Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Coalition against the relocation of the Argos Cement Plant in West Dallas

The momentum is slowly growing as meetings happen and research is done into the 10-28-15 vote of the Dallas City Council to move the Argos Plant across the street from Trinity Groves on Singleton to a location less than 3 miles west and across the tracks, upwind, from Edison Middle School.  Edison is almost surrounded by documented pollution with the RSR Smelter to the west and the GAF Roofing factory to the east.

Only 8 council members supported this move and some of them are now having doubts. We must protect the children of West Dallas. The record of environmental abuse in West Dallas must stop.

Argos Cement Plant move in West Dallas 10-28-15
Please contact your city council member and congratulate them if they voted against this move, or ask to visit with them as to why they voted for this continued abuse of the people of West Dallas.

Please share the above poster online with everyone you know in Dallas.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Not another Uptown! West Dallas Gentrification must embrace local cultures.

The 2015 Dallas ISD Bond Program started badly.  It exposed that leaders in Dallas wanted to eliminate all schools from any areas east of Hampton Road in West Dallas.  That change moved schools over 2 miles more distant from homes in the Los Altos and La Bajada Communities.  The land would have been less valuable for families.  Was the real goal to help developers secure land closest to current the Trinity River less expensively?

Fortunately those plans have been stopped!

Families in these two communities east of Hampton Road are now asking for their current schools, Carr and DeZavala, to be upgraded to Pk-8 schools as they work on alternatives to an Edison Middle School just 200 feet downwind from a cement plant. Such a move would improve student achievement due to improvements available in Pk-8 schools.

It would also keep students away from Edison Middle School, a constantly low performing middle school now becoming the neighbor to an up-wind cement processing plant.  These plans are presenting new problems for Edison and all of West Dallas.
West Dallas Gentrification Process 2015
The gentrification goals in West Dallas must be inclusive ones, not like Dallas Uptown where families were pushed out.  With significant improvement in the quality of the schools the students of West Dallas attend these same students will be able to much more often become the gentry right where they grew up!

Such a change in gentrification patterns is already happening in areas of Oak Cliff.  It was addressed this past March by the Dallas Observer, .

The new gentrification must embrace and build from the cultures and history in place, not erase them again as has happened too often in Dallas History.  The messages from history must be embraced, not erased as in the culturally sterile development of Uptown.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dallas County Birth Rates continue to drop

The 2013 birth rates are now available from

Using this data the following chart has been updated to indicate that the drop in the birth rate slowed down in Dallas County in 2013, but did not stop.

Dallas County Births 1995 to 2013

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Edison Middle School feeder pattern & the Pk-8 transition opportunity

The painful data in the chart below is only a hint of the ongoing history of educational neglect in West Dallas.  Notice that the Facility Condition Index for even the "best" West Dallas school is in worse condition than the 18.24% average for DISD elementary schools. The higher the score the worse the condition of the school. All West Dallas schools are worse than average in DISD, often a lot worse!   Why else are charter schools targeting West Dallas?

West Dallas parents are seeing it and telling us something by how they move their children out of DISD before their child enters the 6th grade in a DISD middle school!

History of Neglect - Pinkston Feeder Pattern Dallas ISD

Dallas ISD is losing over 12% of all 5th graders who never enroll in a 6th grade class inside DISD.  This is due to the very negative reputations of DISD middle schools throughout the district. The 400% increase in discipline problems once a child enters a DISD middle school is well documented, and well known in the community.

DISD must begin listening better to parents, and watching where they are moving their children.  One out of every 8 parents removes their child from DISD after the 5th grade, often taking siblings with them.  Is this one of many signals showing that DISD should move much more rapidly to transition current Pk-5 schools into being Pk-8 schools?   Rosemont has shown that Pk-8 works well.

Research has been documenting the value of Pk-8 schools for over a decade!  See

Over 10% of DISD parents have been removing their child from DISD after the 5th grade since 2006!

******** A Solution ********

Last year the highest rated, most successful, non-magnet middle school in all of DISD was Rosemont, a Pk-5 school that in 3 years was transformed into a Pk-8 school by 2013. Now with their second 8th grade class in 2014/15, they had the highest rating of all the 33 non-magnet DISD middle schools last year!

Rosemont only mirrored the national research on Pk-8 schools that predicts such progress.

Dallas has $64 million authorized in the bond program just passed for one new Pk-8 school in West Dallas. That would leave half of West Dallas still going to Edison for which there is $14 million authorized for renovation. But Dallas is moving a cement processing plant across the railroad track from Edison! Now is the time to change all West Dallas Pk-5 schools into Pk-8 schools and work toward the Rosemont achievement! West Dallas does not need one new Pk-8 school but 7! With solid planning, within 3 years Edison could be closed!  The charter schools would no longer be as attractive!

With multiple open community meetings throughout West Dallas the information surrounding Rosemont’s success and the national research on the success of k-8 schools could be shared. Parents from Rosemont give powerful witness to their success in both Spanish and English. West Dallas parents would quickly want this change for their children. The 6 ft 8th grader and kindergarten child dangers are very well managed with the normal age separations in any Pk-8 school.

