Thursday, April 11, 2024

Family & School Time Capsule Project, How to set it up and run it.

Motivating Students
How a Family & School Time Capsule Project Works

Effective student motivation is a neglected art.  The Family & School Time Capsule Project is an 18-year-old system working to end such neglect.  It uses ancient components, family roots and goal setting, to efficiently increase student motivation, confidence, and self-image!

Part 1, The Family & School Time Capsule Mindset

Beginning in PreK, and for each grade thereafter through high school graduation, each parent and grandparent should be invited to write a letter to their student about their dreams for them, with a story from their personal family history included in the letter to the student. This formula is the mindset: looking constantly forward to dreams and goals while looking backwards to constantly explore family stories and roots. This provides both a foundation and goals for each student. (See Attachment #1 below for these first letter writing instructions.)

Each parent figure is invited to write their own individual letter to their student. Each of them represents a different family with a different history. Students are a combination of histories between 2 parents and 4 grandparents, at least 6 families and 6 family histories. Every student deserves a record of as many stories as possible about each of the 6 families, or more, who went before them. Annual letters help create that priceless record.

When the letter is completed, it should immediately be read to the student by the person who wrote the letter, or read by the student themselves if possible. The goal is to always have time for a conversation between each letter writer and the student.  The student may have questions about the letter.  This is the type of conversation every family wants to encourage. Phone calls are welcomed as many letter writers may live far away.

The child’s parents collect all these letters, making two copies of each letter, and places the originals into an especially safe place in the home to be used for these annual letters. Then they should return one copy to each person who wrote a letter and then place the final copy into the self-addressed envelope to send to school.  That envelope should have the date, the parent’s name, including phone number and email address, the child’s name, and grade, all on the envelope along with the family address and the address of another relative who has no intention of moving within the next 20 years. As older students secure their own email address and cell phone number, those should also be on the envelope. This is the same set of information placed on every envelope that is to be eventually returned to a student. We do not want any unreturnable letters.

As the letters collect, a pattern may evolve and change for each writer as parents and grandparents reflect in their letters how the students themselves are growing and changing. Students change dramatically every year from Pk through 12th grade. Those changes will now be more frequently recorded in writing with evolving goals for the student. Hopefully these observations will be documented by as many as all 6 people whose history merged to bring this student into existence. Even if it is only one person, they will be creating a powerful annual record!

Remember, before bringing any envelopes with letters to school, every letter should be copied twice, with very good quality copies made. One copy goes to the person who wrote the letter, and the other copy goes into the envelope to go to school. The original letters all should be placed into one envelope in a very secure place in the home, hopefully even in a fire-resistant vault, like the fire-resistant Time Capsule Vault the school uses to protect these valuable documents.

The sealed envelope with the valuable copies of these letters is delivered to the school where parent or grandparent volunteers called Time Capsule Postmasters for their child’s grade, will collect, store, and retrieve these envelopes annually. They will be using the 700-pound vault in the school lobby that serves as the School Time Capsule Vault for secure storage. If you become one of the two or more Grade Time Capsule Postmaster volunteers for your child’s grade, you may be working about three days a year. Two Time Capsule Postmasters per grade are needed. One Postmaster for each 70 students in a grade is recommended if the classes are over 150 students.

As the Time Capsule Postmaster for your child’s grade, you follow them year to year through to graduation! You will have priceless time learning more about your child’s school and progress.

In the vault it is recommended the exact size of plastic containers be purchased to allow the total number needed to take up as much of the available space inside the vault as possible. Larger containers for each class allow more letters in each envelope. All students know that copies of the letters that were read to them, or that they read themselves, are stored in the School Time Capsule year to year. They see the vault possibly several times daily. It should be in a high traffic area of the school, maybe the school lobby. Students are hopefully reminded when they see the School Time Capsule of what their parents, grandparents, and they themselves wrote. They may make new plans for their life as they think of these letters.

This mindset builds the most productive atmosphere for achieving the highest student motivation in all three types of schools serving different ages. If your student is in a Pk-12 school, all three parts apply. Otherwise, skip to the part for the grades your child is attending. Part 2 describes the general differences in a system serving Pk through 5th or 6th grade. Part 3 is for middle schools, generally grades 6 through 8. Part 4 is for high school.

