Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Preservation & the 2015 Bond Plans

Three DISD schools all built in 1922 with very similar designs.
In studying the plans in the 2015 DISD Bond Program to tear down and replace the old Rosemont 1922 building a very interesting history is being uncovered.  It is one of at least three buildings constructed that year using the same general design.  Rosemont underwent major renovations in about 1970 that significantly changed the schools appearance, but the basic building remains under the sheeting and paint waiting to be restored.

Other facts have evolved in that H.S. Thompson, one of the schools closed in 2011, was rated by the Parson's Report as being in much worse condition than Rosemont with a "poor" Facility Condition Index (FCI) of 59% in 2013.  It was estimated that $16 million would be needed to restore the building to best condition.   Rosemont was rated as "good" with a FCI of less than 12% and only $2 million was needed to restore Rosemont to best condition.

Now in the 2015 Bond Plans as publicized, Thompson is only getting half the 2013 amount, only $8 million, to be "refurbished" while Rosemont is getting 20 times the 2013 amount, $41 million, to be replaced!

Is that equity?

Does the average income level in the neighborhoods surrounding these schools make a difference?   Rosemont is on the edge of Kessler Park with very nice homes while Thompson is deeply within one of the most decimated areas of South Dallas.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dallas ISD going to Educational Heaven!

 (This is a copied 1016-15 post about what is dangerously missing in Dallas ISD.  Equity is missing, and it is missing in the 2015 Bond Plan!  That fact is only a reflection of an ongoing problem made worse these past three years in Dallas ISD!)

Noted Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg, one of the world’s experts on education reform, told an audience in Baker Hall that both excellence and equity are needed to achieve academic success.

Sahlberg, delivering the first John Stoops lecture hosted by Lehigh’s College of Education, drew on international test score rankings, which consistently put countries such as Finland, Canada, Japan and Korea among the top scorers in math, science and reading.  He said the rankings showed an apparent correlation between student achievement in those subject areas and the equity of educational opportunities.

Using a slide presentation that put the top-scoring countries in a type of heavenly cloud, Sahlberg said that if America wants to go to educational heaven, “it’s more important to take equity more seriously and put it as a priority.”

Sahlberg’s lecture on Oct. 8 kicked off the College of Education’s yearlong celebration of three key anniversaries—50 years as a College, 100 years of education at Lehigh and 50 years of the highly regarded Centennial School for children with educational disabilities.  It also marked the inaugural Stoops lecture, established in tribute to John A. Stoops, the College’s first dean and founder of the Centennial School. 

In a ceremony preceding Sahlberg’s talk, Dean Gary Sasso and Robert Leight, professor emeriti, recognized Stoops’ significant contributions to education—he also played a key role in the formation of Channel 39 (WLVT-TV public television) and Northampton Community College—and presented Stoops’ widow, Muriel, with a gift of art glass in commemoration.  The inscription read: “In honor of Dr. John A. Stoops for his leadership, wisdom, dedication and commitment to the Lehigh University School of Education. The impact you made here will be felt throughout time.”

Sahlberg, a visiting professor of practice at Harvard University, delivered a talk entitled “Education Around the World.”  A Finnish citizen, he has been active in promoting education changes in Finland and beyond, and he has a long professional history in education and development.  At Harvard, he works with graduate and doctoral students, teaching courses about international educational change and how education policies and reforms can improve but also harm school systems, teachers and students.

In his talk at Lehigh, Sahlberg addressed what he said are the forces behind successful educational systems—collaboration, creativity, trust-based responsibility, professionalism and equity. And he addressed the factors that he said hinder the improvement of educational systems—competition, standardization, test-based accountability, de-professionalization and privatization.

Sahlberg called on audience members to do some mental math, presenting them with a multi-step addition problem that they collectively solved out loud. In the group dynamic, the total came out wrong.

“If we make a mistake with a simple thing like this,” Sahlberg said, “then we’re going to make mistakes many times, and in a much more serious way, with complex things like reforming education.”
What’s happening now has happened before, Sahlberg said. 

Around the world, in areas of education policy and reform, people are doing things because it seems as if everyone else is doing those things, and they are taking missteps. “What we need to do with this one is to stop and think,” he said. “And always ask, does it make any sense? Is this the right way to go?”

