A Tale of Two Schools

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miles-broad-toadJust last week Sharon Grigsby jumped the shark over at Belo and showed us how little our local journalists understand the educational data in our state. Grigsby made defamatory remarks about principal Marian Willard by stating that Willard had a one percent college readiness in her students while the state average was 49.3% of students.

The actual state average on students passing an Advanced Placement test was a little over 3% and the state demographics don’t match Madison High School. Willard’s college readiness scores are in line or better than other schools around the state with her demographics.

Arrogant Belo has not printed a retraction, nor has Jim Schutze at the Observer. Shutze, certainly not a credible source of education data, was the source of Grisby’s contemptuous and inaccurate assumptions and continues his hysterical tirades at a local rag where the reader must peek at content adrift in a sea of sexual advertisements and content. We have yet to read a peer-reviewed article on educational research at the Observer.

If Belo reporters had tried just a bit, they could have could have explored several matches to Madison High School here in Dallas by traveling south down the interstate to Houston.

There, Superintendent Terry Grier, another Broad Toad, circled some of his lowest performing high schools, named them Apollo 20, and injected $2,000 extra per student in each along with consulting advice from Harvard’s Roland Fryer who insisted that charter methods would change Houston’s lowest performing high schools.  School days at these small high schools were extended, the best data experts were hauled in, intensive tutoring for the TAKS began, and these schools were given resources Willard didn’t and doesn’t have.

Grier began churning through principals and teachers. He used a value added measure for teachers that was found to be incredulously inaccurate and drove away talented, experienced teachers.

Grier turned up the heat on the Apollo 20 schools and boiled them with principal turnover and more middle managers. He took $10 million from other Houston schools to initially fund his program, just like Miles intends to overspend on his pilots while under funding other comprehensive high schools.

After spending as much as $14,000 per student on the high schools in the Apollo 20 trial, Madison’s peer high schools don’t look much different than Madison. A little better and a little worse than Madison’s scores, Harvard’s Fryer  has already declared victory and says Apollo 20 high schools are now “average,” when their test scores look remarkably similar to those at Madison.

Before Miles takes Dallas ISD down the same road traveled by Superintendent Grier, the Dallas board might want to read about the constant chaos in Houston’s schools. Grier seemed on the verge of not having his contract renewed when he came up with the grand idea of a $1.5 billion bond package to rebuild all of Houston’s high schools. In the middle of a recession, Houston’s business community decided Grier looked much better and bought his contract renewal the same way the Dallas business community buys board candidates.

In Miles’ case, he is about to start the typical Broad principal churn that goes nowhere. Dallas schools already have Title I comparability issues that are ignored because the public and TEA are not paying attention to huge spending differentials between campuses or because the parents whose children benefit from overspending on their campuses are the most powerful in Dallas public schools.

Miles is also blatantly ignoring parent complaints about double-digit numbers of vacancies on high school campuses. These complaints have surfaced in community meetings where Miles simply overlooks the fact that Dallas comprehensive high schools are not even staffed with teachers in core academics.

Added to a lack of true Title I comparability and lack of teachers is Miles’ arbitrary and capricious performance evaluation system that measures learning objectives and multiple strategy responses. Good luck with that in court, trustees. It is purely subjective and gives Miles the rope to hang all of you.

But back to the original defamation around college readiness numbers that were misinterpreted by Sharon Grigsby and by Jim Schutze, those numbers that look no better in Houston’s small, under enrolled high schools than they do in Dallas’ under enrolled schools, even after massive intervention and constant firings of principals and teachers.

Houston has open enrollment across its public schools. Kids have free transportation to the schools of their choice. Students in low income neighborhoods who are highly motivated can apply for Houston’s magnet schools which are some of the best in the nation or attend its good high schools. Houston is also flush with charters that drain motivated parents and students.

Many times, in Houston and Dallas, that leaves pockets and neighborhoods of extreme poverty with small, homogeneous populations of students who for love of sports or lack of test scores to get into a magnet, attend their local high schools.

Yet, we measure these schools with college readiness SAT tests normed on white males from middle and upper income schools. We continue to push for similar outcomes from those students in dire straits that we have from the entitled or from magnet schools that filter off the top performing minority students from these neighborhoods. In Dallas, our two Early Colleges are packed with high achieving, minority students. These schools are over-enrolled while enrollment at the low performers continues to dwindle both in Houston and Dallas.

