Saturday, August 14, 2010

Archive Projects starting at Edison Middle School & Pinkston High School

This past week we had one 540-pound vault bolted to the floor in the lobby of both Edison Middle School and Pinkston High School in Dallas. This now means that starting this year almost 100% of the students at both Pinkston and Sunset high schools will have the possibility of going thorough the Archive Project letter writing process four times, once upon entering middle school and again on leaving, and once again on entering high school and again on leaving. It was a very good week! Here are the instructions shared with Edison staff on Thursday which, with a few changes, are the same 8 steps shared with Pinkston staff:

1. All students and parents write a letter the first month of school. The first meetings with parents will involve a description of the School Archive Project and the need for them to write a letter to their child about their dreams for their child. They should write stories from their family history providing the roots from which they are sending their child into the world, as well as their dreams and hopes for their child. They should write about how they are willing to help their child achieve these goals. This letter may someday be a priceless possession for their child, and even their grand children, and great grand children. It will be a document for the family history just as the letters their children will write may also become valuable family history documents. Such letters will help students focus on their critical long term goals.

2. Both these letters, the parent's letter and the student's letter, are then placed together into one envelope. Each student seals their envelope and places their name and home address on it. These envelopes are placed into the School Archive, 540-pound vault, bolted to the floor in the school lobby in a location passed by all students many times each day.

3. These envelopes stay in the vault during the middle school years, until the last month of 8th grade, just before students leave for high school. Hopefully what these letters represent is a common topic of conversation during the middle school years. Teachers may use the existence of this letter, and the plans for future letters and the eventual Class Reunion, in times where future focus and motivation may be needed to help a student focus on work.

4. The letters are pulled from the vault the last month of 8th grade, returned to the students, to be used to write a second set of letters by both parents and students. Their dreams and life goals are updated to focus 10-years into the future. Both new letters are then placed into another self-addressed envelope.

5. This time the students themselves place their envelopes onto the shelf for their class inside the School Archive Vault. This happens on “Archiving Day,” a day at the end of 8th grade when 8th grade students pose with the class in which they wrote their letters for a photo. They stand together, in front of the School Archive Vault, holding their letter. After the photo they place the letter into the vault themselves. They know they will receive their letters back as they return for their 10-year 8th grade class reunion.

6. They each receive two copies of the photo taken that day, one for them and one for their parents. On the back of the photo are the details of the Archive Project including the estimated dates and details for their 10-year 8th grade class reunion.

7. It is recommended that the 10-year reunions happen the week of Thanksgiving. Then the current students will have 6 months to digest what they hear before they write their own final 10-year letters focusing 10 years into their own future. A school tradition has been established.

8. The details on the back of the photo include the fact that, at the Class 10-year Reunion, they will also be invited to speak with the then current 8th grade classes. They will be asked to talk about their recommendations for success. They should be prepared for questions from those decade younger students such as:
"What would you do differently if you were 13 again?"

Friday, August 6, 2010

New AYP 2010 report again shows south side comprehensive high schools better than north side.

The new, 8-4-2010, Texas Education Agency AYP (Acceptable Yearly Progress) Report, at, is additional powerful documentation of the superiority of the 15 non-magnet high schools on the south side of Dallas over the 7 similar DISD high schools on the north side. (See Page 48 in this report for DISD.)

While there are individual parts of the AYP report that must be strongly questioned, the overall pattern of the 15 non-magnet south side high schools doing much better than the 7 non-magnet high schools on the north side of Dallas is clear. The data below is taken from the above linked AYP report.

This AYP report shows that only 2 of 7 north side high schools made AYP, or 28.6%, while 5 out of 15 of the south side made AYP, or 33%. While this is not a big difference, when you count the reasons given for each school not meeting AYP, a very strong pattern emerges.

On the north side there were a total of 12 reasons for not meeting AYP spread among the 5 schools for an average of 2.4 reasons in each of these 5 schools. On the south side there were a total of 13 reasons given for the 10 schools not meeting AYP for an average of 1.3 reasons spread among these 10 school.

