Friday, December 30, 2011

World's Best Schools: Finland

Over the past decade Finland has achieved an international reputation for educational excellence. Pasi Sahlberg is director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? , published this past NovemberThe following quote is from an article in the 12-29-11 Atlantic Monthly, What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success  
"When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's, many said it couldn't be done," Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. "But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland's dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn't be done."

Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important -- as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform -- Finland's experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn't the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad."
"More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad."

Well said!

But here in Dallas, and apparently in many locations in the U.S., you will repeatedly hear statements dismissing Finland's experience that include: “These other countries educate just a few and we educate everyone. The sampling procedures are clearly wrong. They are totally homogeneous country. We are very diverse.”  If you have heard, or made, such statements you need to read the following article: Is the secret to Finnish schools Finns or is there something for America to learn?

Until the remnants of a "separate but equal" mindset disappear in the U.S., we will not be open to the lessons in equity from Finland.  Until the US embraces the potential power in unionization, as 95% of teachers in Finland are union members, we will not tap the power in a dedicated union of teachers actively focused every school day on student achievement. Until the US understands the damage from unnecessary transitions in our K-12 grade configurations, and the need for fewer and more seamless transitions, we will waste critical time, energy, and opportunities. 

Our children pay dearly every day for these failures in the U.S. educational system.  Our students will need to struggle more as adults to fit into an expanding international economy.  The US is no longer the best education system in the world.  Finland has shown it does not take more money and time invested in school to secure that first place.  They have shown the way through the efficiency found in equity for all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Open Source Dropout Prevention

The time has come to update the web site and make it much more user friendly. Too much is on the School Archive Project web site, and blog, that is too hard to find. The goal will be to create a truly open source dropout prevention project.
The economic benefit for Texas to cut the dropout rate in half for one year only would be in the billions of dollars!  See .

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dallas City Council Redistricting, 5-9-11 Map Update

(The plan below was updated 5-13-11 and that plan is being submitted formally to the Commission. That final plan can be seen at
The plan below is left here for anyone interested in the evolution of the final plan.)

In an effort to reunite Inwood Northwest Homeowners Association, modifications were made by moving the west end of the southern border to District 13 to Lovers Lane. That allowed Midway to become the western boundary to District 13, another step forward in straightening district boundaries. Click on the above map to see a much larger copy. The demographic statistics generated by the above map are copied below from the handout used at redistricting community meetings. Click on the graphic to see a larger copy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Dallas City Council Redistricting Map: 05/07/11 version

This 05-07-11 version of the Dallas City Council Redistricting map reflects the input of many dozens of people. At the same time, gerrymandering continues to be lessened. Here is the statistics page with an explanation for where the design process on this particular map stands. Public input is still needed and critical! Click on this image to make it larger:

Here is the map with the boundary lines shown that give the above statistics for each Dallas City Council District. Again, click on it for a larger copy.
Your questions and comments are welcome. This map must continue to be improved now that it appears to have met the population and ethnic distribution goals for each of the 14 Dallas City Council Districts. Balance will be the challenge as every change needs multiple more changes to achieve balance once again. Please let me know your concerns, especially if you see any errors.

Please also come to one or more of the Dallas City Council Redistricting Committees twice weekly meetings in various places in Dallas. You can find that schedule at . There are meetings every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 7 to 9 pm until May 24th. The public is strongly encouraged to attend.

I am in this process only as a private Dallas citizen and only represent myself in these postings. I've seen the damage of gerrymandering in Dallas for too many decades. It must be stopped! Only active citizens, angry enough to vote accordingly, can do that! While our children have been fighting and dying in foreign lands to protect peoples right to democracy, we are letting that same democratic process be damaged constantly right here in Texas. We owe a debt to our children to fix things here in Texas, especially for our children who have already died fighting for democracy elsewhere!

Bill Betzen,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dallas City Council Redistricting Map Draft 05/03/11

(The plan below was updated 5-13-11 and that plan is being submitted formally to the Commission. That final plan can be seen at
The plan below is left here for anyone interested in the evolution of the final plan.)
We now have a first draft with statistics that only indicate need for minimal corrections.  Here is the map. If you click on it a larger version will appear.  Then, if you click on that copy, icons will appear that will allow you to enlarge it much more:
This map shows the basic lines.  There will be minor changes made due to the input of the public and from the Redistricting Committee Meetings twice a week.  Please send your opinions to, or post them here, on this blog.  Here are statistics and comments that go with the above map:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dallas City Council Redistricting Process Report

(The plan below was updated 5-13-11 and that plan is being submitted formally to the Commission. That final plan can be seen at
The plan below is left here for anyone interested in the evolution of the final plan.)
The first Dallas City Council Redistricting Committee meeting with the public was 04/26/2011 and went well. About 12 speakers all said basically the same thing: Do Not split my community/do not gerrymander.

Today, after two hours on the Dallas City Council Redistricting Computers, the following initial and very crude map was made:
Please just click on this image to see a larger copy.  This is ONLY a draft and needs very much work.

Here is an example of the type of statistics that are produced, and change every time you move population from one district to another.

