Dallas ISD and AP Success: Reading Between the Lines

disd-ap-examsDISD leads the nation in advanced placement scores for minorities.

There, I’ve said it. Local news outlets have been chastised for not picking up on this newsworthy item from Dallas ISD’s HUB newsfeed and shouting it from the rooftops, along with the obligatory bow to Superintendent Mike Miles who, of course, orchestrated this achievement.

But what exactly was the accomplishment? According to the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) release, “ a minority student in Dallas is more than twice as likely to earn a qualifying score on an AP math or science exam than in any other large urban school district in the country. “

Now Dallas ISD puts it another way, saying “This group of students led the nation in the number of qualifying scores on AP exams in subjects such as math, science and English.”

Or we can just dispense with formalities and simply say we’re the best. But we would not be telling the whole story.

The Dallas ISD newsfeed states:

For every 1,000 minority junior and senior students in Dallas ISD, there were 102 qualifying exams with scores of three or higher.

Well, yes, that’s true if you only count juniors and seniors. But freshman and sophomores take AP exams too. If their passing scores are included in these totals why aren’t their numbers also part of the equation? That calculation, 33,610 minority students and 1,557 exams passed, shows that for every 1,000 minority students in Dallas ISD there were only 46 qualifying exams.

This doesn’t sound nearly as impressive, especially when the district’s 2,587 white and Asian students had 3,203 qualifying scores.

Digging a little deeper, we find 804 qualifying scores were Spanish Language and Literature exams. Realizing many of our minority students are not native Spanish speakers and many non- Hispanics take this exam, I don’t want to make too big a deal out of this, but a perusal of scores on MyDataPortal shows that, by far, the greatest number of passing scores at predominantly minority comprehensives were on the Spanish Language exam, a test that has listening and speaking as a major component.

The touted math and science scores? Most comprehensives are in the single digits on these tests. Two passing scores, maybe 4, with a smattering of 12 or 15 in math, almost all Calculus AB. This is out of an enrollment of 1-2,000 at each campus. Of course Woodrow, White, and Hillcrest did better but since we can’t tease out the Anglo kids from district-level data we can’t tell if minority students do any better in these schools. I suspect that they do, if only because obviously the program is working in these schools.

The newly released data by NMSI is an indicator that Destination 2020, the district’s strategic plan to ensure that all students are college- and career-ready by the year 2020, is beginning to yield results.

Hmmm. Well, something is always better than nothing.

I believe NMSI when they say Dallas ISD minority students are twice as likely to do well on AP tests as their counterparts in other large urban schools. But that doesn’t make the actual numbers anything to be proud of.

Our kids are smart. That many of them can pass Spanish AP tests is perhaps an indication that we have not prepared our non- native English speaking students for the complexities of college level reading. Maybe, despite the efforts of the NMSI partners, we still don’t have enough qualified AP teachers.

The fact that so many of our high school graduates don’t have the academic edge that successful completion of AP classes brings is nothing to be proud of, but this fact certainly doesn’t doom these students to failure.

Ultimately, 18% of Dallas ISD graduates will earn a two or four year degree.

That’s a number to make us hopeful.

But let’s not manipulate the data and adjust the language to put lipstick on this pig, just so Mike Miles can claim progress. If anything, Dallas ISD students are successful in spite of Miles’ policies, not because of them.

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Posted in Baloney Meter

DISD and Principals Get Their Excuses Ready for the Climate Survey

disd-climate-surveyBeginning today, DISD teachers will receive a link in their email for the fall Climate Survey.

And beginning today, many DISD principals (along with bureaucrats at 3700) will start searching for the perfect excuse to “explain” away the negative results for their campuses.

To be fair, there are several excellent principals in DISD who respect, appreciate and effectively lead their teachers. The survey results for those campuses will be positive.

For the rest, however, it will be time to drag out the same tired “reasons” their schools are unhappy places where no one decent wants to work. Here are few to look for:

“Change is Hard”
This excuse is silly because Miles has been here a few years. He already crammed all of his ineffective, offensive, expensive and disruptive changes down our throats a couple of years ago. No new change is happening; Miles and his minions and true believers are the status quo now. And the status quo simply isn’t producing outstanding student achievement.

“Teachers Don’t Like Being Held to a Higher Standard”
Sadly, I don’t know any teachers who are being held to a higher standard. Instead, I know thousands who are spending time defending the verb they used when they wrote a Learning Objective (LO) or Demonstration of Learning (DOL). I know thousands who are held to the “higher standard” of keeping their classroom doors open even when fights and other incidents are going down in the hallways. I know thousands who are being held to the “higher standard” of wasting time writing ridiculous amounts of nonsense that the kids can’t even read on their whiteboards. I know thousands who are being held to the “higher standard” of ignoring disruptive students because admin can’t handle discipline. I know thousands who are being held to the “higher standard” of conducting an ADD-inducing Multiple Response Strategy (MRS) every 10 minutes (or less) or receive a low Spot Ob score. Quantity, not quality, is the name of the game these days.

