Texas State Representative Jason Villalba and “the Royal We”

Rep-Jason-VillalbaOn the Sunday, August 31, 2014 edition of Inside Texas Politics, WFAA reporter Jason Whitely interviewed Texas State Representative Jason Villalba regarding Villalba’s plan to divide the Dallas Independent School District.

Representative Villalba continually refers to “we:”   “we’ve asked the commission”, “the kinds of reforms we’re asking for”, “we’re in the preliminary stages”, “we would ask the experts”, “people that we like to use.” Who exactly is this “we?” It appears that he is using “The Royal We,” defined by one dictionary as “the first person plural pronoun used by a sovereign in formal address to refer to himself or herself.”

The honorable position of a Texas State Representative is that of a public servant, elected by the people in order to best represent their wishes in the legislature, and it is not a hereditary sovereign. Perhaps Representative Villalba needs to review the Texas Election Code – he won’t find any monarchs described there.

Here is the transcript of the 4 minute discussion. We are interested in public feedback on this issue.

Jason Whitely (JW): We first saw it on a tweet, unsure if it was a threat, or a promise. But Republican state Representative Jason Villalba (District 114) says he wants to divide up the Dallas Independent School District, and he pledges to introduce a bill in the legislature that would do just that. Villalba joins us in studio to explain his proposal.

 What do you have in mind? Good to see you again.

Rep. Jason Villalba (RJV): Good to see you. Great to be back. You know the discussion about whether or not we’re going to divide DISD is a last ditch effort. You know we’ve asked the commission that is charged with putting together a charter for home rule to act. They’ve told us they’re not going to act until after November. We’re not going to see Home Rule implemented.

So I can tell you that we’re going down to Austin in January and legislators like me are going to get down there and find ways to find more reforms in education. That’s going to include making it easier to have home rule districts and that’s also going to make it easier to do thinks like divide up ISD’s if we can’t get the kinds of reforms we’re asking for.

 JW: Are you going to put a bill on the floor that divides up the district, and if so, what do you have in mind?

RJV: I wouldn’t do it unless we couldn’t get there on Home Rule. You know, we tried this Home Rule effort here in Dallas. The commission now has been dragging their heels for a period of time. So what I’m going to do is a couple of things, it’s a two-step, right?

The first step is to make sure that we can get Home Rule implemented into the ISD’s much easier than it is now.   Lower those thresholds. Make the appointment of the commission based something different than what we’re doing it today on.

But if we don’t get there and if we don’t see the kinds of reforms, if we can’t get the control back to the local families and neighborhoods, then we will take drastic action to do the kinds of things like considering a division of DISD.

It’s not a threat. What we’re talking about here is something that we have to do to make sure that parents like myself, I’m a DISD parent, I have 2 children in DISD, but I can tell you right now that we need reforms at the local level. We need local parents and teachers making the decisions for our school, education decisions, and we’re not seeing that right now.

JW: How many pieces do you divide up the district into?

RJV: We’re in the preliminary stages of talking about what that would look like. We would reach out to people that we have great respect for in the district to talk about what a division would look like.

JW: And one of the biggest concerns as you’ve heard through the entire Home Rule debate is how do we ensure that underprivileged parts of town aren’t stuck with failing schools?

RJV: Well, that’s a question that we’re working on now with Home Rule but it seems that other areas around the city are not interested in the kinds of reforms that we’re talking about through Home Rule, so we’ll allow them to have local control. Let the parents in those neighborhoods determine how they want to address these very specific situations about how they deal with economically disadvantage areas.

Also, if we did a division, we would ask the experts that, people that we trust, people that we like to use and talk about these issues, to help us craft a reasonable and fair division of DISD.

JW: And there’s been precedent on this before but it didn’t get very far, you were saying.

RJV: We saw it before from a local representative here in town, ah, it did not get past committee.

Look, this is a very bold action. Will it get past the committee? We don’t know, but it’s something that we’ve got to try. I can tell you right now, we’re going to have the most conservative legislature in Texas history. So if folks think they can drag their heels and not find educational reforms that we’re looking for, you can guarantee the legislators down next year are going to be able to do it and we’re going to have the authority and the ability and the votes to get these kinds of progressive issues done.

JW: And Jason, last 30 seconds here, shouldn’t parents and teachers have a say in this? Why isn’t a referendum a better idea? Some form of a referendum?