Sahlberg acknowledged Finland’s education success story, noting the country’s ascent from a mediocre educational system to one of the best in the world.  It consistently ranks high in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OEDC) rankings of school performance across 76 countries.  People are curious about Finland because of that turnaround, he said, not because of the high test scores. They want to know, he said, what reform looks like and how Finland was able to change.

“Forty years ago, we decided to redesign the school system, where there was a lot of inequality or inequity, and we had an issue with excellence,” he said. “We decided to turn everything around and make a system that is good for everybody.”

Sahlberg said that many countries focus their resources and politics on educational excellence, with equity being a secondary concern. For those who want to build reforms on international evidence, he said, they should note that the highest performing countries invest their resources in both areas.

In a question-and-answer segment that followed the lecture, Sahlberg took issue with the ways that schools are funded in America. In many cases, he said, districts’ funding formulas are funding inequality.

Looking ahead, Sahlberg identified three issues that are likely to be part of future conversations about education: whether there’s a need for less technology and more human interaction in schools, how to help young people realize their talents, and the importance of children’s play in education.

As the College of Education continues its anniversary celebration, it is planning an awards ceremony next spring that will honor distinguished educators from each discipline of the College. There also will be a book published that chronicles the history of education at Lehigh.
Posted on: Friday, October 16, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Manipulations a year before 2015 Bond Election

An October 2014 HUB article mentions a questionnaire designed within DISD for public input and circulated in September of 2014 for opinions on schools of choice.  It was still online as of June of 2015 at www.surveymonkey.com when I made a copy of it.  It has now been removed.

This questionnaire has 5 main questions were designed to direct those taking the survey toward results that favored school choice programs, giving almost no other alternatives. It did not mention neighborhood school improvement alternatives. It did not mention k-8 schools or community schools to eliminate the multiple problems DISD has had for decades, especially with middle schools.

Here are the 5 main questions:

1. Which types of choice schools would you like to see in your area? Please rank your top 4 choices in order of preference (descriptions of the types of "choice" schools were given below the question to select from)

2. Other comments or ideas regarding type of choice schools (An open question):

3. If a Dallas ISD school in your neighborhood attendance zone offered one of your top four school choice preferences and bus transportation was provided, would you choose that school for your child?
Definitely, Probably, Maybe, Probably Not, Definitely Not

4. If a Dallas ISD school outside of your neighborhood attendance zone offered one of your top four school choice preferences and bus transportation was provided, would you choose that school for your child?

Definitely, Probably, Maybe, Probably Not, Definitely Not

5. What is an acceptable amount of time for your child to travel to school either on a bus or by car?

Less than 30 minutes, 30-40 minutes, 40-50 minutes, 50-60 minutes, 60+ minutes
Below is the list of "choice school" alternatives to select from for the answers to Question 1 above in this questionnaire circulated in September of 2014:

* 1. Which types of choice schools would you like to see in your area?  Please rank your top 4 choices in order of preference (The areas for the selection and ranking were followed by these descriptions of the types of schools. No other alternatives were mentioned, especially as to improving neighborhood schools!)

