Friday, August 28, 2015

Damage continuing in Dallas ISD

Massive damage will continue in any school district, like DISD, where secrecy of public information is allowed.  Last night the DISD Trustees considered policy changes to move the board more in the direction of secrecy.  The mere fact of this discussion, no matter the outcome, again shows that the Dallas ISD crisis is much bigger than any one person.

While it's good the Home Rule Commission stopped the process of changing DISD into a Dallas Home Rule Charter District, everyone agrees that changes are needed.  During the Home Rule Commission meetings the most common phrase spoken was "we need more information."

There is a glut of valuable data on the Dallas ISD and Texas Education Agency web sites for the few people who know how to navigate those web sites.  But that data is old and effectively "secret" due to the few members of the public who know how to find it. 
A mandated monthly system of much more timely and consistent DISD reports is urgently needed. 

Monthly reports must be designed, approved by the trustees, and then consistently attached to the DISD Board Agenda to be presented as part of the Superintendents' Report at each school board meeting.   As issues evolve in DISD the format of monthly reports can be modified, with board guidance and approval, to meet changing needs.

Once a monthly report format is approved by the trustees it must be completed going back monthly at least five years, and then archived online so month to month and year to year patterns are easy to observe. 
 This data must be very visible to the public, and much more easy to navigate.

Dallas should have no more nasty surprises such as the HR crisis made visible the last week of January, 2015.  Such monthly reports (see potential information to include below) would have increased the potential long before such a crisis erupts that there are such problems!  Dallas would have seen the reasons parents were moving students and the reasons that teachers were leaving, and the reasons the best teachers were leaving, and the testing results going down in DISD relative to the rest of Texas.   

Without a much more consistent system for transparency, reforms being attempted inside DISD have little meaning.  The potential for problems to be hidden and grow increases with the level of secrecy, as Dallas is now witnessing.

Dallas ISD Monthly Public Reports should include:

  1. Student movement by school including students entering or leaving DISD, or transferring between schools, including demographic profiles and a third party managed survey to protect privacy asking parents for their three main reasons for the transfer. The monthly report should include notice of DISD schools becoming overcrowded or underutilized due to such movements.
  2. Teacher movement by school including teachers hired and leaving DISD, or transferring between schools, including demographic profiles, CEI averages, and a third party survey to protect privacy of separating teachers asking for their three main reasons for leaving or transferring. The anonymous survey should somehow separate teachers into three general CEI levels to report reasons for leaving by such levels.  (Why is DISD losing their best teachers?)
  3. Use of substitute teachers by school. An additional tabulation must be included by school of the frequency of substitute teachers being needed but not being available, and therefore of any class having to be split up or moved to other locations to spend the day due to the lack of available substitutes. Hopefully all parents of all children involved in such neglect on the part of DISD were informed the same day such incidents happening. Such a public monthly report by school and date of occurrence would help assure that such parental notice is happening!
  4. Reports of any district wide testing results received that month, both by school and for the district, with all the associated details to help in the assessment of performance, should be a normal part of all monthly reports. If the test results are a state test, then how DISD compared with the state averages outside DISD must be provided to help place the data in perspective.

If such monthly reports had been made over the past 2 years Dallas would be familiar with the significant decline in DISD student performance in all subjects compared to the State of Texas achievements from 2013 to 2015.  The public would have been demanding more answers a long before the second year of decline was allowed!

Now DISD is starting what may be a third year of decline.   Transparency in such monthly reports should be demanded!