The above spreadsheet only has data for five of the districts which is a very crude estimate. This is the type data that changes by the minute as you work on your version of the Dallas City Council District maps changing district lines.  Go to City Hall and give it a try!  Help redesign Dallas to be an ever greater city!  See information on the process at
The last page at this link has the details on the computers in Dallas City Hall Room L1AN.  To schedule an appointment just call the Dallas Redistricting offices at 214-670-5417. The official Dallas City Hall Redistricting web site, complete with a multitude of maps, is at

Sunday, April 17, 2011

As Dallas City Council Redistricting process evolves we have a priceless lesson for our students in democracy.

These postings on Redistricting will now, 4-30-2011, be moved to a site dedicated to redistricting. The issues of expanding the high school graduation rate should not loose importance or be confused with redistricting. Go to to see more postings on Redistricting for Dallas City Council.
The History of Dallas continues to unfold and provides for our Dallas ISD students a priceless lesson in democracy. Like all cities, Dallas has a history of the unequal distribution of power with minorities and the poor being generally under-represented in positions of power. With the greater transparency being provided to processes such as redistricting, that lack of balance is slowly disappearing.  You must make your own judgements as to how far we have yet to go.  Here is a demographic spreadsheet on the current Dallas City Council makeup and how it corresponds to the demographic makeup of Dallas as reflected in the most recent census:
Here is a second spreadsheet only counting the Dallas City population for those age 18 and above.

If you see an error in either of these spreadsheets please do not hesitate to email  Accuracy is critical. The data from which these spreadsheets are made is from .

Unless there are errors in the above spreadsheets, the simple conclusion is that the past decades growth in our Hispanic residents in Dallas has led to a significant imbalance on the Dallas City Council makeup. While that imbalance must be corrected in the redistricting process, unnecessary gerrymandering for partisan purposes will only be counterproductive as has been documented at  We must achive balance without risking the breaking up of our communities of interest.   See Texans for Redistricting Reform and this video on youtube produced by the Tea Party in support of A. J. Pate and his methods that minimize gerrymandering, voter confusion, and the resulting voter apathy, while also meeting the Voting Rights Act requirements at the same time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A report from the Texas House, 11:00 AM, April 1, 2011

It is a sad day in Texas History to be watching HB 1 slowly move through amendments toward passage. The testimony is heart rending as a minority of legislators work to stop the process of cutting services to public school children, the elderly, and the disabled. 

Many groups representing the elderly, the frail, the handicapped, and school children, are all walking about in the halls of the capitol.  A few are here in the galleries. But a large group, almost 90% men, all in suits, are standing outside the House chambers in the lobby.  I presume they are lobbyists. It appears they may hold the power, not the other groups walking about the capitol mentioned above.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Solution to Texas Deficit Crisis

After many revisions the message to be used has been reduced to one statement:
A challenge is made for anyone to find an error in this statement.  The site has the data upon which this statement is based.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The cause and a solution for the Texas budget crisis

After many months, and pages of discussion on how to avoid the painful and damaging cuts in services and education in Texas, there is one conclusion that is repeated more and more often in many different settings throughout Texas. The regressive taxation system in Texas is to blame.  Here is one sign that will be seen around the Texas State Capitol during future gatherings:

Is there a more accurate way, in less than 14 words, to describe the cause for the pain and loss that the elderly, disabled, and children of Texas are facing?

The Texas budget would balance without cuts if the rich paid 2/3 of the effective tax rate paid by the poorest 20% of Texans.  See

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Final Report Card on Dallas ISD Board Budgeting in 2011: Graduation Rate changes 2012-2016

On March 24, 2011, the Dallas ISD Board will consider some of the most consequential changes possible relative to future graduation rate progress within DISD. They may take actions to lay off more than 500 teachers.

