Friday, April 12, 2019

Information School Trustees, Teachers, & Parents must know how to find about schools

Education must be data driven!

Many schools and administrators claim to be data driven but never share the source of the data or full access to that data.  They rarely follow data over the years from decade to decade.  Small snapshots of cherry-picked data, used to justify the most recent innovations, seem to be the extent of being "data driven" inside our public schools.

For education to be data-driven the public must know where to find the information year to year so that as much as is possible they can do the driving in "data-driven."  They should be led by well informed trustees.  Sadly, too few trustees seem to know the sources of the data needed, or care about exposing the data so that parents and teachers can better understand and support any allegedly "data-driven" changes.  Here is a summary of some of those sources:

The Dallas ISD Data Portal, should be, and almost is, the most valuable source for information for everyone.  See https://mydata.dallasisd.org/  It is a very large site that after over a decade of work on it I can only claim to know more than most civilians, but not everything.  The main menu has these choices and this is it with the most used choice selected: "Statistics and Reports."

https://mydata.dallasisd.org/


I have invested probably thousands of hours over the past 15 years working with these 4 alternatives, spending most of my time in the first three choices.  They are powerful!

Enrollment is only current data.  Data Packets has all data going back nine years.  It is powerful, but all in a pdf file and very difficult to use in showing patterns year to year.  It takes work!

SEI (School Effectiveness Indices) data is very powerful and useful in tracking progress in schools.  I have used it extensively to follow schools with School Time Capsule Projects.  This measure must not be allowed to stop.  It is very useful.  It is over 20 years old and unique to DISD as far as I know.

The STARR choice shows the history of such tests by school going back to 2012.

During the past year I have been shown a much more powerful data set that is not in the Statistics and Reports tab but you can find it under the "Resources" tab to the right:















The "School Information File" is the most powerful tool in the Dallas ISD Data Portal.  It creates a spreadsheet in seconds with one line for every school and academy in DISD and currently provides 40 variables per school, some of the most critical.  It needs to be expanded, but still remains powerful.

 (This posting is under construction and will be expanded.)

Monday, April 8, 2019

School Time Capsule Postmasters Needed!

Want to help hundreds of parents write letters to their children every year about their dreams for their children?  (Imagine the priceless family conversations such letters generate!)

Want to help children write their plans for their future every year, during the decade before they graduate high school? (Do you wish you had copies of such plans you had written from 3rd through 12th grade? Would you be a different person because of such focus?)

Want to help parents connect their children with their family roots?  (Do you wish you now had such written family stories from your parents, grandparents, and other relatives? Imagine the value of such written family stories! Imagine the priceless value of stories relatives who are no longer living could have written in letters to you if you had asked!)

Want to help students experience and learn the true power of writing?  (Help strengthen the weakest link in our schools, writing!)

These goals are possible!

Simply helping letters that students, parents, and others write, to get back to them, makes it all possible! 

Imagine handing out year-old letters to 5th graders.  They consider year old letters to be very old ...

Volunteer School Time Capsule Postmasters are needed to help schools achieve these goals! They make a system possible that focuses both students and parents on their own roots & goals, year by year, from pre-k through graduation.

The Postmaster(s) invest possibly 50 hours a year helping store hundreds, if not thousands of letters parents and students write for the School Time Capsule Vault, a large vault usually placed in the school lobby.  If their local school does not yet have a vault, they can help raise the $900 needed with the PTA. The fundraising process is the best way to tell parents about the project.  Then the school can order the 700-pound vault from Costco.com, delivered. The postmaster(s) help train school staff, especially the Language Arts teachers, about this set of two annual writing projects for students.

The first of the two annual classes start in the third grade.  Students letters are written to each parent and may expand in later years to favorite relatives. Students write to ask for letters back about dreams for the student and one story from the writer's personal history. Students should always immediately read letters they receive back. They then ask the writer any questions they may have.  Hopefully this will lead to those priceless conversations we should have more of with our children and grandchildren.

Honorable Trinidad Garza, former DISD Trustee, and Bill Betzen on 1-17-19,
seeing both the old 2005 Quintanilla vault and the new 700-pound vault.
Too many letters for the old vault! Nice problem! Since 2015 Quintanilla has
consistently remained one of the 5 best of all 33 DISD middle schools.
The second writing class is when students prepare the self-addressed envelope for all the letters collected.  Then the student writes a letter to themselves about their own plans for the future while the postmaster and teacher double check addresses on the envelopes. 

A year is a very long time. Students change significantly.  Thus the "Time Capsule" term is appropriate from the perspective of both the student, and their parents who see the massive year to year changes every child's life reflects.

