Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cutting student pregnancy rates in half & a Dallas ISD time-capsule project

Student pregnancy rates are related to the most common problem in secondary school: unmotivated students! They have no focus on their own futures, and no plans.

In 2005 Quintanilla Middle School started a time-capsule project to focus students on their own plans for the future by having 8th graders, just before they leave for high school, write letters to themselves about future plans. 

In 2009 letters by parents to their child about their dreams for their child were added to the project. A golden connection with families was created. More conversations at home about goals and the future are certainly happening. Quintanilla, with 1,200 students, and Sunset, with 2,300 students, have certainly improved.  Benefits to date include:
  1. Even with a 95.7% poverty rate, student pregnancies at Quintanilla have been more than cut in half, from a “norm” of 4 to 5 student pregnancies a year, to only 2 pregnancies in 2011/12, and only one this year, 2012/13!  Such is the power of active planning for the future.
  2. Quintanilla is the highest rated of all 19 DISD south side non-magnet middle schools! See 2013 Children at Risk school rating report:
  3. Quintanilla Middle School now has the lowest frequency of discipline problems in District 1!  In 2007/08 Quintanilla had 1,299 disciplinary actions recorded, over one per student. It appears they will finish the 2012/13 school year with less than 400 actions, or less than one for each three students.
  4. The graduation rate at Sunset High School, starting their own time-capsule project in 2009, has doubled since 2006.  It has gone from 33% in 2006 to near 70% for the Class of 2013! Current Sunset enrollment is 579 freshmen and 522 seniors!
  5. With the increased family interactions from these parental letters, and the focus on planning for the future, gangs are less attractive.
  6. As students leave school for the last time, staff can begin to say “See you in 10 Years!” - The message is different. School culture is changing.
It's certain teachers do not have extra time for additional work. This letter writing project should replace other Language Arts lesson plans. It should not require extra teacher time. Volunteers help teachers with the few mechanics involved to make the Archive Project work. Would you be interested in helping this project thrive in your school?
======= Recommendations for Time-Capsule Project ========
The School Time-Capsule Project is an “open source”project.
Change it to best meet needs at your school.

It is recommended letters be written twice in middle school and twice in high school: when a student enters in 6th or 9th grade, and just before they leave at the end of 8th or 12th grade. Parents should be invited to write the first letter each time, a letter to their child about their dreams for them. They are encouraged to also write stories from family history, stories they want their children to remember. Yes, it is hard to get letters from every parent. That does not always happen, but when a child may begin to fail during the school year, such letters become a much higher priority. The letter writing process can be used as needed to engage parents and their child when failures are indicated.
  1. Place the vault in a central location of the school to maximize the number of students who see it each day. They know their mother's letter is in the vault and what she wrote! That quiet presence seen daily may help students study harder.
  2. The first letters students and parents write upon a student entering your school should be returned as they prepare to write their final letters. The final letter looking 10 years into the future is written the final month in school. That letter should remain in the vault for 10 years.
  3. The placement of the final 10-year letters into the vault should involve photos given to students.Each Language Arts Class should pose in front of the vault holding their letters for the photo. Then they each place their letter on the shelf inside the vault for their class to remain there for a decade. They receive two copies of this photo, one for them and one for their parents. On the back of the photos are details about the 10-year class reunion, including phone numbers to call, 90 days before the reunion date, to volunteer to help plan the reunion.
  4. Students are told the final letters will be returned to them at the 10-year class reunion when they also will be asked to speak with the then current students. They know they will be giving their recommendations for success. They are warned to be prepared for questions like: What would you do differently if you were 13 again?”
  5. Constantly learn from and modify your project. (Please also share what you learn with us.) The first reunions will start at Quintanilla in November of 2014. We will learn many things from these former students. We will continue to learn every year as students return every November for the annual reunions. What better way to constantly improve our schools than to listen, along with current students, to these former students who've lived a decade in the real world with the education we provided?
Donors, including Lowe’s Home Improvement and A-1 Locksmith, have provided the first 10 vaults installed as of 5/25/13 in 10 DISD schools, as well as the funding for the next 3 vaults to be installed in 3 more DISD schools yet to show an interest in this time-capsule project.
For more details please study the web pages and blog at, or contact Bill Betzen at or 214-957-9739. This is an “open source” volunteer project supported by the LULAC National Education Service Centers Inc., 345 S. Edgefield, Dallas, 75208, 214-943-2528.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Collection of concerns regarding Mike Miles:

This blog was posted last week.  Today I received notice of the results from the 5/23/13 state testing within DISD.  They are on the DISD web site at .  Click on the "District" results in the first row to see the entire district.  The results are generally positive.   The remaining fear is what will happen as the hundreds of experienced and capable teachers who are now being hired away by suburban districts or are retiring now due to professional frustrations within DISD.  Hopefully a year from now we will have other positive tests without this capable staff to lay concerns to rest.