As indicated on the "Dallas ISD Report Card for 2011 Budgeting" below, the past 5 years have shown record breaking progress in raising the graduation rate within DISD.  The DISD Class of 2010 set a 20+ year graduation rate record!  Over 50% of the full 9th grade enrollment of 2006-2007 was reflected in the number getting diplomas with the Class of 2010!  This is the first time DISD has gone above 50% in this graduation rate measurement in over 20 years!  The indicators for the future are that this number will continue to grow at least through 2013! The five measurements used in this graph are as follows:
  1. The ninth grade bulge reduction is the percentage of 8th grade enrollment reflected in 9th grade enrollment. Yes, 9th grade enrollments in Texas are usually much bigger than the 8th grade enrollments.  This is the called "the 9th grade bulge," students repeating 9th grade due to poor middle school preparation and support in high school, often until they just drop out. As the bulge shrinks the percentage of 8th grade enrollment reflected in 9th grade enrollment grows, as has been happening for 5 years in DISD.
  2. The percent of last yrs 9th grade in 10th is another indicator of the 9th grade bulge as students leave the 9th grade. As the bulge shrinks this number increases.  DISD now has the smallest 9th grade enrollment, and the largest 10th grade enrollment, in over 20 years!
  3. The Promotion Rate is the 12th grade enrollment as a percentage of original full 9th grade enrollment. It is the measurement used by John Hopkins University in their nationally known "Dropout Factory Study." The progress in DISD is wonderful and the number of Dropout Factory high schools in DISD is the lowest in decades.
  4. The Graduation Rate as calculated here is the number of diplomas granted as a percentage of full 9th grade enrollment.  It is not to be confused with the "Graduation Rate" numbers given out by both DISD and TEA. Those numbers include corrections from coding by clerks in each school so as to document valid transfers both into and out of our schools.  The measurement in this chart only counts full 9th grade enrollment as compared with the full number of diplomas given, with no such corrections by coding clerks.
  5. The Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) rate calculation, is the most timely and predictive of these five measurements. It is calculated in the identical manner as the Graduation Rate above, using the four transitions toward graduation: 9th to 10th, 10th to 11th, 11th to 12th, 12th to graduation. The difference is that each of the transitions used in the CPI calculation is from a different student group so that all four transitions happen within the same calendar year and not one group spread across 4 years. Consequently the CPI is much more timely with all calculations used reflecting what is happening within the most recent year in a school or school district.  It is also more predictive since three of the four groups measured have not yet graduated and will contribute to future graduation rates as well.
Here is the graph reflecting these 5 graduation rate measurements over the last 5 years in DISD.  What will this same graph updated 5 years from now with then current data say about the decisions made in 2011 in DISD?
The anticipated loss of hundreds of teachers endangers the progress made over the past 5 years.   Hopefully the updates that will be made to this chart in 2016 will not be a report card reflecting declines or setbacks but continued progress.

Graduation rates rise due to the positive relationships of students with teachers. Fewer teachers mean less potential for such positive relationships. Crowded classrooms lower graduation rates.

The ultimate responsibility for this crisis is with the Texas Legislature.  The is a record of those issues.  A bill now in committee, Texas House Bill 354 could eliminate the deficit by sharing the burdens more equally among all Texans. We have work to do in Austin to protect our students, and the future of Texas. 

To see spreadsheets used to create these charts go to for Excel copies, or study the progress that is demonstrated in the copy below:
Click on the above image to make it larger.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

82nd Texas Legislature Report Card on Education

Texans need to think of ways to evaluate the success of the 82nd Texas Legislature, now in session, regarding the planned budget cuts in education.   There are now 4,933,600 children in Texas schools.  We have a critical obligation to be vigilant and maintain the wonderful progress of the last 5 years!

Here is a suggested format for one report card on the effects of the budget work of the 82nd Texas Legislature on education.  It is a graph of the progress of the past 5 years with space provided to fill in the blanks as these same measurements are documented over the next 5 years.   How will the 82nd Legislature do? You may click on the above chart to see a larger image of it, print it out (landscape format), or email it to share with your legislator, or with your friends also working to help communicate the issues with our legislature.

The Excel format 1997-2011 enrollment by grade spreadsheet for all Texas children used in these charts can be downloaded from

We must put this crisis in perspective:

The Texas school funding crisis is only the smoke.

Almost 50 years ago I was waiting in a grain truck north of Hereford in a wheat field on my dad's farm. I was waiting for the combine to fill up for the next dump. The smoke I suddenly smelled is like the educational funding crisis!  While potentially deadly, the smoke was caused by the fire in the subble in front of the truck.  That fire is like the Texas state taxation system.  It is the real problem!

You cannot have a state taxation system that taxes the poor at a percentage of their income (12.2%) that is four times the rate (3%) at which the rich are taxed!  School funding is only the smoke, deadly, but still just the smoke!

The problem with this analogy is that the Texas state taxation system crisis is nothing new or sudden!


Bill Betzen

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Progress in Texas Schools shown by February TEA data release, but will budget cuts end this progress?

The newest Texas Education Agency enrollment and graduation data for Texas public schools was posted in February on the TEA web site. I have been working today to update the old graph posted only with the enrollment data for last year. With this new data the progress that is happening in Texas schools is more than amply documented. Here is the initial draft of the graph I have made with the new data:

Click on the above chart to see a bigger copy. All four of these measurements tracked in the graph increased from 1.4 to 3.5 percentage points this past year alone with this update!  This is wonderful progress for schools representing 4,900,000 students! It is also significant progress on four measurements tracking the most critical factor in our school system, the deadly dropout rate. No single variable contributes more consistently to the crime rate in Texas than the dropout rate.

The probability of this progress continuing is in danger with the currently planned cuts in education funding in Texas. The time is long overdue to correct the state and local taxing systems in Texas. The 20% of families with the lowest incomes pay the highest percentage, 12.2% of their income, in state and local taxes.  The richest 100,000 Texan families, the 1% of the state with incomes over $463,000 annually, only pay 3% of their income in state and local taxes.  We have a problem! Texas definitely has the money. We only need to decide that education is a priority. See

Here is a report card to use in helping to communicate the message to legislators that we will be watching for the effects of their current refusal to address equal tax rates for all Texans but instead cutting public education:

If anyone wants a copy of the spreadsheet, and all the numbers used in creating the charts above, please email  I will continue to work on these charts to make them more useful. Ideas are welcome! Due to the budget crisis here in Texas it is urgent such updates on the wonderful progress in Texas education are known.  The damage a 15% cut in funding for education would do to this progress is frightening!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rainy Day Fund will help, but a permanent fix to Texas tax inequities is needed

The funding crisis Texas is facing is much bigger than only school funding, even bigger than the entire $27 billion deficit.  This is an ongoing problem, year after year, as Texas tries to get all the money it needs for government, and a nice mansion for the current governor, disproportionately from the poor.  The taxes in Texas need to come equally from all income levels so that everyone is paying the same proportion of their income in taxes.  What is wrong with that? 

