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

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 Betzen, volunteer
School Time Capsule Postmaster
An open-source Pk-12 project, free to use if sharing improvements

6-24-21, Testimony for 5:30 pm Hearing on Federal Program Funding

This presentation can be found at www.Dallasisd.us.

The Covid-19 Pandemic we have suffered within DISD demands this Federal Funding. The slide presentation indicates that Dallas ISD is receiving a total of $846.6 million in additional federal funding over a four-year period.  That funding started with this past school year.

However, nowhere is there any indication as to how these millions of dollars have been annually allocated by school so that the public can be assured it is equitably distributed.  Such a listing should be made public for each of the four annual budgets affected.

The easiest way for this to be achieved would be to add six variables to the School Information File, under Resources in the Dallas ISD Data Portal, for the six functions funded with these federal funds in each school.  These 6 functions are described on page 4 of today’s slide presentation.  

Dallas ISD is improving.  But the documentation you make easily available to the public must be consistent with the equity and transparency values you each claim to be embracing.

Please use an expanded School Information File as the major tool in your transparency.  Update the data constantly with dates for the most recent update given.  Ultimately archive each school year so it is available to reflect DISD progress from year to year.  Such transparency will make DISD increasingly attractive to more and more families.  It will lead Dallas to firmly hold the position of being the nation’s leader in urban public education.

The DISD enrollment record of 173,799 students from 1969 has remained the all time DISD enrollment record for 52 years!  That fact reflects a collection of embarrassments for our city, mostly centered on our racism!  

Dallas is changing! With constantly improving transparency, and equity, DISD will ultimately break this 1969 enrollment record!

6/24/21, Testimony for 5:45 pm Hearing on 2021/22 proposed Dallas ISD Annual Budget

You can find the 2021-22 Budget this hearing is about at https://www.dallasisd.org/cms/lib/TX01001475/Centricity/Domain/78/FY_2021-2022_Proposed_Budget_June_Board_Meeting061421.pdf

Please join me in asking for more transparency in this $2.26 billion budget. This presentation can be found at www.Dallasisd.us.

The main weakness of this 565-page budget document is that it does not send you to a spreadsheet with each of the 237 schools listed in a different row, and, in the columns, each of these cost items for each school listed in these 565 pages, including average student cost given for each school. This failure handicaps significantly the ability of the public to compare schools, and budget allocations between schools. Additional columns of data for all schools should be included to help in these judgments such as:
  • Average teacher full-time equivalent salary and average years for the teachers at each school. It is a powerful indicator of what is happening at a school.
  • Both teacher and student demographic profiles for each school should fill several columns and include poverty and other factors for students including TAG status and handicaps.
  • Data on the current academic standing for each school should also be given in several additional columns.
Placing such data into a spreadsheet will significantly improve Budget transparency!

Most critically, it will improve the attractiveness of Dallas ISD for parents searching for a school for their children. Such transparency reflects a school district proud of each of its schools, and always seeking improvement. It would show that the highest performing schools do not require the highest budget allocation per student, but that two of the best high schools in the nation, that we are honored to have in DISD, are also among the schools with the lowest per-student budget allocations. DISD must continue to improve, but we can be proud of the progress made! We must continue to spread the good news, and have our enrollment grow.
This is the message I will be giving at 5:45 p.m. tomorrow in the 15 minutes allocated to a public hearing on this proposed DISD Budget. With Covid-19 declining, DISD now is back to requiring you to be physically present in the Board Room at 5151 Samuell Blvd in Dallas. Call
972-925-3720 today before 5 pm if you want to sign up to speak at this public hearing on the budget. The monthly Board meeting is scheduled to follow at 6 pm. Please join me in asking for greater transparency. This planned presentation will be posted at