Part 2 Elementary School, Pk - 5

As you approach the school to enroll your pre-K age child you should be presented with a request for a letter from each parent to their child about their dreams for their child, and to include in that letter a story from their personal family history.  (See the “Invitation to write a letter to your student” page which is Attachment 1 below.)  This invitation extends to each of the child’s grandparents as well as other close relatives. Grandparents will quickly realize the heritage they could leave by responding to this invitation to write such a letter to their grandchild. These are recommendations, but do you think grandparents would want to be left out of this process once they find out what is being shared?

 

After writing their letter to the student, each letter writer is asked to sit down with the student, or call them by phone as needed, to read to the child the letter they have written. Immediately after reading the letter the adult asks the child questions to know the child understands what was written. Hopefully encouraging such a discussion about family roots and life goals, and dreams will make such valuable discussions more common in our families.

If you are a School Time Capsule Postmaster for an Elementary school Pre-3rd grade, you must be certain each family from the previous year is able to find the original letters they hopefully have stored at home. If they are lost you return the copy in the school to them along with the letter writing instructions. (See Attachment 1 below.)  You also need to be certain all new parents are introduced to the project and receive the same letter writing instructions. You can have an annual event at the school where parents pick up the year-old letters in person if they cannot locate the original at home. A cover letter with the year-old letters will remind parents of the Time Capsule Project, explaining that these are for each parent figure to first read again to their child, and then have each parent and grandparent write a new annual letter to their student. They write new letters with updated dreams and another family history story, which are also read to the student by each writer asking if the student has any questions.

The goal is for parents and grandparents to always be thinking of how their child is changing and how their dreams for them may have changed. Also, as parents focus on writing a new story from family history in each year’s letter, they will be documenting their valuable family history. Their children will grow up with a wealth of documented stories, not word-of-mouth variations that change over time in too many families. In many families too many family stories are never recorded and simply forgotten.

This annual pattern of service by a parent volunteering as their child’s Class Time Capsule Postmaster connects a parent to their child’s class, from grade to grade. It helps them know the other students in their child’s grade.

It is in the third grade that students themselves begin the process by writing their own letter to each parent and grandparent asking for a letter back.  Students will ask to know the dreams the person they are writing to has for them. They will also ask for another story from family history.  Attachment #2 below is suggested wording for a letter to use from 3rd grade on up through middle school.

When students receive back letters from parents, grandparents, or anyone they have asked for a letter, they immediately read each one and talk with the letter writer about any questions they have about what was written. Such conversations around dreams for the student, and family history stories in these letters will hopefully lead to an increasingly common set of topics in family conversations. How valuable would that be for our students? In the 3rd grade is also when students begin writing an annual letter to themselves about their thoughts on each letter they have received and their own plans for their future. This priceless letter also goes into the envelope.


 

Part 3 Middle School, grades 6-8

Letters are written annually year to year through middle school.  The grade Time Capsule Postmasters return the year-old letters in the 6th 7th and 8th grades. This will require securing any letters they can from the elementary schools with Time Capsule Projects sending students into their 6th grade.  In 8th grade in such separate middle schools, the letters written all focus on goals 10 years into the future. This creates a 10-year class reunion for 8th graders when these letters are returned, a valuable tradition.

Part 4 High School, Grades 9th through Graduation

A locker with papers in it

Description automatically generatedThe only other change is in high school for the 12th grade when the focus is 10 years into the future for all letters. A family history story continues to be part of every parental letter from 9th grade through 12th. (See Attachment #3 below)  As these older students write an annual letter to each parent and grandparent, they can include more specific requests such as for specific family history stories to be repeated, maybe with more detail. The letters each year will allow four more stories to be collected during high school from each parent and grandparent. A wealth of family history can be collected! 

The 12th grade letters will remain in the High School Time Capsule Vault until the 10-year class reunion. At their 10-year reunions these young adults will present their identification to be certain letters are returned to the right students. We do not want anyone to somehow lose their letters. Identification is required to reclaim an envelope at all reunions.

The 10-year reunions can be assisted by the Postmaster volunteers for each class, but staff may need to volunteer to help reunions be consistent. The Class Postmaster Volunteers would only see one such reunion for each grade they volunteer for.  As an Alumni group grows, they will be able to put on the annual 10-year reunions which the Grade Postmasters only need to attend with the box of alphabetized envelopes to return to former students for that graduation class.  They could also have boxes of envelopes for older classes who had not yet picked up their letters.

