Why I Wouldn’t Transfer to a DISD ACE School

dtr-eligible-teachers-disdThree years after Mike Miles arrived, DISD is still glutted with low-performing schools. In fact, the number of low-performing (or Improvement Required) schools has gone up under Miles.

So, because the “disruptive change” and expensive “reforms” didn’t work out as Miles had promised (and as we’ve predicted all along), DISD is attempting to distract taxpayers with Plan B, also known as the ACE initiative. Under the ACE initiative, teachers will be paid a bonus to move to low-performing schools where the students will stay later at school and be expected to complete up to 90 minutes of homework a night.

The ACE initiative is nothing more than a tired rehash of ideas that don’t work. They don’t work because the premise on which they are based is, frankly, wrong. The premise is as wrong as a doctor attempting to treat cancer with leeches.

The premise, of course, is that schools filled with low-income children who perform poorly on standardized tests are the fault of the teachers. The teachers must be “bad” or the students would perform on level, right?

Acting upon this flawed premise, DISD has invited a few hundred teachers deemed The Best by an equally flawed, completely subjective TEI system to move to ACE schools for a bonus.

Personally, I wouldn’t touch the ACE deal with a 10-foot pole.

First of all, I have big questions about the pay scheme. A recent DMN editorial supporting the ACE plan (what a surprise—DMN hearts Miles) stated that the bonus would be up to $12,000, depending on the teacher’s final evaluation.

Whoa! That’s new fine print. Do teachers considering a move realize that this wording means that a $2,000 bonus instead of a $12,000 bonus is possible? Do teachers realize that a $12,000 bonus is not guaranteed?

So when will teachers be told the exact amount of their bonus? Before or after they agree to move? And once determined, will the bonus be paid in a lump sum, over 12 months or over 60 months? (The thought of a 60-month payment plan isn’t as crazy as it sounds because teachers were told in TEI trainings that there was a limit on how much of any raise they could receive in a year. In other words, a teacher might be due $10K based on TEI, but that $10K would need to be paid out over time for budget reasons.  We could ask Milan Sevak to clarify this, but he quit).

Then there’s the issue of base salary. If, under TEI, the teacher gets a base-salary raise, will they get an additional base-salary raise to compensate for the extra hours they will work, as well as a bonus?

In my opinion, no teacher should transfer schools unless they receive a TEI raise and an additional-hours raise and a $12,000 bonus, but good luck with that. There was plenty of money to pay off Carmen Darville, of course, but don’t expect the same treatment if you’re a teacher.

I also wouldn’t move to an ACE school because DISD has a really bad track record of sticking with any initiative for more than a year or two. I don’t have the space or energy to list all of the promises, products, plans, fixes, new directions, reorgs, superintendents, requirements, schemes and scandals DISD has been through in the past 10 years, but the number approaches the mathematic concept of infinity.

Any teacher who moves to an ACE school must be certain that’s where they want to stay for the rest of their DISD career even after the pay raise and the bonus goes away. Once at one of those schools, it will be difficult and time-consuming to move back out if you’re mostly there for the money.

I also have multiple questions and uncertainties about some of the principals already selected to lead ACE schools. Why would Miles, who supposedly believes in his own TEI system, appoint principals his own system has deemed as only Progressing? What am I missing?

Would a soccer/football/basketball coach, after deciding that a player is not Proficient but merely Progressing, then choose that player to start in the upcoming playoff game? Shouldn’t Miles, if he believes in the validity of his own system, insist that only principals with the highest rating possible be chosen to lead the ACE schools?

Will it be a surprise if, 6 weeks into the year, the principal is floundering and immediately removed by Miles? And do I want to be in the middle of all of that? (My answers: No and No).

Finally, I wouldn’t go to an ACE school simply because I know better. I know that as long as Miles’ mandated LO/MRS/DOL system, the complete refusal to address discipline issues and a bloated, overpaid bureaucracy are in place, no true progress can be made. I know that the real problems start with Miles, the mayor and the “reform” community who ignore all the data we do have regarding Miles’ failures in the past 3 years.

I would not move to an ACE school and I implore any DISD teacher considering it to separate the flattery and the hype from the bottom line. Ask tough questions, use common sense and remember that Miles’ past performance is the best indicator we have of his future performance.

