Hinojosa: Fix This for Teachers!

Few people realize that the TEI (Teacher Excellence Initiative) penalizes hard-working teachers at a school if the school’s overall STAAR scores are not good.

That’s right: a teacher who works hard in his or her own classroom and manages to overcome the drama and dysfunction of DISD administrators to post good test scores, often takes the hit on TEI anyway. The teacher loses the chance at a raise.

Even many teachers did not understand this until they saw how many points they personally lost on their TEI scorecard because of how their school (over which they have no control) performed on STAAR.

This is not fair.

Who does have control of a school? Principals.

And guess what: despite dismal past results, many of these principals are still in charge of schools. This will consign teachers at schools under failing principals to another year without a pay raise.

This means that any decent teacher at such a school (1 out of 5 on STAAR points is the lowest I’ve heard of) will need to leave that school if they ever want to increase their pay. And an exodus of teachers from any school only serves to destabilize it.

Hinojosa may say he can’t do away with TEI, but he can certainly read the same data the rest of us are looking at and either FIRE or DEMOTE any principal where teachers lost 3 or more TEI points on STAAR scores (unless STAAR scores were a significant improvement over the previous year’s scores).

Teachers have very little influence on most aspects of DISD schools. Principals, however, many of them inexperienced, badly trained and placed by Miles, have almost all of the influence over how a school is staffed, scheduled, supplied, and organized.

If a school’s STAAR scores or ACP scores are low, the buck stops with the principal and the ED supporting that principal. Teachers shouldn’t have to forgo a raise for another year because a bad principal has been left in charge.

Low or falling STAAR scores are a red flag that something is wrong on a campus. You can bet that children are suffering at that campus. And now, with the TEI scorecards out, it’s obvious that even good teachers at those campuses will suffer, too.

Fix this, Hinojosa. Fire the principals or demote them, but take them out of positions of control if you want to protect children by retaining good teachers.

Posted in Teachers Rule Tagged with: , , ,

Wake Up, Everybody

I greeted Hinojosa’s return to the district with some relief, as when he was superintendent he focused on higher order thinking skills and allowed relative freedom for teachers to teach the way they knew worked.

Hinojosa invested in research-based training for teachers from consultants out of Pennsylvania. Although he spent several million $$ on this professional development, the training seemed to be in the right direction, focusing on student learning with various strategies and espousing the idea that intelligence in kids and thus performance could grow. It wasn’t extremely heavy handed in its implementation, and most students seemed engaged as we practiced the strategies. Collaborative learning was a big part of the program, but teachers had freedom to implement it in the ways that best fit their discipline and grade level.

Since Hinojosa’s return, though, I find myself again discouraged by the posts I see here from teachers, stating that during the first week of school they were yet again being told “their verbs didn’t match on the LO and DOL and how many MRS strategies they should do per class period.–and this came after Hinojosa had stated at the kickoff and t the press that he was concerned about teacher morale and turnover.

In the past few days the frustration I am seeing expressed here and on TALK Disd is almost palpable. By that I mean that people seem to be rising from the “I must keep my job to feed myself and my children no matter what; I’ll just keep my head down” phase to something less compliant and angrier.  Am I right?

I could be misreading the change in sentiment, of course, but I sense that something is different. If I am correct, then I wish to pose this question: Are teachers in Dallas willing to act to escape the labyrinth in which they’ve been imprisoned even after Miles the Minotaur’s death? If that is the case, I expect to see more people than the usual suspects speaking at the BOT meeting on September 24th

Yes, we know that Bill Betzen will probably be there and also Mike MacNaughton. We might even hear from the lady from South Dallas who makes reference to Teddy Pendergrass songs.

The last time I heard her speak, she spoke directly to Miles, stating that the TP song “The Whole Town’s Laughing” was the way her community felt about Mike Miles.  I don’t know the lady at all, but I admire her dedication to the children in her community, and I want to suggest a new song to which we should expose to the BOT and Dr. Hinojosa at the next BOT meeting.

It’s called “Wake Up Everybody,” and it was very popular in the mid 70s. In fact it was a huge hit.  Some lines in the song that struck me were these:

When you teach the children, teach them the very best you can.
The world won’t get no better, if we just let it be.
Da Da Da Da Da Da Da
We got to change it girl, just you and me.

Teachers, we all know that the district’s continued focus on rigid multiple response strategies is not “teaching the children the very best we can.” We feel it in our guts; we know it in our hearts.

Now is the time for all of us to focus on removing this blighted form of teaching from DISD. Removing it is so much more important than teachers’ being evaluated and paid according to this bizarre, non-sensical strategy. Why? Because It is negatively affecting 160,000 students in the district, and it is dooming their futures.  Nothing I’ve foreseen as a successful future for our students resembles chanting, showing white boards, turning and talking, or pairing and sharing. much less doing so 5 times in a 50 minute class period!  It does resemble an assembly line in a Chinese factory, but it shouldn’t represent the kind of education we offer to Dallas children.

