Monday, February 26, 2018

The Dallas Cultural Plan - is it inclusive enough?

A response to a planned community meeting 6 pm on 2-27-18 at UNT-Dallas: 

Little is more important in our city than creating, and connecting with, and reflecting in our artistic expression, the culture we identify with. 
Too many of our DISD students do not know their own cultural heritage, their history! Now 18 schools in West Dallas and on the South Side of Dallas are actively changing that with the School Time Capsule Project. 11 have been doing it for 4 years or longer. Now the majority of these 11 schools are among the best schools in DISD using the School Effectiveness Index (SEI) scores and/or graduation rates! Seven more south side schools are just starting School Time Capsule Projects this year. The first thing the School Time Capsule Project does is to begin helping each student document their own heritage, their own culture. Students write letters to parents annually requesting letters back about parental dreams for them, and another story from their family history. Now as many as 85% of parents are writing annual letters to their children with that additional story from their family history. Priceless family and cultural history is collecting. The Time Capsule Project will be in a minimum of 18 DISD schools by the end of the 2017/18 school year. Those schools are listed here in order by the year their Time Capsule Project started, but this does not mean the letter writing happened every year, or that every school improved. There is a pattern of schools remaining low performing during years they did not have letters written by students. All the schools consistently writing letters saw achievement improve. This is only a list of the years the projects were started: • Quintanilla MS - 2005 • Sunset HS, Pinkston HS, Greiner MS, Edison MS and Browne MS - 2010, • South Oak Cliff HS, Boude Storey MS, Zumwalt MS, Attwell MS, Rosemont MS - 2013, • Macon Elementary 2017, • Carter HS, O.W. Holmes MS, Dade MS, John Neely Bryant Elementary, Carr Elementary and DeZavala Elementary, all new for 2018. Notice that these schools surround UNT-Dallas, and places north to I-30, or the Trinity River west of Downtown. DISD art teachers and the arts community must know that this priceless information from 80% of parents is now being collected annually by almost every student in these 18 schools. The potential for additional artistic and cultural expression evolving from this history being collected is only limited by our imaginations. Our students must know and embrace their roots. Cultural focus does that. (The Dallas Cultural Plan should be reinforcing that!) Achievement soars! Negative behaviors almost disappear. A more clear view of their own futures is possible and can be more clearly planned for. While the Time Capsule Project is not an official part of the Dallas Cultural Plan, it should be. How else are as many parents and students going to be focusing on their own history and culture? It is already changing Dallas! That will only increase as more students discover and embrace their roots, and more parents and grandparents are proud in sharing that priceless history, and more of that history is reflected in the arts in Dallas. In 2016 two major changes were pioneered for the School Time Capsule Project due to ideas from Niki Lincoln, the Language Arts Coach at Quintanilla. She suggested that students write a personal letter to their parents and other important relatives asking for a letter back about their dreams for them and with that story from family history. She also suggested all 3 grades of students in Quintanilla write these letters and be active in the Time Capsule Project. The results were wonderful! The percentage of parents writing letters to their child more than doubled to 80% or more! The positive benefits seen in the 8th grade spread to all grades!

Each year the students will receive back the letter they wrote the year before so they can prepare their next letters each year.