======== original post ========
In preparation for the 5/23/13 DISD Board Meeting this collection of statements is being made focusing on public concerns about the radical direction DISD appears to be going under the leadership of Mike Miles.   Yes, change is needed!   Everyone agrees on that, even the Dallas Citizens Council!   Here are some statements regarding concerns about the direction of DISD under Mike Miles:
  1. A six page statement was released 5/4/13 by three leaders of Dallas Achieves about the damage being done.  This detailed letter still has not been responded to by DISD administration in anything more than a simple acknowlegement, a few affirmations of the direction being planned, and a request for private meetings.  Since two weeks have now passed without a more detailed public response, Dallas should be very concerned!  Specific responses are needed to each of the dozen or so issues mentioned in this detailed letter.
  2. "No winning through intimidation" is an excellent opinion piece in the 5/18/13 Dallas Morning News by Mrs. Martin Marty. Notice the comments to the article.
  3. Michael MacNaughton: Why Miles’ market-driven reforms won’t work is another excellent opinion piece in the 5/9/13 Dallas Morning News.  This powerful summary of the national experience on educational reform introduces the research supported by the Economic Policy Institute that must not be ignored in Dallas.  See item #4 listed next.
  4. "Broader, Bolder approach to Education," research supported by the Economic Policy Institute, is a 95 page summary of the national educational reform experience to date.  While this research does not mention Dallas or Mike Miles, it is about education management methods Mike Miles is trying to use in Dallas that have not worked. Dallas leaders must either read this research, or find and make public their reasons for ignoring it! 
  5. Mike Miles does not yet have required Superintendent Certification.  With news posted 5/22/13 this is no longer an issue.
  6. A powerful collection of postings on DISD is on this blog site.  The most recent can be found at .  I encourage you to read the postings on this site.  The lack of transparency within DISD, the information not being shared with the general public in an easy to locate place or in an easy to understand format, are the most critical long term issues for the health of our school system.
  7. On 5/22/13 Don Williams, one of the original three Dallas Achieves leaders to sign the 5/4/13 letter in item #1 above, sent another detailed letter, with an attached 20+ page discussion document, to Mike Miles.   Those documents were all reported on in, and linked to, a Dallas Morning News article the same day.  They are powerful, detailed, and error free to my knowldge.  See
  8. On 5-24-13 it was discovered that during Mike Miles time in Harrison 2 District in Colorado Springs that the percentage of 9th graders who never made it to the 12th grade in Harrison increased over 500%!   A spreadsheet with district enrollment going back a decade was found and clearly indicated this attrition rate.  Over 26% of high school students were pulled out during the 6 years Mike Miles was superintendent there.  However, the total enrollment of the district was stable indicating a severe problem with secondary education in the district.  Here are the details and links to data sources:
  9. You will find a Youtube video news clip from September of 2011 regarding demonstrations and concerns about Mike Miles in Colorado Springs at .
  10. This link is to two reports.  One is a presentation given by Mike Miles on 4-12-13 in Colorado Springs that contained very critical negative comments about Dallas ISD.  The second is a national report published 4-18-13 that was very critical of the types of reforms now being imposed on DISD.   See
 Please let me know of more opinion pieces that can be linked above or posted below.
Below are statements that are not yet published online elsewhere. 
The first is an email from a concerned citizen and a member of the Lincoln Alumni Association forwarded to me by Joyce Foreman:
I have been trying very, very hard to figure out how the leaders of our wonderful school district can sit quietly while the community is in a uproar over the actions taken by our newly appointed school superintendent. I attempted before to e-mail each of you with a few remarks in hope that I would receive some response from you. However as with everything else I didn't get but one response. (Thank you Mr. Micciche). Realizing your schedule is very busy, especially with the end of the school year up on us. May I take a few moments of your time to seek some clarification on this very important issue concerning the evaluation system in place to evaluate and assign Principals?