Posted in Teachers Rule Tagged with: , , , ,

Right Before STAAR Testing, DISD Students Give Up Learning to Complete Surveys

Does this make sense to anyone?

Roughly 1.5 weeks before the middle school STAAR tests begin and 3 weeks before the high school STAAR tests, Mike Miles decided to have the students complete teacher evaluations.

That’s right: all secondary students in DISD will give up approximately 1 class period on Wednesday, April 8 to complete evaluations of 2 of their teachers. Each evaluation is approximately 30 questions long and includes questions that ask, among other things, if their teacher cares about them.

If this sounds like teachers are being set up to fail, that’s because they are being set up to fail.  Students are being set up to fail, too.

How can any district tie a teacher’s pay to test scores and then take away instructional time RIGHT BEFORE THE TESTS to require students to fill out an evaluation of their teachers?

Is Highland Park doing this? Or are Highland Park scholars being taught on each instructional day before the STAAR tests?

What about the scholars in Southlake, Frisco, Richardson and Mesquite? How many students in those districts are having class time taken away to evaluate their teachers?

The students suffer, too. The students lose at least one class period (for example, their Math period) to fill out the surveys. That’s one less instructional day for those students compared to students in other districts across the state.

Couple this with the fact that, although we had 3 snow/ice days in Dallas, many districts across the state did not and the STAAR test dates were not changed (only 1 make-up day was scheduled back in for DISD before the STAAR tests).

Why should DISD students bear the brunt of Mike Miles’ decision to further limit their instructional time before a test that could result in failing the test, retention or at least summer school for many of them?

And then they have to fill out 60 questions about 2 of their teachers in one sitting?  How much more bubbling are we going to impose on these students before enough is enough?  Shouldn’t we be giving the kids a break from the bubbling until the important tests are over?

Reportedly, another question asks the scholars if their teacher is in “a good mood.”  No. DISD teachers are not in “a good mood.”  DISD teachers are stressed out, stretched thin, harassed and micromanaged by nonsense like this. Do the 3700 bureaucrats have any idea what’s actually going on in the schools?  Or are they just there to cash their 6-figure-salary paychecks?

This latest attempt to limit teacher pay by limiting student instructional time a couple of weeks before the state exams is another example of Mike Miles’ “leadership” and it’s another example of why 5,000 teachers have quit (and been hired in the suburbs) since he arrived.  DISD teachers cannot succeed even if they try because at every turn, the Miles administration makes success nearly impossible.

There is NO reason these surveys could not have waited until after the testing windows closed. To give them a week and a half before the tests begin (in the case of middle school) is to purposely set students and teachers up to fail.

Posted in Teachers Rule

DISD’s ACE Schools Kick Weak Kids in the Teeth

ace-programI’m sure it helps test scores, but punishing the weakest, least supported kids in Dallas by driving them out is no way to run a school district.

And yet, that’s exactly the crux of Miles’ latest idea: Set up ACE schools and tell the parents if they don’t like the terms (including 90 minutes a night of homework), they can put their child on a bus for a long ride to somewhere else! Goodbye low-scoring testers, hello big bonus for Miles!

Is this how we are going to treat children now, Mr. Miles? Was kicking a bunch of teachers around not enough for this administration? Now we’re going to make life harder for the poorest, least advantaged children in our city?

Imagine being a child whose parent works the night shift. No one will be around to help with the 90 minutes of homework (which, for some children, will actually be more like 3 hours of homework)! Staying after school for the extra hour won’t work, either, because many kids are needed at home to babysit younger siblings after school.

Newsflash, Floyd: Many parents can’t afford to out-source their children’s care to an out-of-state spouse or a nanny. Older siblings (I include 3rd graders in the “older” category because that’s what many parents are forced to do) are needed at home ASAP to watch the younger ones so the parent can go work the night shift.

As for the dinner the students will supposedly be fed, let me just say that I pity the kids if DISD dinner is anything like DISD breakfast. Cheap food packaged AND HEATED in plastic wrappers. Do I need to start taking daily pictures of the “breakfast” these low-income kids are given? I find it appalling. Most dogs don’t eat food heated and squeezed out of a plastic wrapper.

I bet the vendors selling these breakfast foods don’t feed their children a breakfast that’s heated and served in a plastic wrapper. In my opinion, it’s nothing short of immoral.