RJV: We absolutely should have parents and teachers have a say in this. And guess what:   That’s what Home Rule does. The charter would be put to the people, to the parents.

JW: But that’s not going to happen, right?

RJV: Well, it’s not going to happen because this commission has dragged it’s heels too long and we’re not going to have the opportunity to vote. And so we’re going to make it much easier next time when we do this in a year and a half or two years to be able to make this happen much quicker without all these thresholds and tests.

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Posted in Baloney Meter

The New Jim Crow Version of “Highly Qualified”

highly-qualified1Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles was back to using weasel words this week. Neither the Dallas Trustees nor The Dallas Morning News bothered to explain Miles’ latest fabrications to the public. Since no one on our blog is bought and paid for by Todd Williams, Ken Barth, or Bill Gates, we’ll do the honor of explaining to the public that Mike Miles is using “Highly Qualified” only as New Jim Crow jargon.

Miles stated that Dallas ISD would begin the 2014 school year with Highly Qualified teachers in front of most students. The public reading the Dallas Snooze might have thought the school children of Dallas were finally in safe hands, no longer meeting permanent subs or uncertified teachers or principals posing as the teacher of record the first day of school. Students would no longer be stuck with hordes of uncertified Teach for America grads or other alternative certification candidates who intend to get some training on how to teach middle or elementary or high school content while they practice on poor kids.

Nothing could be further from the truth regarding the credentials of “highly qualified” Dallas ISD teachers.

The New Jim Crow version of Highly Qualified meets neither the spirit nor intent of the original No Child Left Behind statutes. The original intent of NCLB was to insure that poor, minority, LEP, and special education kids received equity in teachers by requiring all teachers to be certified before they entered public school classrooms. When the campuses of poor kids in California continued to have large numbers of student teachers, TFA, and other alternative certification candidates, a federal court in California ruled this practice contradicted NCLB laws.

The Democrats in the White House and Congress responded quickly by simply changing the definition of Highly Qualified to mean a degree and plans to become certified. The practice of dumping all the inexperienced, noncertified teachers on poor children would continue because after all, poor children generally don’t fund presidential or legislative candidates. Their parents vote in lower numbers than the middle and upper classes, so why not find one more avenue to permanently disenfranchise the poor?

We are saying permanently because the practice of dumping inexperienced, uncertified teachers en masse on our poorest children is part of the New Jim Crow corporate education reform movement. While high-performing school districts in our northern suburbs won’t even interview an alternative certification candidate with credentials, the New Jim Crow demands inexperienced TFA for poor kids.

Wendy Kopp, alumna of Highland Park High School and founder of Teach for America, has received tens of millions of dollars from our current President. Arne Duncan, head of the federal Department of Education, speaks with forked tongue on the issue of teacher equity. On one hand, he strongly espouses equity in teachers in public schools, and on the other hand, just as strongly supports corporate education reform and TFA.

For the seven Dallas Trustees whose handlers include Todd Williams, Ken Barth, and the Regional Chamber, TFA and high teacher churn are supposed to cleanse Dallas public schools of all its “bad teachers.” We know “bad teachers” is code for mainly African American career educators south of the Trinity River. As Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer has taught his readers, these educators are tainted because they are all part of some South Dallas preacher conspiracy to rob poor kids of an education. Miles and Todd Williams believe South Dallas students can only be redeemed by totally inexperienced, non-certified TFA, and Schutze is totally besotted with our rich, white, corporate reformers and their tool, Miles, whose own child is safely sequestered beyond the reach of the New Jim Crow.

Mike Miles, the hero of local corporate reform, arrived in Dallas and publically stated that 30% churn in teachers would be the new normal. He has indeed made good on that promise. Hundreds of Dallas ISD most talented teachers have been cherry picked by the suburbs. The replacements for these certified, career educators for the most part have no experience teaching kids and no credentials.

To give Dallas readers a sense of how replacing experienced teachers with TFA actually works outside Todd Williams’ Uplift charters, which can dump low performing and noncompliant students, let’s use a South Dallas middle school, Billy Earl Dade, as our case study.

