Are Low-Performing DISD Principals Evaluating Teachers?

DISD-teacherl-evaluatorsIn November, the district held a celebration honoring Exemplary principals.
There were, like, 5. Or maybe 6.

This means that the vast majority of teachers are being Spot Ob’d and TEI’d by principals who, according to Mike Miles’ approved scale, are not the Best of the Best.

This also means that many teachers are being put on Growth Plans by principals who do not even score 88 points out of 100 on their own evaluations. (Or 80 or 85 or whatever is the Exemplary rating du jour, as that number is apparently a moving target.)

This means that most teachers are seeing their opportunity for pay raises blocked by principals who are, at best, not even B+ employees.

They’re not good enough to be called Exemplary, but they are good enough to determine the fates of the poor teachers assigned to endure them. Riiiight.

Personally, if I am a teacher who is denied a pay raise because my apparently sub-par principal or AP gave me a bad evaluation, I see a lawsuit against the district in my future. And I’m fairly certain I’d win.

I think it’s also interesting to see which principals weren’t at the Exemplary Principal celebration. Many of the Not-Inviteds were graduates of Miles’ own Fellows Failure Academy. What does that say about the quality of the Fellows Academy? $5 million for his big idea and how many Exemplary principals? For $5 mill, I’d expect at least 25 stand-outs.

And—thanks to a commenter for the reminder–was the TCMMSPA (TC Marsh Middle School Preparatory Academy) principal among The Exemplary? Didn’t this principal come to Dallas with Miles to work in some capacity in the Fellows Academy before becoming a principal?

I certainly hope that anyone who is paid to be part of or graduates from a $5 million principal-training academy (there’s that “fancy” term, again—which always reminds me of the grandiosely-named Dallas Can Academy, home of the kids who were banned from a Popeye’s) are themselves able to score at least 95 points out of 100 when placed in a school (especially an Academy).

What about the principal at the school where the teachers are required to shake hands with every single student who comes into their room? Surely, even in the age of Ebola, such a demanding principal must themselves meet the highest standards of their own job.

Additionally, I expect that the principal who demands that teachers write LOs, DOLs, an agenda, MRS and “Essential Questions” on their white boards every day is an Exemplary Principal, because otherwise it would be hypocritical to demand so much of others if you’re not even able to score a B+ yourself.

It simply makes no sense that Miles approved the principal evaluation plan and yet is allowing less-than-Exemplary principals (based on his own standards) to affect the careers and reputations of teachers in the district.

And what of the students led by these principals?

What professional development are the not-Exemplary principals receiving to ensure that students aren’t falling behind on those campuses? If a principal can’t rack up 88 points, they need to be at professional development weekly, complete with chart paper, gallery walks, Core Belief exercises and exit tickets. (But their PD can’t happen during school hours—it must start after school and last at least an hour, just like it does for teachers).

Finally, I guarantee you that if I were chosen to evaluate Miles, he would argue that I am not qualified to evaluate him, just as he supposedly told an Irma Rangel student that she couldn’t understand the complexities of some of his policies. I also guarantee you that Miles would argue that none of the Below 88 principals are qualified to evaluate him.

And yet he says they can evaluate us? I don’t think so.

DISD teachers who are given low scores or non-renewals by principals or APs who are not Exemplary need to fight back. Principals who are not rated Exemplary need mandatory, immediate professional development.

As for the 5 or 6 Exemplary principals, please don’t wear the custom-fitted blazers the district blew money on to school. Poor kids need copy paper so they can practice math facts without having to first copy the problems off of a screen. Low-income DISD kids don’t need to be buying cheesy blazers for principals.

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Posted in Baloney Meter, Teachers Rule

Another Great Dallas ISD Kid

irma-rangelIn a week filled with football play-offs, Dallas ISD will no doubt have some gridiron heroes to celebrate. Theater productions, holiday concerts, and academic competitions will showcase many more of the talented and involved DISD students who devote countless hours to their passions.

Lara Andree, a junior at Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Academy, is another one of those heroes.

Lara started an online petition in late October, seeking support for increasing teachers’ salaries and giving them more freedom to teach, with fewer rules and regulations on lesson plan formats and teaching methods. She notes the larger class sizes that have become common in Dallas classrooms, and says “there is less one-on-one time in the classroom, a time that I had grown to cherish.”

While Lara notes the importance of teachers as “mentors in my life that I truly looked up to,” she laments that “teachers are becoming less available due to the regular meetings that they are forced to sit through.”

