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


Monday, February 25, 2019

Dallas ISD Board Meeting 2-28-19 6:00 PM Testimony

The Dallas ISD Board meeting this Thursday at 6:00 pm will cover increasingly critical items. I am signed up to address items: 6.01 and 7.03 on the current agenda.

Concerns about 6.01 will address conflicts of interest that continue to this day of board members with documented interests in and work with charter schools. Here is the online listing today for the International Leadership of Texas (ILT) Board on which DISD Board President Edwin Flores sits.

International Leadership of Texas (ILT) is not physically inside DISD, but there is little doubt it is serving children from inside DISD, and/or children from outside DISD who could easily attend DISD schools in the current open-enrollment atmosphere.  There is no documentation in the Dallas ISD Board Conflict of Interest files for Mr. Flores, or for any trustees, to show that such conflicts have been documented.

While the student achievements at ILT are similar to achievements at DISD according to the most recent Texas Academic Performance Reports, ILT has twice the percentage of students who are not affected by family poverty.  ILT also has almost three times the percentage of students who are not affected by any educational disability.  This is data taken from the
2017-18 Texas Academic Performance Reports.  Is the goal of the DISD trustee on the ILT Board to bring ILT up to DISD standards so they can better compete for DISD students?  How is that not a conflict?

Item 7.03 is addressing potential contracts with pre-k providers who have a history of contracts with DISD. One issue openly discussed are allegations that some of these providers encourage parents after Pre-k to take their child to schools outside DISD.  How can you decide on these contracts without having a report on the percentage of their pre-k students that have a history of then enrolling the next year in DISD schools? 


Due to today's very misleading Dallas Morning News Editorial I must focus the errors DISD is spreading to the public that are reflected in this editorial.

The TEI system is focusing teacher raises on the highest White enrollment schools and on the schools serving the lowest percentage of children from families of poverty.


A study was done this past November using data from an open records release covering the average teacher salaries in each DISD school over the past three years. The data showed a $423 difference in 2015 between the 20 schools with less than 70% poverty and the 216 schools with over 70% poverty. Over the next three years under TEI that difference exploded to $3,953! This also contradicts today's Dallas Morning News editorial. Significant corrections are needed to TEI!

See the data at http://billbetzen.blogspot.com/2018/11/dallas-isd-teacher-excellence.html
Using data on teacher salaries found in the most recent Texas Academic Performance Reports tells the story of the Dallas ISD Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI) giving raises to teachers of the most White schools which do not have the highest School Effectiveness Indices scores! This contradicts the Morning News Editorial! See http://billbetzen.blogspot.com/2019/02/higher-dallas-isd-teacher-salaries-are.html?m=1

The most consistent issue driving all these problems is an ongoing lack of transparency within DISD.

About two years ago there was active trustee discussion during board meetings about having a report made on the students trasferring during the school year into Dallas ISD from charter schools.  They wanted a report to be made on these students as to achievement status and the schools they were transferring from.  Then a person sitting on a charter board became DISD Board President and these discussions were never repeated nor were any such reports made public.  Where are these reports?

Other transparency discussions and proposals given to the board include expanding the School Information Files, now online at the DISD Data Portal.  The proposal made was to add about 200 additional variables for each school to these initial 40 variables given for each of the 266 schools and academies.  This data is now available in a 40 item spreadsheet with each of the 266 schools and academies being one row in the spreadsheet.

Lack of data transparency underlines the hypocrisy of Dallas ISD in claiming to be working toward racial equity.  What is DISD hiding?

It is much more than having teachers in the 3 schools with over 50% White students now making almost $10,000 more than the average salary of all other 98% of teachers in DISD serving schools with less than 50% White enrollment.  It is much more than the average $423 more that teachers in the DISD schools with less than 70% poverty were making in 2015, and that difference exploding to $3,953 after three years of TEI.

Where can we go to verify that all DISD schools are being funded equitably with one simple look at the data and without having to spend hours collecting data from multiple sources?