If the wealthy paid the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes as the poor, Texas would not have a deficit.

From 6:30 to 9:30 AM this past Monday and Tuesday I stood with this sign at the entry way where legislators slow down to put their card into the reader to open the gate to the underground parking garage.  They were polite and many gave strong verbal approval for this sign.  Now we need to see action that moves the bills now before legislative committees out to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote.   The legislators can fix this crisis by simply practicing equality, all income levels paying their fair share.   What is the problem with that?   See for details.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Texas Education Budget Cut Crisis

There is nothing more painful that to have been part of a system that was constantly improving for the past 5 years and to suddenly see that system begin to fight against itself due to pending budget cuts.  Texas was constantly improving for the past 5 years, as is clearly indicated by the constantly improving graduation rate data shown in this chart:
Texas must now decide how important the education of the children of Texas is.  Is it so important that Texas will consider and discuss the possible addition of as much as 6% in taxes to Texan families making in excess of a half a million dollars a year?  Texas is about to have the values of our great state exposed to the nation in a blunt and clear manner that has never happened before. There is no shortcut out of this fact.

Please study the alternatives presented in They are simple.  They will improve Texas forever.  Come join us at the demonstrations in Austin this week.  Here is the flyer being handed out at the demonstrations in Austin both Saturday and Monday.

Questions are welcomed.
Bill Betzen
214-957-9739 cell 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dallas ISD Board Meeting, children suffering, and Texas HB 354

The filled-to-capacity Dallas ISD Board meeting this evening was an exceptionally sad event.  Fourty speakers addressed the planned loss of teachers in their school, and other budget cut trauma being inflicted by the $27 billion dollar Texas deficit. Children spoke of their loss, of their fear of loosing teachers. I left after about 10 speakers. 

It was simply too much. The problem is a state budget deficit. This evening many good and noble parents, children, and citizens were speaking out in attempts to protect the schools they know.  To listen to this, while knowing this is only the tip of the iceberg, grew more frightening with every speaker. The same agony is going on in every district in Texas!

What added to that frustration was knowing that the regressive taxation system, one built over the years by Texas politicians directed by paid lobbiests, has led to the human tragedy now unfolding.  Unless there are significant changes made in our Texas taxation system such problems will continue. 

The web site has a painful two page summary of the state and local tax rates in Texas listed by income level.  This information is also addressed in a Dallas Morning News article from November of 2009.  It shows that the poorest 20% of families in Texas pay 12.2% of their income toward state and local taxes. The next 20% of families, up to a $31,000 annual income, pay 10.2% of their income in state and local taxes. The most wealthy 1% of families in Texas pay only 3% of their income in state and local taxes.

If these 100,000 most wealthy Texas families, with an average annual income of about $2 million in 2011, were to have their share of the state and local tax burden raised by 5 percentage points, almost $10 billion could be generated to cut the Texas budget disaster nearly in half, even without the Texas Rainy Day Fund!   Even with such a change the poorest Texans would still be paying a proportion of their income into state and local taxes that is over 50% higher than the rate paid by the 100,000 most wealthy Texas families! How can you compare the suffering between these two groups?

I've been told repeatedly today that a state income tax this will not happen "in Texas."   Are we not telling the truth about what is about to happen to our students, our elderly, and the poor in Texas?  Allow those legislators who are willing to protect the rich while allowing 4,800,000 students to suffer to stand up and vote so they can be counted!  Transparency is needed!  We must know what our legislators are doing.  Is this suffering being ignored?  Then Texas voters can vote at the ballot box after they have have seen what our schools are like next year after the planned cuts.

Support Texas HB 354 and bring it to discussion, possible amendments, and a vote.  Legislators must be counted!  Just go to the Texas Legislature online and contact the members of the Ways and Means Committee where the bill is now assigned.  They have the power to both add any needed amendments and pass HB 354 to the floor for a vote. 


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toward a Texas budget surplus, & more progress in education

If every Texan paid the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes as are paid by the average cafeteria worker or teacher's aid, then Texas would have a budget surplus to deal with instead of a deficit!

Study regressive taxation and the state and local tax rates by income level in Texas at . There you will find that the 20% of Texans with the lowest incomes pay 12.2% of their income in state and local taxes. For the next 20% the average percentage paid is 10.3%. The most wealthy 1% of Texans only pay 3% of their income in state and local taxes.