Lara’s comment on the use of testing to guide teacher compensation:

“Our classroom environment has become incredibly anxious, and students’ stress levels have at a minimum doubled with the knowledge that how we perform on standardized tests will decide how much our teachers are paid.”

Lara goes on to say that “Teachers are becoming discouraged, some even fearing for their jobs. Our classrooms are no longer a creative and mentally stimulating environment, but instead anxiety ridden and anxious.“

Thank you, Lara, for stating so clearly what is wrong with the current “reform strategy” Superintendent Mike Miles has imposed on Dallas schools. It hurts the kids, the very ones the current board and administration claim are uppermost in their minds and drive all their decisions.

As of this morning, 1,626 petition signers agree with Lara.

One notable exception to the ranks of Ms. Andree’s supporters: Superintendent Mike Miles.

Shortly after Lara posted her petition online, she says she “emailed Mr. Miles, and brought to his attention all of the issues I mentioned in the petition, and even gave him the link so he could look at it himself. It would be inappropriate for me to share his complete response with you (especially with the confidentiality clause used on DISD email as I discovered) however, in summarization the email hinted that I am uninformed, and did not understand the complexity of teachers’ salaries. For whatever reason, it seems the other issues I mentioned plague our district were overlooked in this initial correspondence.”

She titled her post on Miles’ response: “Mike Miles the Bully.” That pretty much tells us the tone of Miles’ response even without reading it.

How appalling. How disgusting. But why are we not surprised?

Instead of welcoming the chance to meet with a student who experiences every day the consequences of his policies, and attempting to understand her concerns and hear her suggestions, Miles chose to dismiss her as “uninformed” and unable to understand the “complexities of teacher salaries.”

As Ms. Andree points out, over 1,600 people agree with her uniformed opinion and recognize the importance of the classroom teacher. Over 1,600 petition signers apparently see Miles’ Teacher Evaluation plan as the salary distribution scheme that it truly is, not the teacher reward plan it claims to be.

After adjusting for inflation, average teacher salaries did not go up in Mike Miles’ previous district under a similar scheme; salaries won’t go up in Dallas either.

This reality, coupled with burdensome rules and constant fear, will ensure that more and more veteran teachers, teachers students like Lara value for their wisdom, their experience and their continuing support of students, will continue to leave Dallas schools. Their replacements, TFA or not, will leave too, once they discover the toxic environment they are expected to teach in.

Bravo, Lara! You’re my hero! I applaud your willingness to speak out. I am impressed that you researched facts to support your opinion and then expressed yourself in a professional, yet personal, manner.

I hope you reach and surpass your goal of 2,000 signatures. If the board and the Superintendent don’t offer you the public forum you seek to debate these topics, consider signing up to speak at an upcoming board meeting. There are rules and deadlines for that process that I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding.

I have one other piece of advice for you. Disregard that “confidentiality clause” at the bottom of any correspondence that Superintendent Miles, or any district official, sends you. Any email or phone call that any public official makes concerning district affairs is, with a few exceptions, open to public disclosure. That’s the law.

Mike Miles works for you. I know that from where you are sitting, in the classroom, everyday, it doesn’t seem that way, and I am sorry. Sorry for you and the thousands of other Dallas ISD students who are being denied what they deserve; teachers who are eager, empowered, respected, and fairly compensated.

But seeing students like you getting involved and speaking out gives me renewed faith that there will be change.

Thanks, Lara!

Lara Andree’s petition can be viewed and signed here:

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Posted in Teachers Rule

DISD Sexual Assault: This is What Disruptive Change Looks Like

sexual-assualt-dade-ms-disdWhile Mike Miles is out and about denying that he hired Paul Coggins to investigate an elected trustee, allegations of sexual assault against two female students at Dade Middle School have been made public.

I am sickened by the news, but not surprised.

It’s no secret that Dade is a chaotic mess these days. The teachers that have served this community for years have sounded the alarm recently as TFA teachers on this demanding, challenging campus tried to point the finger of blame at everyone but themselves and their inexperience, even as Dade spiraled downward into chaos.

A comparison of rosters from August to November shows that more than 20 staffers holding classroom positions in November were not there in August. We know 10 of these teachers were removed by Superintendent Mike Miles after a campus visit in October. The principal he removed that day had been there only since the start of school this year.

So who has nurtured and presided over the chaos? Who is responsible? None other the reform crowd’s agent of “disruptive change” himself: Floyd Mike Miles.