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Africans Dominated Some American Cultures hundreds of years before Columbus

Africans traveled to the Americas and dominated some American cultures thousands of years before Columbus! African DNA is common in Mexico and South America. We are finding that slavery was probably NOT the major method of the immigration from Africa but happened after thousands of Africans immigrated as leaders, architects, and probably conquerors!

This article lists the expanding evidence being found
. It is from an article from the Atlanta Black Star at: https://atlantablackstar.com/2015/01/23/10-pieces-of-evidence-that-prove-black-people-sailed-to-the-americas-long-before-columbus/?


"The Olmec civilization was the first significant civilization in Mesoamerica and deemed “Mother Culture of Mexico” by some historians. This civilization dominated by Africans is best known for the colossal carved heads in Central Mexico that serve as even more evidence that Africans sailed to the New World before Columbus. The heads are clearly crafted in the likeness of Africans. The same civilization that created these giant heads was also responsible for introducing written language, arts, sophisticated astronomy and mathematics to Mesoamerican civilization, ancient African historian Professor Van Sertima explained."



"According to Paul Alfred Barton, the author of “A History of the African-Olmecs: Black Civilizations of America from Prehistoric Times to the Present Era,” ancient kingdoms in West Africa have a long history of trade by sail, which made it all the more likely that they eventually expanded their trade to the Americas. While the Sahara is a dry desert today, its past as a lake-filled, wet and fertile place has been well-documented. African ships often crossed these large lakes to get from place to place and traded with other African civilizations along the way. After expanding their trade to the Americas, they certainly made their mark as things like African native cotton were soon being discovered all across North America."

"
The discovery of American narcotics in Egyptian mummies has left some historians amazed. Recently, archaeologists discovered the presence of narcotics only known to be derived from American plants in ancient Egyptian mummies. These substances included South American cocaine from Erythroxylon and nicotine from Nicotiana tabacum. German toxicologist Svetla Balabanova reported the findings, which suggest that such compounds made their way to Africa through trans-Atlantic trade that would predate Columbus’ arrival by thousands of years."

Above are only 3 of the 10 facts posted in the Atlantic Black Star Article online at 
https://atlantablackstar.com/2015/01/23/10-pieces-of-evidence-that-prove-black-people-sailed-to-the-americas-long-before-columbus/?


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Roots & Goals Drive Education

For thousands of years education has been driven by teachers who focus on helping students know their roots and form life goals, developing the tools they must have to achieve those goals.

The School Time Capsule Project has created a structure to expand the focus on roots and goals throughout the 14 years leading to graduation.

Every year, from pre-k through high school graduation, each parent is invited to write a letter to their child about their dreams for their child. First by the school, then in third grade students begin the process of writing an annaual letter to each parent asking for a letter back about their dreams for them, and asking that a story from their family history be included.

As the years pass these letters from the students will naturally change, and be sent to more family members, especially those who are older and know more of the family history. Grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives can be written to as the student expands their awareness of family history.

Each time a student receives a letter from a parent or other relative they are encouraged to immediately read it so they can ask that relative about any details in the letter they may not fully understand.  Such conversations could evolve quickly into those goal-centered/family history discussions that we all want to be more common in all families.

The letters from parents and relatives, or anyone the child is close to, are collected by each student to be brought to school on an assigned day for the second letter writing exercise.

In that class the first assignment is to prepare a self-addressed envelope to hold all of the letters. Then each student writes a letter to themselves about their life and their own goals.  As this is done the teacher checks all of the envelopes to be certain they are addressed correctly so they always find their way back to the student.  The letters are all placed inside the envelope, sealed, and placed into the School Time Capsule.

Each year the letters are returned before the next letter writing exercise.



(Under Construction.  See more at https://schooltimecapsule.blogspot.com/ )


Planning for Dallas City Council Redistricting 2021

The most gerrymandered Dallas City Council districts have ALWAYS been the minority-majority districts in Dallas for several reasons related to continuing the White-Non-Hispanic majority on the Dallas City Council.  That majority was continued in the 2011 redistricting even though the Dallas White-Non-Hispanic voting age population was only 34%. Gerrymandering confuses voters, lessens voter turnout, lessens community contacts with council representatives, and makes campaigns for office expensive and more dependent on people with money, usually in North Dallas.

