Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Priceless Student Feedback

Today Secretary of Education Arne Duncan provided some priceless suggestions to Dallas ISD.  Among them he suggested that any transformation requires collaboration, with teachers, parents, principals and students having input.

He is right. DISD needs to begin to listen more actively to more people.  But most critically DISD must listen to students.

Such a priceless student feedback system has been in the works in DISD since 2005. That year over 300 8th graders wrote letters to themselves that are now waiting in a vault inside a DISD middle school for their 10-year reunion. This was the beginning of an annual letter writing event focused on the future.  That reunion, the first of many, is now planned for November of 2014.  It is only two years away. 

These former students were told in 2005 that they would be asked to volunteer to speak to current students about their recommendations for success at their reunion. The were told to expect questions such as "What would you do differently if you were 13 again?"

Consequently, this reunion will also be a priceless time for teachers and DISD administration to be in the audience listening as these former student speak. Maybe we can even set up a session only for teachers and DISD administrators to listen.  Think of the lessons that could be learned, the information from these former students as to how well their DISD education prepared them for the world.

Such an annual feedback system needs to become normal in DISD.  We must have such a system for feedback after our students have been gone a few years so they can more accurately say what they wish they had more of, or what had turned out to be of little value after leaving DISD.  

We have much to learn from our students.

Pinkston High School, Dallas, a decade leading to improvement

The following chart covers the past 15 years of enrollment history at Pinkston High School in Dallas Texas. Pinkston used to be one of the worst schools in Dallas but is now significantly improving.   More work is needed, but we can document progress.  Enlarge the following chart and print a copy for study.

A decade of enrollment numbers for Pinkston High School, Dallas Texas
Right-click on above image and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The greatest 5 years of progress in history of DISD, & what?!

Everyone agrees that Dallas ISD has just completed 5 of the most progressive years in DISD history, progress where the seeds were sewn in 2006.

Using any one of a half dozen graduation rate measurements, the graduation rate has gone up more than 10 percentage points, and more than 20 percentage points by some of those measurements!  At the same time the numbers of students taking the SAT and ACT have increased, doubling the percentage taking the ACT, and scores have not gone down. (Yes, scores are low. That is an area demanding work, but average scores are not going down as the numbers of students taking the ACT test has doubled, a definite achievement.) 
Dallas ISD Enrollment 1996-2012 demonstrating attrition and graduation rate improvements
(Right click above spreadsheet and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
Each year in the above chart there are 5 separate measurements related to student movement toward graduation. Compare the five years before 2007 with the five years since.  Notice how all but one of the measurements in the most recent 5 years since 2006/07 have been positive improvements from the previous year.  (Gray blocks are ones with no progress but a step back.) During the previous 5 years, from 2002/03 to 2006/07, only 13 of the 25 measurements were positive with 12 measurements being steps backwards.  Something major changed within DISD!! 

We must not lose this momentum!  We have the staff who can do it!  That is, we used to have them. 

DISD lost too many staff with the 1,400 staff lost due to budget cuts, and now the additional staff leaving due to crowded classrooms and other pressures hindering work on student performance within DISD.

The best teachers teach because they enjoy helping students achieve. As long as salaries and working conditions are positive enough that teachers can provide for their own family, they enjoy working to help students achieve. When that satisfaction from a job well done becomes more rare and hard to come by in a district, that is when teachers leave seeking that priceless satisfaction elsewhere in another district or school.  What is happening in DISD to keep such priceless teachers? 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Report Card to be completed for 82nd Texas Legislature

Prior to 2011 two states spent less per student on k-12 education than Texas: Utah and Nevada.

In 2011 the 82nd Texas Legislature cut funding for each student in Texas by 10.4% from 2011 to 2012, and then cut more in 2013.  Only two other states had cuts to k-12 education of the same or worse percentage of funding as Texas between 2011 and 2012: Kansas and Illinois.  Statewide many Texas districts were anticipating the cuts.  They were leaving positions vacant and unfilled before the January 2011 start of the 82nd Texas Legislature. Programs were also being cut that were considered lower priorities. It was very clear that Texas schools had been enjoying a period of great progress until 2011.  For some, such as Dallas, it had been a record setting time of improving graduation rates.  Most familiar with dropout prevention knew that was about to change. 

The following “report card” was made to document consequences from the decision of the 82nd Texas Legislature to cut $5.4 billion from education in Texas. Initial results are already evident in the CPI measurement.
82nd Texas Legislature Report Card: finishing out a decade of educational progress
(Right-click on image above and open link to see larger copy.)

The Graduation Rate and the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) above are calculated from the same four movements of student groups through high school: 9th to 10th, 10th to 11th, 11th to 12th and 12th to graduation. The difference is that the CPI calculation only uses these four transitions that happen within the same year by four different classes.  The Graduation Rate calculation covers these four transitions for the same class over a four year period.  Therefore the CPI is more timely and predictive than the Graduation Rate.  The CPI is not dealing with events that happened 2 and 3 years ago but is reflecting what is happening in high schools this year.
Notice how the CPI improvement has leveled off for 2011, the first classes to see effects from the cuts.
More variables related to achievement should be added to this report card, but graduation rates are probably the most critical of all measurements.  They are the most direct predictors of incarceration rates.  What price will Texas ultimately pay for this $5.4 billion “savings”? What will this Report Card for the 82nd Texas Legislature look like by 2015/16?