But we are insistent that these neighborhood high schools in high poverty areas with declining enrollment perform at middle class standards on instruments normed for middle class kids even after their neighborhood’s high achieving students have left. We continue to insist these students can grow more on SAT scores within the four years of high school than is possible.

And when principals can’t produce middle class outcomes, we decide that constant churn through principals and the inherent churn of TFA will help.

Find one urban district in the nation, including Houston, where that formula has worked.

Posted in Giving Grades, Rotten in Denmark Tagged with: , , , , ,
Persona non grata
Persona non grata

When do we get to the good part of the book where all stakeholders feel connected, on the same team and enthusiastic about DISD? Is that even being considered as part of the plot by the "authors"? Every good story had a big problem that gets resolved. So far this boring book is all problems. Maybe it will be a great book because no reader can easily entertain a happy ending at this time.

I will say that the "authors" have certainly made sure that the antagonists/protagonists or abusers/victims have been thoroughly developed. The 2-year Colorado Springs volume was all "War and No Peace"....

Release the Toxins
Release the Toxins

Did anyone see a news story about principals being "moved around" to different schools this Summer? This man is TRYING to cause much havoc!


Thank you for the honest, cogent, and detailed explanation of everything that is wrong with the Broad mode of non-education. Your comments about Houston's experiments were edifying, and most important, the extra money spent and principal/teacher churning has produced few if any results. This is what I've been saying, and we see that the churning in Harrison did little if any good in producing better test scores. It ran off good teachers and principals, exactly what Miles is doing and what you alluded to is the pattern with Broad graduates. My question for the BOT is, " do you read reports of these same tactics failing in Harrison and Houston? If so, why on earth would you want to repeat the same failures in DISD?Please, BOT, admit that you erred in binging FMM here. His tactics are reprehensible and will not work. If you let him continue this charade, not a single soul, much less a highly effective teacher will come to work in DISD. He's running off experienced teachers and principals at a steady clip, and new teachers will quickly see they have no future here. Wake up, BOT. For heaven's sake, wake up and get rid of this Broad charlatan!

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

DOL: Given an excerpt from a famous musical, the student will explain how the script could be playing out as an accurate depiction of a current event.

                               OZ'S VOICE

               Think yourselves lucky that I'm....

LS -- Shooting past the Four at left to the Wizard at the controls of the

throne apparatus -- the Four react as they see him after Dorothy calls

their attention to him --

                               OZ'S VOICE

               ...giving you audience tomorrow, instead


MS -- The Wizard at the controls -- his back to camera -- he speaks into

the microphone -- he turns, looks o.s. to f.g. and sees that the curtain

is gone -- reacts and turns back to the controls --

                               OZ'S VOICE

               ...twenty years from now.  Oh -- oh  oh!

               The Great Oz has spoken!  Oh -- Oh ---....

LS -- Shooting past the Four at left to the Wizard as he pulls back the

curtain --

                               OZ'S VOICE

               ... Oh .... Oh ....

MS - The Wizard peers out from behind the curtain -

MS - Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy and Scarecrow react as they look at the Wizard

o.s. to right - Dorothy speaks


               Who are you?

MCU - The Wizard peering out from curtain - he ducks back out of sight and

his voice booms out again -

                               OZ'S VOICE

               Oh - I - Pay no....

LS -- Shooting past the Four at left to the Curtain in b.g. -- Dorothy

goes over to it and starts to pull it aside --

                               OZ'S VOICE

               ...attention to that man behind the curtain.

               Go - before I lose my temper! The Great and

               Powerful ---....

MCS -- Dorothy pulls back the curtain to reveal the Wizard at the controls

-- he reacts as he sees Dorothy -- Dorothy questions him -- the Wizard

starts to speak into the microphone -- then turns weakly back to Dorothy --

CAMERA PULLS back slightly as the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man enter and

stand behind Dorothy --

                               OZ'S VOICE

               ... -- Oz -- has spoken!


E Kim Selim
E Kim Selim

Nice job Pythia,

The story at Madison is even deeper.Prior to Marion Willard going to Madison it was low performing even with the very low passing standards set back in the mid 2000’s.She got Madison off the list and kept them off for years as other DISD high schools succumbed to the more rigorous standards.During her tenure at Madison, the campus became the school of forced choice for Katrina students and Spruce students.Notice I did not say dumping ground.Marion Willard accepts all kids with open arms.

