Wednesday, December 29, 2010

School Archive Project 2010 Annual Report

Year 6 of School Archive Project shows real progress!!

Click on the above chart to see a larger copy, download, and/or print a copy.

  1. Dallas ISD set a 20 year graduation rate record in 2010.  The high school which contibuted the most to this progress, out of the 40+ high schools in Dallas ISD, is also the high school which received the large majority of School Archive Project students. DISD had an 9 percentage point graduation rate increase from 2007 to 2010. (Improvements are summarized in a 12-13-10 opinion piece published in the Dallas Morning News as “A teacher's report card on Michael Hinojosa.”) However, Sunset's graduation rate went up 25 percentage points during the same 2007-2010 period within which DISD improved "only" 9 percentage points.
  2. The School Archive Project has gone from starting in one school in 2005 to now being in 7 schools at the end of 2010: two high schools, four middle schools, and one elementary school.
  3. The money donated to install ten School Archive Project vaults is almost gone. The Dallas Educational Foundation ( ) needs more donors to replenish the School Archive Project Fund. This fund provides a $1,500 grant to each DISD school starting a School Archive Project. Over 3,000 DISD students a year are now writing letters to themselves planning for their own futures.  These letters are placed by the students into the vault bolted to the floor in their school lobby where the letters stay for the next decade. This 3,000 number needs to grow ten-fold so that more DISD students are actively involved in documenting plans for their own futures.
  4. Sunset High School, which has received the majority of School Archive Project students since 2005, has gone from one of the lowest average graduation rates within DISD, only 34% (2000 to 2007), to one of 60% for the Class of 2010, which is over 11 percentage points higher than the DISD average. Sunset will have a graduation rate of 70% by 2013 based on current patterns reflected in their spreadsheet below. Sunset High School received a dynamic principal, Tony Tovar, about the time that the School Archive Project started. He gathered many talented staff and well designed programs into Sunset, including starting a high school version of the Archive Project with their own vault in 2009. The other middle school feeding into Sunset, Greiner Middle School, started it's own Archive Project the summer of 2009 as well. (Click on the "DallasISD Graduation Rate Progress" chart above to enlarge it and study the details of the dramatic progress happening, especially since 2009!)
  5. The most significant modification of the Archive Project happened in 2010. Parents now start the letter writing process for their child by writing a letter to their child. They write about their dreams for their child. The student then reads and uses this letter to help write their own letter to themselves about their dreams and plans for the future. Both letters go into the same self-addressed envelope that the student then places into the vault for the next decade. It is certain these 10-year class reunions will be even more powerful for former students due to the priceless additional letter from their parents that will be waiting, with their own letter, in the School Archive.
The Archive Project progress has been accelerating and expanding. The 60% graduation rate is cause for celebration! Now to go far beyond it!

The dedication of the volunteer staff running the School Archive Projects in each school is to be acknowledged and honored.  Each school has from one teacher to a team of such volunteers who run the Archive Project. They alone allow for the low $1 per student Archive Project cost.

We still need to get university-based research started into the validity of the dramatic achievements that appear to be happening in association with the School Archive Project. Hopefully such research will start in 2011 as the number of students reached by School Archive Projects continues to increase.

Please make a donation to the Dallas Educational Foundation if you would like to help more schools start a School Archive Project. This can be done at You may also simply contact your local school and offer to directly finance their starting a School Archive Project. A 500-pound vault can be delivered and installed for about $1,100 to function as the time-capsule. The school only needs one or more volunteer teachers to run the project, teachers who would love to encourage student writing and planning for their own futures.  Teachers who would most love to see their students again in 10 years are recommended.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Dropout factory" definition error by Dallas Morning News & other media

A major error in the definition of “dropout factory” is being made by many news organizations across the US leading to significant errors in judgement regarding actual progress. That error mistakenly included in the "Dropout Factory" definition the last of the four critical steps high school students make on their way to graduation, the move from 12th grade to actually getting a diploma.  The "Dropout Factory" definition only counts the first three moves: 9th to 10th, 10th to 11th, and 11th to 12th. It does not count the move to graduation as graduation data is very difficult to consistently secure on a national basis.  This fact, combined with monumental increases in the Texas 12th grade dropout rate since 2006 due to raising graduation standards, is the reason that Texas, while leading the nation in loosing 77 "Dropout Factories," still had a decrease in the Texas graduation rate of 0.4%.

In Dallas this error was made by the Dallas Morning News on 12-4-10.  That error can be found online with the posting of “Hits and Misses” . That posting includes the following statements: "The state has considerably fewer "dropout factories" than eight years ago. That's the result released this week by America's Promise Alliance and several other organizations that have studied dropout patterns across the country. In 2002, 240 Texas high schools qualified as dropout factories, meaning that 60 percent or fewer of their students graduated."

The "dropout factory" term was defined John Hopkins University in their historic 2007 study.  It does NOT refer to schools wherein "60 percent or fewer of their students graduated." It only counts students who make it from 9th grade to 12th grade, not those who graduate.

On page 24 of the “Building a Grad Nation report," linked from , the definition of “dropout factory” is clearly given. Graduation data is much harder to collect on a national scale and therefore was not used in the “dropout factory” definition. Instead that definition is based on the "promotion rate."  That is the percentage of 9th grade enrollment reflected in the 12th grade enrollment three years later.

For Texas, in 2002, 2003 and 2004, almost all seniors graduated. This change in definition by the Dallas Morning News makes little difference in such years. Only 0.7% of the original 9th grade enrollment were missing for the Class of 2002. Those years the 12th grade enrollment and the number of diplomas given out in Texas were almost equal. In 2004 Texas actually gave out about 800 more diplomas that it had 12th graders listed as enrolled. Those are the numbers reflected in the TEA (Texas Education Agency) data base. (See this history and data in a spreadsheet of Texas State Enrollment by Grade just over half way down the page at

By 2008 in Texas this situation had dramatically changed. Texas had wisely implemented more meaningful graduation requirements. By 2008 the percentage of senior enrollment “missing at graduation” had gone up over 10-fold from 0.7% to 7.85%! Thus 21,485 Texas seniors of the 273,606 seniors in the Class of 2008 were “missing at graduation.” These dropouts are not counted by the “dropout factory” definition erroneously being used by the Dallas Morning News and other media. (Statistical data used in these calculations is secured from the Texas Education Agency web site at .) That is why this newest America's Promise study reports on page 27 that, in spite of Texas leading the nation with 77 fewer "dropout factories," Texas had a graduation rate that went down 0.4% from 2002 to 2008, instead of going up.

Yes, Texas is still making progress. We now have more accurate data available. We also must have the more demanding standards for graduation that were implemented after 2004. But we are not making progress when the media are less than precise in the way they report on that progress and the data available. We must practice the same accuracy we want our students to master. The Dallas Morning News needs to correct this error.

It needs to be emphasized that this error by the Dallas Morning News is repeated across the US by several other news organizations.  Too many news media staff are not familiar with the definitions involved. This is another issue we face in the battle fighting very real, and very high, dropout rates across the nation.