Saturday, September 18, 2021

Presentation to Texas House Redistricting Committee

 9/18/21 11:00 AM Presentation (It actually happened about 3:45 PM as I was # 44 in a list of 96 speakers listed to give 3-minute presentations.  We were mixed about equally with in-person presenters in Austin.)

I am Bill Betzen from Hereford & House District 86, but I have lived in Dallas Dist. 111 for the past 46 years. I want to send greetings to my Representative Yvonne Davis. I am a retired Computer Applications and Social Studies teacher speaking for myself. To date, I am against the lack of public involvement & transparency in this Texas Redistricting Process.

I was involved in the 2011 redistricting process. I ultimately developed a report on each of the three completed new maps for the Texas House, Senate, and the new Congressional map. I hope you have each received a copy of these one-page reports and have them before you. (See below.) If you google "Bill Betzen blog", you will find my blog where they are posted with today’s testimony.

The methods are the same in each report. It requires the demographics from each district given in two numbers, the White-non-Hispanic percentage, which I will call White from now on, and the Minority percentage. This list is ordered in a spreadsheet from the lowest White percentage district to the highest White Percentage District. A very telling pattern is immediately exposed!

But first, let’s talk about the value of votes. If you want your group to win most of the 150 seats, then you want to use their votes as efficiently as possible. That means you want just enough votes in each district to win as many districts as possible with as few votes as possible used in each district. Consequently, districts with your group in the percentages just over 50%, but not too far above 70% so as to “waste” votes, is what you want. Consequently, districts with percentages from 50% up through 70%, and sometimes as high as 75%, use votes most efficiently.

You want to avoid districts that waste your group's votes. Thus, you do not want districts wherein your group falls into the 25% to 50% range and potentially “wastes” votes in lost elections. An abundance of such districts in a redistricting map, such as happened repeatedly to Texas Minority voters in 2011, is called cracking. You also want to avoid districts with your group’s percentages falling over 75%, called packing. Yes, you win them, but you have overkill. You have wasted votes that could have been used to win more districts. This happened repeatedly to Minority voters with the gerrymandered 2011 maps.

The three reports before you document gerrymandering patterns in 2011. Just look at the House Report. The high-value district percentages from 50% to 75% were not evenly distributed. The Texas Minority communities enjoyed these percentages in only 31 districts. White communities enjoyed such "maximum efficiency" in 70 districts with such 50% to 75% percentages.

On the other side, the packed districts that waste the most votes were disproportionately Minority districts! There was only one district with a White percentage of 85% or above while there were 17 such minority districts!  

These patterns must not repeat in 2021!





Wednesday, August 18, 2021

School Time Capsule Postmasters Needed!

Want to make possible a system that helps hundreds of parents write letters to their child every year about their dreams for their child and sharing family history stories?  Imagine the priceless family conversations such letters could generate!

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

Want to help parents connect their children with their family roots, their history?   Imagine if you now had such written family stories from your parents, grandparents, and other relatives. Imagine the value of such written family stories! Imagine the stories that went to the grave with your older relatives as no grandchild, niece or nephew had asked for stories from family history to be written in letters back to them.

Want to help students experience the power of writing?

This writing exercise, carried forward year to year by your volunteer "Time Capsule Postmaster" work, will show students the power of writing.  Writing is too often the weakest link in the education of our students!

These goals are possible!

Simply helping letters that students, parents, and other important relatives write, to get back to the student a year, or a decade later, makes it all possible!

Imagine handing out year-old letters to 5th graders.  Year-old letters are very old to such students.

Volunteer School Time Capsule Postmasters are needed to help these goals be achieved! Their work makes a system possible that focuses both students and parents on their own roots & goals, year by year, from pre-k through graduation.  They help the 10-year class reunions happen!

Some of those attending the ten-year reunion May 2, 2017 for Quintanilla's 8th grade class from 2007.




Each postmaster invests 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 500 to 700-pound vault usually placed in the school lobby, a place students and parents pass it as often as possible. 

If their local school does not yet have a vault and a School Time Capsule Project, they can help raise the $900 needed with the PTA. The fundraising process helps introduce parents to the project.  The school can now order the 700-pound vault from Costco.com, delivered, for $900. The postmaster(s) helps train school staff, especially the Language Arts teachers, about this set of two annual writing projects for students.

It begins with pre-k enrollment when each parent is asked to write a letter to their child about their dreams for them. The letters are written each year and go into the vault in the envelope for each child.

This process changes by the third grade when two annual writing assignments begin. Students write a letter to each of their parents, and may expand in later years to favorite relatives, especially grandparents. Students write to ask for letters back about dreams the writers have for the student and for a 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 often with our children and grandchildren.