Madison was built around 1906 and the classrooms were designed for 15-20 students, not 25-30 students.Overcrowding is not a measure of students per square foot, it is a function of physical class size.When the Katrina and Spruce students went to Madison the conditions were deplorable even though classrooms sat empty. Simple math, DISD, 15 teachers with 30 students can only teach in 30 classrooms at a time.It does not mean 40 empty classrooms at 25 students each means the campus can hold 1000 students.

Another issue is the naïve interpretation of data.Someone in the community wants to use college readiness data to rate all high schools but they have little understanding of data. Firstly, a student having an SAT score of 1110 for math and verbal does not mean they are college ready.It is only the probability of earning a C grade if they came from an average background.Looking at rates and not absolute numbers is wrong with urban children.More students below 1110 on SAT will graduate from college than students above 1110 in an urban setting.Just go to the state websites (AEIS and THECB) and plot it.The reason is there are many more students below 1110 in districts like Dallas and many students have the tenacity to overcome the odds. Same is true for AP scores.Excluding the magnet schools, you can count on your hands and feet the number of students passing AP exams in the district.Why is this even considered as a metric?More students not reaching the “passing” standard on an AP exam in comprehensive high schools earn college degrees than those passing.It does not mean AP exams lack validity, it means they are not a strong predictor of college success with urban students.Again it is about numbers and momentum, not rates.

Another systemic issue is customization versus standardization.Why is the district imposing magnet and private school standards on schools in high poverty areas?Judge Marion Willard on how she has moved students to graduate from high school, have meaningful employment and break the pipeline to prison, then judge her on the college success, not college readiness, of her students.Look at Madison’s graduation rate compared to similar schools or even the rest of the district.

Finally, there is a real deep moral issue here.It is no secret that in the earlier grades the system has focused on the test, not the curriculum and it looks like it is going to get worse with elementary ACP tests.Good grief. There are important TEKS not taught because they were not tested.These are the higher order skills not amenable to a multiple choice item.The poorer the school community, the more we see teaching to the test and the less we see of higher order thinking.These students then enter high school years behind their cohorts.Marion Willard has worked 24/7/365 for her school yet the district has not only denied resources, publically overburdened her without more resources and never addressed the level of instruction in the feeder system.Do they really think they can now fail to renew her contract and then pump tens of thousands (hundreds) of dollars into her feeder pattern after insinuating she is the problem?To paraphrase the McCarthy era witch hunt, have you no shame? Removing an exemplary principal with strong real data to back her up is just cruel. My money is on Marion Willard being at Madison next year.


Was Briggs the consultant on how to handle the Lang MS investigation?


Here is a sample of Bill McKenzie's influence on the children on Dallas, Texas.

Michelle Rhee is finally outed as a supreme cheater in national media. Not a word in Belo. Why, well the woman at the state level who no longer continued the investigation into the Rhee cheating is none other than.........(drum roll)

Kerri Briggs--last seen on a panel with Bill McKenzie over at SMU. Bill thinks so highly of Kerri who stopped any investigation into the Rhee massive cheating. So did Belo help bring Briggs to the Bush Institute like they helped bring Miles to Dallas?

Here is a quote about Briggs:

"In April, state superintendent Gist left Washington to take a job as head of Rhode Island's state school system. Her successor, Kerri Briggs, then dropped the request for D.C. public schools to investigate its schools. Both Gist and Briggs, now director for education reform at the George W. Bush Institute in Texas, declined to comment."


Wow, Bill, you are just a magnet for talent, aren't you, as long as it's Broad toad tainted.


By the way, Belo's attempt to compete with this site by offering 24 hour coverage of Dallas schools seems to be stuck in quicksand.

Why--same problem as always. Belo is so busy cheerleading Miles that no time is left for investigating the school district.

No coverage of:

the reorganization of the district that is underway causing mass chaos

the reason the bilingual program doesn't work

how many kids are sitting in classes with no teachers

how subjective the performance standards are and the massive grievances that will be filed

where the lumpster intends to find teachers for next year

what happened to WW's IB program

why student outcomes don't matter to Miles--only compliance

the 2500 teacher vacancies that are forecast from Miles' lack of management

how far over budget Miles is

how bloated mid management is and how it will grow

Don't expect Belo to answer the public's questions. The newspaper is too busy covering up mismanagement to investigate anything.


Belo ran a long, rambling editorial that data needed to be more important than community opinion in terminating principals, that parents and the community just didn't understand the importance of data in making decisions.

We still can't understand why Belo refuses to put Miles' former track record under the microscope. His track record was shameful.

Yet, Belo editorial staff, who can't interpret the data, want to make decisions for the entire city including bringing this Toad to town to create the same chaos he created in Colorado Springs.