If all Texans paid 10.3% of income in state and local taxes, Texas would have a budget surplus!  If that percentage, and more, is not too high for the poorest 40% of families in Texas, why is it too high for the wealthy?  If this correction was done with a state income tax, we could also deduct it from from our federal taxes as a federal deduction offset. The federal government would pay part of the cost.

Without such a change, the 4,800,000 children in the public schools of Texas will suffer. They will suffer due to a multitude of state services for children being cut, including school cuts leading to a lower quality of education in more crowded classrooms. This will affect their entire lives, and the future of Texas. What are we allowing to happen in Austin in our name?


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is Texas education progress endangered by missing information?

According to a spreadsheet provided by the U.S. Census Bureau at, in Houston, families with $25,000 incomes pay 9.9% of income toward state and local taxes while those with $150,000 incomes pay only 4.4% toward the same state and local taxes.

This is called a regressive tax, one wherein the poor pay a greater percentage of their income than the wealthy.  Texas is one of the 10 states with the most regressive tax system in the nation. More details about this pattern begin on page 8 of the report titled "Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States," at This study shows on page 102 that Texas requires families in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale to pay more than three-and-a-half times as great a share of their earnings in taxes as families in the top one percent.

I have spoken with about 20 people these past 48 hours about these numbers. All were amazed.  The extend of the regressive tax pattern in Texas is not well known by the public.  I would welcome information from anyone aware of reports and data showing that the Texas tax system is not as severely regressive as indicated by these numbers. Please email me at if you know where such information is located online.  I will link to it here.

The Texas Legislature is planning to lessen the education resources available to the 4,800,000 children in Texas public schools, and thereby forcing our children to have something less in their educational process.  This endangers the education progress Texans have enjoyed these past 5 years.  It endangers the future of Texas. We must have all such information, like tax rates related to income level and other details of the regressive tax system in Texas, very visible and publicly known.  Let the people know the numbers, and then let them decide what they think of the decisions made in Austin.

Again, please send corrections and/or better sources for such state and local tax rate information for Texas to  All voters need to know.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Texas Education Progress Survival: DIY students

Trillions of hours of annual do-it-yourself (DIY) labor are the power behind our nation's ingenuity and growth. DIY work is also the power behind any student's success in middle school, high school, or college.

Until a student takes ownership for their own success in school, with personal goals they claim as their own, DIY efficiency doesn't happen. The process of setting life goals is a more normal process in small town and agrarian settings. It is too often lost in the rush of modern urban settings. If Texas inflicts the currently proposed budget cuts on our students, it will only be with expanding such DIY student efforts that current Texas Educational Progress will survive.

Texas secondary schools do not focus early enough, or strong enough, on the life goals students need to drive such DIY effort. Consequently students too rarely embrace the critical DIY ownership needed for their own education. School is something done to them, not something they understand as a resource toward personal goals. Thus one out of three Texas students drop out, one of the highest dropout rates in the nation!

By middle school the personal goals needed to drive DIY student energy should be expressed and documented.  Such goals should be a comfortable topic of conversation. DIY student ownership of the educational process should grow to dominate personal decisions long before high school graduation.

The School Archive Project started in 2005 with a strong focus on long-term goals. That focus, combined with dynamic personal leadership at the schools, has helped liberate the DIY student energy in the targeted high schools. The major high school targeted with this project has seen graduation rates go from 33% to over 60% in 4 years.    We are just beginning to see the power of DIY students empowered with strong long term goals.

Putting such goals into written form starts in the School Archive Project with parents writing a letter to their child about their own dreams for their child. That letter is then used by the student in writing a letter to themselves about their own history and goals for the future.  Both letters are placed into the same self-addressed envelope, one envelope for each student. That sealed envelope is then placed on the shelf for that class inside the 500-pound vault bolted to the floor in the school lobby. The vault is very visible and seen by students several times every school day, a reminder of the dreams and goals in their letters.  It is also a reminder of their planned 10-year class reunion when these envelopes will be opened. That is also when they will be invited to speak with then current students about their recommendations for success. They know to expect questions such as: "What would you do differently if you were 13 again?"

These 10-year class reunions should become a priceless source of feedback for teachers most dedicated to constantly improving their work with each new class of students.

The current Texas educational budget crisis requires new, tax free resources for our schools, including better ways to focus our students onto their own lives. Now is certainly when Texas needs such a low-cost, $1 per student (usually donated), resource as a School Archive Project in every secondary school. Our students must focus by middle school on their own long term goals, and update that focus constantly as they move toward graduation.  They must be motivated to work on their own DIY student efforts in order to get the education they will need to be employable in 2020.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Texas Budget Crisis, Education, and Texas Children

Details of the Texas budget crisis are being revealed more every day. The tragic educational cuts planned are embarrassing! Especially for any Texan who had hoped Texas was finally rising above the bottom place in educational attainment in the U.S.. The wonderful progress over the past decade that is revealed in the chart below will never survive the planned educational cuts.
Knowing the disaster that is about to happen in Dallas ISD, please study this chart closely. The progress shown will not only stop, but the number of children dropping out of our schools may begin to increase again. Think of these numbers as the children they represent, some of the 4,480,000 children attending public schools in Texas. 