Billy Earl Dade students moved through their first year of the STAAR test with adequate results. This was an extremely high poverty school with mostly African American students and all African American teachers, but the level of non-experienced teachers was only 7%. This was the year pre-Miles. For some reason in Dallas, Texas, our corporate overlords and local media can tolerate segregating high-poverty minority students, but having them taught by high numbers of African American career educators offends our local, white, corporate reformers. The New Jim Crow devotees are comfortable with segregating minority and poor students, but they have keen sense of discomfort with veteran, African American teachers serving these children long-term. Our corporate overlords, however, are extremely comfortable with white, middle class kids with no credentials and no experience raiding low-income minority schools for future resume bullet points.

The first year of Miles’ tenure, Dade’s percentage of non-experienced teachers doubled and its student achievement levels began tanking. The campus received a failing label from Texas Education Agency. The second year of Mike Miles’ New Jim Crow practices, Dade moved into a brand new building and received the former students from Pearl C. Anderson. For some reason, Miles’ team also moved a huge percentage of TFA, non-experienced teachers right into Billy Earl Dade along with a former elementary school principal, new to the school. This type of corporate reform is typical. If student achievement lags, principal churn and hordes of TFA with no experience are the New Jim Crow answer.

So in the third year of STAAR, Billy Earl Dade received 41% of its teachers with no experience. Including the teachers with one year of experience translated into 48% inexperienced teachers, but TFA was a critical mass and should have performed miracles according to Todd Williams and the rest of the Dallas funders of TFA and brand charters. A miracle of rebirth should have occurred on the campus.

Instead, Billy Earl Dade tanked. Its STAAR results were worse than the previous year even with the school receiving Miles’ assistance through being part of the south and west initiative receiving the $8.9 million in extra funding and tutoring.

“Highly qualified?” Weasel words from a weasel Superintendent, steeped in the New Jim Crow.

Posted in Teachers Rule

Trustee Mike Morath Has Nothing Good to Say About Dallas ISD District 2

Dallas ISD Trustee Mike Morath seems to enjoy telling people that his district likes him so much that they have never run a candidate against him. It appears, however, that the affection from District 2 is not reciprocated by Trustee Morath.

The first Board of Trustees meeting of the new school year was on August 28, 2014. Every meeting begins with an opportunity for recognition of students, schools, and staff, and also for individual board trustee district reports. Often, only about half of the trustees have something to report, but this was the beginning of the school year. Much hard work had been done over the summer to get ready for the start of school, and the trustees and superintendent wanted to extol the good things happening in the district.

Teachers had just spent four days in intensive professional development, covering the DOLs and MRSs one more time and learning about the new Teacher Excellence Initiative. They had one day to get their classrooms ready and they did it. Many put in extra hours over the weekend to prepare. By Monday morning, August 25, 2014, the teachers greeted the thousands of excited children entering their classrooms for the new year.

Miguel Solis, the board president, went around the horseshoe, giving each trustee an opportunity to give a report on their district. Almost every trustee related the enthusiasm in their district and thanked the staff and volunteers for their hard work in preparing for the students. They complimented specific groups and churches who provided school supplies to various neighborhood schools, did clean up and landscaping projects, and who have volunteered to tutor students this school year. Special shout outs were given by Mike Miles to Dallas County Schools for operating 793 school buses and safely transporting the students with relatively few incidents. Miles also noted with pleasure that he found teachers teaching the core curriculum on the first day. He praised his administrative staff for a job well done.

There were even more commendations to go around. The Dallas Regional Chamber was thanked for their role in assisting in college and workforce readiness. Specific schools were recognized for meeting all distinctions on the state testing. Adam Medrano was praised for his work coordinating City Council efforts and restoring full funding to the Dallas libraries, among other things. It was all very inspirational and in keeping with the great sense of anticipation which accompanies the start of a new school year.

Only one district received no acknowledgment whatsoever. When President Solis got to the end of the horseshoe and gave Trustee Morath the opportunity to give his report on District 2, he was met with a sullen silence, and then the word, “Pass.”


Mike Morath did not have a single good word to say about anything happening in his district. No praise from Trustee Morath for the hard work of the teachers and administrators who spent many hours preparing for the arrival of the students. No thanks from him to bus drivers, the security personnel, or the families for getting their children to school. No words of encouragement from Morath for any of the 15 schools in his district or their students he claims he cares so much about. District 2 is home to many schools which have strong parental support and involvement, such as Hillcrest HS, Woodrow HS, Long MS, Franklin MS, Stonewall Jackson Elementary, and Lakewood Elementary. It is hard to believe that there was nothing worthy of applause in any of these schools, let alone all of the others combined.