None of the 7 current West Dallas elementary schools are 100% full. They each have enough room that this year’s 5th grade could stay for 6th grade. Needed building and modifications could begin immediately to prepare for 7th and 8th grades in all schools using the $88+ million that is available. The new Pk-8 school is not needed and that $64 million plus the $14 million to renovate Edison makes the $88 million available.

At the new central West Dallas Pinkston complex a middle school sports/band/electives center could be built to serve all middle school students with such interests. With good planning and the bond moneys now available West Dallas could develop the education system that would facilitate the gentrification that is coming.

DISD is failing terribly if graduates do not have the potential to become the “gentry” in our evolving West Dallas. To see that happen as our graduates constantly upgrade their family homes should be a goal for city planners, and for all of us in DISD!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ten Questions on the 2015 Dallas ISD Bond Plan

(Addendum: the bond election passed with the largest number of voters in history voting against it, over 16,000 voters! The money spent on the election also is a record.  Over $116 per vote was spent by bond supporters for each "Yes" vote cast while an estimated 12.5 cents was used for each "No" vote cast. The questions below are more important than ever!)
  1. In 2002 and 2008 the bond planning committee had meeting minutes and attendance records taken and specific recommendations they voted on.  Why was the 2015 Future Facilities Task Force started under Mike Miles allowed to operate with no minutes, no attendance records, no recorded affirmation of votes taken for the bond plan components, and virtually no record of the specific process and the details and sources for their recommendations? Why do members say that they did not vote on the 2015 Plan?
  2. How is DISD going to fill a new 1,500 student Pk-8 school that is still on the public 2015 Bond Plans for West Dallas without closing any West Dallas elementary schools?  Due to the public uproar it was promised no schools would be closed. Is the real plan to draw students away from West Dallas Schools with a brand new Pk-8 until several of them are actually closed due to being underutilized?  Why build one new $64 million Pk-8 and not invest that money in middle school facilities at current West Dallas Pk-5 schools to create Pk-8 schools closer to student homes?  Many parents want that.

  3. How is DISD following the priorities outlined in the 2013 Parsons Report by ignoring Facility Condition Index (FCI) measurements to spend $41 million to tear down and rebuild Rosemont, a school listed in “good” condition (11.74% FCI), and in better condition than 96 other DISD elementary schools, 25 middle schools, and 21 high schools?   Should the FCI scores be ignored to this extent?

  4. Why is not a fraction of the $41 million allocated to tear down and rebuild Rosemont being used to correct the problems at Rosemont, and restore this historic treasure as identified by Preservation Dallas?   Then the remainder of the $41 million could be used to help build middle school facilities for other Pk-5 schools where parents want to transform their child’s school into a Pk-8 school!   Could that not take the enrollment pressure off Rosemont, and serve as many as three times the students with the same $41 million?
  5. Since less than 15% of “choice schools” in DISD are currently filled to capacity, how does DISD know there is a need for more such “choice” schools?  Choice schools are more expensive per student and DISD parents are apparently showing that they prefer their own neighborhood school if it is getting the needed attention to keep it up to date.  Or, is the focus on “choice schools” part of the strategy to decimate more community neighborhood schools?

  6. Since the first Pk-8 transition school is filled to capacity, and turning away students due to their open enrollment policy, and it is the highest rated non-magnet school in all of DISD, why aren’t DISD staff meeting with parents at other DISD schools to advise them of Pk-8 alternatives so the parents could decide if they want such a transition for their schools?

  7. Why isn’t the focus of the 2015 Bond Program on neighborhood community Pk-8 schools instead of the much more expensive and less in demand “choice” schools?   Pk-8 schools are generally better supported by research as being very successful and are less expensive per student than “choice” schools.

  8. Since the increase in Pre-k enrollment at DISD has been less than 350 students over the past two years, less than 2% each year, and this year alone DISD has suffered over a 1,100 decrease in Kindergarten enrollment, over an 8% decrease below any year in 18 years, why is there urgency to create new Pre-k classrooms?   Since Kindergarten enrollment went down this year over 300% more than Pre-k enrollment went up, where is the urgency for Pre-K in 2015 Bond?

  9. When the general decline in DISD enrollment for students younger than second graders is mentioned, some say there are severe pockets of need that still demand the 2015 Bond moneys for Pre-k space.  Where are those schools?

  10. Total DISD enrollment is now down over 3,000 students below projected enrollment!   Most of this decline is in the kindergarten class which is down over 1,000 students from last year alone.  Kindergarten enrollment is now the lowest enrollment in over 18 years by over 1,000 kindergarten students! If this decline continues, what corrections are needed for the 2015 Bond?  Why aren’t such corrections listed in this current 2015 bond plan?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Preservation & the 2015 Bond Plans

Three DISD schools all built in 1922 with very similar designs.
In studying the plans in the 2015 DISD Bond Program to tear down and replace the old Rosemont 1922 building a very interesting history is being uncovered.  It is one of at least three buildings constructed that year using the same general design.  Rosemont underwent major renovations in about 1970 that significantly changed the schools appearance, but the basic building remains under the sheeting and paint waiting to be restored.

