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

Higher Dallas ISD teacher salaries are in majority White schools

There are only 3 schools in DISD that are over 50% White-non-Hispanic: Lakewood Elementary, Mockingbird (formerly Stonewall Jackson) Elementary and Travis Middle School.
The average School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) in these three schools, Lakewood, Mockingbird and Travis, is only 52, not a very above average score. (You can find the SEI data in the DISD Data Portal at https://mydata.dallasisd.org/.) But the average 2017/18 salary in these three schools was $62,024 in a school district where the average teacher salary for the district 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!!
That 90% 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 spreadsheet 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. 

Slavery & Underground Railway into Mexico helped cause Texas Revolution

The significant role of slavery in the Texas Revolution along with the Tejas to Mexico underground railroad, were very well documented in 1/19/2019 presentations given at the African American Museum of Dallas by Dr. Marvin Dulaney, retired UTA History Professor, and Ms. Maria Esther Hammack. Ms Hammack is a graduate student working on her doctoral thesis. She spoke in detail of the documents she has found documenting the underground railroad for slaves escaping the South and Texas to go into Mexico where it was well known they could live free.
Ms.Hammack's documentation included several documents about two slaves who ran into Mexico to escape Sam Houston, who is documented as "purchasing" them for $2,100. She had a copy of his letter attempting to find a bounty hunter to track them down. She also had documents about the substantially successful and prominent life they enjoyed in Mexico.
There are currently several million Mexicans of African American descent living in Mexico. At least 2 Presidents of Mexico have been Black. Two af Sam Houston's slaves he valued greatly escaped into Mexico!
Both speakers told of the struggles to get these facts into Texas textbooks for students. The underground railroad hypothesis is the newest one and is being established with this doctoral dissertation which will be defended in the next month or 2. Her work is impressive!
It's a shame that the role of slavery in starting the Texas Revolution is not covered in our history books. Become a member of the African American Museum to support truth in history!
The presentations were video taped. Hopefully they will be available to be seen, possibly on the African American Museum of Dallas website. This was a very powerful day with a very engaged, active audience with many many questions.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

1-24-19 Public Hearing - DISD 2017/18 Performance 5:30 pm

On Thursday 1-24-19 at 5:30 pm, just before the DISD Board Meeting, there will be a Public Hearing on the Annual Report of Performance on Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) for 2017-2018 (25 pages), and the 2017-2018 Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Accelerated Instruction, (169 pages.)  Public 3-minute testimony will be taken but you must call to sign up just as in DISD Board Meetings.

The links provided above go to the collection of each of these sets of reports that are on the TEA web site or the Dallas ISD web site and go back over 15 years, each representing a huge volume of information.  The complete report DISD is required by law to release can be studied at https://www.dallasisd.org/Page/873.

Dallas ISD teacher turnover 2006-2011 was 2.8 points lower than Texas teacher turnover.  But since 2013 Dallas ISD teacher turnover has exploded, even related to the rest of Texas which has also gone up, and DISD teacher turnover is now 3.7 percentage points HIGHER than the Texas average teacher turnover!  This is data taken from the TAPR reports linked above for the years 2006 to the present checking for DISD Teacher turnover and Texas teacher turnover. In 2018 DISD continued to be 1.8 percentage points higher than Texas, 18.4% teacher turnover in DISD compared for 16.6% turnover for Texas.  Remember, from 2006 through 2011 DISD had a teacher turnover percentage that even went as low as 8.5% two years in a row, and was on average 2.8 percentage points lower than the rest of Texas.  Then in 2013 teacher turnover in DISD exploded!  See charts below.  The first one has the data for 2017 and 2018.

Regarding the Teacher Turnover and Student achievement: we now know student achievement improved so that the gap with the state shrunk to 6 percentage points in 2017/18.  That is wonderful progress! In spite of the handicapping poverty level among DISD students that was 28 percentage points higher than the rest of Texas, DISD students passed statewide tests to the point that the state only had a passing percentage that was 6 percentage points above the percentage passing in Dallas ISD!  Just 4 years earlier that DISD/Texas Student Achievement Gap had been 11 percentage points.

This is the second time in DISD History that the DISD/Texas Student Achievement Gap has gone down 5 percentage points within 4 years. The first was from 2007 to 2011 when it went from 14 to 9 percentage points.  The second was from 2014 to 2018 when it went from 11 percentage points to only 6!

Here is a report I will be presenting to the Board on 1-24-19 regarding the two most critical sets data leading to 3 numbers from the 2018 report when compared with the past 19 years.  One is very good news.  The others point to an ongoing disaster:

The 2017/18 TAPR reports had some very positive news about the DISD/Texas Student Achievement Gap.  It has improved!  In 2017 it was down to 8% again, finally matching the 2013 achievement.  In 2018 it went down two more points to 6%, the smallest gap in recorded history!  That should have happened in 2014.

DISD student poverty rate was recorded in this 2018 TAPR as being 86.7% while the Texas rate is 27.9 percentage points lower, or 58.8%!  

In spite of a student body with a poverty rate 27.9 percentage point higher than the state of Texas, DISD was able to lower the gap between DISD Students and Texas to ONLY 6 percentage points!!  That is less than 1/3 of what the Achievement Gap was in 2000! 

DISD has progress to celebrate, and much more work to do to stop double digit teacher turnover.