The Postmaster(s) make this system possible in each school. They manage the archiving system so that they can personally hand back to each student the envelope they prepared a year earlier.  They will see that twinkle in the student's eye as students try to remember what they wrote a year earlier.

Letter writing starts as parents fill out the pre-k application and are asked to each write their first of 14 annual letters to their child about their dreams for their child. These are dreams that will develop and gain details as their child grows.  Remember, the letters from the students start by the third grade.

The Postmaster(s) will also help for the special 10-year-in-the-future dreams and plans that happen in the 8th grade, and then again in the 12th grade.  They will ultimately be helping to coordinate those 10-year 8th grade and 12th grade class reunions.  At the high school level they may simply staff the table at the traditional high school 10-year reunion.  They will pass back the letters written 10-years earlier.

2015 was first 10-year reunion for the first Time Capsule Project Class of 2005.
2015 was also the year Quintanilla had the highest DISD School Effectiveness
Indices (SEI) Score of any DISD middle school, for the first time! System
improvements now speed up such improvement to three years, not 10.

I personally consider this to be the most rewarding volunteer work possible.  You will see a school change before your very eyes!  Your work allows students to begin to know in more detail their own family roots and make their own plans for the future, updating their plans every year.  Grades and behavior both improve! Student confidence grows!  Then you see tears of joy at the class reunions as they are thankful and celebrate what they have achieved.

Please call the Dallas ISD Volunteer Center (972-925-5440) about becoming a Time Capsule Postmaster and/or even starting such a project in a school you want to change. Use the word "Postmaster" and they will know what you are calling about.

To see more details about the project, read the manual that is found at www.StudentMotivation.org.

This is an open source project that is ran independently by each school.  We only ask that improvements discovered be shared.

Bill Betzen, bbetzen@aol.com

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Dallas ISD Board Continuing Conflict of Interest

Six years ago, 4-25-2013, the complaint copied below was filed with the Dallas ISD Board.  It was never resolved. Now Dallas ISD can find no record of it. Sadly such conflict of interest situations continue to exist unacknowledged on the Dallas ISD Board. 

Such a conflict of interest situation probably allowed information to be collected by the current DISD Board President, on the DISD board since 2015, to encourage him as Board President of International Leadership of Texas Charter Schools (ILT) in 2016, to lead the application process for ILT to develop 8 schools in South Dallas.  A 102 page document shows his ILT work in 2016. He continues serving on the ILT Board today while also serving as Dallas ISD Board President.

A new complaint is in process using the form below.  The first 5 pages fully signed with 30 signatures on the same form dated 3-28-19, was emailed to all DISD Board members on 3-29-19.  The new form below will be filed at the April 25, 2019 Board Meeting, the exact 6-year anniversary of the last such complaint, above, that somehow DISD appears to have lost.  The DISD Trustee conflict of interest situations demand a public resolution.

Currently the board member, Dr. Blackburn, who was the subject of the 4-25-13 complaint copied above, is not going for re-election in May.  However the Board President, Dr. Edwin Flores, and a trustee candidate now running for office, are both either continuing in conflict of interest situations or are planning to serve, if elected trustee, in a conflict of interest situation.  The conflict would be serving as a DISD Trustee while also working full time as "Chief of Research, Evaluation and Design", a member of the administrative team in DeSoto ISD.  DeSoto ISD actively competes with Dallas ISD for students.

Repeat, both of these conflict situations involve school systems that actively compete in today's open enrollment environment for students with Dallas ISD.

Here is the 4-25-19 dated form to continue to sign for the April Board meeting.  The depth of public concern must be shown.


Anyone who agrees with these issues can print out the form above and collect signatures for the 4-25-19 meeting.  You are encouraged to turn those in you collect yourself at that 4-25-19 meeting, or at the earlier Board Briefing on 4-11-19, if you want. The more who voice their concerns the better!  I will collect the ones not so submitted so they can be included in the complaints filed on 4-25-19.

You can either use the above copy to make the petitions you will collect signatures on, or you can email me, bbetzen@aol.com, and I will send you a pdf copy for printing.

Below is a one page compilation of critical points from 102 pages of documents, wherein DISD Board President Edwin Flores authorized ILT charter schools in Dallas to apply to TEA to establish 8 new charter schools on the southside of  Dallas.  It is an example of the work Edwin Flores is doing with International Leadership of Texas, planning schools to compete with DISD while also sitting on the DISD Board securing vital information to use in his work with ILT.  Here is the one page summary:


           To see all 102 pages summarized into the above page, please email bbetzen@aol.com.

To emphasize the impossibility of such conflicts being allowed to continue, here is a possible agreement that any trustee working with or for a competing school system should be required to sign:


Carefully read the above form,  The impossibility of allowing such conflicts to continue is made very clear.  Why have they been allowed to continue on the Dallas ISD Board?


