Bully Tactics Come From the Top

go voteThe news that Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs has been accused of coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony, should come as no surprise to readers of this blog, who are familiar with the bully tactics used by Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles.

Griggs, who got on the wrong side of Mayor Mike Rawlings and his Trinity Toll Road Dream, would lose his ability to practice law if convicted. The police report which described his supposed behavior was filed 8 days after the alleged incident. The case has been referred to the grand jury.

The allegations are eerily similar to complaints filed last year by Superintendent Miles against board member Bernadette Nutall. A Dallas Morning News article lays out the timeline. Following an incident at Dade Middle School, in which Miles had Nutall physically removed from the building, Miles apparently contacted staffers and requested they file “reports” detailing alleged confrontations with trustee Nutall. Miles used their reports to file official complaints against trustee Nutall.

From DMN reporter Matt Haag’s article:

One of the dismissed allegations was made in a letter by Superintendent Mike Miles’ driver, Freddie Jackson. But Jackson told investigators he only wrote the letter about Nutall because Miles asked him to for his records and that he never intended for it to be construed as a complaint.


The last complaint came from assistant superintendent Karon Cofield, who initially filed an anonymous complaint. She also indicated to Coggins that her letter, which primarily raised governance issues, wasn’t intended to be a complaint against Nutall.

If it is not clear by now Miles was on a witch hunt, read this comment from a former DISD administrator in the same article:

Sylvia Reyna, a former top DISD administrator, told The News that Miles contacted her after the Dade incident and said he wanted Nutall investigated. He asked her to tell investigators about an incident two years ago with Nutall. Reyna said she told Miles that the argument wasn’t a big deal.

Folks, this is how the power brokers in this city operate. We are just as complicit, however, when we allow it to happen without outcry. The Scott Griggs and Bernadette Nutalls in this city should not be the ones shaking in their boots in fear.

The bullies and those that support them should be the ones afraid.

Speak up. Go vote. Make a difference. It is time to take our city back.

Posted in Teachers Rule Tagged with: , , , ,

Boot Camps, Falling Scores, Fired Principals and Higher Taxes in DISD

Show me a person who supports Mike Miles and I will most likely be able to show you a person who stands to personally profit. There can be no other explanation, because all of the facts line up against Miles quite clearly.

The most damning facts are the 5th and 8th grade reading scores, which came back recently, and the truth is inescapable: Mike Miles’ methods and leadership are causing thousands of children to fall behind the rest of the children in the state. What parent could support a superintendent who causes scores to plummet? None. Unless they don’t have children in DISD (like Bill McKenzie) or they stand to personally make a buck if he sticks around.

For the kids, though, the consequence of the dismal scores is very real: STAAR boot camps. Of course, some campuses call it a STAAR Academy or SSI or Reading Intervention, but behind all of the euphemisms is this truth: Students who failed the test because of Mike Miles’ terrible mandates are now getting to miss many of their other classes EVERY DAY to be drilled-and-killed into submission for the second reading test. And make no mistake: the principals who are allowing this know exactly what they are doing to the kids in order to make themselves look better.

When did you decide this was ok, STAAR boot camp/SSI/Academy/Intervention principals? On which day did you decide to subject innocent children to more drill and kill to get your numbers up? Would you do this to your own children? To children in Highland Park? Of course not. For a Pearson reading test?

These same principals could also be accused of robbing the rest of the teachers financially because having a student miss 2 weeks of other classes will cause the other teachers’ ACP scores to suffer. This will cause their pay to suffer. Selfish much, principals? Not only will you lock kids down for 2 weeks, but you’ll run the risk that non-reading teachers might lose the chance for a raise?

If you want kids locked down on campuses, drilling and killing to make the failing principal look better, by all means support Mike Miles. I’m looking at you, Stacey Hodge of Stand for Children. Stacey, who is not a classroom teacher, wants people to support Miles. Stacey: Do you or do you not support children being locked down in STAAR boot camps? That’s a yes or no question, Stacey. And by the way, how many children do you have in DISD?  If they don’t attend DISD, where do they attend school?