At all reunions the school can ask for volunteers from the alumni attending, such as Career Day speakers to return to the school to speak to current students when Career Day events happen at school. Imagine the power a person who was sitting in your child’s seat just 10 years earlier may have. The value of Career Day events will improve.

Part 5 The Future

Imagine if you had 14 sets of letters from each parent and grandparent for your 14 years in school. It would be rare to have all those letters, but any letters you receive would be a priceless family record!  Someday you may share them with your children and grandchildren, to possibly be copied and passed on to future generations.

Sadly, it is possible some of the older letter writers may have passed away by the 10-year reunions making their letters truly priceless. While the death of an older adult may be more common, we have also had two students who passed away from accident and illness among the 1,700 students invited to the first 5 Quintanilla 8th grade reunions from 2015 until 2019. (The Covid Pandemic shut down the Project in Dallas ISD, including all reunions, starting in 2020.) Parents of the children who had died responded to the reunion invitation postcards sent out with their tragic news. They asked for, and were very thankful to be able to receive, the valuable letters that they and their child had written 10 years earlier.

Imagine how students will change during these years due to such letter writing exchanges every year. In the schools with active Time Capsule Project letter writing, we have had a firm drop in teen pregnancies, truancies, dropouts, and related behavioral issues. Family bonds strengthen. Gangs have less value for students. Student achievement has risen constantly as students plan for their futures with more self-confidence from a better knowledge of family roots and stories, and their own life goals.

 

The SEI, or School Effectiveness Indices, scores each year for all schools are used to verify the value of the Time Capsule Project. The SEI is described in the DISD Data Portal as “Dallas ISD's value-added measure of the academic performance of a school's students. The SEI model is an alternative to evaluating school performance with absolute measures such as passing rates. SEIs are a fairer method for determining a school's effect on student performance because they take into consideration known factors over which school personnel have no control, such as socio-economic status, language proficiency, and gender.  You can read about the SEI measure at https://mydata.dallasisd.org/SL/SD/SEI/Default.jsp. You will quickly understand why the SEI is used to measure Time Capsule Project progress in the spreadsheets documenting such progress.  Study the document titled; “SEI Data 2006-2023 for 32 DISD Middle Schools, the School Time Capsule Project”, to see data proving school improvements with the Time Capsule Project, and declines in achievement when letter writing stops.

 

This open-source School Time Capsule Project needs formal research. Please share this with anyone planning a PhD in human behavior or education to help research happen. It will certainly lead to the publication of at least one book!

4/14/24
Bill Betzen, LMSW (Emeritus), 12-year-retired Dallas ISD middle school teacher
bbetzen@aol.com

See Attachments 1, 2, & 3 below


 

Attachment #1 (Suggested wording to be edited as needed for each school situation.)

Invitation for each parent and grandparent to
write an annual letter to their Pre-k through 2nd grade child.

Dear Parent, Grandparent, and anyone with a child in Pre-k through 2nd grade.

We are writing to you to begin a tradition we hope you are able to follow until your child graduates high school.

Imagine if for every year you attended school, possibly from Pre-K through graduating high school, you received letters from each parent and each of your grandparents to you about their dreams for you.  Each letter also included another story from their family history. Yes, every human comes from a minimum of six families: 2 parents and 4 grandparents.  For many reasons one or more of those 6 individuals may be missing, but the more stories a child can collect, and the more stories other family members can fill in from the missing branches of the family, the better.

Obviously, the letters you write will have to be simple for the younger child and will gain details and facts as your child grows.  These are your decisions.  The goal is to get the process started so your child knows more each year about the families they are part of, and about the dreams in that family for their future.

In summary, write a letter to your child about your dreams for their future with a story from your family history that you want them to know.

Once completed please read the letter to your child and be ready for any questions they may have.  Hopefully this will become a valuable annual process as your child and you each learn more about each other.

A parent should collect the letters and make two copies of each one.  The originals are kept in a safe place in the family home. One copy goes to each letter writer, and one goes into the envelope that is sent to school.

Think of these letters during the year as to what you can write next year. Explore family history to add more such priceless history each year.