The 2001 map had 9 gerrymandered minority districts, circled in red above, where the gerrymandering was NOT needed to increase minority representation but to help keep a White majority on the Dallas City Council and/or help minority candidates to be dependent on North Dallas Money to run for office in the strangely shaped, expensive-to-run-in, districts.
For the first time in 2011 there was an intentional effort to lessen district gerrymandering. The 9 such districts in 2001 were reduced to 6 in 2011. These districts are circled in red in each map. That was progress, just not enough.

Below are the demographics for the above adopted 2011 map. Notice how White-Non-Hispanic population was able to dominate 43% of the districts numerically with only 34% of the Voting Age Population. Also, as the map clearly shows, 6 heavily and unnecessarily gerrymandered districts remain to fragment communities, lessening turnout, and making political campaigns more expensive, increasing the potential for a dependence on North Dallas Money.


Below find the much more compact, much less gerrymandered map that would help gain minority representation on the Dallas City Council. It is the map that Mayor Rawlings supported in 2011, but it was not selected by the Council.

Below is the map of the 14 population centers with the 2010 Census that helped develop Rawling's Map with less gerrymandered districts.  The same steps must be taken once the 2020 Census data is available for the 2021 Redistricting Process.

With the 14 population centers calculated from the 2020 census numbers Dallas will be able to redistrict so that the boundaries are compact, logical, minimize neighborhood fragmentation, and encourage voters to vote. We must minimize gerrymandered districts that fragment neighborhoods and require more funding for candidates to run a successful campaign.

The Mayor Rawlings Map in 2011 relied on using the Trinity River as a major boundary to create the two Pleasant Grove Districts.  As I recall this map never used less than a 6-lane major street as a boundary anywhere.  That helped lessen neighborhood fragmentation.


The more involved Dallas Citizens become the greater our city will become!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Majority White Schools have higher Dallas ISD teacher salaries.

There are only 3 schools in DISD that are over 50% White-non-Hispanic. They are Lakewood Elementary, Mockingbird (formerly Stonewall Jackson) Elementary, and Travis Middle School.
The average School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) in these three schools is only 52.0.
There are 54 DISD schools with higher SEI scores, but only 6 DISD schools with higher average teacher salaries than these three. Their average 2017/18 teacher salary was $62,024. (You can find the SEI data in the DISD Data Portal at https://mydata.dallasisd.org/.) But the average 2017/18 salary for the rest of DISD was $52,643. (See link to the salary data below.)
Even the 20 lowest poverty schools in DISD, which these three are among, had average 2017/18 teacher salaries of $56,118 while the remaining 216 or so schools with over 70% of students living in poverty had average salaries of $52,165. That means that these three "most White" schools enjoy teacher salaries that are the highest of the high, and $9,859 higher than the average teacher salary in the 216 schools, over 90% of all DISD schools, with over 70% of student living in poverty!!
The 96% of Dallas ISD schools with lower average teacher than the three 50+% White schools includes many WONDERFULLY high performing schools. Among the best are the Young Women's STEAM Academy at Balch Springs Middle School which has enjoyed an average SEI of 60.2 over the past three years, a score that has also risen every one of the past 3 years. A score that is 8 points higher than the three 50+% White schools!
Two of those three years they had the highest SEI scores of ALL middle schools! BUT the average teacher salary at this VERY high performing, 91% high poverty, 1.3% White-non-Hispanic middle school is only $55,318, over $6,500 less than the three MUCH lower performing 50+% White Non-Hispanic schools.
Should a teacher be paid according to how well their students take tests or on how well the students improve in taking those tests from the time they enter that teacher's classroom which is what the SEI measures? (It seems we are stuck at this time in this conversation with test taking measurements.)
Is this a battle that should be fought? How hard?
Here is the Googledocs link to the spreadsheet provided by DISD with all three years in separate workbooks of the salary data that DISD released in an open records request in August: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1y4vYXOKkDHkBmval2AP6Eal5KiugVNiYPn037u--Bfs/edit#gid=154474520

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The hidden "under-achieving-status" of students transferring mid-year between publicly funded schools.


