Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Online Petition Against Home Rule in Dallas ISD

As part of the battle to fight "home rule" an online petition is now available at  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/764/195/947/people-against-home-rule-in-dallas-isd-in-dallas-texas/

Please sign and share this link with anyone or any group you may know who is also concerned about this assault on democracy in Dallas ISD.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Six Years & Six Measurements: DISD vs Harrison District in Colorado

This spreadsheet shows the wonderful graduation rate progress in DISD from 2006 through 2012 and the tragic student attrition during the exact same years in Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs when Mr. Miles was Superintendent.  Now Mr. Miles is in Dallas. Student attrition is going up here. 500 seniors gone! DISD now has the lowest high school enrollment in 5 years!  Can Dallas ignore this data?
Six Years & Six Measurements: DISD vs Harrison District Colorado
Click on above chart to enlarge or print.
The data sources and spreadsheets used to generate this spreadsheet are available in Excel format.  Email bbetzen@aol.com.    This data is also available on this blog in multiple locations.  The Harrison data is concentrated at http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2013/05/damage-by-mike-miles-in-colorado.html .

Six measurements explained: row 6 to row 11 in the first chart above and rows 16 to 21 in the second chart
·         Row 6: “% 9th Grade Bulge Gone” reflects how well 8th graders are prepared for 9th grade work, and how well 9th graders are managed, so as to not repeat 9th grade.   For over 30 years the so-called “ninth grade bulge” has cursed school districts across Texas, especially urban districts.  For decades DISD would have only 11,000 students in the 8th grade but would then have more than 14,000 9th graders due to failures.  This bulge was slowly eliminated from 2007 to 2011! That progress stopped during the 2012/13 school year! It appears DISD is going backward according to measurements for the current 2013/14 school year.  The formula used is the 8th grade enrollment as a percentage of 9th grade enrollment (8th grade enrollment/9th grade enrollment).

·         Row 7: “Last year’s 9th now in 10th reflects the reality that for decades most dropouts never made it to the 10th grade. That is no longer true! DISD passed the 70% barrier in 2009 for this measurement for the first time, and has never gone back that low. This is a measurement that continued to improve though this year.  It is now over 89%!  The formula used is 10th grade enrollment as a percentage of the 9th grade enrollment (10th grade enrollment/9th grade enrollment). 

·         Row 8: “Current 12th as % 9th" is a short-hand measurement of how a school is doing with their graduation rate.  Just compare 12th grade enrollment with 9th grade enrollment at any school any time.  The bigger the difference the greater the problem.  For decades DISD had total senior enrollment that represented less than half the 9th grade enrollment.  DISD passed this 50% barrier during the 2007/08 school year, zoomed up to 73.8% by 2011/12, but has now reverted back to pre-2010 levels! The formula use is the current 12th grade enrollment as a percentage of current 9th grade enrollment (12th grade enrollment/9th grade enrollment).

·         Row 9“Promotion Rate” is a measurements widely used by the John Hopkins University Professor John Balfanz and colleagues who established the term “Dropout Factory” back in 2007 using this measurement formula.  At that time all DISD non-magnet high schools were classified as “dropout factories.”  That is no longer true due to significant progress made! The formula used is the current full 12th grade enrollment as a percentage of the original full 9th grade enrollment the year that cohort was in the 9th grade (current 12th grade enrollment/original full 9th grade enrollment).

·         Row 10: “Graduation Rate” passed the 50% barrier for the first time with the Class of 2011.  Due to the progress eliminating the 9th grade bulge, the 60% barrier will probably be passed this year in DISD unless progress deteriorates more than anticipated.  The formula used is the number of diplomas given out as a percentage of the original full 9th grade enrollment the year that cohort was in the 9th grade (Diplomas given/original full 9th grade enrollment

