Saturday, October 30, 2010

Any potential stirred by “Waiting for Superman” dies without school transparency.

On 10-28-10 State Representative Eric Johnson of Dallas, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Big Thought, along with many others concerned about our Dallas schools, sponsored a showing of “Waiting for Superman.”

It was a very good evening. The most critical reality that emerged that evening, after the obvious that "something must be done," was that before any long lasting progress happens in our schools they all must provide complete public transparency related to student enrollments by grade, demographics of all children served, and monies spent.

Such data must be easy to locate on every school and school district web site. It must include information that is already easily available in every schools' records. It only needs to be made public. It should include student enrollment by grade, including graduation numbers. Such data must be reported annually and go into one large spreadsheet covering a minimum of 10 years of history. Four measurements of the graduation rate and student movement should be calculated on the spreadsheet and then graphed annually to illustrate progress, as reflected in this graph for Dallas ISD:

Once school culture becomes aware that such numbers will be made public, changes in priorities will evolve. More work will happen to motivate students to stay in school and succeed.

Such transparency will be a central tool for the supermen and women who are already working to save our schools. With it they will be able to assess how bad things are, create solutions, like the School Archive Project, and then follow the progress year by year as things improve, or as design changes are needed in any project.

Hopefully here in Texas, due to the data already publically available on the Texas Education Agency web site, we can have much of this information more quickly available for every school and school district.  The major thing missing on the TEA web site is a simple multi-year spreadsheet for every school and school district.  If all goes well, a legislative remedy will be possible within the year.