Which is it, Belo? Your massive coverup of Miles' shabby track record or your lack of understanding of the data in Texas schools?

Can't have it both ways. If you don't understand the data in Colorado Springs, we'll tutor you.



Your post is brilliant.  I've never heard anything relating to the sorry situation in DISD put better.  I retired from the district last year and I can say that during my 7 years at a district high school the level of student learning and participation got worse and worse no matter how hard the faculty tried.  You would have the occasional student that "got it" but then before the year was over they would inevitably tell you they were moving out of the district.....usually to Plano or Richardson.  Teachers absolutely cannot produce middle class outcomes for everyone when things are so stacked against them; the student's home lives (which can be something worse than a Hollywood movie), kids raising their siblings, parents on drugs, etc.  When you don't know where you are spending the night or if you'll have anything to eat when you get home, what is TAKS or STARR to you?   

I salute Marian Williard and her work at Madison.  Her work there has been nothing short of remarkable.  The DMN and Belo are so corrupt and in with Mighty Mite they are contributing to the problem; by the time Miles is through with DISD they won't be anyone left standing who cares about the kids or wants to be there long enough to try and make a difference.  Talk about enabling.......DMN and Belo you should hang your heads in shame.  You are helping ruin thousands of lives. 

Disrupted DISD
Disrupted DISD

 Want some more research, DMN?  How about looking at the remediation rates for the graduates of the two high schools which Miles presided over in Colorado?  Is this what we want in Dallas? The remediation rates increased from 39.1% to 75.5% during Miles' tenure at Harrison HS, and at Sierra HS, they fluctuated and the trajectory is worsening.

Harrison High School:  2006: 39.1%,   2007: 37.1%,   2008:56.6%,   2009: 52.6,   2010: 55.6,  2011: 75.5%


Sierra High School:  2006: 70%,   2007: 34.5%,   2008: 53.1%,   2009: 49.4%,   2010: 58.%,   2011: 67.6%


Is this what Miles continues to refer to as his increase in achievement?  This is predictive of what will happen in our high schools if Miles is allowed to implement his program of churn and burn. 

And this is what the DMN is pressuring our trustees to "hold the course" for? What are they thinking? I guess they are not. Thinking, that is.

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

Take a look at these quotes from the DMN editorial about Penney's departing CEO. Anything sound familiar?

"He came with a head full of ideas from triumphs developing Apple Inc.’s stores and Target’s transformation from big-box budget store to something decidedly more hip and happening. Penney, it seemed, could be another trophy redesign."

"Johnson’s philosophy, born of past success, was that he would not wait for the customer to tell him what kind of Penney to build. Instead, he would remake the chain based on his intuition of what they should want. Daily sales reports would not dissuade him."

"The irony is that Johnson’s concepts, over time, might have worked. Even a Johnson critic like retailing legend Allen Questrom was impressed personally; yet he advised Penney board members to test them before rolling them out everywhere. “I like the shops,” he said, “but I’m not the customer. The question is: Do J.C. Penney’s customers like it?”"

"This newspaper’s hope is that Penney — and especially its board — can emerge wiser. Taking a chance on vision and imagination can pay off big, but it’s never a bad idea to hedge your bet by scrutinizing data and listening to your customers."


Persona non grata
Persona non grata

Why no analytical reporting like this from the DMN? A reporter there assured a reader that the reporting and editorial departments are separate at the DMN. Really?


I am hearing of all kinds of folks being let go.  Word is that Mrs. Dash at Bush and Ms. Cardoza at Lowe were cut loose.  Does anybody know about either of these situations?

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

Such a well written article! Wow!

Too bad that for FMM, the DMN, the "business community", and our ignominious BOT (8-1); your logic and reason are looked on as treason!


@Persona non Grata. And there will be no happy ending in DISD unless we are counting the happiness created from the inflated salaries of FMM and his minions. They are laughing all the way to the bank, while the misery index of the people expected to create miracles (teachers and principals) will increase. No worries, he'll fire those miserable people and replace them with inexperienced TFA and Uplift folks who will fix everything.

I'm sure that will solve all the problems here. Right? Wrong. When will the BOT realize what principals and. teachers figured out by the fall. The emperor has. no clothes

Disrupted DISD
Disrupted DISD


The 2 comments on that article at the time were nothing less than prophetic:

"None of this has anything to do with his ability to run or not run DISD. I don't remember having this kind of fanfare to welcome Hinojosa. What gives here?"