However, Trustee Morath was able to find words of approval for one person during the meeting. Only one.

Agenda item #31 was discussed at some length. It deserved scrutiny, as it was for a $7.5 million contract with various vendors for enterprise storage. Gray Salada was answering the trustees’ questions and was having difficulty remembering his departments’ total budget, the number of people he oversees, and the breakdown of the funding proposed for this agenda item. Mr. Salada is the Chief Technology Officer for the district and these would seem to be reasonable things for him to know, especially when proposing a $7.5 million budget item for trustee approval. He became somewhat flustered as he struggled for answers to seemingly simple questions about his department and previous contracts.

Mike Morath suddenly awoke from his laser-like focus on his computer and sprang into action to defend Mr. Salada. He asked if Salada had received any of these questions from the trustees before the meeting and if he had been aware that these would be asked. When Mr. Salada replied, “No,” Trustee Morath then acted as though Salada was being treated unfairly by being asked questions about his IT department for which he had not been given previous notice. Apparently taking into account the lack of preparation by Salada, Morath stated that he thought Salada’s answers were “pretty amazing.”

“Pretty amazing.”

Trustee Morath was able to find these words of praise for a chief administrative officer who is currently under investigation for possibly violating state law in his handling of a contract to a telecommunications company. It is unclear why Salada has not been placed on leave of absence during this investigation, which could possibly cause DISD to be put back into “E-Rate jail.” This would result in the loss of untold millions of dollars for the district. Morath made excuses for this official’s lack of basic knowledge of his department, despite trumpeting the district’s “No Excuses” policy in other areas. Apparently, excuses are permitted for the Chief of Technology, but not for teachers whose students suffer the effects of poverty.

It seems that this is the kind of work which Trustee Morath desires to see more of in the district. Previously, he defended the hiring of Jerome Oberlton, who is now serving 41 months in federal prison for taking bribes while working for Atlanta Public Schools. It would seem that Mike Morath is a very poor judge of character and job performance, and that he has an extremely low bar for ethical behavior on the part of employees. It is shocking that Morath publicly praises Salada and yet could not find one word of appreciation for all the good that is going on in his own district.

The community, students, teachers and staff of District 2 need to wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that their relationship with their trustee is one-sided. Their schools are being treated like an outcast Cinderella, constantly doing their best and bringing home awards, only to see their undeserving step-sisters, such as Salada, get all the credit and accolades. Dallas ISD District 2 should be outraged by the boorish behavior of their trustee, Mike Morath.

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Posted in Teachers Rule

Dr. Dryden Speaks to the DISD Board of Trustees

Text of comments by Michael A. Dryden, LLC to the Dallas ISD board of trustees at the regular board meeting on Thursday, August 28, 2014. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Good evening, Dallas ISD Board of Trustees,

I wish to speak about item agenda item 7A 49:

“Consider and Take Possible Action to Accept the Donation of Funding from Commit! to Help Dallas Independent School District Increase its Data Analysis Capacity During the 2014-15 School Year”

(Gifts and Donations/up to $80,000.00)

The mission of the Commit! Partnership is to help drive student achievement throughout Dallas County from cradle to career by leveraging data and collaboration to

  1. Measure what matters
  2. Identify effective practices and
  3. Align community resources to spread what works

The Board should support these noble goals. I am here to discuss the third mission of Commit!, namely align community resources to spread what works and the notion that Commit! can truly increase capacity in Evaluation and Accountability, E&A. The E&A department is way above many other district research departments and most universities with respect to data analysis capacity.

They were one of the first districts to measure classroom learning environments, develop value-added measurements (SEI/CEI), develop district-wide benchmarks as early as the 1980’s, create a user friendly data website called MyData, collate information across multiple assessments on individual children at the student expectation level, profile students, analyze post-secondary pursuits, and the list goes on. The E&A department has at least 20 PhD employees with backgrounds in evaluation, psychometrics, statistical analysis, and other high level skills.

I know of no person in Commit! with a PhD in educational research, statistics or psychometrics. Is this request a way to hire a high level PhD in E&A or is it a mechanism to hire someone from Commit! with minimal educational statistics skills but perhaps some programming skills in order to have access to student level data? If so, this should be avoided.

Let us get to the real issue. Commit! would like to align community resources or wrap around services with those students in most need. The problem is Commit! currently only has access to aggregate data and this is insufficient to accurately align services to the individual child. They need student level information but legally there are many roadblocks due to FERPA issues. This grant seems more like an attempt to access data than help the children.