Most mid-year student transfers are from Charter to Public schools. DISD was going to do a profile study on the hundreds and thousands of students that they receive from Charter schools each year, but then DISD received a DISD Board President who also sits currently on a charter board (https://www.iltexas.org/board.)

That idea stopped and has never been made public again. Why? 

Data on transfers between publicly funded schools is hard to find. Here is a report on Washington DC from 2015 that is very similar to what I think Dallas County would look like: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/thousands-move-in-and-out-of-schools-during-the-year-creating-disruptions/2015/07/04/43b63c02-14f9-11e5-89f3-61410da94eb1_story.html?utm_term=.51212dcc6104

I have been studying multiple TAPR (Texas Academic Progress Reports) on charter Districts and ISD's and began to notice missing information such as student transfer data that would allow academic achievement to be identified with the transfer students. This appears to be the most critical. I am building a spreadsheet comparing DISD with Dallas County Charter Districts. I am working to identify the most critical variables and welcome ideas.
Yes, DISD is looking good. Parents need to be studying TAPR reports on schools they are considering before they enroll or transfer their child.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

School Time Capsule Project Update 11-10-17

(The School Time Capsule Project documentation is at https://schooltimecapsule.blogspot.com/)

School achievement is driven by motivated students who know where they came from, their roots, and where they are going, their plans. Students and parents must discuss as much as possible the history they share. With that foundation they focus more completely on their own goals, constantly updated. Such grounded student motivation is the mission of the School Time Capsule Project.

After 14 years of improvements due to constant input, one of the 6 active Time Capsule Project middle schools have had the highest annual School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) score of all 33 Dallas ISD middle schools for three of the past 4 years!  Then on 10-19-17, when the most recent SEI data was released, it was also discovered that four of the five DISD middle schools with the highest SEI's this past year were Time Capsule Project Schools!  (The School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) is a DISD measurement of school performance that has been used 20+ years to measure performance in each DISD school every year.) 

It must be emphasized that correlation does not equal causation.  On that foundation we say there are only 6 active Time Capsule Project middle schools among the 33 DISD middle schools.  Only one of the 25 non-Time Capsule Project middle schools is among the top 5 in SEI scores for 2017. See page 2 of the 2016-17 Summary List at https://mydata.dallasisd.org/SL/SD/SEI/Default.jsp for the middle school listings which are repeated in the chart below. Notice below that the 'worst' SEI for an active Time Capsule Project school still places them better-than-average as 13th best among 33 middle schools.

Again, i
t must be emphasized that correlation does not certify that these improvements were caused by the Time Capsule Project. Such correlations just appear to happen often, and give reason for asking for research to be done to help verify what is happening. 
Dallas ISD Middle Schools in order by 2017 School Effectiveness Indices Scores

The Time Capsule Project is expanding this year to 14 more schools, including elementary schools for the first time. From third grade through 12th grade there will be two annual lessons:

1.   Students write a persuasive letter to their parents, and/or other relatives, asking for them to write a letter back. Students ask for two things in these letters: "What are your dreams for me?" and "Please write one story from your personal family history that you want me to pass on to my children someday." Over 80% of families respond and write potentially priceless letters.  Students then talk with anyone they asked to write a letter about what they have written. Students must be certain they understand the letter. Such conversations can be priceless, reinforcing family relationships.

2.   The resulting letters from lesson 1, or copies if the family wants to keep the originals, are brought back to Language Arts Class where each student prepares one self-addressed envelope to hold them. Then the student writes their second letter, this time to themselves about their own goals and dreams. All letters then go into that self-addressed envelope for each student. These envelopes go inside a 500-pound, or larger, School Time Capsule Vault in the school lobby. (Vaults can come from COSTCO for $500 to $800. For less than $100 the needed 10 shelves can be purchased and installed by volunteers.)