Honorable Trini Garza, former DISD Trustee and Bill Betzen on 1-17-19,
with 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 to hold 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. (Such accuracy is critical!) 

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.

Postmaster(s) make this system possible. 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.

The letter writing starts as parents write their first letter to their child about their dreams for them.  This letter goes with the pre-k application. It is the first of 14 annual letters to their child about their dreams for them.  These letters will develop and gain detail as their child grows.

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 "Time Capsule 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. You may even help start 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 Project improvements discovered be shared.

Bill Betzen, bbetzen@aol.com

Friday, July 30, 2021

Expanding Freeways vs self-driving taxis

Dallas News frequently reports on expanding freeways, but are we overbuilding multi-lane freeways?

Within the next decade self-driving taxis will be normal. With your smartphone, you can call for a ride. The computer will know where you are. You only need to say where you are going and when. This data will be centrally collected with an instant assignment to the self-driving taxi nearest to your location, picking up people in your area, if you want to pay less, and driving to the same general area of destinations for this group.  If money is no issue, you can have the taxi to yourself.  Meanwhile, you can make calls, eat, work, or play during your trip.

As this technology expands the self-driving taxis will perfect the use of platooning lanes on the freeways dedicated to self-driving vehicles only.  Traffic congestion will be lessened. You will be able to take a taxi at a tiny fraction of the cost of driving on your own car, and you can work, eat, or play as you travel.

Our transportation needs are shifting from more freeway lanes to constantly better commuting software for self-driving vehicles connecting with customers. 

New commuting is coming within the next decade.  If Dallas handles the transition well we will go from being the most dangerous city in the nation for commuting to the most efficient and the safest. Accidents can become past history. 


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Dallas ISD Stopping Suspensions with the creation of Reset Centers

With the second reading of the 2021-22 DISD Student Code of Conduct at the 6/24/21 Board Meeting, a major step toward the elimination of the Suspension alternative has been taken.  It will hopefully be finally approved at the next meeting.  See the draft being considered at https://go.boarddocs.com/tx/disd/Board.nsf/files/C3MVSQ81BDCB/$file/2021-2022%20Student%20Code%20of%20Conduct%20(Draft%20%236).pdf
In that document search for the word "reset" and you can find the changes being made with this wise addition.

In those secondary schools with School Time Capsule Projects re-activated since the pandemic, they will have a strong tool Reset Center Coordinators can use in helping students refocus on their own life goals they have documented for themselves and the dreams their parents have written about in their letters to them.

It is recommended that all Reset Center Coordinators be very familiar with the School Time Capsule Project in their school and have access to open the vault to retrieve letters to use with the students who had written them.  This may be a time that the student can update their letters and even ask each parent or other relatives to write a new letter to help in the refocusing process.

Time in the Reset Center could be well invested in helping a student refocus on their own personal goals and again updating those goals in their envelope in the School Time Capsule.

For an update on the project go to www.StudentMotivation.org.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Suggested Thesis Topic for a Doctoral Degree in Education (EdD)

 Student Motivation in high poverty urban areas remains a major challenge absent unusually high funding.

This fact is slowly being challenged by an open-source, volunteer-ran project that started in one of the highest poverty inner-city middle schools in Dallas ISD in 2005.

The project started with a donated 350-pound gun vault to serve as a symbol to students as to the value of letters they write to themselves planning their futures 10-years after leaving the 8th grade. The symbolism became reality. Ever higher numbers of students graduated high school over the decade.  In 2010, following the recommendation from a teacher, the principal began writing parents asking them to write a letter to their child about their dreams for them 10-years into the future.  The effect was very positive but limited to only about 30% of parents who wrote such priceless letters.

In 2015 this still very high-poverty middle school achieved the highest School Effectiveness Indices score in all of Dallas ISD!  By 2015 over 15 other schools, mostly middle schools, all on the same southside of Dallas, had started School Time Capsule Projects.  The competition was growing so in 2016 the Language Arts Coach at Quintanilla suggested that the letter-writing start with students writing a letter to parents asking for the letter back about parental dreams.  She also expanded to project to every student in every grade writing letters. 

The results were powerful!  80% of students received letters back from parents.  Some teachers were in tears due to the power of those letters! 

It worked so well that immediately at Browne Middle School, a potential 5th year failing school who had tried to exit a multi-year failing status for 4 years, the last two with the 8th graders writing letters for the Browne Middle School Time Capsule, but failing had continued.  So the expanded all-grade Time-Capsule Project was expanded with every student writing parents asking them what their dreams were for them for the future.  Only 8th-grade letters focused 10-years into the future. The other grades were just focused on the future.  2016 was an amazing end of the school year for Browne as they went from a potential 5th year failing to passing with the highest School Effectiveness Indices of any middle school in Dallas ISD.