So what about the children who either don’t want to or can’t sign up for the 90 minutes of homework and the plastic dinner? What do they get?

What they get is a long bus ride to a school where the DTR teachers aren’t, that’s what they get. Only lucky kids with enough home support to take on the 90 minutes of homework get the “best” teachers who had to be bribed with an extra $12K to come to a low-performing school. Yeah, that’s equitable. That’s about as equitable as the High School Allotment money.

If it all kinda sounds like what charter schools do, that’s because it’s EXACTLY what charter schools do: make the conditions unbearable for the kids from the most dysfunctional, chaotic homes so they will go away.

The low-performing schools don’t need the “best” teachers chosen by some scam TEI farce; they already have excellent teachers. What the low-performing schools need (and under Miles the number of those schools is increasing) are READING INTERVENTIONISTS and ONE-ON-ONE MATH TUTORS and ESL SUPPORT.

They need FULL-TIME SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS and DECENT FOOD.

Instructional coaches, TFA teachers, and bribed teachers on their way out the door are the last thing these kids need. More homework is not what they need. A longer, exhausting school day is not what they need. A second meal cooked inside a plastic wrapper is not what they need.

Come on, Dallas. These are children. It’s not their fault no one is home to help them with their homework. They shouldn’t have to choose between probable failure if they stay at their home school or a long bus ride somewhere else. Is this how Dallas treats children?

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

Strange Bedfellows: Edwin Flores, Monty Bennett, and the Dallas Regional Chamber

strange-bedfellowsThe Dallas Morning News released their May 2015 Voter’s Guide this week, with information and Q&A on all the local candidates that responded.

The candidates were asked how much money they had raised so far and to identify their top three contributors. DISD District 1 candidate Edwin Flores listed Dallas businessman Monty Bennett as a top contributor. No specifics are available until the first required filing, but Flores claims a campaign stash of $50,000, so Bennett is in deep.

This blog has written of Bennett before. While his main business focus is hotels, Bennett attracted attention in Fort Worth when, embroiled in a controversy over a water pipeline traversing his east Texas property, he contributed $235,000 to 3 Tarrant County Water Board candidates last year.

Bennett drew our attention when he identified himself on his website as a home rule supporter, one of the shadowy contributors to Support Our Public Schools, the cobbled together group that unsuccessfully attempted to put a proposition on the ballot that would remove Dallas ISD from state education law oversight and open a Pandora’s box of legal challenges.

Mr. Flores was trustee Mike Morath’s appointee to the Home Rule Commission. Morath is generally credited with coming up with the home rule scheme. Flores, who co-wrote this opinion piece on the virtues of home rule possibilities, was one of the 5 commissioners that were outvoted by their fellow commissioners in a defeat of the home rule initiative.

Bennett’s company, the Ashford Group, holds $5 billion in assets and sponsors, ahem… pays for, a local blog that relentlessly supported home rule along with current superintendent Mike Miles.

Miles’ main accomplishments to date has been to increase the number of low performing schools and increase administrators on campus by almost 50%, from 490 in 2012 to 924 in 2015.

But Bennett’s most alarming foray into education has been his involvement in anti-school bond campaigns. He gave $56,198 to the campaign to defeat the Keller and Birdville ISD bond election in 2014. Did I tell you Bennett lives in Dallas?

And this guy is supporting Edwin Flores as trustee for the Dallas ISD Board?

District 1 WT White parents have been raising a ruckus at DISD board meetings and posting comments on news articles, detailing the sorry state of affairs on their campus and in other District 1 schools, pleading for money to upgrade their facilities.

Do they know that Flores, who represented WT White 3 years ago, is bankrolled by a man that actively opposes school district bond programs and has the money to make them not happen? Bond programs in districts that he doesn’t even live in?

The Dallas Regional Chamber Education PAC announced, unsurprisingly, that they were endorsing Mr. Flores last week. They have worked together before, so one would assume a certain comfort level there.

I don’t know the Chamber’s reason for existence, but I would think it has a lot to do with economic prosperity; you know, cutting deals and doing business. Making loans and buying lumber, pouring concrete and hiring electricians.

Do the Chamber folks know their endorsed candidate is funded by a man that opposes school district bonds?

This may be a case where the Dallas Regional Chamber gets what it deserves if Mr. Flores is elected. The kids in moldy rat-infested portables deserve better though.