It seems to me two grave mistakes have been made by the "TRUSTEES." 1) Apparently there was not enough research done before selecting Mr. Miles. Based on the reports (Pro and Con) coming out of Colorado and the fact that he either owns or has interest in the ownership of a Business that is involved with the Charter Schools System. I will not ever believe you were not intelligent enough to question the sincerity of his motives and ability to manage, Dallas ISD. 2) How could you give him two years to receive his certification, and allow him to initiate a evaluation system to make decisions about principals future that will effect the lives/education of our children as well as the morale of the entire staff of DISD teachers. The system he has proposed doesn't give time or take into consideration situations that effect the performance of the Principals.
1) If after reviewing the pros/cons of the Colorado community, you didn't see anything that would require you to think twice and maybe even do more research. I certainly question your ability to make policy and give directions that will effect the future of our children. Whatever the value of the pro's or con's. I am sure there was enough value in either of them to make you think twice before making such a move. I understand (and I could be wrong or have incomplete information) a large portion of the community felt he was not capable of running that agency. I have read several articles that would support that opinion and I have read other that favored him, However there were more against than for. (Those that "I" read). I am sure you were privileged to more information than I, certainly it would raise a "RED FLAG" high over his abilities in YOUR decision making. As I stated before, I have had communications with one of his peers, that was asked by Mr. Miles to join him here because "here he could do as he pleased because of your (TRUSTEE) policies." I have "NO" reason to disbelieve this information because this person has "NO" reason to lie to me, and is highly respected in the education field. Serves on several of the most powerful boards in education. Those same words or signals must have passed you some where in your review of the research company making the recommendation. Finally didn't the "POTENTIAL" of conflict of interest enter your minds? I can't believe you would want to even think of that possibility.
2) Certainly you know the importance's of having a certified person in this position who would use DISD policies to allow them to make fair and equable decisions without your (TRUSTEES) sanction. I refuse to believe you knew the effects the evaluation system can have on this district but, did nothing to have a much fairer evaluation system, a system that does not have the potential of having DISD in another law suit. How do you evaluate a Principal on their ability to manage a school when they do not have "ALL" the requirements to fill the job. The Principal at Madison has been without a "FULL" teaching staff, but her children continue to show improvement. The Principal at Lincoln has continually fought facility problems, (IE: Floods, ceiling failing in, and yes staff shortage) Still the children have progressed. How well would you preform if you were under a threat of loosing your job, being fired or forced out of the system. I know there must be at lease one (1) trustee that is a attorney and know enough law to see the possibility of legal action . Win or loose, do we need the expense of a law suit? Certainly there is at lease one (1) trustee that is a educator that would know the difficulty of managing a school with a full staff and a decent building. I can't believe they didn't speak up, if they did and you refused to listen to your peers, then you are a very sad group of "ELECTED" officials. We (the community) made just as bad a judgment in electing you as you did inuring Mr. Miles. Your decision should not be made along racial lines or living locations, or whether you have children in DISD or not. IT HAS TO BE MADE ON WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE CHILDREN AND FAIR FOR OUR PRINCIPALS.
If Mr.. Miles was given a "fair amount of time to receive his certification, our principals should be given a fair amount of time before evaluation. This does not mean to place education on a back burner, or to allow principals to be unprofessional or proficient. Give the Principals the time to adjust to Mr. Miles, and Mr. Miles should get to know the principals. We know part of all this action has to do with the mayor and his goals, but just like you, he is a elected official as well. Is it possible that Mr. Blackburn , President of Trustees happen to be a part of the charter school system as well? Let's be HONEST, FAIR AND PUT A GOOD EDUCTION FOR OUR CHILDREN FIRST. I HOPE WHEN MAKING YOUR DECISION YOU REMEMBER THE YOUNG MAN THAT SPOKE AT YOUR BOARD MEETING. I QUOTE "if it wasn't for the principal at Madison, I would probably breaking into your house right now, because you are here". That principal who has been threaten with being removed and/or terminated, who has saved the life of a child, a child that is going to SMU on a "ACADEMIC and ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIP" instead of breaking into YOUR HOME.
Give it good unbiased thought before you sign off on any evaluation.
Respectfully I thank you for your time:
Charles Taylor
The second is a statement I have been working on:

Any teacher or other professional within DISD not supporting the need for change needs to retire.

When DISD was about to lay off 1,000 teachers two years ago I decided to be the one to retire and let the younger teachers carry on. It was a good decision. I was not teaching as well as I used to after 39 years work with Dallas children.

Since that 2011 decision it has been painful to watch DISD deteriorate. The flattening of the Cumulative Promotion Index, the most predictive of graduation rate measurements, shows we have a problem:

The responsibility for most of that loss rests with the 2011 Texas Legislature and their, now proven unnecessary, $5.4 billion cut to education.

But now DISD is facing compounded new challenges from another source that is more dangerous. Oppressive micro-management is either terminating or chasing off the very staff who helped that record setting progress from 2006 to 2011 happen in DISD. Many DISD professionals with a record of achievement are leaving or being pushed out. It's frightening!

This past January the Dallas Morning News published a revealing article about the 35 schools in DISD that made the annual Texas list of subpar campuses:

All of the non-magnet high schools in Dallas made this “worst” list except for 2 high schools on the North side of Dallas: Jefferson and W.T. White, and 5 high schools on the south side of Dallas: Adamson, Molina, Skyline, South Oak Cliff, and Sunset. These schools are to be celebrated!

In 2006 all DISD non-magnet high schools were official “dropout factories!” They had average promotion rates below 60%. That is the percentage of 9th graders who make it to enroll in 12th grade. As of 2011/12, 5 of the 7 listed above were no longer “dropout factories,” and the remaining 2 were almost there! That is the good news.

The frightening news is that at least 3 of the 5 principals of the 5 south side schools that were NOT on the subpar list are either being replaced by Mr. Miles and his administration, or the principals are retiring! We are loosing some of the best! Dallas needs to be very concerned. Where is the data that is being used to make the decisions coming from DISD headquarters to pressure these principals?

Dallas needs to be very concerned about the lack of transparency. Everyone in education should know that you cannot make your decisions based on only a few data sources, such as only SAT and ACT scores! Also, when a school has increased the number of students taking the SAT/ACT tests by 300%, and their average scores have NOT gone down, that is progress!! It is progress several schools that are getting heat from headquarters have made. Yes, change must continue! Progress must continue! But do not chase away those making the progress!

It has now been 2 weeks since the three leaders from Dallas Achieves wrote their well researched letter to Mike Miles: on line at . Where is the response? Why is a response taking so long? Dallas should be very concerned that it has already taken over 2 weeks for DISD administration to respond to what the three leaders from Dallas Achieves wrote. Dallas should re-read that letter to prepare for this Thursday's DISD Board meeting.

Bill Betzen
School Time-Capsule Project
Dallas, Texas
Additional statements are welcomed for posting here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Progress with a school time-capsule project in Dallas ISD

On 5/16/13 two additional vaults were installed in Dallas ISD secondary schools. We now have 9 vaults in Dallas ISD schools, with the 10th vault to be installed next week.  Here are the results of this project since 2005:

At Sunset High School, the Class of 2013 graduation rate will be near 70%, MORE than a doubling of the 33% graduation rate from the Class of 2006!  Remember, this calculation is the percentage of the full original 2009/10 ninth grade enrollment represented in the number of diplomas to be granted to that Class of 2013.  It is not the TEA rate which is usually much higher.

At Sunset the current enrollment is 579 ninth grade students with 522 seniors!  That is the largest senior class on record! When was the last time you heard of an inner city high school that is over 2,000 students, with a poverty rate leaving 90% of students on free or reduced lunch programs, with their enrollment so well balanced between the 9th grade and 12th grade?  This is wonderful progress!  Sunset staff are to be congratulated!

Quintanilla Middle School, where the School Time-Capsule Project started in 2005, now has the lowest reporting rate of discipline problems for any middle school in District One in DISD.  Quintanilla is a 1,200+ student middle school with a poverty rate reflected in 95.7% of students receiving free or reduced lunches. Students rated as LEP due to Spanish being their primary language represent 50% of the student body.

Quintanilla had only had one student pregnancy this past year!  A "normal" pregnancy rate was 4 or 5 pregnancies.  Last year was 2.  We are making real progress!  Planning for the future, and it appears letters from parents about their dreams for their child which started in 2009 at Quintanilla, are the best birth control!

Finally, Quintanilla is the highest rated DISD south side non-magnet middle school in the 2013 Children at Risk school rating report: Only 5 of the 33 other DISD middle schools had higher ratings. They were all in North Dallas with much lower poverty rates in their schools.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dallas ISD building a wall

On 5/4/13 a well researched letter was sent to DISD Superientendent, Mike Miles, by three Dallas Achieves Commission leaders.  It's a critical letter asking for answers about many issues, including why positive moves toward transparency in DISD were not being continued.  Those changes were encouraged by the Commission in 2007 when 5 years of record setting progress started in DISD.

Now other changes are happening within DISD:
Comment & Question form used 5/6/13 at DISD meeting for public input
The shrinking of the public comment form at public meetings asking for input indicates that there are indeed walls going up around DISD.  Not only is DISD sharing less about what is happening inside the district, but they want less input from the public about what should be happening. 

This is not a joke!  It's "body language" DISD administration may not even be aware of.