Meanwhile, the principals who DARE to support their students get fired or harassed into leaving. Ask the Rosemont principal. Ask the Franklin principal. Ask the North Dallas principal. I’d bet Hillcrest and Woodrow are next. Watch and learn, Hillcrest and Woodrow.

Rosemont parents have rallied and because of that, they might just win this battle—the battle of getting a say in who is their principal.

Franklin and Hillcrest parents better do the same or they will get to say goodbye to a man who genuinely cares about the kids he serves and isn’t using his job as a stepping stone to politics or business. On top of that, they will also give up any say-so in choosing the next principal. Anyone who tells the Franklin parents otherwise is a person who stands to gain financially. Don’t listen to them, Franklin and Hillcrest parents. Fight back or pay private school tuition.

And finally, know this: According to a DISD insider, DISD taxpayers can most likely look forward to a tax hike or the loss of the homestead exemption if Miles stays much longer. Who wants to pay more for a district with failing scores?

There are only 3 solutions to the Miles problem and their names are Dr. Kyle Renard, Bernadette Nutall and David Lewis.

It is imperative that we vote these candidates in.  These candidates will put real children first.   None of these candidates serve the status quo oligarchs who always have and always will make millions off of DISD children. It’s time to cut those people off and let them work for a living.

It is imperative that we vote against Mike Rawlings, poster boy for the oligarchs, too.

Support whomever you want in public, but in the voting booth, vote for Renard, Nutall and Lewis.

Student achievement is plunging, students are being drilled-and-killed, campus stability is being obliterated and CHILDREN are paying the price. This isn’t transformation; this is decimation on an educational plantation.

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

Many DISD Principals Try to Game the Survey

Last week, DISD teachers and staff received a link for the Spring Climate Survey.

Since the Fall Climate Survey results for individual campuses were never released in the DMN, we can use our trusty inferencing skills to conclude that the results must have been bad, especially at campuses Miles wants to protect from scrutiny.

We can also infer that the scores were bad based on the actions of many DISD principals in anticipation of this spring’s survey. Their actions have ranged from subtle manipulation to lies to outright threats.

As I wrote in other posts about this subject, one way principals try to mislead teachers is by referring to the survey as “our” results. They’ll say things like, “’We’ scored low on this section,” or “’Our campus’ needs to improve on this section.”

There is no “we” or “our.” That is a lie and a thinly veiled threat. The results evaluate the principal and only the principal.  Questions about instructional teams are likely just filler questions, as are many of the other questions.

We can also infer the results were bad because after Winter Break, many principals forced teachers to sit through meetings where the principal went over some (or all) of the questions from the fall survey and provided “clarification” about the questions, as if teachers misunderstood them.  Teachers from multiple campuses report that this happened.

No, teachers did not misunderstand the truly important questions about campus moral, the direction of the campus, the direction of the district and the discipline problems. Those questions (actually statements) were quite clearly worded and are probably the only ones the district really looks at (again, the others are likely filler).

Creating committees to “fix” the campus problems seems to be another common (but useless) ploy of many DISD principals. Committees are a stall tactic because they require even more teacher time, they are not anonymous and the principal still has veto power over whatever the committees come up with. This makes the committee idea pointless and a waste of time.

Finally, I’m reading that principals are attempting to mislead teachers by giving conflicting information about the Neutral choice. Are Neutrals counted as positives or negatives?

The truth is this: No one knows and it doesn’t matter anyway. Principals should stop worrying about the Neutral count and get busy addressing the number of Disagree responses.

For example, I’m certain a principal whose survey result is ranked 1 or 2 out of his/her category isn’t obsessing over the Neutrals. When there are overwhelming percentages of positive responses, the principals don’t need to drag teachers down the rabbit trail of examining the Neutrals.

The level of nonsense surrounding this spring survey is exhausting. It demeans the principals and diminishes their credibility. We teachers are not the oblivious, easily manipulated cows many principals (and Miles) must believe us to be.  Principals can stop trying to influence us.