Then you look for more patterns and see that only 1 out of 5 north side schools did not make AYP for only one reason. On the south side there were 7 out of 10 schools that did not make AYP for only one reason.

Finally you notice that three north side schools, (43%), had three reasons for not making AYP! NONE of the south side south side high schools had three reasons for not making AYP!

Based on the above, along with previous evidence collected ( can anyone deny that the non-magnet high schools on the south side of Dallas are doing better than those on the north side of Dallas?

How can Dallas media speak of a "North-South Gap" wherein the North is always superior? They can only do it by avoiding any reporting in print on the repeated academic patterns indicating a different gap, one with the south side on top!

All DISD schools and students must do better, must constantly improve. Transparency helps that to happen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dallas North/South Gap Myth suffers with almost half of all DISD high schools in North Dallas rated as UNACCEPTABLE by TEA!

Some of the most prominent Dallas media continue to engage in "body language" promoting the "Dallas Myth" that DISD schools on the north side of Dallas always perform better than those on the south side of Dallas. They do this by refusing to adequately present the overwhelming evidence of significant indications that schools on the south side of Dallas are better than schools on the north side of Dallas. The southern half of Dallas will be defined by this map.

This week the new TEA ratings came out. They show that there is over a 100% greater probability for a DISD non-magnet high school on the north side of Dallas to be rated UNACCEPTABLE that for a DISD non-magnet high school on the south side of Dallas to have such a rating. In this north/south division we will use this map from the Dallas Morning News North-South Dallas Project pages. These ratings also show that only one of the 4 remaining (i.e. not rated UNACCEPTABLE) north side DISD high schools, Jefferson, received their rating by having "met absolute standards," without using TPM, or other related rating aids. Meanwhile, for the 15 non-magnet DISD high schools on the south side of town, 7 of them received their acceptable ratings by having "met absolute standards."

TEA ratings show 3 (43%) of the 7 non-magnet DISD high schools on the north side of Dallas (Conrad H.S. must be added) are rated as unacceptable: Bryan Adams, Hillcrest, and North Dallas High School. The same TEA ratings show that only 3 (20%) of the 15 non-magnet DISD high schools on the south side of Dallas are rated as unacceptable: Samuell, Carter and A. Maceo Smith.

It was documented that significantly higher percentages of south side 9th grade students were making it to the 12th grade from 2005 up to the present. In 2008/2009 Oak Cliff was even 11 percentage points over North Dallas in this measurement! Look closely at the graph on the last page linked above. Note that the 6 North Dallas high schools used in this rating (Conrad was too new to be included) ALMOST caught up with Oak Cliff in this promotion rate with the 2009/2010 school year. The Dallas Morning News has not mentioned this measurement of progress for the south side in print. It appears they do not want to acknowledge how far behind the North Dallas schools were for several years, and still are!

Now, with the new TEA ratings, a new and more solid indication is available. TEA shows a more significant measurement wherein 43% of the north side high schools are rated unacceptable while only 20% of the south side schools are so rated. Also, only 25% (one) of the remaining 4 north side high schools were able to make their rating by meeting absolute standards, i.e. without the TMP or related help. On the south side over 58% (7) of the remaining 12 south side high schools were able to make their rating by meeting absolute standards.

The time has long passed for these differences to be publicly shared in major Dallas print and television media. The failure for this to happen shows "body language" indicating the media want to do nothing that may damage the old Dallas myth that the south side is somehow "worse" than the north side.

It remains to be seen if the Dallas Morning News will acknowledge IN PRINT that the south side of Dallas has made tremendous progress in several educational areas while the north side appears to have fallen back.

The good news remains that, overall, the children of Dallas are ALL making progress. Dropout rates are down and graduation rates are up. The progress must continue!

We must allow this north/south gap debate to be a form of entertainment, painfully reflecting the ongoing history of Dallas where still not enough has changed. The REAL WORK must continue in the classrooms and dining rooms all over Dallas, work for the futures of ALL our students.