DISD Teachers Await Climate Survey Results

DISD campus administrators have been informed of the Fall Climate Survey results for their campus. In other words, the results are in and teachers want to see them.

DISD teachers completed the Fall Climate Survey in December, after receiving a link to the Survey in their email. Many teachers put their concerns about privacy and anonymity aside (the survey is, after all, linked to those individual teacher email accounts) and complied with the district’s request to provide feedback.

Before Winter Break, the district released just a portion of the results. Despite an attempt by either the DMN or the district itself (or both) to spin the numbers in a positive light, the REAL results showed that the majority of DISD teachers/staff still feel the district is headed in the wrong direction. What a surprise.

The only true surprise to me is how many teachers braved the fear and intimidation tactics of the district to go ahead and speak freely anyway. Keep in mind that, before the Survey window closed, teachers at multiple campuses were told their responses reflected on them and that negative responses could result in more Professional Development for their campus.

The district also chose to conduct the Survey using a link sent to teacher email accounts. This is a not-at-all subtle signal to teachers: we can trace your answers back to you, so watch what you say.

Of course, if tamping down dissent is NOT the district’s actual goal, then why doesn’t the district go back to using scan-tron bubble sheets like they did for the OHI surveys? All teachers and staff met in the library, took a pre-printed scan-tron, bubbled in a choice after each question and then dropped the sheet into a cardboard box or envelope. No muss, no fuss, complete anonymity.

Nevertheless, DISD teachers did their part. They braved the scare tactics and they took the time to complete the survey. It’s now time for the district to release the results for every campus in DISD to parents, taxpayers and teachers.

Share your school’s results here!

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Posted in Administrative Policies

Ring in the New Year-Same as the Old Year?

ring-in-the-new-yearProbably, regrettably, yes.

Unfortunately, also the same as the year before .

A blog post from about this time last year listed 10 notable under-achievements for Dallas ISD in 2013, starting with 20% of teachers quitting, along with many long-time successful administrators, and rolling through a litany of sins against the children including money spent on investigating improper behaviors, kindergartners tested in jumping skills, and a superintendent that sold his Dallas home, moved his family back to Colorado, and became a renter in the community he claims to have come to save.

Dallas ISD starts 2015 with the percentage of teachers leaving the district this year expected to exceed 35%. Already a third of Dallas teachers have one year or less experience in DISD schools.

The number of substitutes needed to cover classes with no permanent teachers has been swept under the rug with a new class of employee-permanent sub. Now there’s almost always a roving warm body to cover a class without the stigma of admitting no one wants to work in DISD.

Many campuses started the new school year with new principals, trained and placed by an administration without regard to the community, with the expected disastrous results. Billy Earl Dade Middle School suffered, and by November, Dealey Montessori parents were raising pitchforks.

Last year’s field testing of ACP’s for kindergartners in PE went largely unnoticed by parents, but this year’s full rollout of testing for all grades in all subjects finally got their attention. Parents across the district let trustees know they were not pleased to have children barely able to tie their shoes tested in ball throwing and artistic skills, so that teachers could be paid accordingly.

Instead of wasting money investigating the superintendent we wasted money investigating a trustee in a shameful game of tit for tat.

Publicly we were told the fund balance grew but board documents showed millions lost to bidding mistakes and purchasing screw-ups.

And at every turn, opposition and questions were met with deception and a solution this administration uses time and again, change the rules.

If Purchasing makes a mistake, we’ll change the policy to eliminate that possibility. If trustees object to a donation funding a salaried position in the district, a position viewed by some as a fox in the hen house, the obvious solution is to remove oversight of donations from trustees.

If trustees question giving Teach for America even more of a foothold in the district by allowing them to use our facilities, and students, as a summer training ground, Mike Miles has no qualms about using a shabby study done in 2010-11, on a handful of teachers and their CEI’s translated into percentile groupings, to justify that support. Somehow 2010-11 becomes “last year” and statistically insignificant better scores from less than 100 TFA teachers, becomes a “dramatic difference.”

If parents object to ACP’s, Miles says parents can opt out, but no parent ever gets the instructions for doing so.

If teachers object to the Teacher Excellence Initiative and its pay-for-performance rubric, he says teachers developed it, so quit complaining.