Everyone, the district, Commit!, even the TEA needs to take it to the next level. Measuring central tendencies like percent passing or average scores do little to describe individual children for the purpose of interventions that Commit! would like to align. Adding a Commit! staff person who will probably develop more simplistic central tendency charts will not solve their problems. Instead, the Board should hire a strong cognitive scientist with a background in learning, brain development and relevant statistics to help design techniques based on the measurement of individuals. A recent graduate from UTD’s Brain Science Department would be ideal.

The district still needs to accurately match students with interventions and Commit! would like to help. Fine, develop a memorandum of understanding, an MOU, that would allow access to student level information but include safeguards to protect individual students. Dallas did this before with the Edison Schools Project. The cognitive science analyst would do the deep data dives with advanced techniques many in E&A already know and understand. E&A does not need another programmer or pretty chart-maker; they need firepower.

I seriously doubt a person from Commit! will build capacity in E&A. Support Commit! in their quest to align resources to individual children, accept the grant money but use it to hire a top notch person who could also support or refine other initiatives. Do not accept this grant if it means unfettered access to student data for the purpose of making charts with a political agenda or naively aligning resources based on unsophisticated analyses resulting in wasted resources.

According to Dean Spitzer, a “transformation measurement” leader, the data cycle goes from data, to information, to knowledge then to wisdom. Bringing in people who only know data and information leads to dysfunctional measures and poor decision-making.

Always remember the following when making decisions based on interpreting student data:  Children define data. Data do not define children.

Thank you.

Mike Dryden, LLC, is a retired 20 year evaluator of DISD. He evaluated most of the recent DISD reform programs such as the Learning Centers, School Centered Education, Urban Systemic Initiative in math and science, and Edison Schools Project. Dr. Dryden has a doctorate in research and evaluation with an emphasis on math and science education. He taught in New York, Australia, Samoa, and Indonesia. He evaluated state (AZ), national (US), and international educational systems, now called TIMSS. Despite official retirement, Dr. Dryden continues to learn and do research in his spare time.

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Posted in Administrative Policies

Roll Call for Dallas ISD Teachers

Welcome back to the hard-working teachers of the Dallas ISD! We wish you the best of luck as you take on this school year, filled with the promise of all things new: new students, new families, new plans, and new colleagues.

We understand from Superintendent Mike Miles that there are over 2,000 new teachers this year. Many of these teachers are new to the field of teaching and new to the Dallas area as well. Miles made some very bold congratulatory statements to the public this year which can be found on the DISD website:

In all, this means nearly every Dallas ISD student will begin the year with a full-time classroom teacher, according to Superintendent Mike Miles.

“Never before has this district been able to ensure that every student will begin the year with a highly-qualified and full-time teacher.”

Not that we doubt the veracity of what our Superintendent has stated, but we follow the old Russian proverb often quoted by President Ronald Reagan: “Trust, but verify.”

We would like for our Dallas ISD teachers to answer this “Roll Call” with:

1) how many teachers are new at your school (it would be helpful for you to identify the school- remember this is an anonymous site), and

2) what percentage of your teaching staff this number represents, and

3) If you wanted to take a moment, it would be great if you could use this simple site to check any teacher’s certification status and report if any of the new teachers are not certified in the state of Texas in order to help verify Miles’ statements.

More helpful information would include whether the new teachers are permanent subs or “guest teachers.” It is important for parents to know whether their child has a permanent teacher for their class who is certified, has demonstrated competency in the subject area they are assigned, and who has been assigned to that class for the year.

The TEA has very specific rules as to what constitutes a “highly qualified teacher,” and what the district must do if any child is not being taught by one. By law, the district must notify the parents of any student who has been taught for 4 or more weeks by a teacher who is not “highly qualified.” This includes teachers whose certification or licensure requirements have been waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.

This would suggest that all students of the teachers who do not have certification in the state of Texas (and likely had that requirement waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis) should expect to receive letters in the mail 4 weeks from Monday, August 25, 2014, advising their parents of this situation.

Teachers and parents, please let us know if the district is complying with the law on this. The public deserves to know the truth.

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Posted in Teachers Rule
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We know words are powerful and ideas even more so. Profanity isn't really necessary for emphasis or a substitute for passion here. Thank you.

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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"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