Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dallas ISD 2012-13 Budget Questions

Why is DISD wasting millions of dollars by apparently ignoring, except for one application at Rosemont Elementary School, a large recent Harvard Study showing the value of the K-8 configuration? 

K-8 is a school configuration many of us in the older generation grew up with. Then middle schools were started, inserted a forced transition and fragmenting many life-long relationships.  No research was done at the time on the effects middle schools may have on student achievement. The results have not been good.

On 2/23/12 an article titled "Students who attend middle schools at risk of dropping out of high school" was published by Education Next.  The research was summarized with the statement: "As compared to students in K-8 elementary schools, middle school students also score lower on achievement tests. Losses amount to as much as 3.5 to 7 months of learning."   This monumental loss was during only the first year of middle school transition in the 6th grade!  The first year is the worst, but lower achievement continues into high school where dropout numbers are also higher for middle school students compared to K-8 students.

DISD is wasting millions of dollars! More critically, millions of student class hours are also being wasted! This is all done by simply continuing to have students forced out of their elementary schools and into separate middle schools. Anyone who thinks that is not happening needs to actively study this and related research. The ongoing problems in our DISD middle schools are well documented. We cannot ignore these failures. 

DISD must encourage more parent driven explorations of potential transitions to the K-8 model such as is now happening at Rosemont.  The results would be more community based K-8 schools with increasingly active PTA's in the process.  Parents will be more involved for more years and more vigilant over their child's achievement due to longer term relationships with the same staff.  (It is no secret that middle school PTA's are the weakest in the PTA system.) The $24.4 million DISD budgets in student transportation could be lessened as middle school students begin to more often remain in local K-8 schools and just walk to school.

We must read the above linked article, the related research, and do much better for our students than we are doing now.

We must be prepared for more public school closing due to both the charter school expansions that are happening and due to the rapid drop in birth rates that has happened since 2007.  From 2007 to 2010 the number of Dallas County births dropped from 44,414 to 39,712, a 10.6% drop!  The numbers of children entering DISD, once the children born in 2007 enter kindergarten or first grade this year, will be going down unless the achievements and reputation of DISD begins to rise such that children return from private or charter schools in significant numbers.  Our hope rests with neighborhood based K-8 public schools strengthened by increased parental involvement.