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

"Grace in Truth, Not in Secrecy!" - The universal people's demonstration sign.

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

DALP2002061315 - Dallas, TX., June 13 (UPI) -- Protestors march to the hotel where the U.S. Bishops' Conference is being held on June 14, 2002, in Dallas, Texas. jm/Joe Mitchell UPI

The above sign was born from the horrendous abuse allowed by Catholic Bishops.  Here in Dallas the abuse was terrible and is well documented at http://www.bishop-accountability.org/tx-dallas/

However, this is a universal message against secrecy that applies to many other situations. Now it is being applied to the urgent need that the secrecy of the Mueller Report end.  It must be made public!  Join in the fight!   https://act.moveon.org/event/mueller-firing-rapid-response-events/?  



To see the most recent news simply google "make mueller report public."

This is an nationwide protest!  Put your zip code in the moveon link above for the nearest demonstration.  Here in Dallas we gather at 5 PM this Thursday 4/4/19 in front of the Dallas City Hall.  Sign up and find more details at
Bill Betzen




Questions given Miguel Solis since 2013 & unanswered. Where is transparency now?

In 11-6-2013 these questions, linked here, were presented to Miguel Solis and he repeatedly refused to respond to them beyond no response.  The list of questions is shortened and updated below.

In November 2013 many were urging DISD leadership to pay attention to data slowly being exposed regarding the results of Mike Miles' management in both Harrison District Two in Colorado and here in DISD.  DISD was having similar teacher dissatisfaction and student loss results as his management of Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs. In Harrison 1/3 of the senior class enrollment was lost the last 4 years before he came to Dallas. These appear to have been low struggling students and their loss appears to have been a driving factor in the college test score rise that made Miles attractive to some DISD Trustees!  They apparently did not see the loss in senior enrollment.


Miguel Solis speaks repeatedly while campaigning about his commitment to transparency.  To support transparency the following questions were sent to Miguel Solis on 10-22-13 and never answered.  His apparently blind support for Mike Miles led to Dallas ISD eventually having 43 failing schools in 2013/14, the second year of Mr. Miles' time with DISD.  When these questions were first given to Mr. Solis, Dallas was half way to suffering the loss of 6,000 teachers during the 3 years of Mike Miles' time as superintendent. 

Answers to these questions are much more important now that Mr. Solis is running for Dallas Mayor.  Will Mr. Solis ever achieve the transparency he often spoke about? 


Here is a shortened list of 2013 questions:

1)      Before he was hired in Dallas ISD there is no evidence that Mr. Miles was asked about the 26% drop in high school enrollment during the 6 years he was superintendent over Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs.  (In November of 2013 the DISD Class of 2014 had 531 fewer seniors than the Class of 2013. Was the same loss about to happen in DISD?  The whistle was blown about this loss as of November 2013 and apparently the loss stopped.)  During a time when elementary enrollment rose over 20% in Harrison, indicating families were moving into this Colorado district Mr. Miles was superintendent over, a 26% loss of Harrison high school enrollment is an exceptionally dangerous sign.  Does this loss bother you Mr. Solis?  What does it mean to you?  Can you secure, or did you ever receive an answer from Mr. Miles as to what happened in Harrison to cause this student loss? 

2)     The majority of the above mentioned Harrison loss was to seniors.  The Harrison District senior class lost 33% of their enrollment during the 6 years Mike Miles was superintendent.  In Dallas, during Mike Miles second year in DISD, the senior class had lost 531 students as of November compared to the previous year’s enrollment, a 6% loss.  Does this loss bother you?  

3)     Mike Miles has alienated some of the most respected and accomplished leading education professionals in DISD.  It has resulted in many of them leaving their critical leadership positions as reflected in this article:   http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2013/08/three-of-our-four-annointed-super-principals-have-been-drummed-out-of-disd.html/   Does this leave you comfortable about his leadership style?

4)     Mike Miles had monumental difficulty in hiring and keeping even the staff who worked closest to him in spite of the exceptionally high salaries he had given them:   http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2013/05/when-will-disds-revolving-door-end.html/ .   What is your opinion of that turnover? 

5)     In 2013, when reported at the end of July, DISD did not officially notify the board that, for the first time in DISD history, the proportion of DISD students taking college entrance exams went down.  The percentage of DISD Minority students taking the ACT exam fell by over 23% while that percentage was virtually unchanged for the SAT exam.   Does it bother you that Mike Miles did not point out these reductions in the student population tested to the Board?  Does it bother you that instead, through reports given, he claimed very questionable and unjustifiable student progress with higher average grades reported for the ACT?  As you well know this is easy to achieve by only giving the tests to the most highly motivated students who want to take the test. Do you agree that the Board should have been notified that the number of students taking these tests decreased by 23%?

