Saturday, January 26, 2019

School Time Capsule Project Update 11-10-17

(The School Time Capsule Project documentation is at

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 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, 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

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.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Dallas ISD War History - with updates

A powerfully accurate history of recent DISD combat toward improving our schools was published February 28, 2018.  This magazine article is a detailed history of the past 8 years and is wonderful reading for anyone who cares about DISD.  Here is the link to it:

Now for the data that was left out of this valuable article:

The Young Women's STEAM Academy in Balch Springs has been the highest SEI scoring Middle School for two of the past 3 years.  That third year they were not the highest scoring they were in second place!!  This wonderful school is composed of about 1,200 girls 99% minority and 91% economically disabled.   It is also the lowest funded by pupil of any middle school in Dallas!

More to be added....