Ask the Family & School Time Capsule Postmaster for your child’s class, or the teacher, any questions you may have.


 

Attachment #2 for 3rd through 8th grade (Suggested wording to be edited as needed)

Invitation for each parent and grandparent to respond to the letter from their student and
write a letter back to them about your dreams for them and another story from family history.

Dear Parent, Grandparent, and anyone with a child in 3rd through 8th grade.

We are beginning, or continuing, a tradition hopefully you were are able to be involved with for your student in earlier grades. There is a significant change this year as we are beginning to take advantage of your students’ writing ability. Hopefully with these instructions you will receive a letter from your student asking you to write a letter back to them about your dreams for them.  They will also be asking for a story from your family history.

Imagine if for every year you attended school, possibly from Pre-K through graduating high school, you received letters from each parent and each of your grandparents to you about their dreams for you.  Each letter also included another story from their family history. Yes, every human comes from a minimum of six families: 2 parents and 4 grandparents.  For many reasons one or more of those 6 individuals may be missing, but the more stories a child can collect, and the more stories other family members can fill in from the missing branches of the family, the better.

With each passing year the letters you write can be more detailed with more facts as your student grows.  These are your decisions.  The goal is to constantly improve the process. Your child should know more each year about the families they are part of, and about the dreams in that family for their future.

In summary, write a letter to your child about your dreams for their future with a story from your family history that you want them to know.

Once completed your student will immediately read your letter and hopefully do it with you present (either in person or by phone) so they can ask any questions they may have. Hopefully this will become a valuable annual process as your child and you each learn more about each other.

In the 8th grade there will be one major change.  All letters will focus on dreams 10-years into the future. What are your dreams for your student 10 years from now?  These 8th grade letters will remain in the Family & School Time Capsule Vault in the school for 10 years. At that time a 10-year reunion for your student’s class will happen. More details about that later.

A parent should collect each of the letters received, including their own to their child, and make two copies of each one.  The originals are kept in a safe place in the family home. One copy goes to each letter writer, and one goes into the envelope that is sent to school.

Think of these letters during the year as to what you can write next year. Explore family history to add more such priceless history each year.

Ask the Family & School Time Capsule Postmaster for your child’s class, or the teacher, any questions you may have.

Attachment #3 for 9th through 12th grade (Suggested wording to be edited as needed)

Invitation for each parent and grandparent to respond to the letter from their student and
write a letter back to them about your dreams for them and another story from family history.

Dear Parent, Grandparent, and anyone with a child in high school.

We are continuing, a tradition hopefully you were are able to be involved with for your student in earlier grades. With increased maturity the critical nature of goals and roots becomes ever more important. Your student will become more aware of how critical goals and roots are in life. These letters will become more important.

With these instructions you will receive a letter from your student asking you to write a letter back to them about your dreams for them.  They will also be asking for a story from your family history. These requests may become more detailed with each year.

Imagine if for every year you attended school, possibly from Pre-K through graduating high school, you received letters from each parent and each of your grandparents to you about their dreams for you.  Each letter also included another story from their family history. How valuable would such letters be for you?

With each passing year the letters you write can be more detailed with more facts as your student grows.  These are your decisions.  The goal is to constantly improve the process. Your child should know more each year about the families they are part of, and about the dreams in that family for their future.

In summary, write a letter to your child about your dreams for their future with a story from your family history that you want them to know.

Once completed your student will immediately read your letter and hopefully do it in your presence (either in person or by phone) so they can ask any questions they may have. Hopefully this will be a valuable annual process as your child and you each learn more about each other.

In the 12th grade there will again be a major change to focus on dreams 10-years into the future in all the letters. What are your dreams for your student 10 years from now?  These 12th grade letters will remain in the Family & School Time Capsule Vault in the school for 10 years. At that time a 10-year reunion for your student’s class will happen. More details about that later.

A parent should collect each of the letters received, including their own to their child, and make two copies of each one.  The originals are kept in a safe place in the family home. One copy goes to each letter writer, and one goes into the envelope that is sent to school. At school your child will be writing a letter to themselves about each of the letters they received and about their own dreams.  All these letters go together into the envelope your child will receive back the next year, except for the 12th grade letters which stay in the vault 10 years.