If an investigator starts opening doors with skeletons that the administration wants to keep buried, the investigator finds himself on the other side of the door he thought it was his job to open.

Instead of 34 schools tagged as “Improvement Required” we now have 43, yet somehow we “took positive steps forward.”

This administration spends more time and effort covering its tracks and making excuses than it does moving forward.

But why should we expect accountability for the children from a superintendent that moved his child to another state?

Why should we expect accountability from a district that solicits support from Stand for Children to push their pay for performance scheme and relegates teachers to phony “focus groups” where suggestions are as scripted as their classroom strategies?

Why should we expect accountability from board members that think representation is not a “yes” or a “no”, but “present?”

Why should we expect a child-centered organization when an increasing majority of DISD leadership has little to no experience or history working with children and instead appear to have gained their positions in a web of leadership Ponzi schemes that reward allegiance and compliance, not demonstrated ability?

Why should we expect anything different in 2015?

More importantly, how can we make sure the New Year we celebrate in 2015 doesn’t have the same hollow ring we heard in 2014?

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Posted in Giving Grades

O Come All Ye Failures…

DISD-failurePoor and black? Brown and disadvantaged? Or just a child of any ethnicity unlucky enough to be trapped in the failure that everyone seems to think is Dallas ISD?

Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer has the answer to your salvation.

First we learned that trustee Mike Morath was on a “mission from God” to reform Dallas public schools. Whether that reform is a home rule takeover or a state mandated removal into a school district run by for-profit charter management companies, the steady drumbeat from Morath and the corporate donors at Texans for Education Reform is sure to be a death knell for community schools in your neighborhood, schools with veteran teachers and administrators that know your children and respond to their needs.

Now Jim Schutze wants us to know that Mike Miles is “the only one I see who has devoted himself to the cure” of the “social cancer” afflicting your children, the cancer of “ economic deprivation, racial segregation and other soul-withering cruelties will turn too many of them into transient mentally ill criminals.”

And, Hallelujah! Mike Miles is “the one telling us there is a light, and he can see the light, and he will bring the light to the children. “

Perhaps this is Jim’s attempt at a holiday column. Visions of Paul Crume’s “Angels Among Us” and Dale Hansen’s “Thank God for Kids” must dance in his head.

Unfortunately the only uplifting thought Schutze can come up with is that Mike Miles is, apparently, the savior of your poor black or brown child.

And that salvation must come through “The only window we have … the schools.”

All this praise for Mike Miles is simply praise for the one thing he has brought to Dallas with a vengeance, the faux reform idea that teachers are the root cause not only of society’s collective failure to provide for poor children, but are also the determiner of each individual child’s future as they pass through their classroom, as if each exit door has two possibilities, prison or no prison.

And let’s not forget that even more insulting possibility, the door that leads straight from ineffective teaching to mental illness and life in a cardboard shack under a bridge.

So we script teacher’s lessons, mandate teaching strategies, judge student engagement by how many times they give a “thumbs up,” outlaw crayons, and open doors.

And we test. We test so much the teachers have no time to teach, and we test everyone, even the little ones who should first experience the joy of learning before they have to experience the reality of comparison, a comparison in which they may find they don’t quite measure up.

Now, instead of having our most at risk students looking for an exit strategy in high school, as they find themselves labelled failures by Pearson, we start them on the path of self-doubt as kindergartners.

How better to set a child on the pipeline to prison than by demonstrating to them that they are a failure at the age of six?

Veteran teachers know that the children they teach have talents and ambitions beyond those judged by standardized tests, and that focusing on those tests as a measure of achievement denies those children the opportunity to develop the very skills that will make them thoughtful, resourceful citizens and, in an ironic twist, might even equip them to excel on those tests.

Schutze aligns himself with most reformers who know what’s best for “other peoples’ children” saying he “wonder[s] sometimes if the teaching methods appropriate for traumatized minority poor kids can coexist in the same district with methods more appropriate for less disadvantaged children.”

This is the flip side of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” mantra, which Todd Williams and Mike Miles use to shame any that disagree with their methods. All children have the same capabilities and we should expect the same results, yet somehow poor minority kids must take a different path to that achievement. What is good for the children and grandchildren of these folks on the TER advisory board, almost exclusively enrolled in private, parochial, or elite public schools, is somehow not also beneficial for poor kids.