Descriptions of Types of Choice Schools

Advanced Placement (AP) School
Advanced Placement (AP) classes are college level courses offered in high school. Schools are able to choose from up to 34 AP courses in various subjects to meet students’ needs.  Students who score well on an AP Exam may earn college credit.
International Baccalaureate (IB) School
The International Baccalaureate (IB) program offers a range of rigorous programs from kindergarten to high school graduation. One of the central features of the IB program is that it encourages international awareness in its students, such as learning a second language and developing the skills to thrive in an increasingly global age. IB students can also earn college credit.
Early College School
By partnering with a local community college, Early College Schools allow students to earn two years of college credit at no cost while they simultaneously earn a high school diploma.
Career/Technical Education (CTE) Academy or Pathway
Career and Technical Education (CTE) academies and/or pathways provide high school students with the opportunity to explore their career interests.  Students learn how core subjects, such as math, science, and writing, are used in the real-world. They also participate in internships, job shadowing, and hands-on practical training.
Community School
At community schools, public schools partner with other organizations throughout the community, such as non-profits, health clinics, and businesses.  Together, they provide various programs and services to promote academic success for diverse learners, youth development, family support, and health and wellness.  They are designed to be the “hub” of a community.
Dual-language School
Dual-language schools teach academic material in two different languages.  The two main goals of these schools are high student achievement and bilingualism.  Subjects are taught to students in both English and a second language.
Leadership Academy
A leadership academy provides students with rigorous educational opportunities that are combined with leadership training.  The school is designed to promote academic success and increased levels of responsibility, communication, and self-confidence.
Military Academy
At a military academy school, students participate in a demanding four-year JROTC program. The school provides a structured environment that is designed to promote academic excellence while developing students’ sense of citizenship, patriotism, responsibility, and leadership.  Even though the school has a military theme, students are under no obligation to enlist in the armed forces after graduation.
Montessori School
Montessori schools emphasize student self-discovery and independence.  Teachers will determine a range of options from which the students can choose and then students choose learning activities that best fit their interests.  Students are given uninterrupted blocks of time to learn and to move freely around the classroom as they explore their interests.  Montessori classrooms often contain students of different ages.

Personalized Learning School
A Personalized Learning school adapts content and instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners. It is designed to deliver a unique learning experience for every child through a customized approach, often enabled by technology. Personalized learning schools help enhance learning opportunities by giving students more choice about what they learn, when they learn, and how they learn.

Single Gender School

In single gender schools, male and female students attend separate classes or attend separate buildings.

Specific Content Theme Schools
A Specific Content Theme school specializes in an area of interest and offers a unique learning experience to students.  At these schools, the core curriculum would be explored through a particular content lens.
  • STEM or Math/Science Program
    STEM education integrates the content and skills of science, technology, engineering, and math.  STEM classrooms encourage problem-solving, inquiry, and investigation.
  • Business/Entrepreneurship
    Business/Entrepreneurship themed schools enable students to explore the opportunities and challenges of managing private businesses and non-profit organizations.  Students engage in many practical exercises, such as developing a business plan and managing day-to-day operations.
  • Environmental Sciences
    Environmental Science themed schools enable students to explore environmental science. Students examine critical issues such as protecting today’s environment and sustaining the environment of tomorrow.
  • Health Professions
    The Health Professions content theme provides students with focus courses in areas such as anatomy, medical terminology, and health science technology.  Students can also gain practical healthcare experience by shadowing at various healthcare facilities, which would help prepare them for a future profession in the healthcare industry.
  • Humanities/Communications
    Humanities/Communications themed schools would focus on courses designed to develop students’ communication, reading, and critical thinking skills. Students would improve both oral and written skills, which is essential for any college or career transition.
  • Law/Government/World Affairs
    Law/Government/World Affairs themed schools expose students to diverse areas covering topics such as American and foreign politics, international relations, law, local government, and political philosophy.  Students will refine their critical thinking and research skills so that they can participate effectively in domestic and international affairs.
  • Visual and Performing Arts
    Visual and Performing Arts themed schools expose students to academic classes and specialized training within the Arts field, such as ceramics, sculpture, drawing, music, graphic design, theatre, and dance.
  • Social Sciences
    Social Sciences themed schools challenge students to evaluate and analyze social concerns and the relationship among individuals in society. Students would be deeply exposed to subjects such as anthropology, economics, political science, psychology and sociology.
* 1. If a Dallas ISD school in your neighborhood attendance zone offered one of your top four school choice preferences and bus transportation was provided, would you choose that school for your child?
Probably Not
Definitely Not

* 2. If a Dallas ISD school outside of your neighborhood attendance zone offered one of your top four school choice preferences and bus transportation was provided, would you choose that school for your child?
Probably Not
Definitely Not

* 3. What is an acceptable amount of time for your child to travel to school either on a bus or by car?
Less than 30 minutes
30-40 minutes
40-50 minutes
50-60 minutes
60+ minutes

Monday, October 12, 2015

Vote No on DISD 2015 Bond for a better plan in 2016

There are many problems with the 2015 Dallas ISD Bond Program that demand a "No" vote.  Problems were first exposed with the first presentation to the DISD Board on 7-22-15 that is documented here.  At that meeting some of the most basic documentation was missing related to meeting minutes, attendance by the public, and the sources for the plans being presented.