Ask the Family & School Time Capsule Postmaster for your child’s class, or the teacher, any questions you may have.


Family & School Time Capsule Project, Documentation on Effectiveness

 

School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) Data 2006-2023 on 32 DISD Middle Schools

 The Family & School Time Capsule Project

 

The spreadsheet described in the title is on Page 4. It shows annual Dallas ISD SEI scores for all 32 non-magnet middle schools from 2006 through 2023.  It singles out the 6 most recently active Family & School Time Capsule Project middle schools in bold. This shows how these 6 schools improved their School Effectiveness Indices scores significantly during the 5 years before the Pandemic shut down the letter writing involved in 2020. Schools with Time Capsule vaults with student letters written and stored in those Time Capsule vaults at least two years in row are counted among these 6 schools.  Academic progress demands consistency. SEI scores consistently dropped when annual letter writing suddenly stopped, for whatever reason, in a Time Capsule Project school.

 

(To understand the importance of the SEI measure, study https://mydata.dallasisd.org/SL/SD/SEI/Default.jsp, or google the 3 words DISD Data Portal, go to “My Data Portal,” then “Statistics and Reports,” then SEIs.)

 

The most recently active six Time Capsule Project middle schools are singled out in bold in the Page 4 chart to reflect the Project progress.  The 32 middle schools are listed in order from the highest 5-year average SEI score from 2015 through 2019, down to the lowest. The numerical order of these middle schools is shown in column T.  The yellow highlights on the spreadsheet mark the years letters were written and stored in each school's Time Capsule Vault. 

 

Here are some of the most significant patterns indicated to date.

 

1) The average of SEI data 2006 to 2014 shows that the 6 Time Capsule Project schools were not all high performing before 2015 when they all were in the Project, some for the first year. One school did not even exist. Three were not among the highest 11 scores among the 9-year averages from 2006 to 2014. But by 2019 all 6 of these Time Capsule Project Schools were among the 11 highest scores for the 5-year average calculated up to 2019.  See column M for the numerical ranking of middle schools by their 9-year SEI averages, 2006 through 2014. See column T for the numerical ranking by the 5-year SEI averages, 2015 through 2019.

 

Regarding the earlier SEI average from 2006 to 2014, column M for 2014 shows the 9 year averages for all schools.  Boude Storey was 23rd out of 31 schools in these 2014 9-year averages and T.W. Browne was 30th!  This 2014 SEI 9-year average for T.W. Browne was terrible!  It was only better than 1 other DISD middle school!

 

2) The improvement for Browne began in 2015, Browne’s third year as a failing school. In 2015 & 2016 the Browne 8th graders wrote letters planning 10-year goals, as was the Time Capsule Project practice at that time. The SEI scores improved to be better than 12 other middle schools both years, but not enough to eliminate the failing status for Browne. 

 

In 2017 the new Time Capsule letter writing recommendations, developed at Quintanilla in 2016, were followed for all grades at Browne. All students in every grade wrote letters to each parent, each grandparent, and any other parental figure in their life, asking for a letter back about their dreams for that student and a story from the letter writer’s family history. Each of us is the product of at least 6 different genetically connected family histories, each parent and each of our four grandparents. That is why letters are recommended to these 6 individuals requesting letters from them. All letters for and by 8th graders continued to focus on dreams 10 years into the future.

 

When the student receives a letter from each parent and grandparent, they immediately read them. They ask the writer any questions they may have. Students then, on the assigned day, bring all the letters received to school. In class they prepare a self-addressed envelope to hold all their letters. They put the letters received into the prepared envelope.  Finally, they write a letter to themselves about each letter received, and about their own plans for their own future. The one change only for 8th graders is that goals are 10-year goals. All the letters are sealed into the prepared envelope which is placed into the school’s Time Capsule vault by the volunteer Time Capsule Postmasters. (Such volunteers should be recruited from parents to be the postmaster for their child’s grade. Such volunteers move forward year to year with their child as postmaster to a higher grade each year.)

 

In 2017 Browne was a fifth year failing school. Consequently, they were receiving the maximum help possible from DISD to prevent the school from failing again and being closed!  With that extra help from DISD, combined with the push from the new Time Capsule Project Model, Browne secured the highest SEI score of any DISD middle school since 2008 in their 2017 SEI score!  That 2017 SEI score of 61.7 by Browne continues to be the standing record today, 15 years later! No non-magnet middle school has done better since 2008.