“My School is Child-Focused, Not Adult-Focused”
This one is laughable. No student in this district benefits when disgusted, harassed teachers quit and the students are left with a “permanent substitute” for the rest of the year. No student benefits when discipline is so out-of-control that the Executive Director declines the invitation to walk the halls. No student benefits when teachers spend more time revising and rewriting LO and DOL verbs, SLOs, multi-page lesson plans with attached powerpoints and data investigations than they spend collaborating, grading and tutoring. No student benefits when principals ignore the failing test scores at their school and demand that teachers do more of what is clearly not effective.

“If I Have to be Unpleasant, Rude and Unkind to Help Kids, I Will Do It”
File this one under Lies Bullies Tell Themselves. These same principals would never be unpleasant, rude or unkind to Mike Miles even though it would definitely help kids to let Miles know how not-well most of his Focal Point ideas are working out. Actually, principals who are unpleasant, rude and/or unkind enjoy the petty power they feel. They treat people badly because they want to and the climate surveys simply expose them to themselves.

As harsh as some might be, the truth is that the climate surveys are pretty accurate snapshots of individual campuses. Making excuses for the results doesn’t invalidate the results.

A principal cannot claim to be data-driven while also ignoring the survey results for their campus just because the results are negative (and neither can EDs or 3700 bureaucrats).

The good news is that there will be campuses with positive survey results. DISD should put their data-driven money where their mouth is and find out what’s going right at those schools.

Or, I can save the district time and money and simply tell them what’s going right at campuses with positive climate surveys: the principals at those schools ask teachers what needs to be done and then they do what the teachers recommend.

The principals at positive schools treat every teacher with the same respect and politeness they generally reserve for Miles, EDs or trustees. If they wouldn’t talk like that to Miles, they don’t talk like that to teachers. The principals at great schools take personal responsibility for discipline problems and falling test scores because, after all, they are the ones with the authority to fix things and the responsibility to do so. Then they implement teacher-generated procedures to fix the problems.

This fall, if all DISD principals, EDs, bureaucrats and superintendents will truly accept and reflect on the data provided by the climate surveys, maybe none of them will need to be dreaming up excuses in the future.

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Posted in Baloney Meter, Teachers Rule

‘Tis the Season … for Dallas ISD Meetings

If anyone happens to not have enough to do already in December, there are a multitude of important meetings associated with all things DISD scheduled for the first week of of the intense shortened holiday season. As not all of these events have been well publicized, we thought we would list them here so that everyone would be aware of them in order to attend if possible. Some are hosted by DISD, others are Home Rule Commission meetings, and another is an open trustee/parent meeting. This list is most likely not all inclusive. Please feel free to add in any additional meetings in the comments section.

We encourage as much public participation in as many meetings as possible.

Monday, December 1:

+ 6:00 pm Home Rule Commission meeting
Dallas Achieves presenting.
3700 Ross

+ 6:00 pm “State of District 9”
by Bob Marshall and Trustee Nutall,
Billy Earl Dade Middle School Library, 2727 Grand Avenue
Discussion of the School Future Facilities Task Force on early childhood education, personalized learning, school choice and career pathway programs.

Tuesday, December 2:

+ 7:00 pm Parent Meeting with Trustee Cowan (all invited):
Kessler Park United Methodist Church,
1215 Turner Ave. @ Colorado Blvd.
The flier states: “He’s heard from teachers. He’s heard from neighbors. Now he wants to hear from parents. Parents, this is your chance to give input about our public schools to our school board trustee, Eric Cowan.”

+ 5:00 – 6:30 pm Textbook Adoption Public Viewing
H.B. Bell School Support Service Center
2909 N. Buckner Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75228

Wednesday, December 3:

+ 8:00- 9:00 am Textbook Adoption Public Viewing
Hillcrest High School
9924 Hillcrest Rd.
Dallas, TX 75230

+ 6:00 pm Home Rule Commission Subcommittee on Educational programs,
Ron Oliver, Chair; Stephanie Elizalde, Co-chair.
3700 Ross.

Thursday, December 4:

+ 11:30 am Board Briefing
3700 Ross

Saturday, December 6:

+ 10:00 am Home Rule Commission meeting
DSAA Office at Dallas County Schools
5151 Samuell Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75228

Presentations by: DSAA (Dallas School Administrators Association), Alliance-AFT, NEA-Dallas, Association of Hispanic School Administrators, Dallas National Regional Alliance for Black Educators

+ 9:00 am – 1:00 pm Magnet Fair
***Note location:
Ellis Davis Field House
9191 S. Polk St.
Dallas, TX 75232

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Posted in Teachers Rule

No Turkey Shortage in Dallas ISD

miles-is-pinocchioJust when we thought Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles couldn’t embarrass himself and Dallas anymore, he delivers.

