Dallas ISD and the New Jim Crow

arne-and-newtWho would have ever thought?

One pug-ugly Republican known for his right-wing rants, Newt Gingrich, and the other the handsome, debonair Democrat know-nothing, Arne Duncan. Could these boys be twins separated at birth?

One grows up to be a ultra conservative, serial monogamist and the other a basketball player with Ivy League crony connections who is handed the CEO title of a major urban school district. One grew up to marry his high school math teacher and the other has his former teachers at the University of Chicago Lab School (home of John Dewey) sending him regular hate mail.

But in today’s corporate reform circles, these boys, Newt and Arne, play on the same team. It’s called separate and unequal treatment for poor kids, also known as disruptive education reform.

Disruptive education reform, cataloged under “Broad, Eli,” is the new Jim Crow. Strange thing about this new version of Jim Crow. We have no politicians of either persuasion speaking out against it.

That’s because we have NO politicians in this country representing poor kids and their parents. Instead, we have Wall St. billionaires holding most of our national politicians right in their pockets, just like we have millionaires here in Dallas, Texas, holding seven of nine votes on the school board.

Silicon Valley loves the new Jim Crow. They think it’s a new technology market being pushed open by Bill Gates under the guise of “personalized learning.” A little drip of funding in Dallas, Texas was all it took for the Gates Foundation to be back-dooring tax money to Microsoft through a tiny amount of venture philanthropy.

Strange thing about venture philanthropy. It has all the appearance of one hand feeding the other. Gates gives to his Foundation which pumps out research supporting blended learning models which actually warehouse kids with computers to make public education more “efficient.” For Microsoft and Bill Gates, it’s a win/win.

This notion of sticking 100-150 kids in a big room with a few teachers and lots of computers caught Newt’s attention. He was immediately enthralled. In the strange new universe of Jim Crow segregation for public school kids, Newt’s love of blended learning put him right in Arne Duncan’s political bed.

The new Jim Crow version of public education for poor kids is only inclusive in that it appeals to both political parties. It gives bragging rights to some Republicans for starving public education. Yet, it allows such a huge amount of wiggle space for locals like Raphael Anchia who consider themselves modern day reformers while remaining in the pockets of former Goldman Sachs partners.

In the new Jim Crow, all politicians agree on two things: their kids won’t attend public schools with poor children and poor kids deserve a qualitatively different school experience than their own children.

And so, with clear conscience, Arne, Newt, Anchia, and Solis set about punishing the teachers of poor children by increasing class sizes, micromanaging instruction, and eliminating any joy in learning.

Dear Arne sets the tone at the top. Arne is in favor of anything that Big Venture Money likes because Arne knows the clock is ticking on his time playing the role of Secretary of Education, and at some point he has to go get a real job, or what passes for a real job in crony, Ivy League circles. To make sure he has a soft landing, in a few years, Arne is bringing his future job network right into the White House while Arne still has some pull.

So instead of public school educators with decades of experience in real classrooms leading the Department of Education, Arne is gravitating toward entrepreneurs who want the doors of public schools brunt-forced opened to them. After all, who are the kings of entrepreneurship other than the titans of Silicon Valley who just payed fines for non-competitive employment practices?

Which all brings us to Rocketship and its brand of warehouse charter schools. Anyone with a browser, might want to investigate Dallas ISD’s personalized learning thrust and find that former Rocketship entrepreneur playing on the same team as some of our local corporate reformers.

We don’t need to name them. They are the heads of a local brand of charter schools where they wouldn’t send their own kids.

They make up our local corporate education PACs.

They gather over at the Teaching Trust at SMU or at Leadership DISD.

They think they are leading the new civil rights movement of our time.

The irony of a bunch of bored, rich, white boys leading a movement that further segregates the mainly minority poor in our public schools and feeds them uncertified teachers, inexperienced principals, and 24/7 chaos on campuses and at 3700 Ross Avenue might be laughable, but it is the reality of disruptive reform in Dallas public schools.