 

Only one other middle school of the 31 DISD middle schools in 2017 was even within 5 points of this 2017 remarkable Browne victory as a 5th year failing school suddenly made better than the best!  Browne stuck out! That is the power of students grounded in family support, and roots, and with a firmer view of their goals, and all the extra resources DISD gave a fifth year failing school!

 

Note about Browne Time Capsule Vault: The 7th and 6th grade letters from 2017 are on shelves for the 8th grade classes of 2018 and 2019 in the vault. Letters were never written after 2017 at Browne, until now.

 

With no new letters written after 2017 in Browne, Browne suffered a rapid drop in the SEI scores in 2018 and 2019. The 2017 record of 61.7 fell over 13 points to only 48.4 by 2019. The extra DISD resources had also been removed facilitating this drop.

 

Still, by 2019 Browne was in 7th place with a better 5-year average SEI score, 2015 to 2019, than 25 other DISD middle schools!  Remember, Browne’s 9-year SEI average in 2014 placed them in 30th place among 31 middle schools. Only one school was worse! Now after only 3 years out of 5 using Time Capsule Project methods, they were in 7th place, & better than 25 schools!

 

A very good SEI-raising principal, Dr. Hughes, was promoted from Assistant Principal at Browne to become the Browne Principal 3 years ago.  By 2023 the Browne SEI was back up to 59.1, and again earned the highest middle school SEI for 2023 of all these 32 schools! (But this score was still 2.6 points below the Browne 2017 SEI record achievement of 61.7!) Dr. Hughes achieved this 2023 score the old-fashioned way, without any Time Capsule Project!

 

Due to the quality of leadership now at Browne, it is certain that a full repeat of the 2017 Time Capsule letter writing process by Browne students will push the Brown 2024 SEI up past 60! It may even push their 2024 SEI up past their 2017 record all time score of 61.7!

 

3) The average of SEI data 2015 to 2019 shows that by 2019 all 6 Time Capsule Project schools had high SEI averages that placed them among the top 11 of all 32 middle schools. Quintanilla was the highest 5-year average SEI school with only the Young Women's STEAM Academy at Balch Springs Middle School with a 5-year SEI average almost a point higher than Quintanilla's. The Women's STEAM Academy was not a Time Capsule Project school, just a great school without it! 

 

The 3rd place school's SEI average was over 3-points below Quintanilla, which is the oldest DISD Time Capsule Project school by 6 years. Quintanilla started the Project in 2005, but constantly improved the process with the most productive changes happening in 2016.

 

In 2016, following recommendations from the Language Arts Coach, all students in every grade began writing letters to each parent and grandparent asking for their letter about their dreams for the student and a story from the family history. In 2016 alone the percentage of children getting letters from parents almost tripled from never more than 30% since 2010 to past 80%! That is the power of having students in English Language Arts classes themselves write directly to each of their parents and grandparents asking for their own letters! A letter from the principal simply does not have the same power.

 

4) In 2020 the Pandemic struck! None of the Time Capsule Project schools wrote letters for the vault. Then, only Rosemont resumed letter writing in 2021. Consequently, the Quintanilla 2019 SEI score fell 11 SEI points by 2023, while the 2023 Rosemont score rose to be 11 points higher than Quintanilla’s score in 2023!

 

Said another way, Quintanilla had 2019 SEI scores that were the highest of all middle schools, and 10 points higher than Rosemont in 2019. In 2020 Time Capsule Project letter writing stopped at all 6 schools, until now, but restarted at Rosemont in 2021. By 2023 the Quintanilla 2023 SEI score was 11 points lower than Rosemont's 2023 score, the second highest of any middle school. That's one result of Quintanilla stopping a focus on roots & goals vs continuing that same focus as Rosemont! 

 

There was a 21-point SEI shift in opposite directions between these two schools!  That reflects the power of a school’s consistent focus on family roots and goals, & the damage done when that focus is lost by a school!

 

5) "Correlation does not equal causation" is correct, but these repeated academic fluctuations up and down, as associated with the Time Capsule Project, are remarkably consistent!