Other facts have evolved in that H.S. Thompson, one of the schools closed in 2011, was rated by the Parson's Report as being in much worse condition than Rosemont with a "poor" Facility Condition Index (FCI) of 59% in 2013.  It was estimated that $16 million would be needed to restore the building to best condition.   Rosemont was rated as "good" with a FCI of less than 12% and only $2 million was needed to restore Rosemont to best condition.

Now in the 2015 Bond Plans as publicized, Thompson is only getting half the 2013 amount, only $8 million, to be "refurbished" while Rosemont is getting 20 times the 2013 amount, $41 million, to be replaced!

Is that equity?

Does the average income level in the neighborhoods surrounding these schools make a difference?   Rosemont is on the edge of Kessler Park with very nice homes while Thompson is deeply within one of the most decimated areas of South Dallas.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dallas ISD going to Educational Heaven!

 (This is a copied 1016-15 post about what is dangerously missing in Dallas ISD.  Equity is missing, and it is missing in the 2015 Bond Plan!  That fact is only a reflection of an ongoing problem made worse these past three years in Dallas ISD!)

Noted Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg, one of the world’s experts on education reform, told an audience in Baker Hall that both excellence and equity are needed to achieve academic success.

Sahlberg, delivering the first John Stoops lecture hosted by Lehigh’s College of Education, drew on international test score rankings, which consistently put countries such as Finland, Canada, Japan and Korea among the top scorers in math, science and reading.  He said the rankings showed an apparent correlation between student achievement in those subject areas and the equity of educational opportunities.

Using a slide presentation that put the top-scoring countries in a type of heavenly cloud, Sahlberg said that if America wants to go to educational heaven, “it’s more important to take equity more seriously and put it as a priority.”

Sahlberg’s lecture on Oct. 8 kicked off the College of Education’s yearlong celebration of three key anniversaries—50 years as a College, 100 years of education at Lehigh and 50 years of the highly regarded Centennial School for children with educational disabilities.  It also marked the inaugural Stoops lecture, established in tribute to John A. Stoops, the College’s first dean and founder of the Centennial School. 

In a ceremony preceding Sahlberg’s talk, Dean Gary Sasso and Robert Leight, professor emeriti, recognized Stoops’ significant contributions to education—he also played a key role in the formation of Channel 39 (WLVT-TV public television) and Northampton Community College—and presented Stoops’ widow, Muriel, with a gift of art glass in commemoration.  The inscription read: “In honor of Dr. John A. Stoops for his leadership, wisdom, dedication and commitment to the Lehigh University School of Education. The impact you made here will be felt throughout time.”

Sahlberg, a visiting professor of practice at Harvard University, delivered a talk entitled “Education Around the World.”  A Finnish citizen, he has been active in promoting education changes in Finland and beyond, and he has a long professional history in education and development.  At Harvard, he works with graduate and doctoral students, teaching courses about international educational change and how education policies and reforms can improve but also harm school systems, teachers and students.

In his talk at Lehigh, Sahlberg addressed what he said are the forces behind successful educational systems—collaboration, creativity, trust-based responsibility, professionalism and equity. And he addressed the factors that he said hinder the improvement of educational systems—competition, standardization, test-based accountability, de-professionalization and privatization.

Sahlberg called on audience members to do some mental math, presenting them with a multi-step addition problem that they collectively solved out loud. In the group dynamic, the total came out wrong.

“If we make a mistake with a simple thing like this,” Sahlberg said, “then we’re going to make mistakes many times, and in a much more serious way, with complex things like reforming education.”
What’s happening now has happened before, Sahlberg said. 

Around the world, in areas of education policy and reform, people are doing things because it seems as if everyone else is doing those things, and they are taking missteps. “What we need to do with this one is to stop and think,” he said. “And always ask, does it make any sense? Is this the right way to go?”

Sahlberg acknowledged Finland’s education success story, noting the country’s ascent from a mediocre educational system to one of the best in the world.  It consistently ranks high in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OEDC) rankings of school performance across 76 countries.  People are curious about Finland because of that turnaround, he said, not because of the high test scores. They want to know, he said, what reform looks like and how Finland was able to change.

“Forty years ago, we decided to redesign the school system, where there was a lot of inequality or inequity, and we had an issue with excellence,” he said. “We decided to turn everything around and make a system that is good for everybody.”

Sahlberg said that many countries focus their resources and politics on educational excellence, with equity being a secondary concern. For those who want to build reforms on international evidence, he said, they should note that the highest performing countries invest their resources in both areas.

In a question-and-answer segment that followed the lecture, Sahlberg took issue with the ways that schools are funded in America. In many cases, he said, districts’ funding formulas are funding inequality.

Looking ahead, Sahlberg identified three issues that are likely to be part of future conversations about education: whether there’s a need for less technology and more human interaction in schools, how to help young people realize their talents, and the importance of children’s play in education.

As the College of Education continues its anniversary celebration, it is planning an awards ceremony next spring that will honor distinguished educators from each discipline of the College. There also will be a book published that chronicles the history of education at Lehigh.
Posted on: Friday, October 16, 2015