More details about each of these four measurments are found at . We must somehow continue this progress!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Texas Education Progress endangered by planned 2011 Budget Cuts

Any failure to meet the additional costs for public education in Texas, due to inflation and normal student number increases, will end the accelerating progress Texas has enjoyed over the past four years. ( Click Texas Budget Surplus to see how costs could be met.) The failure to meet such cost increases will also endanger the progress projected by the increasingly rapid decrease in the 9th grade bulge found in Texas enrollment patterns. All progress will be in danger if the normal cost increases are not met. But the 11%-13% in cuts recommended in the Legislature will be an educational disaster for Texas children!

Patterns of progress over the past 4 years are clearly illustrated in the spreadsheet below.  It is a spreadsheet of enrollment by grade numbers for all Texas public schools.  It includes grades from 8th to 12th and graduation numbers from 1997 to 2010. It provides five measurements drawn from these enrollment numbers to track Texas educational progress:

Two measurements in this spreadsheet are related to the 9th grade bulge.  They measure it from both incoming and outgoing student numbers. As the percentage of 8th grade enrollment reflected in 9th grade enrollment grows, the bulge is disappearing. As recently as 2008 Dallas ISD had 9th grade enrollments that were over 35% larger than their 8th grade enrollments. Students were "stuck" in the 9th grade, repeating it more than once until they either pass on to 10th grade or dropout. The second "9th grade bulge" related  measurement counts the percentages of 9th graders who pass on to 10th grade the next year. In too many school districts the majority of dropouts never make it to the 10th grade. In Dallas ISD we had years as recently as 1999 when less than 60% of 9th grade enrollment was reflected in the next years 10th grade enrollment. This year, 2010-2011, the DISD 10th grade enrollment is over 82% of last year's 9th grade enrollment, the highest percentage on record for recent decades! As the 9th grade bulge disappears dropout rates will continue to go down.

The data above was used to create the following graph on each of the five measurements to more clearly document progress.  Notice especially the most recent Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) measurement clearly illustrated in the graph below for the Class of 2009. This 5.9% CPI is almost double the second strongest improvement (3.2%) for any of the CPI rates that preceeded it in this chart covering 12 years! Texas is headed in the right direction!

The Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) is a measurement more frequently found in academic circles, but it is a very solid predictive measurement for the direction that graduation rates are going. It takes the measurements from the same four transitions gathered in the graduation rate that normally follows only one group of students over the four transitions toward graduation: 9th to 10th grade, 10th to 11th, 11th to 12th, and 12th to graduation.  The CPI takes the measurements from these same four transitions but from four different student groups making those transitions within one 12 month period.  Thus the CPI for 2009 measures the transition of the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes of 2008-2009 to the next grade in 2009-2010, and the transition of the 12th grade class of 2008-2009 to graduation.  The CPI graduation rate measurement is more timely, and also more predictive due to the fact that three of the four groups measured will be graduating at some time in the future.

The projected progress in Texas seen in the 5.9% improvement in the CPI will continue to happen unless there is a significant disruption in the funding of educational services provided to children. To continue the current progress cost increases due to growing student numbers and inflation must be met. But the 13% cut now proposed in the Texas Legislature will be a disaster! It shows no awareness by the lawmakers who are supporting such recommendations of what is happening both in Texas schools, and in the criminal justice system. Where on the priority list for each of these legislators are the children of Texas?

A 5.9% improvement in the Texas graduation rate would mean that over 18,000 more students are receiving a high school diploma. If that were not happening, what would the ultimate cost be to Texas for 18,000 more citizens without diplomas?

The normal high school graduate makes $10,000 more in annual income than the normal high school dropout. With 18,000 more citizens paying taxes as they spent that average $10,000 extra in annual income for 30+ years that would amount to $5.4 billion dollars more in spendable income in Texas. (18,000 x $10,000 x 30 = $5,400,000,000)  This 5.4 billion dollars comes from a 5.9% increase in graduation rates being achieved for only one year. Add to that number the savings due to decreased law inforcement, less incarceration, and other social costs saved when students graduate and do not drop out.  Money invested in education is the best investment. 

Copies of the spreadsheets used in these calculations are available by request. All data used in these calculations come from the TEA web siteChallenges to this data, and these conclusions, are welcome!

Bill Betzen

Friday, January 21, 2011

Texas Education Progress and 2011 Budget Crisis

The currently proposed education budget reductions of 13% now being considered in the Texas House of Representatives will have terrible consequences! There are 4,850,000 children in the public schools of Texas. The current recommendations, if followed, would amount to one teacher, or other school employee, loosing their job for every 50 public school children in Texas.

Such drastic cuts would certainly have a very negative affect on education in Texas!