6) Rewarding teachers financially for improving their students performance was something happening in DISD years before Mike Miles arrived. It was positive.  I made thousands of more dollars as a teacher due to such bonuses. Mike Miles helped formalize such a system going to the extreme that virtually all increases came from Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI) formulas.  The increases were no longer bonuses. Now it has been shown that this has increased average salaries the most since 2015 for schools with the least poverty and the highest White student populations.  Do those trends bother you? What corrections are needed?  How will such trends help high poverty, minority students?
You can see the data involved in these trends linked to the studies at   https://billbetzen.blogspot.com/2019/02/higher-dallas-isd-teacher-salaries-are.html and at https://billbetzen.blogspot.com/2018/11/dallas-isd-teacher-excellence.html.
The responses of Miguel Solis to these questions will be posted here if and when they are received.   The link to this page and these questions was emailed this morning to the contact information at https://www.miguelformayor.com/ along with a request that Mr. Solis respond.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Dallas History all wanted to hide, until recently

Downtown Dallas has many locations reflecting both Dallas and Human History. It is a history that continues to expand as brutal public events, forgotten in history, and are now being acknowledged.  This post is about 4 places downtown: developed, being developed, and yet to be developed. They are all within easy walking distance. They are numbered on the satellite view image below.

Location #1 is the location of the May 27th 1853 hanging of a 53 year old grandmother and slave who is probably an ancestor to hundreds, possibly thousands, now living in Dallas.  Click here to see more details. In 1853 she was probably either protecting herself, or her child, when she killed the man to whom she had been loaned, with at least one child, by her owner. Slaves were inadequately protected from sexual assault by those in power. While there is no proof, the circumstances point to this too common sexual abuse. She killed her abuser and died on a scaffolding built for her execution by hanging on the Dallas County Courthouse square. It was witnessed by hundreds who gathered from miles around to see her die, probably the majority of those living in Dallas at the time.  Judge John Reagan, the Confederate Postmaster General for whom a Dallas Elementary school is still named, oversaw the trial. (Click here to see the news that John H. Reagan's name will be removed from the Austin High School given his name beginning with the 2019/20 school year due to his active support for Confederate causes during the Civil War.)

There is no memorial to Jane Elkins anywhere, not even in the city where she died. One is needed to reflect her suffering and that of the many thousands sexually abused in slavery. The public needs to know the horror of slavery, the reason why Confederate statues to those who wanted to keep slavery had to be taken out of places of respect, but not out of our history.  Museums must now struggle with how to most accurately tell this history.

Location #2 is where the July 1860 lynching on the Trinity River of three black men, Patrick Jennings, Samuel Smith, and a man known only as Old Cato, who were accused of burning down the young city on July 8, 1860.  Fortunately this area, that was along the banks of the Trinity in 1860, was named Martyr's Park in 1991 according to the Dallas Morning News story that you can see by clicking here. Still no memorial has been created that can be seen and read by the public to know this history.  Click here to see one idea for a memorial that could trace Black History in Dallas from the Civil Rights Act championed by JFK, who was also killed near both locations 1 and 2, and back to the 1853 and 1860 deaths that happened nearby. They were all martyrs in the struggle for justice.

Location #3 is the most completely developed and recorded history.  It is the history surrounding the 1963 assassination of  President John F. Kennedy that happened on Elm Street in front of the then Texas School Book Depository, now Dallas County Offices.  See number 3 below.

Location # 4 below is the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum that is now under construction and will be opened 9-17-2019.  It is a powerful addition to Dallas and hopefully will reflect on all Human Rights History, including that history reflected at locations 1 and 2 on this list, as yet still unreflected in the publicly acknowledged history in Dallas with public monuments.

The lack of public monuments reflecting the horror of slavery reflected in number 1 and 2 above is the history "Lost Cause" mythology tried to hide. The Confederate Statues are slowly being moved into storage pending proper display in museums. Dallas must struggle to acknowledge and show respect to those who died due to the abuse of slavery, the slavery that led to the most disastrous war in U.S. History, the Civil War.  We must prepare to accept a much more accurate and complete history.  

Those of us who do not already share the DNA of U.S. slaves will someday have descendents and/or relatives who will.  This is the history of all of us.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

2017 TEA Snapshot published a year late!

I noticed today for the first time that the 2017 TEA Snapshot has been published.  It is a year late!

Google "TEA Snapshot" to find it, or go to https://rptsvr1.tea.texas.gov/perfreport/snapshot/2017/sumtables.html