·         Row 11: "CPI - Cumulative Promotion Index" is the most valuable measurement.  It’s the most timely, complete, and predictive.  It shows what is happening now, and what may happen in the near future. The CPI only uses measurements collected within one calendar year for each of the four student groups in any high school: 9th graders moving to 10th grade, 10th moving to 11th, 11th moving to 12th and 12th graders who graduate.  The DISD CPI rose from 40.7% for the Class of 2006 to 66.1% for the Class of 2012!  After six years of constantly higher CPI measurements, the 3.6 percentage point drop to 62.5% for the Class of 2013, a measurement lower than any class since 2009, is a stern warning that things are not well now in Dallas ISD.  (CPI also dropped over 15 percentage points under Mike Miles in Harrison!)  The formula only uses enrollment and graduation numbers from the current 12 month period comparing last years enrollment with this years in the following formula: (current 10th grade enrollment/last years 9th grade enrollment) x (current 11th grade enrollment/last years 10th grade enrollment) x (current 12th grade enrollment/last years 11th grade enrollment) x (last years graduation numbers/last years 12th grade enrollment) = Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) for last years graduation class.
Row 16 also focuses on 8th to 9th grade movement, but since the 9th grade "bulge" issue in Harrison had been corrected before Mr. Miles arrived, the issue was one of student attrition: 8th grade enrollment never reflected in a shrinking 9th grade enrollment.
 The other measurements in Rows 17 through 21 use the exact same formulas as those above for Rows 7 through 11.
If there are any questions about the above, or if you want copies of the original spreadsheets, please email bbetzen@aol.com.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Harryette Ehrhardt speaks on Home Rule, 4/17/2014

Harryette Ehrhardt, speaking on Home Rule, 4/17/2014,


In the Country of Texas Constitution of 1836, and in the 1845 State Constitution, the legislature was directed to make suitable provisions for support and maintenance of public schools. It is still in our Constitution. But in 1995 there was an attack on our public schools led by Representative Kent Grusendorf.  He doesn’t believe in public schools and supports school voucher and charter schools. He authored the ridiculous amendment as a part of the charter schools portion of the education code. I voted against it then as a legislator and I am against it now as a parent of 5 DISD graduates, former DISD student, teacher and administrator, board member and retired professor with a doctorate degree as a master teacher.

We believe teachers, administrators and the board should be held accountable for the education offered to our students, While DISD has the highest percentage of “limited English proficient” students in Texas urban districts, the Washington Post surveyed 1900 high schools and found DISD had 3 of the top 10 most academically rigorous schools in the nation.    US News evaluated over 21,000 US public high schools based on state proficiency standards and how well they prepared students for college.  A DISD high school has consistently ranked number one and 3 are in the top 20. Booker T. Washington had 5 students accepted to the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.  No other school in the nation had a better showing.  Accountability? Yes, we believe the staff and board are responsible for these impressive rankings and deserve our thanks!.  But is that good enough?  Until every student has an education that prepares him or her to be a productive fulfilled adult, we have more to do!
Do we need this home rule proposal to do it?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  We can change our board election date have year round schools, alter the school day, pay our teachers more, have full day kindergarten, reduce class size, all suggestions made by the Support Our Public Schools group without enacting this very questionable legislation. In fact, there is legislation to allow even  a substantive change  that would accommodate the White Rock group to be more independent with their own “board”, start date, budget,  school day schedule, curriculum, and the ability to raise additional money. This can be accomplish under current law—it might not even be possible be under home rule law.
In fact, if the considerable funds used to push this initiative were used to offer help to our schools, provide enrichment, encourage volunteer tutoring, recognize our excellent teachers with incentives provide scholarships to our children so that graduation could realistically mean college or advanced job training and donate money to buy  the things our teachers are now buying with their limited personal funds—if the group pushing home rule would do those things, the DISD difference would be quite remarkable.  And if those with money to invest in this effort chose to address the poverty which is a major factor in student learning with better job offerings,  incentives to children to stay in school, provisions allowing parents to more realistically support their children’s education, decrease evictions and offer internships then the results would be even more positive. If the City used its influence and vote for even more effectively crime prevention and safety, better transportation, elimination of disproportionate services to its citizens,  the educational results would be quite impressive. And if the citizens pushing home rule would use their considerable political clout and join with the City of Dallas and DISD  to advocate for much more favorable laws for public education not the least of which, adequate funding, the results would be astounding.