Effective principals simply listen to their teachers, even when the teachers’ solutions contradict Mike Miles (whose “leadership” has increased the number of IR schools).

Effective principals (or principals who want to be effective) are the ones who put a locked box in the teachers’ lounge and ask teachers to drop anonymous comments, concerns, complaints and questions into it. And then they act on what they read.

IMHO, anything other than a system to collect anonymous comments, complaints, concerns or questions from teachers on their campus is a fake effort on the part of a principal to improve campus conditions.

Failing principals will not take this simple, direct step, which is why they will continue to fail.

DISD teachers should answer the survey statements honestly, without any concern about the Neutrals or how the answers make “the campus” look or if they were offered the exciting opportunity to waste more time meeting with some committee. DISD teachers should not worry that they are misunderstanding a question, because the important questions are impossible to misunderstand.

Teacher feedback matters. If it didn’t matter, the results of the fall survey would have been released in a public forum like the newspaper, detailing the scores at every DISD campus. So, since the results obviously matter, Dallas citizens need all DISD teachers to complete the surveys to let taxpayers know what’s going on in the schools.

Posted in Teachers Rule

You Want Data? Read It and Weep

As expected by everyone but perhaps Mayor Rawlings and Todd Williams, 5th and 8th grade Reading scores are out, and they are even worse than last year’s scores…which were worse than the year before.

DISD 5th graders performed much worse than the rest of the 5th graders in the state, especially after the attempt to mislead stakeholders by mixing in the result of Spanish reading scores was revealed and the scores were adjusted.

And it’s no wonder the district tried to mix the 2 kinds of scores.  5th grade DISD students have dropped 13 points BELOW the rest of the state!  Shocking.  Even I did not expect this much of a drop in 1 year. To add insult to injury, not only did DISD’s scores for 5th grade drop, the rest of the state’s scores went up.

8th grade scores are no better. 2 years ago, DISD kids were down about 7 points from the state average and last year that gap increased to 9 points.

This year, 8th graders are 11 points BELOW the state.

Student achievement is suffering under Miles. Teachers know it and all of 3700 Ross Avenue knows it.

Things are getting worse, much worse. There is no positive way to spin these numbers, though I see that over on the DMN, Todd! is already trying. I see that he wrote, “But this is just two years worth of data and does not make for a trend.  This school year and next school year will provide the real verdict on these reforms.”  Two years?

Right. Whatever. We have THREE years of scores, Todd!, and they’re going in the wrong direction. Somehow, a tiny uptick in 1 section of the Climate Survey is a positive trend, but THREE YEARS OF DECLINING READING SCORES is not a trend?

Todd! also says, “I’d encourage all to wait.”  As a commenter on the DMN said, I bet he wouldn’t encourage patience and waiting if his 5th or 8th grader failed the STAAR.  And Bill McKenzie sure didn’t waste anytime taking his kids of of DISD, away from Mike Miles, and choppering them to safety at a very expensive private school.

Of course, none of this matters because, sadly, for Miles’ supporters, the data indicts them. Their ideas are failures and they are causing innocent children to fail and fall further behind other students in the state.

Teachers get about 10 Spot Obs a year to ensure that we are complying with the MRS/DOL format. Teachers are required to bring proof that they’re doing DOLs to meetings. We’ve done all of the nonsensical Core Belief exercises we’re told to do. Kids are eating breakfast in the classroom. Instructional coaches roam the halls of every campus.  Doors are open, crayons are banned, Fellows are everywhere.

Teachers are doing what they are told to do and the scores are FALLING.

Let’s get data-driven, shall we Mr. Miles?  If you need some DISD math teachers to help you figure out the data, please just let me know.

Posted in Teachers Rule

This DISD Teacher Remembers Jim Jones

drink-koolaidIf you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “drinking the kool-aid” comes from, it comes from a horrific event several decades ago.

In 1978, Jim Jones was the leader of a cult. In November of that year, Jones decreed that it was time for everyone in the cult to die. He instructed the members of the cult, which included hundreds of children and hundreds more adults (approximately 1,000 people total), to drink kool-aid laced with cyanide. Many willingly drank it, while others had to be coerced once they figured out what was going on.

