Friday, April 20, 2018

“Full Transparency” still keeps secrets within Dallas ISD

All Dallas ISD trustees say they support “full transparency.”  Now the meaning of that claim is being tested. 

An open records request has been submitted for a set of 10 School Equity Spreadsheets covering the current year and the past 9 years. The name School Equity Spreadsheet is being given the requested spreadsheet. It will allow the public to immediately compare any single school, or set of schools, with any other single school or set of schools on any one of 95 pieces of information. This can be done instantly, possibly showing patterns between different types of schools. If resources available to schools are not equitable among all schools, what is happening?

Currently such comparisons are only possible for the most dedicated DISD advocate willing to spend sometimes hundreds of hours studying and compiling the online data that is available in multiple different locations. In effect the current “transparency” system is keeping these school to school equity patterns secret.  

Yes, secrecy that relates to equity within DISD!

The data needed is in a multitude of different locations only known to education bureaucrats and advocates.  The School Equity Spreadsheet would pull together the most valuable variables from each school, found in multiple online data bases, and make this information available to everyone in one location with the potential for additional variables to be added as needed, and for comparing them instantly, using that data, to every other school in the district.  Here is a description for the proposed School Equity Spreadsheet:

Questions like these three will be able to be answered, using these 10 spreadsheets, for every year of the past decade:
1) Were schools with over 98% minority enrollment funded from all sources equally with schools with higher White student populations?
2) Were schools with less than 50% high poverty populations receiving the same “regular” funding as schools with over 95% high poverty populations?
3) Were schools with students who qualified for high funding from need-based sources such as Federal poverty funds or English as a Second Language funds still receiving their full “regular” funding from local taxation sources?

These three questions are only a tiny beginning. Thousands of additional questions can be asked from this data, both for all of DISD and for individual schools. 
Is there a valid reason the public should be denied this level of transparency? 

Unless all trustees require a level of easily studied transparency before supporting a TRE, with all the data for one year in each school in one spreadsheet, like the DISD School Equity Spreadsheet, several dangers are presented.

Not only do we risk never getting these 10 priceless spreadsheets, but we also risk losing the TRE election! Dallas cannot risk that! Thousands firmly believe that we need the money from the TRE, but it must be spent very transparently. Massively expanding bus expenses are only part of the issues DISD faces.

Dallas can become the city with the most equitable high achieving education system in the nation. All the good words supporting transparency and equity are worthless unless we have data clearly backing up the truth supporting the equitable distribution of resources within Dallas ISD.  It must be data that everyone can verify and study. We do NOT have that now. Now only diligent academics can find the data after many hours of work. That must change. The DISD School Equity Spreadsheet will change that.

The additional positive of the School Equity Spreadsheet is that since it is using already public data, anyone can verify the data they find in it from other sources. That will add to the credibility of the data if there are patterns shown that are hard for some members of the public to accept.

DISD may well not want some of the data from the past 10 years released. Be prepared for the resistance. Once we get through this, DISD has the potential to really shine with powerful leadership willing to lead with such transparency!

Support the School Equity Spreadsheet!

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