Below is one record of the progress made by our children in Texas over the past dozen years.  It is an enrollment by grade spreadsheet for all the public school children in Texas showing their progress toward graduation. (Click on the spreadsheet to make it larger.) Significant improvements have happened during these years:
This spreadsheet clearly shows wonderful progress by our children.  Yes, the percentage of 9th graders who are getting a diploma within 4 years is embarrasingly low, only 67.4 percent by the most recent numbers available for the Class of 2009. But that is a 5% improvement from 8 years before.  Please notice that in all major categories Texas is improving!  Also, it is indicated that more improvements were on the way.  The notorious 9th grade bulge, where 9th graders get stuck repeating the 9th grade, and too often just drop out, is shrinking. That indicates that the graduation rate in two years will continue to rise. As dropout rates go down so do crime rates. But, with this dramatic budget cut, and the loss of teachers, will this progress continue to happen?  (Please email if you want a copy of this Excel spreadsheet to work with.  Data is all from the TEA web site.)

There are many issues.  Public availability online of itemized budgets for every publicly funded service in Texas should be mandatory. This includes every school and school district, as well as roads, medical funding and all other services paid for by taxes. All the details should be easy to locate and understand online so the public can see how their money is spent.  They certainly should voice opinions on cuts to make, or else decide on how to provide better for our children and find the money/resources needed.

Texas has constantly been improving the education of our children.  That can continue if we make the needed sacrifices. What else in the budget could more directly change the future of Texas than investments, or the failure to invest, in our children?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Four Measurements of Graduation Progress in Dallas ISD 1996-2011

Understanding the true graduation rate in Dallas ISD is critical to understanding what is happening to Dallas children. The first draft of the graph below was produced over a year ago to help clarify the issues relating to graduation rates. It tracks four critical measurements related to graduation rates within DISD. Now, with this 2011 version, each measurement is updated with one more year of data. The ongoing progress by DISD is shown in this graph. Each measurement improved a minimum of 4.3 percentage points to as much as 9.4 percentage points!

These are the four measurements used in this chart:
  1. The percent of the previous year's 9th grade enrollment reflected in this year's 10th grade enrollment is a way to track the notorious "9th grade bulge."  This "bulge" is an inflation of 9th grade enrollment caused by students who are "stuck" in the 9th grade, repeating it until many of them simply drop out.  This bulge goes down as a greater percentage of each 9th grade's enrollment moves to the 10th grade.  The shrinking of this bulge is a predictor for higher graduation rates. In the past the majority of students who dropped out of DISD were those students who also never made it to even enroll in the 10th grade. That is now changing with the largest 10th grade enrollments in history happening in 2010-2011! 
  2. The promotion rate is a measurement of the percentage of students who successfully make the first three transitions in high school: going from 9th to 10th, 10th to 11th, and 11th to 12th. It is a measurement used in many national studies, such as the John Hopkins University "Dropout Factory" study.  It is used due to the difficulty of securing consistent graduation information from each high school across the nation. The 2007 John Hopkins University study declared all 21 non-magnet high schools in Dallas as part of the 2000 schools in the U.S. to be "Dropout Factories" with promotion rates of 60% or below from 2004 to 2006. Now 1/3 of these DISD schools are no longer "Dropout Factories."  More progress is anticipated due to the current 70+% reduction of the "9th grade bulge."  That reduction improves the potential that more students will be making it to 12th grade and on to graduation.
  3. The graduation rate used in the chart is the percentage of full 9th grade enrollment reflected in enrollments for each of the three transitions mentioned above, plus the number of diplomas represented in the final transition from 12th grade to actual graduation. Please note that this graduation rate percentage has been growing more rapidly than the promotion rate since 2007. That indicates that more students are passing the relatively recent hurdles presented in the final year of school with more rigorous state testing since 2004.  This is very positive progress!
  4. The CPI rate calculation is the Cumulative Promotion Index used in academic circles as a more timely measurement of the progress being made in a school system.  It takes the four transitions of the graduation rate described in number three above and compresses them into one 12 month time frame involving four different student groups. For the Class of 2010 the CPI was made up of the percentage of freshmen failing to transition that year (2009-2010) to be sophomores the next school year (2010-2011), the percentage of sophomores who failed to transition that year to be juniors the next year, the percentage of juniors who failed to transition that year to be seniors the next year, and finally the percentage of seniors who failed to graduate with the Class of 2010.  That sum, subtracted from 100%, is the CPI. The CPI is a more predictive measurement because it measures the percentages of students-yet-to-graduate who have already successfully managed three of the four transitions counted in a graduation rate. If a CPI measurement is going down it is a warning signal as well for worse dropout rates to come. In this case DISD has reason to celebrate as the CPI is going up! We must then keep working for an ever higher graduation rate.
If anyone wants copies of the spreadsheets and data sources used to create this chart, please email  Critical readings of the data are welcome!  All data comes from publicly available sources, mostly TEA.  The only data no longer easy to locate online are the enrollment by grade counts for DISD schools as of 11-05-10.  These were used as the source for current enrollment numbers for the 2010-2011 school year.  They are probably the most error prone of any numbers used to create this chart.  They are still probably well over 99% accurate as a projection of the "official" enrollment counts that should appear on the TEA web site within the next 4 months.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Graduation rate progress by area in Dallas ISD

Dallas media has often written stories giving false impressions that the dropout problems in Dallas are on the south side of Dallas. In 2008 that presumption was documented as being false!  That year the promotion rate, and potential for graduation, for high school students continued to be higher in the 9 Oak Cliff DISD high schools than in the 6 North Dallas DISD high schools. That was the third year that was true.  The difference had grown to one of 10.1 percentage points in 2007-08!! The 9 Oak Cliff high schools had 10.1% more of their 9th graders making it to12th grade! This measurement is called the promotion rate.