Poor kids don’t need creative arts, guided discussions with veteran teachers, access to innovative technology, fully staffed and supported science labs, field trips, a smorgasbord of interesting elective classes, and a clean, safe campus.

They apparently don’t even need toilet paper.

Poor kids need testing, online learning, unregulated and mismanaged charter schools, teachers with 5 weeks of training, and constant micromanagement of their learning environment.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

It takes hope and resilience for a child to experience failure and learn from it, using that failure as a guidepost, not a roadblock.

Our children are resilient, that is a certainty. But who is giving them hope?

That is my Christmas wish for the students of Dallas ISD; that you know that your teachers believe in you and that you find within yourselves the courage and the determination to succeed. Remember that you are defined by your dreams, not by any other measure.

Ignore those that would tell you anything different.

Be joyful. Be triumphant!

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Posted in Chicken on a Soapbox, Teachers Rule

1 Climate Survey, More Bill McKenzie, No Exxon Building and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Whew! We made it through the first semester! Well done, DISD teachers!

Let’s take a moment to reflect on recent DISD news you might have missed due to ACPs:

The Climate Survey results for the district (but not individual campuses) were released with so much spin I’m still dizzy.

“Another Perspective” might think the results are positive, but no one else does. Then again, no one else (me, for instance) is paid to go online and prop up Miles.

After all, who in their right mind would think it’s a good thing that 55% of teachers do not agree the district is headed in the right direction? Or that only 28.7% of respondents would stay with DISD if offered a job in another district with equal pay and benefits?

And, no, results are not “trending positive.” Teachers were harassed into completing the survey AFTER being told that low completion rates and negative responses would result in more PD for the teachers! And still only 44% would agree that the district is headed in the right direction.

DISD teachers know better (and Miles knows better, too). We teachers have spent the last several days watching our kids, bored out of their minds, sitting through ACP tests that private school kids don’t have to take because, in private schools, kids aren’t tested solely to evaluate teachers for pay raises. Miles is such a believer in the ACPs that he choppered his child out of DISD, by the way.

And how many actual teachers responded to the survey? Do Dallas taxpayers realize that the survey isn’t limited to classroom teachers? How many of the “district is headed in the right direction” respondents are principals, APs, instructional coaches, custodians, cafeteria employees, personal chauffeurs to Miles or other non-campus employees? Let’s hear that statistic, “Another Perspective.” Did Tonya Grayson complete the survey, too?

Then there’s the news from Bill McKenzie’s family. Remember Bill “Pappaw” McKenzie? He was a DMN writer who steadfastly supported Miles. After many columns filled with what I considered to be tortured logic and strange admissions (he wrote a column about a DISD report and started off by saying that he didn’t read the report), he left to go do something else in the “reformer community” for public education.

Except, according to his wife, McKenzie’s kids no longer attend a DISD public school. That’s right: another Miles cheerleader doesn’t subject his own children to Miles (neither does Todd! Williams—or Mike Miles). You cannot make this stuff up.

Nor can you make up how, in classic McKenzien Logic, the couple wants everyone to know that they remain supporters of Miles and that they would tell anyone considering DISD to, “Go for it!” even as they peel out of the Rosemont parking lot. In other words, Miles is doing such a great job that they’re pulling their kids out of DISD.

I especially liked the part in the article about Rosemont’s failure to have an improvement plan, as if Rosemont doesn’t have an overpaid Superintendent who is supposed to be ensuring that those things get done.

Also, even if they are dissatisfied with Rosemont, are there no other DISD schools the McKenzies could transfer their kids to? After all, they trust and support Miles, right? Or is this another case of “do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy?

At least the district didn’t buy the broken-down Exxon Building. I guess the news that schools are once again going without toilet paper and copy paper must have leaked out. Keep in mind that Solis, Bingham and Morath nevertheless voted to use money that should go to low-income kids to instead buy a 20 MILLION DOLLAR building that needs 8+ MILLION DOLLARS in repairs right off the bat. But hey—it’s only the kids’ money, right Miguel? It’s not coming out of your or Bingham’s or Morath’s pockets, right? So who cares how much it costs?

