Friday, September 28, 2012

Dallas Won't Back Down

The movie "Won't Back Down" comes out this weekend.

Having seen all the trailers available on this enticing film, (see, and having read many of the reviews, I'm planning to see it for one reason: to meditate on the power of parents working together to improve their child’s school.

Parents have awesome power in today's political climate. Their neighborhood schools, and not charter schools, should be the target for everyone. Look at what Rosemont Elementary parents have already done right here in Dallas ISD! Such involvement and transitions everywhere in each of our 230 schools will change Dallas ISD into the envy of the nation!

Every parent should put their dreams for their child into a letter to their child. Then go to school often and help it happen. Such "dream" letters need to be written every few years for a child. It's the only focus that counts as a parent.

Every neighborhood school should be facilitating such parental dreams. The mothers in these movie trailers do not seem crazy to me. The solution they apparently chose may not have been the most practical, but their ultimate goals seem to be on target.  But let's see the movie.

========= after seeing the movie =========
I've now seen the movie. It is certainly choreographed to maximize emotion. Parents demanding school improvements for their children and chanting “We will not wait!” was one such moment. Another was the presentation on prison construction planning using student performance in elementary school to project the future need. Again parents chanted “Hands off my kid!” in response to such designs on their children. Otherwise the movie was not connected to reality. (Yes, such prison planning is reality!)

The movie was idealistic, presenting a tragic school that neglected students and then a solution that is simply not credible. It deserved the “C” rating printed in the Dallas Morning News.  It did not reflect the recent change in focus by the American Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers union, to change their mission statement this summer to focus on students and their families first. Now if you see AFT members acting in any other way, remind them of their mission statement. It is powerful and positive!

We still need to be working on solutions to the inadequate performance in too many public schools, real solutions, like moving toward a k-8 centeredschool system, with actively involved, future-focused parents and students.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Parents move students to avoid middle schools

It has been obvious for decades that the greatest loss of students within Dallas ISD, and most school districts, happens from the 9th to the 10th grade. Most dropouts never made it to the 10th grade. But in Dallas that has wonderfully changed but another loss is taking its place.  While our officially calculated dropout rates have gone down, more students are leaving at an earlier grade, before they enter into the graduation rate calculation.  While DISD is setting graduation rate records every year, it is also loosing record numbers of 5th graders before they enter middle school in the 6th grade!
Dallas ISD Student Loss Centers, transitions 5th to 6th & 9th to 10th
(Right-click and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
Parents are removing their children from DISD between 5th and 6th grade to avoid DISD middle school, as is reflected in the graph above.  Notice how the blue line goes down.  That represents the decrease in the percentage of 5th graders who actually make it to 6th grade.  Now over 11% of 5th graders are missing in the 6th grade. The solution is not as obvious as the other transition.  This is a transition initiated by parents facing middle schools with terrible reputations, most DISD middle schools!

Dallas must begin to indicate they are paying closer attention to the research which is all pointing the same direction, toward K-8 schools as the answer.  (See the research at  The K-8 alternative is more popular with most parents. Student achievement stays higher and the multiple other problems in middle school are lessened with K-8 schools.  A community can focus more intensely on their local school and the PTA will be a much more vital organization in each school.  There will be less need for busing of students as attendance zones will be more compact.

Yes, this will be a very gradual transition but parents need to demand it.  It can happen school by school.  Ultimately it will help guide future building in DISD.  We do not need more middle schools!