The promotion rate is composed of the first 3 transitions of the 4 transitions that combine to make the full "graduation rate."  The promotion rate combines the transitions from 9th to 10th, 10th to 11th, and 11th to 12th. The last step toward actual graduation is not included in the promotion rate calculation.  That fourth step with graduation data is hard to collect nationally on a consistent basis state to state.  Thus, progress in raising the promotion rate only points toward graduation rates also going up and is not an absolute predictor.  But it has been an accurate predictor for the DISD graduation rate progress in recent years.

The 9 Oak Cliff high schools in Dallas ISD continue to hold the lead over the other areas of Dallas ISD with the highest combined promotion rate in 2010-2011.  They have the highest percentage of their 9th grade enrollment reflected in the full ultimate enrollment for the 12th grade three years later. However, they are only 3/10ths of one percent in front of the 6 North Dallas high schools. It is possible that in 2011-2012 North Dallas will pull in front of Oak Cliff for the first time in 8 years.  This competition and progress is good news for all of Dallas.  In this process the promotion rates for all areas of DISD have gone up 4 percentage points, or more, this year!  Look at the chart below to see how all of DISD is improving.

Copies of the spreadsheets used to create the above graph are available.
Please email

Sadly, promotion rates are the only calculations possible by school from the online TEA database. Due to lack of such consistent graduation data nationwide, it is the measure the national John Hopkins University "Dropout Factory" study was forced to revert to using, and which has been repeatedly mis-interpreted as a "graduation rate" by the press nationwide. The TEA online database, and all similar state accountability systems in the nation, must provide graduation numbers by school.

Annual enrollment data, combined with graduation data, should also be placed annually into one multi-year spreadsheet for each school and school district so as to show student movement. This only amounts to the annual collection of 16 numbers: Early Education, Pre-K, Kindergarten, the 12 grades, and the number of diplomas granted that year. These 16 numbers collected for each school and school district each year, and added to the same spreadsheet each year, would lead to a revolution in public accountability and transparency. Seeing the patterns these 16 numbers form, when placed into the same spreadsheet with the same 16 numbers for each year going back 20+ years, can tell you more about a school or a school district than any other single sheet of paper. Such spreadsheets help parents and politicians to better understand the meaning of a "20% dropout rate" claim when 50% of the 9th grade enrollment three years earlier is missing at graduation for that acclaimed "20% dropout rate" class. Such spreadsheets may eliminate such misleading dropout rate claims.

Such transparency is mandatory!  It is leads to public accountability that is long, long, overdue. It makes it harder to hide children who are "missing at graduation."  It helps people know that questions need to be asked.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sunset High School made Dallas ISD Class of 2010 graduation rate record possible

The Dallas ISD Class of 2010 set a graduation rate record going back over 20 years. The 6,984 diplomas given out in 2010 represent 49.6% of the full 9th grade class enrollment from four years earlier, when that enrollment was 14,079. This measurement of graduation rate has not been higher than 49.6% in over 20 years. (The measurements used in this calculation are not to be confused with the TEA graduation rate calculations, the AYP calculations, nor the Cumulative Promotion Index measurement for graduation rates.)

However, when you remove the tremendous progress made by Sunset High School in Oak Cliff, this wonderful 20+ year record almost disappears to only a 6 year record.   The 49.6% DISD graduation rate goes down to 48.9%.

Sunset High School has made over a 150% increase in their graduation rate since the Class of 2000!   The large majority of this progress was achieved since the Class of 2006, as shown in the graph below.   This report is a comparison of Sunset progress with the progress within all of the rest of Dallas ISD, without Sunset. Just click on the image to see a larger copy.

It appears that almost all the progress within Dallas ISD is happening within Sunset based on this chart.  While it is certain this is not true due to the wonderful progress eliminating the 9th grade bulge throughout DISD, it is certain that Sunset is a leader among the 40+ high schools in DISD. Below is an enrollment by grade chart for Sunset going back to 1997 which clearly shows the 9th grade bulge has virtually disappeard this year at Sunset. When both Sunset and Greiner Middle School, the other middle school feeding into Sunset, started their own School Archive Projects the summer of 2009, that meant that all students at Sunset were getting that forward looking and planning experience twice at a minimum.

Hopefully this progress within Sunset is being studied by Dallas ISD, and the results of those studies will be shared with the public. The reasons for this tremendous progress need to be known.  This dramatic progress must be repeated in all DISD non-magnet high schools.

Most of the data from which this chart was made is available at, and on the "DISD Stats by School" pages linked from that page.  Questions about this data are welcome.  Copies of more recent spreadsheets, used in these calculations but not yet online, will gladly be shared.  Just email