Jim Jones, a weirdo since childhood according to people who knew him, then committed suicide.

Sadly, back in 1978, most Americans didn’t have a very thorough understanding of cults, cult leaders and the incremental changes that take a person from a normal life to drinking cyanide-laced kool-aid in the middle of Guyana in the span of a few years.

The understanding of cults and their behaviors is much better today, and I recently (and completely unexpectedly) had the good fortune to speak to someone who studies cults. My source directed me to the book Collective Violence by Steven E. Barkan and Lynne Snowden (2nd edition, published 2008). I think the title says it all, by the way.

In the book, the authors cite 3 characteristics of cults and describe them:

1.  Cults are ideologically exclusive, where leadership perpetuates the idea that only they have the answer to salvation or whatever other truth the group may be seeking.

2.  Cults create a self-conceived elite where the core help show the lower ranks that there is no one that might challenge the leadership or sway membership from obeying commands of the chief. Members cannot progress into the cult’s inner core until they buy into the belief system totally.

3.  Cult beliefs are maintained through tight internal control where the leadership may be charismatic and/or a hierarchy, but all members are charged with controlling each other.

Sound familiar?

The authors also state that,

“In the real world, people get both positive and negative feedback, thus getting a multidimensional view of their success and failures. Cults…often elect to screen out all negative feedback from members because of their desire to prevent the loss of recruits and resources. Cults also wish to protect the charismatic leader from any potential criticism from the members as well, since the “cure” that the cult is offering is often connected to the members’ identification with the charismatic leader and their continued belief that he, and only he, can solve their problems. By screening out negative feedback, the cult’s problems usually continue to grow to the point that the drastic solutions or further withdrawal from society are necessary to solve them.”

I am grateful to the source who pointed out the parallel between DISD, reformers and cults because it explains so much about what is going on in DISD.

Those of us who work on DISD campuses know that negative feedback, no matter how accurate or well meaning or protective of students, is not only not tolerated, but results in retaliation and punishment as well.

For the most recent example (among dozens), look at what happened to the Rosemont principal after parents offered hour after hour of what could be perceived as “negative feedback”  about Miles’ ACP plan (others would consider it parent engagement). The principal, who led a “met standard” campus comprised of 9 grade levels (!), was non-renewed. Not reassigned or referred for training, but fired. Fired, despite her campus ranking of met standard.

Likewise, many campus principals also go to great lengths to either screen out or altogether silence any negative feedback. Remember the Dealey parent meeting where the principal allotted about 5-10 minutes at the very end of her “heart and vision” meeting for parents to speak up? Parents barely had time to ask questions or voice concerns before the principal scurried away to attend a student performance which was, conveniently, scheduled a mere hour after the parent meeting began.

Silencing parents is but one goal of DISD. Teachers across the district report working for principals who silence teacher dissent by retaliating against vocal teachers, going after strong teaching teams, lying by omission when presenting campus information, accusing teachers of dwelling on the “negative” and simply ignoring any data (including climate survey results) that clearly indicates the principal’s failure.

And what better way could there be to stop negative feedback than for the school board trustees to refuse to hold the vote that would likely result in the firing of Mike Miles?

But as Barkan and Snowden point out, even when a cult silences negative feedback, its problems still continue to grow “to the point that drastic solutions or further withdrawal from society are necessary to solve them.”

Jim Jones may have moved his cult to Guyana to escape the increasing cascade of negative feedback, but that’s a luxury DISD doesn’t have.

The negative feedback DISD wishes it could escape or silence is not going to end. One person (Mike Miles) or one group of people (the “reform” community) obviously does not have the truth or the solutions the children of this school district need. Things are not getting better. The retaliation and dysfunction are becoming impossible to explain away or defend.

I, for one, will not drink the kool-aid being shoved at me in a flimsy paper cup and neither should you.






Posted in 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 lacks the pedagogical, leadership and integrity qualities necessary to lead Dallas ISD and recommend the Board terminate his contract."

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Superintendent Mike Miles

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