So the next time Todd Williams wants to crunch data to show how poorly public schools in Dallas County are performing while at the same time pulling every political string he can to keep Mike Miles in power, ask Todd where his own children attend school.

Ask him about the double digit years of experience and the number of graduate degrees expected for teachers of the children of the wealthy in Dallas, Texas. Ask him how much of the disruptive chaos spread by Mike Miles invades the education of his own children. Ask Todd why his own children don’t attend his racially segregated charters since they do such an excellent job of college preparation.

Expect Todd Williams for once to shut his mouth.

The reality of the new Jim Crow compared to the reality of the education for the wealthy simply isn’t discussed by Todd Williams, or Arne, or Newt or Anchia anymore than any of the Silicon Valley titans want their special brand of education for the poor branded as the new Jim Crow.

But here in Dallas, on this teacher blog where the pernicious effects of Bill Gates dollars don’t reach, we are going to open a discussion of reality of the new Jim Crow and its formal and informal leaders here in Dallas.

Expect the squirming to begin.

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Posted in Giving Grades, Rotten in Denmark, Teachers Rule

DISD Students Suffer Again Under Miles’ Administration

umphrey-lee-smA cheating scandal at Umphrey Lee Elementary School has been made public.

The DMN seems to only want to point fingers at the teachers, but the rest of us plebes know that the real scandal is (again) how Mike Miles handled it.

Make no mistake: students have and will suffer as a result of Miles’ handling of this incident because parents were not notified. Their children brought home passing STAAR scores and were promoted to the next grade level; that’s the last communication the parents got. No parent got the head’s up that the scores were the result of cheating and that their child might need remediation.

Even Dahlander admits that, “There were some things that probably could have been handled better.” Probably??

Based on the low 2011-2012 scores, it’s clear that many children who were promoted based on the 2012-2013 scores should not have been. There is no way many of those students possessed the necessary skills and knowledge needed for the next grade level and it appears that zero was done to identify them, remediate them and retest them.

Those students, like the DISD teachers who were assigned to them the next year, were set up to fail.

It is inexcusable that students continue to suffer because of Mike Miles’ presence in DISD.

The scandal also raises the question of a cover-up because the teachers were allowed to resign, and principal was reassigned and only fired once the cheating became public knowledge.

If she wasn’t fired when the investigation was going down, then why was she fired recently—after the scandal became public?

We want to know: was she simply reassigned to keep the lid on the scandal in order to protect Miles?

In the comments section of the DMN, Mike MacNaughton raises another good point: the teachers in question resigned. Why weren’t they fired?

I realize that allowing them to resign lessened any bad PR for the Miles administration, but, if they were guilty, doesn’t allowing them to resign simply enable them to go to another district and inflict their “methods” on other kids?

This kind of administrative games-playing is why children get stuck with the Dance of the Lemons.

Finally, there is this issue: is TEA waiting on DISD to hand over the full report and, if so, why? Why is the full report not being given to the TEA? It was concluded 10 MONTHS AGO.

Why is the DMN refusing to investigate this and report it? Why does the DMN seem to want Miles to stay in Dallas? Who is behind this complete breakdown of ethics, legalities and morals?

Miles did not instruct the teachers to cheat, but, once uncovered,  the rest of the debacle is on him and he needs to go.

I think it is interesting that a certain parent has posted on this site (and others) in the past instructing lazy, complaining, tattling DISD teachers to “STAY AWAY FROM MY CHILDREN!” (the shrill all-caps are the parent’s).

Look, dude—we aren’t the people you need to worry about. We aren’t the people letting cheating teachers resign, dragging our feet about handing over a report to TEA or quietly reassigning a principal and then firing her once the truth comes out.

I can’t believe parents aren’t lining the overpasses with signs telling Miles to stay away from their innocent children.

How much more must mostly poor, mostly minority children endure at the hands of this worthless administration?

Posted in Administrative Policies, Baloney Meter

Dallas ISD: Failure, Trustees, and Politically Connected Rich Boys

fail-whaleWe just want to take time to thank all those politically connected rich boys who know so much more about education than Dallas public school teachers. Todd! and Ken Barth and Mayor Rawlings are at the top of our list of those who helped ratchet up the level of failure in Dallas ISD middle and high schools based on the Texas Education Agency list of low performing schools released last week.