It seems Miles’ preoccupation with a black female trustee has no boundaries. Not content to call his personal goon squad and have the female trustee forcibly picked up and carried out of a school in her district, he then spent gosh knows how much time and effort soliciting employees who would agree to file complaints against her.

The complaints Miles managed to drum up, at least two of them, are public thanks to Matthew Haag and Tawnell Hobbs at the Dallas Morning News. Read them. The two complainers are an employee who has already been identified as having a cloud over her employment and Mike Miles’ driver who, though he has apparently agreed to keep mum on the superintendent’s secrets or risk termination, is encouraged to rat on everybody else.

Pretty weak, Mikey.

Really weak.

There is of course no way Tonya Sadler Grayson of Human Capital Management has any favors she might need from the superintendent. He’d already fired the employee at the Professional Standards Office who might have had any insight into whatever hanky panky was going on over in HCM.

We remember when it was first disclosed that former U.S. attorney Paul Coggins had been hired to head this trustee investigation and Miles disavowed any knowledge of this action, even though he had been whirling his Rolodex seeking current and former employees who would complain for him.

Elrod did it, remember?

Even Board president and Miles’ cheerleader Miguel Solis found the situation ”peculiar.”

The nose grows.

Miles is so obsessed with this black female trustee, he is not content to have her carried out of her school building and investigated for wrongdoing on charges he solicited.

She must go, be gone, vamoosed, nada, never again to walk the halls at 3700 Ross!

Now it seems Mike Miles is soliciting replacements for this trustee, who is up for re-election next spring.

A well respected Dallas attorney was astonished to be asked to meet with the superintendent to, he thought, discuss educational issues, only to find he was instead being not-so-subtlely recruited to run against the black female trustee.

He was offended.

Miles said he was misunderstood. He thought the attorney asked for the meeting. The attorney says, uh, no.

The nose grows some more.

Even without the growing Pinocchio nose Miles can no longer hide, we know he’s a puppet.

You would think that even his puppet masters are embarrassed at this point.

The rest of us? We should be indignant. Get rid of this turkey.

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Posted in Rotten in Denmark

DISD Principals: Don’t Touch My Child

no-hand-shankingAfter reading and thinking about recent comments on this blog and another, I am increasingly horrified by the revelations that many principals in DISD are jumping on the fad bandwagon and requiring teachers to shake every child’s hand (or even to shake hands with most kids) before the child enters a classroom.

I am not horrified as a teacher; I am horrified as a parent.  I don’t want my child forced to touch any adult.

Think about it this way: when adults who have power over a child reach out to shake a child’s hand, in almost all cases the child will oblige whether they want to or not because they feel they have to be polite and compliant.

Psychologically, that’s bullying and intimidation. An adult in power over children who initiates contact forces children to ignore their natural (healthy) inclination to maintain a zone of personal space. Requiring teachers to initiate handshakes forces children to touch people they may not want to touch. Why is this being allowed?

Handshaking between equals or peers is one thing, but this TFA/charter school/Michelle Rhee (who put duct tape over a child’s mouth) wave of required handshaking is frankly wrong. It’s just as wrong as putting duct tape over a child’s mouth.

It also has a sinister undertone of dominance. Petty tyrants (and just plain sociopaths) use the handshaking ritual to make other people uncomfortable or feel subordinated; the sociopaths do this on purpose by shoving their hands out at people they believe to be beneath them in stature or power. However, an adult at least has the freedom to decline.

Children, though, especially in a school setting, feel powerless to decline. And once we’ve taught them to submit to unwanted touching, they truly have become powerless.

As a parent, I also don’t want my child to have increased exposure to the germs that have gathered on a teacher’s hand. And if every teacher a child sees in a day forces a handshake, that’s exponentially more germs. It’s completely unsanitary.

I’m sure I speak for most parents when I say to DISD administrators, “Don’t make my child touch you.”

I don’t care who you are or what you think you are “teaching” children. Don’t make them touch you.

I feel especially troubled when I think about how students with sensory issues, autism, intellectual disabilities and past experiences with sexual abuse must feel when cornered by a teacher who has themselves been cornered into this by a principal.

NO ONE in DISD administration should be mandating that teachers initiate physical contact with any child. To do so is either ignorant or deviant. To do so exploits children for that administrator’s personal gain.

What’s next? Required hugs or sidelines-inspired slaps on the backside?  I mean, why not?  What’s the difference?

Mike Miles needs to put an end to this weird, possibly deviant, definitely unsanitary fad immediately. No child should have to touch an adult to please an adult. Adults with dominance issues need to work those out somewhere else, but not on my child.

I’m also horrified that a teacher has to be the one to point this out to the DISD superintendent and principals and EDs who didn’t or couldn’t think this through.  Inexcusable.

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Posted in Administrative Policies
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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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