Please join me in this fight. Organize, speak at the next BOT meeting, and fight this menace to our children’s futures. If we can’t step up and fight this, we can’t really call ourselves educators:

The world won’t get no better if we just let it be
Da Da Da Da Da Da
The world won’t get no better
We gotta change it girl, just you and me.

Can’t do it alone; need some help, ya’ll.
Can’t do it alone.
Wake up, everybody.
Need a little help, ya’ll.
Need a little help.

I hope to see you on the 24th.

Posted in Giving Grades, Teachers Rule Tagged with: ,

The Minotaur is Dead. Now How Do We Get Out of the Labyrinth?

When I thought about the precarious position in which DISD teachers find themselves again this year, my imagination took me to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, the dreaded monster King Minos had imprisoned in the labyrinth to punish Minos’ enemies who  might try to kill the beast.

All prospective destroyers of the Minotaur knew that a hero might kill the Minotaur, yet unable to escape the elaborate labyrinth, that hero would die. It occurred to me that Dallas teachers find themselves in a similar, prickly position, as Miles the Minotaur has been killed, yet his deadly programs live on, keeping teachers stuck in the labyrinth for another year. What then has been gained from Miles the Minotaur’s demise if teachers face the same mind-numbing administrative oversight, black box TEI ratings, and another year of MRS DOLLO, the much hated “non-teaching” strategy? I term it “non-teaching” because not only is it not research-based, but teachers also tell me it is detrimental to real learning, especially at the middle school and high school level. Further, it is grossly inappropriate for AP classes.

Theseus was lucky because his clever helper. Ariadne, daughter of King Minos, advised Theseus that he needed to take a ball of string with him into the labyrinth, unwinding it as he made his way toward the Minotaur. That same string would allow him to extricate himself from the labyrinth once he had killed the Minotaur.

That may also be the solution for DISD teachers, who need a ball of string (plan of action) to overturn Miles’ dictums and make it out of the labyrinth alive (careers intact). Coming up with an action plan to overthrow Miles’ strategies is difficult but vital. We must turn the tide of public opinion on those who are still yammering about keeping Miles’ programs, even insisting that any new superintendent must pledge adherence to Miles’ playbook. These “same ole” folks: Todd Williams, Mike Rawlings, Eric Celeste, Ken Barth, the DMN editorial board and most of the BOT  seem hell-bent on continuing this failed plan.  Miles’ former supporters were even eerily silent when the abysmal scores for the Imagine 2020 schools were released.

Here are some ideas for how we can find that ball of string to save us from the labyrinth of Miles’ failed leadership.

  • – Attend BOT meetings in your association tee shirts (AFT/CTD) and sit together. Delegate a person beforehand to speak.
  • – Have friends and family members speak at BOT meetings against continuation of Miles’ teaching strategies with emphasis that they’ve produced declining scores. Provide them with a script to use.
  • – Write to your BOT member about discontinuing the mandatory, non-viable teaching strategies.
  • – Guest post on TALK DISD with an alias. Counter the opinions of the deformers with facts, emphasizing that Miles’ brand of reform is detrimental reform, citing declining scores as proof.
  • – Respond to Celeste’s/Schutze’s columns anonymously by creating a Discus account.
  • – Align/strategize with trusted teachers in your building to fight the cancer left by Miles.
  • – Talk with  your neighbors about the damage being done by mandated teaching strategies, emphasizing that there is so much test prep there is little time for in-depth learning and discovery.
  • – Have your union present a plan to Hinojosa to discontinue MRS DOLLO as the basis for spot observations. Insist that the PDAS be used instead.
  • – Wait to broadly attack TEI until the disastrous stories pour forth about ratings in September. Then attack full force.

These are a few suggestions. Griping to each other may soothe tortured souls, but it isn’t getting rid of the hated, mandated strategies while student learning suffers. I’m sure many of you have much better suggestions than these I’ve mentioned, so let’s hear them. Right now you are stuck in the labyrinth and face certain death if you don’t find that string/plan of action to extricate yourselves from the labyrinth.

Heroic action is necessary.

Posted in Administrative Policies, Guest Posts Tagged with: , , , ,

Dallas ISD Teacher Roll Call 2015

Welcome back to all of the hard-working teachers and staff in the Dallas ISD! Your efforts are much appreciated by the community. We truly hope that this is a good year for all.

While Dallas Morning News editorial writer Sharon Grigsby saluted DISD for having only 50 teacher vacancies, reports on the DMN Talk Live blog appeared to contradict her. Several bloggers claimed their schools have vacant teaching positions and that students are with substitute teachers. Someone from Spruce High School reported 11 vacancies, while others did not name their school, but tallied 3 and 4 vacancies. One disappointed parent reported that her child had a sub in Science who “may be there for a long time.”