Why do we object to the home rule plan? 

First, it is not necessary! The supporters say the state demands a cookie cutter school district.  If you have any knowledge at all about our DISD schools, you know they are certainly not all the same!  State law allows that diversity now.

Second, we don’t know what it means—and we won’t unless it is enacted and then it will be too late if it is the failure as it is in other cities trying similar tactics. For example, a new charter could do away with homestead exemption or the over 65 cap. Even if a SOPS spokesperson says they have no intention of doing so, a charter on which we would vote could do away with all counselors, teacher contracts, magnet schools.  They could sell all DISD property and never come to us for a vote to stay in office.

Third, once in, it is very hard to remove!

Forth, the manner in which it has been done pretending it was a grass roots effort wanting public input has made a sham of the entire idea.

Fifth, the audacity of a group of non-educators with money thinking that because they were financially successful in their field, they knew what was best for our schools without consideration of educational research, input from parents, teachers, the board or the students, believing they should be able to tell us what we should do and we should like it, is very offensive. 
Sixth, the secrecy of the entire effort, who is funding it and why, there is good reason why those of us in public office have to disclose our finances.  It may be that no one in this group is expecting to reap personal gain from this initiative, but we have no way of knowing. We don’t know who is financing it or how the money is being spent or what personal interest the providers might have.
Seventh, the lack of any transparency—how many names have they been able to buy so far.  Has the charter been written making the entire thing a charade? What secret plans are already promised?

Eighth, the changing picture --  from the beginning suggesting an appointed board presumable by the mayor to last Tuesday’s op ed that there was not need to change the school board arrangement. Without any rudder on this boat, it sails in any wind direction.

Ninth, none of the process has addressed research about educating students.  There is no reference to what we have scientifically determined is good schooling.

Tenth, the entire rational for SOPS is that our schools are terrible—That’s just not true!

Eleventh, this is a slick PR campaign without substance.  Who can disagree with “Supporting  Our Public Schools” and now that they have not had the positive response because people don’t believe it does--their profession PR image makers have come up with “Reimagined Dallas ISD” to put a new face on a bad idea. We don’t fall for that either!

Twelfth, this is not a Dallas challenge.  The attempted takeover of our public schools replacing them with a form of privatization is a national crisis.

Last, even the suggestion of doing away with our single member districts governance is terrible!

We don’t want our children subjected to SOPS’ plan.

The reason we are here is to tell the city that there are those of us throughout DISD finding this a very inappropriate proposal and urging us all to join together to defeat this unnecessary, secretive, inappropriate, ill-conceived, unfounded idea once and for all!!!

We can join hands to support our board by demanding that every child get the education the best of our schools offer.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reasons behind "home rule" puzzle?

Yesterday I spent all day with the Dallas City Council.  The afternoon was spent with most of the Dallas ISD School Board joining with the City Council.  It was a tortured day.  They struggled to find good news to talk about and somehow avoided discussing "home rule" directly.  DISD certainly has valid progress to celebrate through 2012!

Dallas City Council meeting together with
the Dallas ISD School Board on 4-16-14

Why is everyone supporting Mr. Miles as a way out of "home rule"? 
It is human nature.  They want a way to avoid the race war reflected by the group who assumed the name "Support Our Public Schools."   It is too hard to juggle two massive problems assaulting our schools at the same time.

The "home rule" distraction makes it easier to remain blissfully ignorant of the data, the resignations, the non-renewals of teacher contracts, the pending test scores and 2014 graduation rates!  They do not know of the implosions happening with at least one high school where the principal is suddenly gone and 1/3 of teachers there rumored to have contracts not being renewed, and most seniors are still not ready to graduate in April.  They refused to talk about the behavioral sink holes that we have allowed our middle schools to become, ignoring the 400% increase in discipline problems that is accepted as "normal." They appear comfortable with a massive lack of transparency. 
Will Mr. Miles still be here in 90 days?  That question has been asked too many times over the past year!