Celeste and Schutze, you certainly did your best to try to persuade us to follow Mike Miles right off a cliff. Glad we stepped back from the precipice. Too bad about those students attending almost half of Dallas ISD neighborhood high schools.

After all, doubling the failure rate of high schools and middle schools in just one year deserves some attention. Schutze over at the Observer seemed really impressed with the huge outflow of experienced teachers last year. Schutze should even be more impressed at the level of teacher attrition this year since it’s reaching historic levels in Dallas schools.

Could we haul out all those petitions and emails requesting a contract extension for the Superintendent of Dallas schools BEFORE the Texas Education Agency announced the bombshell, record number of failures? Maybe these admirers of Miles could take him off our hands or at least offer a donation to buy out his contract, the one extended by seven of the nine board members in Dallas.

Oh, and Board Members, we have special thank you notes for those of you lacking the intelligence, foresight, and ethics to complete the Superintendent’s appraisal without actual state outcomes before you.

TEA’s data on increasing the failing rates will be right there for eternity with your names attached, Trustees.

Miguelito, if anyone doubted your loyalty to the Superintendent, your former employer, you have left no doubt. Imagine handing the Superintendent who doubled secondary failures a two-year contract extension. We can only hope Harvard has heard of your specialness.

Bingham, if nothing else, you are consistent. We wonder if you ever wake up and have a day when you figure out you don’t really work for the Superintendent.

Cowan, what can we say? West Texas winds just keep blowing you back and forth, this way and that. Constituents in North Oak Cliff think you’re a sell-out.

Micciche, have you ever built a court case and left out the key data and just winged it? Couldn’t wait another two weeks for TEA ratings? How ridiculous! What was the big hurry, except that Miles needed a contract extension before the ratings were public?

Mike Morath, if trustees need to be removed based on the Superintendent’s record, please go ahead and fire yourself.

Elizabeth and Lew, your votes, not your speeches, are what matters. You knew better, but you caved anyway.

We think the Superintendent walked away from this debacle laughing and grinning, all smiles. The data to compute the TEA ratings were available when the full-on campaign to extend his contract started with Stacey Hodge and others playing key supporting roles.

As far as the Mayor, we are sure every charter school in North Texas wants to send you a thank you note. Your choice of a superintendent is helping grow the charter school network and creating a weaker Dallas public school system.

Another twist to this horror story is that seven of the Trustees did not want the TEA record in front of them before voting to extend Miles’ contract.

Seven of the nine Trustees would have had to talk back to their handlers who would have pushed to extend Miles’ contract anyway.

Pick your poison, Trustees. The rush was because Mike Miles didn’t want the news out before his contract extension was completed. So your Superintendent is all grins after making the Trustees appear completely incompetent.

Or the Trustees needed to rely on the excuse of not knowing the TEA data because they needed to earn political capital with those in Dallas who matter, those who have never sent their kids to Dallas ISD.

Less than three weeks would have made the difference to Dallas taxpayers who are now furious at the Superintendent, his Cabinet, and seven board members who espouse data-driven decisions, but act otherwise.

The public won’t be mollified by any apologies or excuses at this point. Unlike your handlers, Trustees, your constituents have few other choices.

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Posted in Baloney Meter, Giving Grades

Another Reason to Pity the Rusk Teachers

As if Breakfast in the Classroom and the possibility of mandatory lunchtime tutoring, mandatory afterschool detention and mandatory subbing during their planning periods isn’t enough for next year, it appears that Rusk teachers will also get to work with a person who has opinions about teachers and cleaning toilets.

In response to another article, a commenter posting as a Rusk employee writes,

In any profession, sometimes people step out of their role to try to make something successful. If cleaning the toilet helps out why not? Because your (sic) educated? The world will surely end if you ever have to step out of your role as just a teacher. I have stepped out of my role several times without complaint. Why? Because I love working in the school. I love interacting with the students. I love having summers and holidays off to be with my family and still get paid for it. Yes, I have even stepped out of my role to mop a floor, clean a toilet, even organize an end of year dance with my fellow teammates because those things are not beneath me.”