As for Elizabeth Jones, she was present for the vote but couldn’t muster the backbone to vote against buying the Exxon white elephant. If you’re in her district, be sure to keep that in mind if she should have the audacity to run for reelection. It’s definitely time to find someone new to represent parents and taxpayers and students in District 1. Jones stands for nothing; she’s yet another example of how being smart simply isn’t enough in life. The last thing low-income kids in DISD need is another lukewarm trustee. It’s time to vote her out because she apparently can’t decide if she serves children or the deep pockets who financed her last election, so she serves neither very well (Elizabeth, that’s a Biblical reference. If you need help with it, just ask Teachers-Will-Get-Their-Reward-in-Heaven Morath).

Finally, I’d say the Partridge in the Pear Tree are the parents and students who attended the last board meeting and spoke out against Miles. I’d say the people who chanted “Miles Must Go” are partridges, too. I’d also include the 300 Dealey parents in this honor. These citizens are valuable gifts to our community. They see the damage Miles is doing to DISD and to Dallas as a city and they are speaking out against him and Rawlings. They are giving their time and effort to rid Dallas of this Broad-trained curse.

Over the break, DISD teachers deserve to rest, relax and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Who else would show up day after day to listen to pointless Spot Ob feedback while also dealing with some of the most needy kids in the Dallas area? No one else, that’s who. DISD teachers are the only ones in this district who put their money where their mouth is and do the actual hard work of teaching AND grading AND conferencing AND reteaching AND tutoring AND mentoring. I don’t know a single administrator or instructional coach (I now refuse to capitalize their unnecessary positions) who does all of that.

So Happy Holidays, DISD teachers! I work with you; I work among you. I know hundreds of you and I see the patience, the time, the effort and the excellence you bring to the students in our district. You are heroes.

Your principal may micromanage you, your APs may not back you up, your instructional coaches may consider themselves experts even though they’re not, and your superintendent may make your life a living hell, but I know the truth: you are incredible, effective teachers and DISD students are lucky to have you!

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Posted in Baloney Meter

Three Mikes and Still No Cigar

three-cigarsIt seems Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings have added another Mike to their roster of ill-informed and murky dealings.

Without the knowledge of school trustees or city hall politicians, Rawlings’ city hall Office of Economic Development, with input from Dallas ISD’s Chief Innovation officer Mike Koproswki, just submitted an application to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, dubbed the” Promise Zone,” that would send federal dollars off into the same Broad and Teach for America inspired rat hole that currently constitutes Dallas ISD under the reign of Superintendent Mike Miles.

The third Mike is a former Broad intern from Tennessee where Broad and TFA just had big strike-outs with a statewide reconstitution district. Koprowski, with not a single credential to certify him to practice public education in the state of Texas, was recruited to Dallas and awarded a salary of $165,000 a year at the age of 30 with only two years of education experience in Tennessee’s current failure of a state reconstitution district. Why transport experience in failure across state lines?

The state of Tennessee has finished enough of its experiment with education commissioner Kevin Huffman (ex-husband of Michelle Rhee and former TFA public relations expert) and Chris Barbic, former CEO of YES charters, to know they have a grand failure on their hands. Huffman resigned a couple of weeks ago before he could be booted out of office. Koprowski worked for Huffman in Tennessee. Forcing the lowest performing schools in Tennessee into a state reconstitution district (based on the total failure of reconstitution in New Orleans) has resulted in a backlash of Tennessee parents, superintendents, and politicians, but not before Huffman awarded a no-bid six million dollar contract to TFA and not before Barbic was sued over a crony deal involving his former charter, YES, being awarded charter contracts in Tennessee.

So why bring Koprowski to Dallas ISD at a huge salary when Dallas teachers are currently buying paper and toilet paper for their campuses due to the shortage in supplies? Is this yet another Broad crony hire? And why didn’t Koprowski inform Trustees before assisting Dallas City Hall in writing the Promise Zone application? Does the Promise Zone designation buy loyalty for Miles by greasing the palms of local nonprofits?

The Promise Zone initiative was announced by President Obama in 2013, touted as a way for the Administration to “partner with local leaders to create jobs, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, and reduce violent crime”. For communities selected, the federal government will “partner to help the Promise Zones access the resources and expertise they need. To date, there are twelve federal agencies working in close collaboration to provide resources and expertise to urban, rural, and tribal Promise Zones to expand economic mobility and opportunity in their communities.”