"The one thing this man has already proven, he knows how to spend taxpayer money on nothing but salaries for himself, and his staff. The last people he hired, he didn't even want to release their salaries. DISD is already 36 million dollars in the hole, so the hole just got bigger."



It is sad when 90+% of the staff wants Miles to flunk his certification test. That says a lot of his lack of leadership.

Disrupted DISD
Disrupted DISD


Of course Bill loves Kerri Briggs.  She has helped continue the sham of testing by refusing to allow investigation of the cheating scandal in D.C.  She is helping the desperate propping up of Bill's beloved  testing scam by covering up any improprieties. That's the only way this whole charade can continue, with continued cover-ups (re: Atlanta, El Paso, and undoubtedly many more).

After all, it's this testing scheme which allows inexperienced superintendents to win accolades for all of their "reforms," become famous and have access to millions of dollars in donations. Too bad the students and teachers don't fare so well. But, it's all about the kids, right?

Release the Toxins
Release the Toxins

@AgainandAgain Oh my goodness...and where is Rhee now? Maybe the teachers and principals she got rid of were those who she couldn't scare into cheating to go along with her alleged cheating...who knows...

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

And where is Alan King in his new role as Protector Auditor General? Is he only "doing" money audits?


@Disrupted DISD 

So the longer Miles stayed, the more remedial education was required by the colleges receiving students from Harrison 2.

Why wasn't this data available before the superintendent was hired?

It certainly doesn't present any justification for funding his Imagine school plan.

DISD Teach
DISD Teach

@Persona non grata There's no doubt that a little research goes a long way.  Research into Miles' unproven methods.  Research into the figures at Madison.  That takes effort and time, and that is not the way of today's media.  Today's media is about the shock value.  Retractions are back page news, if they ever come.  The damage is done on the front page.


Where did you hear this? Teachers at Lowe need to know before they all transfer or quit. Cardoza is probably the worst principal at DISD.


I hear the BOT will grant him more time to complete certification----not that it will matter.

He'll still be the arrogant, dictatorial, know-nothing charlatan he is now.


@Again and Again. Every time I hear, "It's all about the kids," I cringe, as most of the people who make this statement could care less about the kids. These people make proclamations such as, ," We should not penalize kids by counting the STARR as part of their grades," then turn around and propose that teachers' effectiveness should be judged by STARR results. How on earth could that make any sense to anyone with more than two brain cells? It couldn't. It would be like the IRS telling taxpayers that if they don't pay taxes it won't be held against them. No one would pay taxes, and the government would collapse.If test scores are going to count for or against teachers, they must count for or against students' grades. There is no other way to make test results equitable.What about this rule? Teachers who fail (a misnomer) more than 10% of their students will have to explain what they will do to remedy the situation. The unequivocal message here is: if more than 10% of a teacher's students don't pass your class, it is the teacher's fault. Further message: do NOT give more than 10% of your students the failing grade they earned or YOU are in trouble.These kinds of insidious messages and forcing teachers into a perpetual mode of intellectual and educational dishonesty pervaded DISD the entire time I worked there. It has only escalated under FMM, and the BOT is fully compliciit in extending this intellectual dishonesty. FMM is Michelle Rhee on steroids. 1) Set impossible goals for principals and teachers in high poverty schools. 2) Blame principals and teachers when the impossible goals are not reached IMMEDIATELY. 3) Impugn principals and teachers publicly, branding them as ineffective. 4) Move to fire/non-renew said principals and teachers. 5) Repeat every two years 5) Issue this statement at every available opportunity: "It's all about the kids."


@maui73 Actually, she is not . . .which is why she will probably survive. . .that she is that bad and stays is indicative of how messed up DISD is.


They are allowing it in Houston. Michael Williams is now running TEA ----AFTER Perry removed the previous TEA head---when he came out against too much testing. Our Guv

is pro charter, pro voucher, anti education funding, and pro reconstituting schools.

Why wouldn't TEA allow it?

Granted the legislature is backing off the 15 EOC tests. Why? Monied folks whose kids are in good suburban schools have organized against all the testing, which is a step in the right direction, but don't think for a minute they're backing off closing low performing, urban public schools and/or turning them into charters: there's too much money in it.


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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."

Citizens wanting to speak at regular board meetings and briefings must sign up by calling Board Services at (972) 925-3720 no later than 5 p.m. on the day before the meeting.

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

Interim Superintendent Mike Hinojosa
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