This progress must be replicated!   It merits the rigor of a EdD thesis dissertation!  See the details of the project at www.StudentMotivation.org.   This is an open-source project and these ideas are free to use.  We only ask that we receive a copy of the resulting thesis.  

I will gladly answer any questions anyone may have on this project.

Bill Betzen
bbetzen@aol.com

Thursday, June 24, 2021

6/24/21 6 pm, Presentation to DISD Board about item 3.01, Superintendent's Report

This presentation on item 3.01 is also online at www.Dallasisd.us, with links to supporting data.

While I am among the half dozen most consistent critics from this microphone of the management of Dallas ISD, I also stand here in firm respect of the record-making achievements Dallas ISD has made during the 12 years, and counting, under Dr. Hinojosa.

Research shows that superintendent tenure is shortest in districts with low White-non-Hispanic enrollment and with the highest poverty levels.  Dallas has both but we have one of the highest tenured superintendents in Texas. 

Dallas is not following this pattern, thanks to Dr. Hinojosa. We are in such a strong place that we can risk the level of transparency that will push us to be the best urban district in the nation without a doubt!

Dallas ISD can risk full transparency with all our data, school by school, in one very large spreadsheet for the entire district and all 237 schools. I have outlined such transparency often.  Those presentations are linked to this presentation at www.Dallasisd.us.  I have spoken about such transparency under many titles for the recommended single spreadsheet design.  Such annual spreadsheets going back 10 years would expose quickly any flaws in racial equity funding, discipline patterns, and other issues usually reflecting race in urban districts.  

Such transparency would allow DISD to model data-driven racial equity for the nation. 

Dr. Hinojosa, you can risk this transparency! It will definitely make you the most visible Superintendent in the nation if you aren't already!  

Racial equity demands such transparency!



6/24/21, letter sent about 3:00 pm Hearing with Attorneys on 2021 Redistricting Process

While I will be attending this hearing, there was no place scheduled in it for public comment. This is an email I sent to the Board regarding embarrassing errors made by DISD in 2011 that appear to be in the process of being repeated.  A link to this letter is included at www.Dallasisd.us.

============== Letter sent to DISD Board 6/24/21 11:45 pm ============

Honorable President Mackey, Dr. Hinojosa, and all Dallas ISD Trustees,

In 2011, and since, I have been very involved in multiple redistricting processes including the City of Dallas, DISD, Irving ISD, Texas House, and Senate, and U.S. Congressional Districts for Texas.  Redistricting is a major weak spot in our Democracy.  Since 2011 I have become an active member of the League of Women Voters.  I consider them to be the masters of these issues.

We must redistrict so that the public is not confused by strangely shaped districts that do not reflect their communities.  We can shape districts so that voting is encouraged and increased by compact, community-centered districts that use significant boundaries and do not break up neighborhoods by using residential streets.  I strongly agree with you that complete high school feeder patterns should be in one district to the fullest extent possible!  I am very willing to work to achieve that noble goal.

In 2011 Dallas City Council took the lead in Texas by having what was probably one of the most public and transparent redistricting processes in the nation!  There was maximum public involvement with probably one of the smallest percentage expenditures being on attorneys for redistricting by Dallas.  Dallas ISD appears to be starting again with a more fully attorney-ran redistricting process that shuts out the public.  I hope that perception is wrong.  

There has been an explosion of redistricting software since 2011, including free software that the public can use.  All they need is a DISD csv map file which you can easily make available so that the public can do the redistricting for you for free.  You do not need to pay expensive attorneys to draw a map. 

This is a link to the August 26, 2011 blog I posted to compare Dallas City Council Redistricting with DISD Redistricting: http://dallasredistricting2011.blogspot.com/2011/08/redistricting-disd-vs-dallas-city.html.  

Please learn from the City of Dallas and the improvements they have made for 2021.  More improvements must be made, but Dallas is seeing wonderful progress.

Please make the DISD process public wherein the public can draw their own maps online for submission to a DISD Redistricting Commission.  Have many public meetings for this process.

Please have DISD high school level government classes involved so they can learn from how the City of Dallas and Dallas ISD go about the redistricting process. This is a priceless opportunity for education.

Please post all maps submitted on DISD Redistricting pages so that the public can more easily understand the process and hopefully more of the public will become involved.

This is a priceless opportunity for DISD to fulfill their public goals of teaching about our democracy and the elements that help achieve one person one vote. 

Thank you for listening.  I am willing to help you achieve these goals.

Bill

Bill Betzen, volunteer
School Time Capsule Postmaster
An open-source Pk-12 project, free to use if sharing improvements
https://StudentMotivation.org/
214-957-9739