Saturday, May 25, 2019

Dallas Education Mayors Are Needed, but Rawlings?

Dallas definitely needs more “Education Mayors,” mayors who will watch DISD closely, have increasingly competent advisers, and make their most certain observations known from their pulpit.  Our students need more people watching the details inside DISD carefully!  How could that be wrong?  

Sadly Mayor Rawlings is an example of how this could be wrong.

Dallas has made almost constant progress lowering the Dallas ISD/Texas Achievement Gap since 2000 when the gap was 20 percentage points! (The Gap is calculated by subtracting the percentage of DISD students who pass all statewide tests from that same number for the state of Texas. It is how far Dallas ISD is behind Texas.)  In 2011 Rawlings began 8 years as the Dallas Mayor. Dallas ISD has just finished the progress of an almost constant drop of the Gap, going from 20 percentage points in 2000, to 15 percentage points in 2003, 8 years before Rawlings, to only 9 percentage points behind the rest of Texas when Rawlings became Mayor.  

For the 6 years before Rawlings arrived DISD had a low teacher turnover rate that was an average of 2.8 percentage points below the state average. Since Rawlings selection for Superintendent, Mike Miles, finished his first full year at DISD, since 2013, that teacher turnover rate is now an average of 3.7 percentage points higher than the state average!  That is not progress!

Bottom line: progress in Dallas ISD started long before Mike Rawlings became Mayor, and long before Mike Miles arrived.  Then Mike Miles set that progress back due to the painful lack of progress with the Dallas ISD/Texas Achievement Gap during his three years. It is virtually certain this loss of progress was caused by explosion of teacher turnover until over 6,000 teachers were lost!

Mayoral attention on Dallas ISD is generally positive if the mayor listens to everyone. Sadly it appears that Rawlings focused on listening to the TFA minority of teachers.  It is also certainly too early to say what happened under Rawlings was positive.  There is much evidence that the progress could have been greater without the loss of 6000 teachers in just three years, mostly due to a bluntly implemented Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI) where experienced teachers were ignored.  

Dallas had already been piloting value added bonuses for years in the salary mix for teachers with great success before Miles arrived.  Expanding that would almost certainly have avoided the record turnover in teachers.  The record teacher turnover has still not ended almost 4 years after Mike Miles left!  Last year's 18.4% teacher turnover is still higher than any year before Miles arrived!  That is because a relatively unchanged TEI has remained. Look at the teacher turnover back to 2000 in the chart above.  The highest before Miles was 17.1% in 2003.  The lowest turnover years were 2010 and 2011 at only 8.5%, years when the lowering of the gap continued from 11 percentage points down to the then record of 9 percentage points. Then turnover headed up rapidly and was at 21.9% by the second year with Mr. Miles.

Many disagree with Rawlings and the painful and destructive changes he helped bring to Dallas ISD. While the established improvement momentum from Hinojosa pushed the Gap down to only 8 percentage points by 2013, in 2014 the record-setting teacher turnover generated by Mike Miles move toward TEI, and abrasive management, caused the gap to explode to 11%, the largest gap in 5 years!  It did not get down to the 8 percentage points caused by the Hinojosa Momentum in 2013 until a full 2 years after Miles left!  His three years hardly established a positive momentum of achievement relative to the rest of Texas.

The supplantation of Federal need-based funds that exploded under Mike Miles also pushed the number of failing schools to 43 in 2013/14, the highest number in memory.  In 2015 a group of 15 residents signed a 76-page complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Civil Rights Division for this supplantation of high poverty and other need based funds.  Miles resigned 6/23/15, just 20 days after this complaint was well explained on the evening news.  One of the responsible accountants had left the district very soon after the 4/21/15 complaint was filed, well before it hit the news. He seemed to know what was coming.

The good news is that with Mike Miles gone and Dr. Hinojosa back in DISD, by 2016 a significant reduction of supplantation had happened.  That reduction pulled significant funds from the DISD budget back into investment in instruction for high poverty, high need schools, resulting in a $123 million drop in the Fund Balance as reflected in the current fund balance chart on the Dallas ISD At-a-Glance 2018:

Other positive changes happened centered on once again having a superintendent who identified with Dallas and with teachers. The magic worked.  By 2018 the Dallas ISD/Texas Achievement Gap was down to only 6 percentage points, an all time record!  The number of failing schools was down to only 4!  It is very possible that 2019 will find Mayor Rawlings leaving Dallas ISD with an even lower record setting gap having been achieved.  We will not know for months, but it is very possible.

Dallas needs an Education Mayor!  It is critical that more eyes are on what is happening inside Dallas ISD.  We cannot have too many eyes looking at what is happening to our students. But we must have transparency. Rawlings too often appeared to only be a verbal supporter of transparency.

Many disagreed with much of what Mayor Rawlings tried to do. Mike Miles and the misnamed "Home Rule" were terrible mistakes that only led to lost time and resources. We would have continued the lowering of the Dallas ISD/Texas Achievement Gap more if Mike Miles had never been hired in Dallas.  We certainly would not have set the all time teacher turnover records if the value-added teacher bonus systems had been expanded to become the foundation of a real Teacher Excellence Initiative, a real TEI.  Since Miles' version of TEI is unchanged and still in operation, Dallas now still has the record teacher turnover.

We must return to an expanded value-added teacher bonus system and call that TEI!  It would respond much better to year to year fluctuations in teacher performance.

It is also not helpful that the TEI has exploded the average teacher pay difference between low poverty (below 70%) schools and high poverty schools (over 70%) from $423 in 2015/16 to $3,953 in 2017/18!  That is a 9-fold increase! How can that help our lower achieving schools?  

What has helped our lower achieving schools the most is the lessening of the supplantation and the return of those thousands of dollars back to the classrooms in our highest poverty, highest need schools.  That is why Dallas ISD is making progress!  DISD is getting closer to obeying the law! (Lack of transparency does not allow full verification yet!)

Bill Betzen

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