last line, is only also 79%, how can you have a graduation rate of 88%.  As multiple people are saying, this claim does not match with the data.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Hires leaving Dallas ISD more Quickly

While the turnover in Dallas ISD has doubled over the years from 2010 to the present, the number of those leaving DISD within just 3 months of being hired has gone up almost ten fold! 

These facts led to the following letter today to the DISD Board of Trustees:

Dear President Solis and all DISD Trustees,

It appears that the quality of the teacher candidates being hired by DISD has gone down significantly since 2012 based on the almost ten-fold increase in the number of teachers leaving within 3 months of being hired. Should this massive increase be one of the factors included in the current HR investigation?

While teacher turnover has doubled over the past 6 years, the number of new hires leaving DISD within 90 days during the first half of the school year has increased almost ten-fold.  That would indicate that the quality of candidates being selected is going down. This pattern was first noticed by studying those teachers who leave during the first half of the school year which for this study was defined as 8-19 of each school year through January.

In the 2010-11 school year, 11 teachers with 3 months or less tenure left from 8-19-10 through January 2011.
In the 2011-12 school year, 10 teachers with 3 months or less tenure left.
In the 2012-13 school year, 34 teachers with 3 months or less tenure left.
In the 2013-14 school year, 80 teachers with 3 months or less tenure left.
In the 2014-15 school year, 97 teachers with 3 months or less tenure left.

This means that the number of classrooms suddenly without their newly hired teacher during the first half of the school year has increased almost tenfold in DISD since 2012.  This is part of the explanation for the drop in student achievement that will probably be continued for the second year with this years STAAR tests when you compare Dallas ISD with the rest of Texas.

The file used to secure this data was open records request #13765.  Since it is a rather small file it is attached if you want to double check these numbers, or search out other patterns.  This file is a listing of all separations since 1-1-2010 through 2-6-2015 with type of separation given along with hire date and school.

There are certainly many other conclusions that need to be studied with this valuable set of data such as which schools are suffering the worst turnover.  Is the most severe turnover being suffered by the most poverty stricken segments of the DISD student body?

Hopefully this data is helpful in the exceptionally difficult job you face.  It is strongly recommend you advise Mr. Singleton of this pattern of poor hires if he has not already noticed it.  The quality of the new teachers being hired as reflected in this pattern certainly should merit research so it is not continued.



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Professional Accountability Demands Transparency!

Massive damage will continue in any school district, like DISD, where secrecy of public information is allowed.  The DISD crisis is 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.  But, during the Commission meetings the most common phrase spoken by everyone 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 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 design below) would have indicated long ago 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 districtwide 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 2014:


  This chart is also in section 3 at www.dallasisd.us with additional data.
With such monthly reports a chart such as the one above will be expected by the public. There will be fewer surprises in DISD.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mandate Dallas ISD Monthly Reports!

While it is positive that the Dallas Home Rule Charter Commission decided to not continue the process to change Dallas ISD into the Dallas Home Rule Charter District, everyone agrees that changes are needed in Dallas ISD.  But, during the Commission meetings the most common phrase spoken by everyone was "We need more information." 

While there is a glut of valuable data on the Dallas ISD and Texas Education Agency web sites for the very few people who know how to navigate those web sites, an ordered monthly system of much more timely DISD reports is missing. 

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 districtwide 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.
These reports should be designed, then completed going back at least five years, and then archived online so month to month and year to year patterns are easy to observe.  

Dallas should have no more nasty surprises such as the HR crisis made visible the last week of January, 2015.  Such monthly reports would have indicated long ago that there are 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. 

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. 

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, repeatedly!
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Immediately after writing this blog I began to study the annual reports for DISD on which there is supposed to be a "public hearing" at 5:30 this afternoon.  I called to speak and was told I had to call yesterday.  Nobody else was signed up to speak at this "public hearing."  So I sent the following email to the DISD Board with the attached spreadsheet I created from the data in one of the reports that was supposed to be discussed today.  This data was not discussed at this evenings hearing and the hearing closed with the president's statement that "since there were no speakers the meeting is adjourned." 

This is an example of the current transparency inside DISD that MUST END!

Two in the audience had tried to sign up to speak today with no success due to the 24 hour rule.