With Miles in charge of DISD, the only constant the kids at Dade (and at almost all other schools, too) have enjoyed is the constant change. A changing cast of principals, teachers, TFA temps and instructional coaches greet the kids at Dade each morning. Even the latest principal (the 4th one? Or the 5th one?) was out for several days recently.

No school can function safely and effectively under these conditions, including, it seems, Dade. Is it any wonder that, in the midst of the chaos, sexual abuse allegations have surfaced? Are the TFA teachers high-fiving Miles now? Is Mayor Rawlings going to come out and make a public show of support for him?

To reformers and men like Miles, trustee Mike Morath, Mayor Mike Rawlings, DISD leadership incubator Ken Barth and Commit! founder Todd Williams, terms like “disruptive change” might be nothing more than the latest edu-babble catchphrase one throws out while one is swirling a snifter of brandy and smoking a cigar and trying to sound enlightened, but to the children practically imprisoned by its predictable consequences, the realities of “disruptive change” are not easily forgotten after a good night’s sleep, a strong cup of coffee and a shower to wash away the lingering scent of cigar smoke.

The kids at Dade, like all other DISD students, parents and teachers are living the nightmare that Mike Miles has created with the full support of a cadre of like-minded parasites. Churn, turnover, absenteeism and resignations might be the hallmarks of success to these men, but they are actually the hallmarks of failure and regression.

Sexual abuse. What’s next? What could be worse?

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Posted in Rotten in Denmark, Teachers Rule

Mike Miles Throws Another One Under the Bus

Elrod-thrown-under-the-busTwo years ago Mike Miles established his preferred modus operandi for those situations where he finds himself, well, stepping in it. Instead of admitting he made a mistake hiring 31 year old Jennifer Sprague as Communications Chief, a position for which she was clearly unqualified and, at $185,000 overpaid, Miles convinced her to resign to follow her dream career as a strategy maven.

It worked so well that time he used the same strategy when Kevin Smelker resigned, convincing him to circulate to the media a resignation letter blaming trustees for his departure, a letter that investigator Paul Coggins revealed Miles himself had a hand in writing.

Apparently Miles’ past successes with this trick led him to think he could employ it once again with longtime DISD general counsel Jack Elrod who, to the best of our knowledge, hasn’t any plans to resign, even though he did retire once.

The DMN reported Friday night that Dallas ISD has hired Paul Coggins to investigate trustee Bernadette Nutall. Who in DISD, you ask, hired the investigator?

In an article published Friday, Tawnell Hobbs and Matt Haag write:

Miles, who oversees the district, said he was unaware that Coggins was hired.

“I don’t know anything about Paul Coggins being hired,” he said Friday. “The person you need to talk to or could talk to is Jack Elrod.”

The DMN published an article two days ago that revealed Miles was asking around town for snitches who would help him in his witch hunt against trustee Nutall:

Former school leadership chief Sylvia Reyna said Miles asked her two weeks ago about whether she would tell investigators about an incident she had with Nutall two years ago. She said Miles said he planned to call for an investigation into Nutall’s behavior and, specifically, his decision to have police physically remove her from Dade last month.

So, according to Miles, he knows nothing about an investigation. Jack must have done it.

The question is, will Jack crawl willingly under that bus?

And the bigger question; will Dallas let him?

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Posted in Rotten in Denmark, Teachers Rule

The Sounds of Justice at Dallas ISD

texas-rangersIt seems that Dallas ISD Board President and former Teach for America grad Miguel Solis huddled up last weekend with Broad-trained Superintendent Mike Miles in a joint effort to oust Trustee Bernadette Nutall from her position as school board representative for South Dallas. Superintendent Miles has decided to lead a witch-hunt against a duly elected Trustee who refuses to act as Miles’ handmaiden in the further destruction of democracy in Dallas, Texas and the adjoining cities that have students in Dallas schools.

Trustee Nutall apparently asks too many questions about school achievement data, the growing achievement gap for Dallas ISD black students, and how Dallas ISD spends the state and federal revenues that never impact campuses. Nutall’s punishment for asking questions and advocating for her constituents is constant hazing and bullying by the Superintendent and his gaggle of white boy followers who remain in suspended adolescence.

Miles cornered Nutall on the campus of Billy Earl Dade middle school, and ordered DISD police to physically remove her after she began asking questions about the reorganization of the school. Her questions were the result of Miles’ refusal to communicate his reorganization plans to the Trustee after his grandstanding humiliation of the Rice alumnus principal, two assistants and ten teachers by removing them only six weeks into the school year. Today, Dade is operating no more effectively than it was prior to the Miles assault on Dade.