Maybe Monty will donate some vacant hotels for them to use instead.

Posted in Rotten in Denmark, Trustee Elections Tagged with: , , , ,

DISD: Tell the Feds It’s Poppycock and Hogwash

wfaa-title6A complaint has been filed with the Department of Education alleging that DISD is, basically, diverting money away from the neediest kids in the district and spending it elsewhere while claiming to be spending the money equitably.

The complaint is the result of what has to have been untold hours of research and untold hours of work spent compiling the data, writing the complaint and filing the complaint.

To the group of taxpayers and parents who worked tirelessly on behalf of the poorest kids in our city, I say a heartfelt thank you. To Bill Betzen, who has become the group’s de facto spokesperson (thus putting himself personally in the line of fire), I say thank you. And I’m certain that 9,000+ teachers join me in thanking you for your work on behalf of 150,000 children.

This is truly a big deal, which is evidenced by the response of Team Miles, with one member going so far as to characterize the allegations as “hogwash.” How professional.

First, Miles came out and held a midday press conference. He even went “off script” in his I-mean-business mad-voice (the one that generally shuts up the minions and is parroted by the principals with the worst climate survey scores), saying something about how, “we are going to stop taking one piece of information that you don’t understand and then filing a claim or starting an investigation on it.”

Umm, Floyd? I think they just did file a claim and start an investigation. But it wasn’t based on one piece of information a dozen educated people somehow failed to understand. It was based on hours of research and reams of data. So much for your mad-voice.

For Step 2 of Operation Poppycock (“poppycock” was Jon Dahlander’s characterization), Miles sent an email out to everyone in the district, claiming that he grew up in a struggling school with a mother who didn’t speak English.

If that’s supposed to convince me that Miles wouldn’t stand by and let the district rip off a bunch of poor kids, it didn’t work. Unlike the people who believed Miles so much that they actually MOVED to Dallas to work with him and tied their reputations to him (inexplicable, in my opinion) despite his past performance, I require verifiable, transparent numbers.

Luckily, I’m quite sure the Feds will find the verifiable numbers we need.

For Step 3 of Operation Poppycock, Jim Terry countered Shipp in an elevator by saying, “How do we even know these numbers are from Dallas ISD?” Seriously? How much is Terry paid? That’s the best he could come up with?

Step 4 of Operation Poppycock involved Mike Morath mumbling something in front of his 2 giant computer screens. He’s the only person I am less likely to believe than Mike Miles, so I will just skip over Step 4 and let someone else explain that mess.

Here’s the bottom line: educated, informed people looked at the numbers and concluded that kids at Lakewood are getting about double the funding of kids at Stevens Park despite what the district is saying (and that’s just one of many examples).

My understanding is that Feds must act on this complaint within 6 months. I eagerly await the amount of “poppycock” and “hogwash” they find in the claims.

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."

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

Superintendent Mike Miles
milesfm@dallasisd.org

Lew Blackburn, 1st Vice President
District 5
Term Expires 2016
lblackburn@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3718
Oak Lawn, West Dallas, Wilmer, Hutchins and portions of East Oak Cliff

Miguel Solis, Board President
District 8
Term Expires 2017
miguelsolis@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
Love Field, Northwest Dallas, and Central Dallas

Eric Cowan
District 7
Term Expires 2016
ecowan@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
North Central Oak Cliff and parts of West Dallas

Nancy Bingham
District 4
Term Expires 2016
nbingham@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Southeast Dallas, Seagoville, Balch Springs

Elizabeth Jones, 2nd Vice President
District 1
Term Expires May 2015
elizabethjones@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Northwest Dallas, including North Dallas, Addison, parts of Carrollton and Farmers Branch

Mike Morath
District 2
Term Expires 2017
mmorath@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
North and Near East Dallas

Dan Micciche, Board Secretary
District 3
Term Expires May 2015
danmicciche@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Northeast Dallas

Joyce Foreman
District 6
Term Expires 2017
joyceforeman@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Southwest Dallas

Bernadette Nutall
District 9
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benutall@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
South Dallas and parts of Downtown Dallas, Pleasant Grove, Deep Ellum, Uptown, and East Dallas

"Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit and intelligence of the citizens. They fall when the wise are banished from the public councils because they dare to be honest and the profligate are rewarded because they flatter the people in order to betray them." --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833