Watching yesterday's meeting struggling to celebrate progress, I pondered analogies to the Titanic.  The ship was going in the right direction two years ago with slow and constant progress on a very long trip, but we found an alleged short cut! 

What price will Dallas children ultimately pay before we return to solid, constant, predictable  progress?

The Five Best Years in DISD History!
The technical details of these 6 measurements are given at http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2014/03/best-five-years-for-dallas-isd.html

Dallas must return to the rate of progress we enjoyed 2008 to 2012!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why does DISD need Home Rule?

What should DISD Schools have?   These charts in English and Spanish, were designed by the Texas Organizing Project.  They make a very simple one chart summary of what "home rule" will achieve for DISD relative to some of the most common answers to the "What should DISD Schools have?" question.  Please complete the online survey's below that include one of these charts in the survey. 
Dallas ISD Home Rule Advantage
(Click on above chart to enlarge or print.)

Dallas ISD Home Rule Advantage
(Click en la tabla de arriba para ampliar o imprimir.) 
Here is the survey, available in either English or Spanish:
Please complete the survey in the language you prefer.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Questions for DISD Trustee Candidates

Five questions for candidates for DISD Trustee positions.  Challenges to the numbers behind these questions, and the interpretations of those numbers, are welcomed.   We must get to the truth before DISD children suffer more.   See some of the data used at http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2014/04/six-years-six-measurements-disd-vs.html .

1) Since DISD suffered the first drop in senior enrollment in 7 years this year with the Class of 2014, and it was the largest drop in decades, does the history of even greater drops in senior enrollment (totaling 33%) under Mike Miles during his last 4 years in Colorado bother you?    Why or why not?

2) When you are a DISD trustee, what will you do if such senior class enrollment losses continue to happen in Dallas ISD, especially if they near reaching the 33% total in losses recorded over the last 4 years Mr. Miles was in his district in Colorado?

3) A strict strategy of not passing low achieving students on to the next grade leads to greater student attrition, but also certainly helps to raise ACT grade averages as such students leave.  Do you support such a strategy in DISD?  In other words, when is graduation a priority for you?  When are higher average ACT scores a priority over graduation?

4) Would you demand the creation of a system that would allow every parent to know as soon as the school knows if their child’s teacher is being replaced by a substitute, and whenever that teacher is less than a fully certified teacher in the area being taught?   Should such data be tabulated monthly for public reports and for the trustees?

5) Will you be vigilant and demand more transparency and precision in numbers used when the percentage of students being tested goes down, as happened with a 23% reduction in minority students taking the ACT test this past year, or when the precision of numbers is made less?   (This allowed DISD to claim a full point gain in the average ACT score by using a rounding trick never used before, when the real gain was only 4/10ths of a point.   In 2013, due probably to the 23% decrease in the minority percentage tested, the scores increase from 17.2 to 17.6.   Then, for the first time in history, these results suddenly were reported to the nearest whole number only.   The result was that it appeared the scores went from 17 to 18 instead of the 4/10 of one point improvement that actually happened, going from 17.2 to 17.6.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why "home rule" will fail in Dallas ISD

Monday evening, 4-7-14, we had a powerful meeting that often showed anger and disruption as about 150 people, mostly from the south side of Dallas near Fair Park discussed the "home rule" petitioning effort now happening in Dallas. The gathering included 2 DISD Trustees, who were on the panel, and 2 Dallas City Council Members.

The audience was angry about "home rule." Three known members of the Support Our Public Schools were present with one on the panel to defend the "home rule" idea.  They certainly saw what anything endangering single member district voting power over board members does to those concerned about our schools.  Reverend Hickman said it well: "Do you remember the day when African Americans did not have the right to vote for school board representatives?"