This is where a comparison of the 2015 Bond planning with the 2008 Bond planning should be made, and here is a very painful comparison of those differences: http://disdbond2015.com/2008-bond-vs-2015-bond/

As the 2015 Bond Plans were exposed many members of the DISD community, especially parents in schools to be closed, became angry.  Here is one of those meetings in response to this anger with DISD.

Those specific school closing plans have now allegedly been changed.  But multiple questions remain!

Where is DISD going to get students for the new 1,500 student Pk-8 school they are still planning to build in West Dallas without closing other schools?

When you ask about the sources for these plans it is repeatedly said they come from the Future Facilities Task Force, members listed here. The members of that Task Force say they never voted on these plans as a group. Apparently there are no minutes available documenting Task Force meetings.  The Task Force also held many other public meetings allegedly seeking input, but there are no minutes or listings of the people who attended those meetings either. Again, there are no records.  The bottom line is that it appears as if all plans came from DISD staff at 3700 Ross, or from other unnamed community sources.

One by one additional more specific bond planning concerns emerged.  Links below provide more details about each of these areas of concern in the 2015 Bond Program:


1) The plans for the closing of all elementary schools east of Hampton Road in West Dallas were stopped due to the public uproar. Nobody would admit to making those plans but they were in writing in official Future Facilities Task Force Documents. See plans for Pinkston Feeder Pattern dated 8-5-15, on page 12 of 23.  You must download the document titled
Updated Facilities Planning Matrix by Feeder Pattern

| 8/5/2015 (Old)" to find this page.

2) Plans for the rebuilding of Rosemont remain on the books. This is in spite of multiple conflicts due to the relatively good condition of this building compared to hundreds of others within DISD according to the Parson's Report, the 2013 report allegedly guiding the planned work on school buildings.  Again, see the details to this issue about Rosemont here.  Here is a graphic that demonstrates a pattern too common in all of DISD for this election, but this is for only District 7 where Rosemont is:

3) DISD enrollment is falling faster than at any time in a decade.  It is now over 3,000 students below budgeted enrollment for 2015/16.  The massive drop in student achievement over the past two years, due to educational "top-down" mismanagement repeatedly documented by hundreds of teachers as over 6,500 teachers and other professionals left DISD, cannot be ignored.  IT is a major reason for this drop in enrollment.

4) While the benefits of the transition of Pk-5 schools into being Pk-8 schools are verbally accepted in DISD Administration, there is too little focus on educating DISD parents of the values of such a re-configuration, and too little focus in the 2015 bond program on this remedy to multiple DISD problems.  The 2015 bond program is even investing tens of millions of dollars to add more classrooms to existing middle schools in spite of the evidence of nationwide patterns of problems due to separate middle school configurations such as those that dominate DISD.  These same problems documented nationwide are also well documented in DISD.  They are a major contributor to the student achievement problems in DISD.

5) Efforts were made to try and create documentation to indicate that DISD families wanted "choice" schools often far from their homes.  But, even now less than 15% of choice schools inside DISD are full.  Here is listing of all "choice" schools in DISD. Notice that ONLY two of them are at or over 100% utilized.

The 2015 Bond wants to invest tens of millions of dollars into more "choice schools" instead of improvements to neighborhood schools, even when current "choice schools" are rarely full.  Click here for details of a questionnaire circulated in September of 2014.


Can Dallas ISD voters ignore these and many other facts?

The DISD 2015 Bond Election will happen November 3, 2015. Please vote against it.

Tell your trustees that you want a more public, well planned and efficient bond program in May 2016.   Early voting for the current 2015 Bond Election starts this week.

A bond election is certainly needed to repair the many DISD school buildings needing such repair, but the above evidence of the planning that happened to date leaves great concerns about the currently planned use of the relatively meager funds DISD will have.  It is better to plan well, with ample transparency and true public input that is recorded and used, than to push forward with the currently vague plans from uncertain sources.

It appears that most of these plans grew out of three years of very destructive and questionable DISD management when over 6,500 professional staff left and student achievement fell within just the last two years to levels not seen since 2007!