From: BBetzen@aol.com
To: miguelsolis@dallasisd.org
CC: ecowan@dallasisd.org, elizabethjones@dallasisd.org, danmicciche@dallasisd.org, nbingham@dallasisd.org, lblackburn@dallasisd.org, joyceforeman@dallasisd.org, benutall@dallasisd.org, mmorath@dallasisd.org
Sent: 1/22/2015 2:29:46 P.M. Central Standard Time
Subj: Todays' 5:30 public discussion of TAPR Annual Reports

 

Dear President Solis and all DISD Trustees,


I regret that I did not call in time to address the Texas Academic Performance Report today.  I have been studying the report and have focused on the summary chart on page 3 of the report on DISD.  It is linked from the TEA web site found in the slides that are part of today's presentation.   Hopefully you will be addressing the significant decline in DISD student performance in all subjects compared to the State of Texas achievements from 2013 to 2014.


Attached please find that summary chart with one column inserted showing how much DISD fell behind in every subject from 2013 to 2014.  I will be present for the hearing if there are any questions, but I understand that your time schedule is tight, almost as if you expected there to be nobody from the public making comments.  

Some of you have been complaining in public that too little of the time at your meetings are spent discussing student achievement. I agree. This is a time to change that. 

I am very disappointed that it was not more clear that public comments could be made and when you had to sign up to talk. I called today and was too late. It is almost as if DISD Administration wanted to keep this hearing hidden so nobody paid attention to the declines in student achievement and the frightening data in these reports. 

Respectfully,
 

Bill Betzen, volunteer 
Dallas ISD Achievement Data
214-957-9739



Annual comparisons of DISD academic progress with Texas for the past 8 years are needed so Dallas residents have a much clearer view of the direction DISD schools are going.
 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reform Recommendations after "home rule" death

The evening of 1-20-15 the Dallas ISD Home Rule Charter District Commission voted 10 to 5 to end the process of changing DISD into a home rule charter district.  This image from the Channel 8 news that evening also shows the challenge in front of the Commission. 
Dallas ISD "home rule" effort ends, work to reform DISD begins

They must make recommendations to help DISD return to, and go beyond, the solid progress of 2008 through 2012.
 

Recommendations for Dallas ISD Change

1) Transparency


One of the most common statements made by commissioners throughout the past 7 months of these hearings was that "we need more information."  It is no accident that information is hard to come by from inside DISD.  The most critical recommendation the Commission must emphasize is increased transparency from all areas inside Dallas ISD. 

Transparency is an institutional problem with all school districts.  It has been repeatedly addressed by each successive reform effort in DISD.  It was recently addressed by Dallas Achieves 2005 through 2011. Sadly those efforts were generally ended by Mr. Miles who then also has never provided a monthly statistical profile of student achievement, staff and student attrition, and the multitude of variables that all affect student achievement in one way or another. 

It is long overdue for a permanent tradition of public transparency within DISD to be established with data posted for the monthly DISD board meeting and online for the public, and then archived online.  The report can have variables added by the DISD board as needs and focus changes.  Variables that reflect parental and community involvement though PTA and SBDM meetings should be added. 

The data should also go onto spreadsheets to be followed month to month.  Are the students of DISD making progress?   Are the variables that reinforce such progress also growing?

Any other recommendations for change mean little if transparency is not mandated by the DISD Board.   Such a tradition will help all other commissions and volunteer groups that follow to form more quickly and get to work more easily. 

Secrecy, beyond personal confidentiality, is rarely good. It is usually a warning sign.

Other recommendations for change will be posted here, but the secrecy affliction and massive staff turnover now within DISD indicates nothing is more urgent than transparency.  The public must know what is happening inside DISD.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

How Dallas ISD Middle Schools are doing

Below is a just completed report about DISD Middle Schools, listed in order by student poverty from the highest poverty level schools to the least, with the ranking by School Effectiveness Indices and the percentage of limited English proficiency students also given. 

Look at the schools with the highest poverty and highest LEP percentages who are also doing the best with the highest SEI scores.

The two middle schools with the most actively used School Time Capsule Projects for the most years are Quintanilla Middle School since 2005 and Greiner Middle School since 2009.  Student performance improves as students more actively focus on their own futures.  Actively planning for the future is one of the most powerful factors helping to overcome hindrances associated with poverty and limited English proficiency.  It is one part of a complex system needed for our students to embrace high expectations for themselves and excel!

I welcome questions.   bbetzen@aol.com

 
Notice that only two schools have higher poverty rates that Quintanilla and only 4 have higher LEP percentages.