The previous year’s letters are always studied by students before the next letter-writing actions. In 8th and 12th grades all letters are written focusing on goals 10 years into the future. Students know they will be invited back for a 10-year reunion to pick up their envelopes, usually scheduled just before Career Day. At that reunion they will be asked to return and speak on Career Day with then current students about their recommendations for success, their profession, and life after 8th or 12th grade.

The fourth such 10-year reunion will happen this year at Quintanilla, the first Time Capsule Project School. It is still a 95% high-poverty school, but Dr. Hinojosa, DISD Superintendent, last summer named Quintanilla as the best middle school, the model middle school inside DISD.

The newest recommendation is, when possible, that a school secure the large 43-cubic-foot vault below, now on sale at Costco for $775. With such a large vault every student can be given a large 9"x11" envelope to use in storing their envelopes every year in the vault.  Each year students can read what they have written before as they plan that years letter.  Ultimately the school can leave all letters in the vault for the 10 years.  Fewer letters will be lost. The 10-year reunion will become more significant, especially with letters from parents and other relatives each year.

Quintanilla has had SEI scores among the top 20% of DISD middle schools every year for the past 4 years. Such progress will now happen much more rapidly in new Time Capsule Project Schools due to improvements outlined above. It will not take a decade!

One or more volunteers are needed to function as Time Capsule Masters at each school to help manage the Time Capsule Project.  They sort and help teachers return each year the letters from the previous year by each student.  Once the 10-year reunions begin, these volunteers help manage the reunions. This is exceptionally rewarding volunteer work. I have done it for over a decade, one of many volunteers with many wonderful stories to tell from the Project. We need more volunteers, at least one at each school.

Last year Browne had all students in all grades write letters as described above. Parents responded wonderfully! The photo below shows today’s Browne Time Capsule with the results:

Notice that the shelf for this year’s 8th grade class, 2018, as well as next year’s 8th grade class, 2019, are already filled with letters. These are the letters written last year by then 6th and 7th graders.  They will be returned to those students, and read, before this year’s letter writing. By the end of this year new letters will fill these shelves. The only difference will be that shelf “2018” will hold letters about dreams and plans for 2028. Those letters stay on that shelf until 2028.  

It is recommended 6th and 7th grade classes write letters at the beginning of the year to have the greatest effect on achievement that year. It is best 8th graders wait until the end of their 8th grade year to be able to reflect on more of their middle school experience as they write their letters planning 10-years into the future. Such future-focus by all students was one of many factors that helped Browne achieve the highest SEI scores of any of the 33 middle schools in DISD for 2016/17.  

The SEI for Browne went up 14.2 points in just one year!

A School Time Capsule Project only works in a school that is already a high functioning school under solid leadership. Once you have that, and add to it the grounding in family history and planning for the future reinforced by the Time Capsule Project, you have even greater achievement due to stronger student motivation. Positive student behaviors increase!  

School Time Capsule Vaults should be located in the highest student traffic area of a school, usually the lobby, to remind students daily of their parents’ letters, and their own plans.
For more details on this open-sourced, low budget, volunteer-based project, see http://www.StudentMotivation.org, and the attached blog. Please share.

If you want to help another Dallas ISD school purchase a vault to start their Time Capsule Project, please send donations to: Time Capsule Project, c/o Lulac National Education Service Center, 345 S. Edgefield Ave., Dallas, Texas 75208. If you want to help a specific school, talk with that principal to see if they are willing to start at Time Capsule Project, and then specify which school you want your money used for.

You also may just buy a vault and bring it to the school, and help install the needed 10 shelves inside the vault.  This is a very flexible system!  Help your local schools!  Below is one large vault on sale until 12-17-17 for $775 from Costco, a large 770-pound 43 cu. ft. vault.


Any school can start a Time Capsule Project on their own with any modifications they may want.  We only ask that if you come up with what is considered a very successful improvement, that you share the details with us so more students can benefit.  The students are the only reason for this project.