In other words, federal largesse to a favored few.

A read through a portion of the Dallas Promise Zone application finds it rehashes two former failed grant applications; the Obama administration’s Race to the Top, submitted to open a $30 million stream of federal funds to Superintendent Mike Miles’ Imagine 2020 initiative, and the School Zone, a public/private partnership in West Dallas that was denied a Department of Education Promise Neighborhood grant. It’s hard to determine from the application language exactly what Koprowski or Rawlings understands about Dallas poverty, Dallas public schools, or even basic American capitalism, but the same institutions are involved—SMU, UTD, and a group of nonprofits whose efforts have not improved school ratings but have at least generated reams of data for the university researchers.

In another repeat, someone at Rawlings’ office continues the mantra espoused by Rawlings that high poverty in Dallas, Texas is caused by bad schools. As the application states, “…disinvestment and higher poverty rate is [sic] a function, in part, of the poor condition of public education in the Promise Zone.”

We can only wonder if the mayor of Dallas has ever visited Uptown, currently thriving, as it sits adjacent to North Dallas High School, one of the lowest rated high schools in the state. We can only wonder if the mayor noticed that all the construction and new restaurants and retail adjacent to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on Singleton are thriving even though Edison Middle School and Pinkston continue to fail under the leadership of Superintendent Miles and his Imagine 2020 failure.

Private capital dollars follow potential profit, Mayor Mike. Welcome to reality. There seem to be huge amounts of business capital pouring into West Dallas and North Oak Cliff without any improvement in the schools. Business capital investment is predicated on profit outcomes, not quality of schools or federal nonprofit dollars. New York City’s Harlem Zone is a philanthropy zone that cannot be repeated in Dallas with federal money.

As if to make a bigger muddle out of the correlation between failing schools and capital investment in a neighborhood, the writers of the Dallas Promise Zone application then state that building Townview in the middle of blight in East Oak Cliff had no impact on the neighborhood. The authors failed to mention Obama and Irma Rangel, both South Dallas success stories, have also drawn no investment into their respective neighborhoods. So why blame poverty-filled public schools for the dearth of private capital investment?

On the other hand, Kessler Park real estate values continue to climb at the same rate that residents’ call for the firing of Mike Miles continues to gather steam. A coalition of these parents and the White Rock parents is in the making. Unless the Mayor of Dallas wants to see more middle class flight from Dallas public schools, on top of a failed bond election, cutting Mike Miles loose needs to occur sooner than later. Miles’ name appears nowhere on the Promise Zone application, probably prescient of the fate of the application when the feds do a simple Google search on Miles. If Miles is toxic, why ask for federal money for his failed initiative?

If the Mayor wants in-migration of middle class parents to Dallas, there needs to be safe, middle class housing which is absent in Dallas. But the Promise Zone plan wants more funding for Miles’ failed initiatives and schools of choice which are not neighborhood schools.

And why ask the feds for a million dollars to fund yet another layer of DISD middle management for the Promise Zone rather than address churn in teachers and lack of campus supplies in Dallas schools? Is there no end to the Broad model of stripping campuses of every dime while loading up on high-priced managers?

But, wait, next on the menu of illogic for the Promise Zone are “choice schools” which as mini-magnets, are supposed to lift up neighborhoods and attract capital investment. If choice schools are placed in the Promise Zone and pull out the most able students from low-rated neighborhood schools, what is the long-term plan for Roosevelt, Pinkston, South Oak Cliff, Madison, and Lincoln? Exactly what is the vision for these schools other than more teacher and principal churn based on Miles’ failed initiatives? Or is their failure assumed? Where do poor neighborhood students in the Promise Zone attend school?

The Promise Zone application is nonsensical. Asking for federal dollars when the justification for the grant is based on faulty logic, a failing school superintendent, and a mayor who can’t analyze the flow of business capital in Dallas neighborhoods is unrealistic.

Three Mikes and still no cigar.

Posted in Teachers Rule
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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

Lew Blackburn, 1st Vice President
District 5
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Oak Lawn, West Dallas, Wilmer, Hutchins and portions of East Oak Cliff

Miguel Solis, Board President
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