What had the principal actually done to deserve this treatment? He committed the heresy of asserting that one reason for the high level of student misconduct and lack of academic achievement was the critical mass of TFA teachers placed on the Dade campus.

It has been reported that Miles was informed of the Dade TFA issue by Todd Williams, primary TFA supporter in Dallas who has no children at Dade, no children in DISD, and no background in education other than his non-profit and who often seems to serve as a front for the corporate reform movement of Other People’s Children.

Miles has now decided to lead an investigation into Trustee Nutall and began his witch hunt by notifying former and present DISD employers of his narrative: Trustee Nutall has a history of bothering him and his staff by asking too many questions and engaging them in discussion of educational issues.

Exactly who informed the Superintendent that he could use district resources or former and current district employees to carry out this witch-hunt against a duly elected trustee is up for discussion. This act of pure hubris certainly comes from Miles’ Broad training where potential superintendents are educated about the dangers of elected school boards for poor and minority constituents. Trustee Morath, who has led a movement for Home Rule in order to remove those pesky trustees, also supports the witch-hunt. Throw in the influence of TFA, COMMIT!, the Dallas Mayor, and the remainder of the Home Rule funders, and we have a toxic brew whose intersection is the belief that black folks in South Dallas are not fit for democracy.

At any rate, we believe several rounds of investigations need to occur, both at the state and federal level. And we intend to make sure the Superintendent and his gaggle of corporate reform boys don’t have their hands in the middle of any of them.

Let us welcome the sounds of justice.

The first sounds summoned are the kind that used to arrive on horseback, clippety clop.

The Texas Rangers may want to investigate the DISD internal investigation on the real estate deal for Billy Early Dade.  Did a Superintendent and a Trustee decide to give a little rewrite to the resulting report? We can only guess. When a veteran internal investigator complained, he was fired.

The boys and girls of the Texas Rangers may want to revisit the investigation done last year where Superintendent Miles injected himself into the middle of an investigation on himself. This time, the Rangers will have subpoena power and can follow the trail of this rogue superintendent who bullies district employees and dabbles in political intrigue instead of doing his job.

But there are larger issues where the stench of political corruption needs the attention of both our state law enforcement officers and several departments of the federal government.

We want an investigation into the political corruption that allows a superintendent to force feed methods used in his private consulting business on the teachers of Dallas. We want an investigation into how he might personally benefit mingling his private consulting business and the public’s education dollars.

We want an investigation into the executive job pipeline from TFA, COMMIT!, the Teaching Trust, and Ken Barth in exchange for political support for the Superintendent. How else does one explain hiring those with no credentials and no experience for executive positions as anything but political corruption?

We want an investigation into a possible contract with HKS and the personalized learning initiative to shed light on any relationships between Todd Williams, Ken Barth, and private entrepreneurial activities that are embedded into DISD’s personalized learning initiative. If any trustees or their entrepreneurial buddies stand to gain a dime for future employment with this initiative while sitting on the Board voting on this initiative, we want to know now. Strange how none of the right questions are asked when white entrepreneurs start the takeover of the city’s schools where they stand to make millions by using DISD schools as their personal research labs for Bill Gates and Dallas entrepreneurs. We want an investigation into any bid or process that preempts the use of HKS as the building vendor when this group has long-standing ties to Uplift charters and through Uplift, to Todd Williams. We want an investigation into how former TFA members have assumed leadership roles in this learning initiative when they have no experience in this methodology. We want to know why classrooms are being virtually designed when there is no evidence this approach is successful with Dallas students.

We want the legality of both a formal and informal DISD job preference given TFA in hiring and promotions investigated as an illegal set aside that is against federal and state law.

And we would like for both state and federal officials to understand that any move to remove voting rights for South Dallas citizens via Home Rule, witch hunts of school board trustees, investigations led by the Superintendent, or any other corporate reform group will be met with eternal and effective civil rights litigation. The democratic principle of single member districts will not be replaced by appointed board members, not in this district nor this state. Home Rule will not be used as a political gerrymandering tool to further disenfranchise minority children or their parents.

What TFA, Broad, and other corporate reformers actually mean when they say, “education reform is the civil rights issue of our time”,  is that the public pig trough feeding these reformers better stay open so that entitled white children and friends of the likes of Todd or Ken have a lucrative career path through two years of TFA experience or through personal connections with them. We can now include the Personalized Learning Initiative that is already on the illegal set aside preference list along with TFA and Broad hires.

Investigations? Miles wants investigations? Solis wants investigations?


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Posted in Rotten in Denmark
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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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