Sharon Grigsby cited what she was told by the district and did not question the information, nor corroborate it with other publicly available information.  It is ironic that Ms. Grigsby had to be schooled by veteran education reporter Tawnell Hobbs, who advised her that perhaps she might first check the DISD website, which listed 150 vacancies, not 50 as Ms. Grigsby had been told..  Ms. Grigsby asked Andre Riley about the discrepancy:  “So I’ve gone back to Riley, who says that 50 is, in fact, not the current number.  The goal is to have 50 vacancies on day 1 …”

So what is the real number of teacher vacancies?  It seems the truth about the number of vacancies will have to come from the teachers themselves, as the district either cannot or will not report accurate numbers.

So, to our DISD teachers and staff, please report the actual number of teacher vacancies at your school.  You can do this anonymously- this blog does not track those who post here.  Thank you in advance for your aid to make the district more transparent.

We can then add up the reports and see if the true number is closer to 50, 150, or another number entirely.  The public deserves to know the truth about the situation in our schools.

Posted in Belo Expectations, Teachers Rule Tagged with: , , ,

Bad News for the Bond…and Hinojosa

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and the bond-backers were all smiles at the DISD convocation on Wednesday, but bad news is now headed their way. Their party’s over.

The first round of bad news will arrive next week, when students head back to class and teachers realize that, despite Hinojosa’s great delivery, not much has changed.

Teachers will realize that DOLs have not gone away. Subjective spot observations have not gone away. SLOs have not gone away. TEI has not gone away. Overcrowded classes (because DISD won’t hire more teachers) followed by endless meetings have not gone away.

Instructional coaches, paid to analyze the most trivial points of already-taught lessons (instead of working one-on-one with struggling readers), are still here. A refusal on the part of most administrators to address discipline is still here.

This hard, cold reality of DISD’s corruption, waste and incompetent leadership will slap every teacher in the face by 3 pm (if not sooner) on Monday and no amount of Uptown Funk is going to make things better when it does.

Students and parents aren’t going to be any happier than teachers. Numerous vacancies, especially in the secondary schools, will cause disruptions and frustration. Unfinished building repairs, AC problems, an excess of clueless administrators standing around, and missing books/supplies will add fuel to the fires of parent and student discontent. Hinojosa will have to offer more than platitudes and practiced one-liners to satisfy them and quell the chaos.

The second round of bad news for Hinojosa and the bond will arrive in mid-September when the handful (percentage-wise) of DTR (Distinguished Teacher Review) teachers are announced and their goodies are heralded to all of the other teachers who weren’t deemed deserving regardless of how hard they worked.

Hinojosa, who told teachers that the Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI), former superintendent Mike Miles’ “pay for performance” scheme, is “good stuff,” won’t be able to find sunglasses strong enough to deflect the glare of the spotlight that is about to placed on the entire TEI debacle—from the subjective language of the rubric to the fine print about payouts.

At the same time, teachers will finally see their actual, verified salary via their paychecks. This isn’t going to be pretty. New teachers will get a pay bump simply for being new, while proven veterans will get nothing. Increased insurance premiums and any other deductions will knock veteran pay down even more. New teachers will see that this is last raise they can ever expect to get in DISD.

By mid-September, the smooth-talking of the silly, wasteful convocation will be long forgotten. Hinojosa’s “please hire me” humility tour will be a distant memory.

The perennial problems of corruption and incompetence, however, will remain. And until they are fixed, we will remind friends, neighbors and voters that DISD cannot be trusted with a bond.

Miles, Hinojosa…is there really a difference?

Posted in Giving Grades, Teachers Rule Tagged with: , ,

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Foundation for Empowerment (FCE) released 3 papers:

1. Disruptive Change: Mike Miles and the Crisis In Dallas ISD, which has been prepared with consultation by education academics, extensive research, review of data and education literature, and meetings and interviews with people of Dallas holding varying and sometimes conflicting points of view;

2. Digging Into Data and Evidence: Mike Miles, Dallas ISD, and Trickle-Down Education Report, by Dr. Julian Vasquez Helig, Lindsay Redd, M.A. and Dr. Ruth Vail; and

3. The Challenge of Disruptive Leadership in Dallas ISD, by Decoteau J. Irby, Ph.D. and Matthew Birkhold, M.A.

"You will see from these papers that, after much research and discussion, we believe the current Superintendent [Mike Miles] lacks the pedagogical, leadership and integrity qualities necessary to lead Dallas ISD and recommend the Board terminate his contract."

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Contact the Superintendent and Trustees:
3700 Ross Avenue, Box 1
Dallas, TX 75204

Interim Superintendent Mike Hinojosa
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