 

This open-source project needs formal research! Please share this with anyone planning to get a PhD in human behavior or education and needing to do a research thesis. Such PhD research to explore what is happening in the virtually NO-COST, OPEN-SOURCED, VOLUNTEER-BASED School Time Capsule Project will certainly lead to the publication of at least one book! The Time Capsule Project alone would provide data for multiple doctoral students.


3/6/24

Bill Betzen, LMSW (Emeritus),

bbetzen@aol.com

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Re-Starting the School Time Capsule Project after Covid & an additional year of cancer treatment that was successful by October 2023!

 

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 24 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 possible $1,600 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 $1,600. 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 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

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Email sent today to Dallas Mayor documenting potential Federal voting rights lawsuit

This is an email delivered to Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and the City Council on 5/18/22 after my presentation on these same facts.  If  Map 41B is approved by the Council, is there any real alternative other than filing a federal voting rights lawsuit?

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Honorable Mayor Johnson and members of the Dallas City Council,
 
Tomorrow I will spend three minutes presenting critical data about the City Council Redistricting Map 41B that you will be formally receiving at the same meeting.
 
I was very involved in both the 2011 City Council Redistricting and again this year.  Consequently, I was able to understand more of the history of the injustices against Dallas minority communities over the past 31 years of redistricting.
 
Cracking is the breaking up of racial and ethnic groups into different districts so their numbers are small enough that they are never able to elect a representative from their group without significant help and approval from the majority group in that district, usually White voters.   

Cracking has been one of the main methods used in Dallas against minorities ever since Federal Courts ordered 14-single member districts to be established. It has been used to lessen minority power in Dallas. At times it is used to increase tensions between racial and ethnic groups. Such usage continues until now and will continue unless major amendments are made to the redistricting map you will formally begin studying tomorrow.
 
Here is a map of Dallas and the 5 minority communities that have remained cracked and whose voters are unable to elect councilpersons who look like them since 1991.  


Are you willing to end the 31 years of injustice to these 5 cracked minority communities in 2022? Map COD-040, which has been amended into the People’s Map, does that, creating 9 winnable minority districts in the process.  The amendments done to the People’s Map were aimed at incorporating all the improvements made with 41B, improvements that did not hinder minority representation or compactness. The People’s Map has an average perimeter of 42.14 miles, almost a full mile less than the 43.12-mile average perimeter of Map 41B you will study today.  More miles of boundary means that more communities are separated by City Council District boundaries.
 
Here are the maps done by the consultants hired by Dallas, but I modified the coloration in Map 41B to reflect that Districts 1 and 2 were not winnable by Hispanic majorities based on 10 years of election history in District 1. The lower Hispanic VAP and CVAP numbers with the new 41B District 2  made it unwinnable without White support.  The People’s map required no such modifications due to higher Hispanic District 2 VAP numbers and due to the unification of the core of Kessler Park preservationists with District 14 preservationists restoring District 1 to being a winnable Hispanic District.


Here are the Voting Age Population numbers for both maps:


If anyone studies the data and maps above and contrasts them with the 2011 map as well, they quickly see that 41B is the most racially discriminatory map in 20 years for the Dallas City Council! It maintains cracking done in the 1991 map and maintained ever since!
 
We are on the minority side in this battle, a side made up of Black, Hispanic, and White neighbors who all want equitable representation on the Dallas City Council. We want 9 winnable minority districts among the 14 city council districts: 4 Hispanic, 4 Black, and a 9th strong minority opportunity district that is 79% minority Voting Age Population (VAP).  We support the People’s Map that easily achieves 9 winnable minority districts and does it with the most compact map.

The Redistricting Commission suffered lost time due to poorly directed debates about the Citizen Voting Age Population and the refusal of Dallas to make CVAP data known to the public as they made maps. Thus, a very unrealistic view of Hispanic winnability was allowed.  It obviously could not be used to populate maps, but to judge the winnability of a district it was necessary!  Why was it missing? DISD used it publicly to compare maps.

Here is the CVAP data on both Map 41B and the People’s Map to verify winnability judgments made:


The People’s Map eliminates known cracking and, with additional improvements, creates 9 strongly winnable minority City Council Districts. In doing this we have the most equitable and compact Dallas City Council Map in Dallas History! 
Please amend the People’s Map to Map 41B for the people of Dallas! 
 
Bill Betzen