The 2015 Bond Program has transparency problems that were overwhelmingly evident at the 7-22-15 board meeting, documented here.  Public trust must be restored with ample transparency so that a well planned and truly transparent bond program can pass in May 2016! Our students need it!

Top-down DISD school management has been destructive for DISD these past 3 years.  Top-down Bond Planning is just as destructive!
These Dallas ISD 2016 Bond pages will change as more information is available.  Once the 2015 Bond is defeated these pages will focus on the replacement of three trustees who helped the disaster of the past three years be inflicted on our students.  It will be very good that a better planned bond and these three elections will be happening at the same time.  Dallas will for once see some real progress in securing leadership that is more focused on students than on those supplying massive amounts of money for political campaigns.

Until then, study the official DISD Bond pages carefully at 

http://www.dallasisd.org/bond2015.  Also attend the public meetings about the bond that are scheduled and posted on this link to the Dallas Morning News web site. Then vote!

Report any errors in the documentation above to Bill Betzen at bbetzen@aol.com. Questions are welcomed. 

An additional web site that has collected a good set of facts regarding this 2015 Bond Plan is at http://disdbond2015.com/.

In summary, as of 10-17-15 here are the questions that remain regarding the 2015 DISD Bond Program:

  1. In 2002 and 2008 the bond planning committee had meeting minutes and attendance records taken and specific recommendations they voted on.  Why was the 2015 Future Facilities Task Force started under Mike Miles allowed to operate with no minutes, no recorded affirmation of votes taken for the bond plan components, and virtually no record of the specific process and the details and sources for their recommendations? Why do members say that they did not vote on the 2015 Plan?
  2. How is DISD going to fill a new 1,500 student Pk-8 school that is still on the public 2015 Bond Plans for West Dallas without closing any West Dallas elementary schools, as was also been publicly promised?
  3. How is DISD following the priorities outlined in the 2013 Parsons Report by ignoring Facility Condition Index (FCI) measurements to spend $41 million to tear down and rebuild Rosemont, a school listed in “good” condition (11.74% FCI), and in better condition than 96 other DISD elementary schools, 25 middle schools, and 21 high schools?   Should the FCI scores be ignored to this extent? 
  4. Why is not a fraction of the $41 million allocated to tear down and rebuild Rosemont being used to correct the problems at Rosemont, and restore this historic treasure as identified by Preservation Dallas?   Then the remainder of the $41 million could be used to help build middle school facilities for other Pk-5 schools where parents want to transform their child’s school into a Pk-8 school!   Could that not take the enrollment pressure off Rosemont, and serve as many as three times the students with the same $41 million?
  5. Since less than 15% of “choice schools” in DISD are currently filled to capacity, how does DISD know there is a need for more such “choice” schools?  Choice schools are more expensive per student and DISD parents are apparently showing that they prefer their own neighborhood school if it is getting the needed attention to keep it up to date.
  6. Since the first Pk-8 transition school is filled to capacity, and turning away students due to their open enrollment policy, and it is the highest rated non-magnet school in all of DISD, why aren’t DISD staff meeting with parents at other DISD schools to advise them of Pk-8 alternatives so the parents could decide if they want such a transition for their schools?
  7. Why isn’t the focus of the 2015 Bond Program on neighborhood community Pk-8 schools instead of the much more expensive and less in demand “choice” schools?   Pk-8 schools are generally better supported by research as being very successful and are less expensive per student than “choice” schools.
  8. Since the increase in Pre-k enrollment at DISD has been less than 350 students over the past two years, less than 2% each year, and this year alone DISD has suffered over a 1,100 decrease in Kindergarten enrollment, over an 8% decrease below any year in 18 years, why is there urgency to create new Pre-k classrooms?   Since Kindergarten enrollment went down this year over 300% more than Pre-k enrollment went up, where is the urgency for Pre-K in 2015 Bond?
  9. When the general decline in DISD enrollment for students younger than second graders is mentioned, some say there are severe pockets of need that still demand the 2015 Bond moneys for Pre-k space.  Where are those schools?
  10. Total DISD enrollment is now down over 3,000 students below projected enrollment!  If this decline continues, what corrections will be needed for the 2015 Bond and who will identify them that Dallas can trust? 

Bill Betzen, bbetzen@aol.com, www.Dallasisd2016bond.com