This is the kind of nonsense from non-teachers that only teachers in DISD have to endure (which could explain the record numbers of DISD teachers leaving for other districts).

Only in DISD are real  teachers considered whiners, complainers and elitist ex-debutantes because, after actually finishing college, taking and passing the certification tests, spending hours writing lesson plans, teaching all day, grading hundreds of papers, contacting parents, providing free tutoring, pulling off good STAAR scores and chaperoning school events, we see the downside of using our limited time with students to serve breakfast or clean toilets.

After all, as the “reformers” like to emphasize, we get summers off and we still get a paycheck (nevermind that we only get a paycheck in the summer because we are no longer allowed to choose the option of having our pay divided into 10 bigger paychecks), so we should be happy to put up with anything, regardless of the cost to the students.

Contrast this logic-challenged mindset with other districts where, as many ex-DISD teachers are joyfully discovering, teachers are appreciated and used solely for teaching, while someone else is hired to do all of the other jobs that support teaching and learning (like cleaning toilets).

One former DISD teacher, for example, quickly hired by a suburban district after being treated badly in a DISD elementary school, marveled at the abundant support staff present in his/her new school. Multiple support staff (including reading interventionists) are hired to be on hand to help THE KIDS.  This doesn’t happen very often in DISD; instead, we get instructional coaches who are only on hand to nitpick teachers and stare at their own navels while contemplating data generated by flawed, invalid sources.  We also get staff members who look down on teachers who “just” want to teach.

I bet students in the suburban school even have, in addition to the reading interventionists, actual custodians to clean the bathrooms.

Here’s a newsflash for the Rusk employee and anyone else: In districts where kids come first, teachers teach and custodians clean the bathrooms. In districts where kids come first, teachers teach and cafeteria servers serve meals. In districts where kids come first, teachers teach and administrators deal with ISS. Everyone is hired to do 1 job and do it well. This means less cash for the “reformers” to pay themselves, of course, but it’s better for the students.

Because of this reality, parents who can usually do move out of DISD—and take companies like Toyota with them (ask Mike Rawlings about this). The parents (and CEOs) realize that while Miles’ and Todd! Williams’ brand of education “reform” may sound promising on paper, it isn’t good enough for them that their children have permanent subs because so many of the effective teachers left and got hired by the suburbs where serving breakfast and cleaning toilets aren’t part of the job description for teachers.

Parents and CEOs get it that dumping non-teaching duties on teachers to save a few bucks is a bad idea that ends up hurting students.

The truth is, if you really want to doom kids who are already low-income to an impoverished, stressful adulthood, the fastest and easiest way to accomplish this is to subject them to exhausted, overworked teachers who have to clean toilets and serve meals instead of working one-on-one with them when they can’t master a concept in Calculus.

I know that, as a parent, I want my child’s teacher focusing on my child’s mastery of Calculus, not on squeezing in Calculus tutoring during Breakfast in the Classroom or after the teacher dashed off to quickly clean a toilet to prove that she’s a team player.  Obviously, thousands of middle-class parents in DISD agree with me, as evidenced by the fact that their children attend private schools instead of DISD schools.

Working in DISD is hard enough for dedicated, educated, degreed and certified adults, but having to work alongside people who feel the sky’s the limit for what teachers should be grateful to do during their workday is just another reason to pity the Rusk teachers and all other DISD teachers.

Posted in Teachers Rule

Dallas Home Rule:Imagine the (2,020) Possibilities!

imagineThe Charter Commission met Monday night and, as the DMN’s Matt Haag aptly put it, “some commissioners struggled to understand” the ins and outs of Chapter 12. That is understandable, as anything legalese requires that common folk must first twist their heads around backwards before they can comprehend much of this stuff. The video of the meeting can be accessed here.

Lisa McBride, the attorney DISD hired to assist the commission, didn’t help much. Obviously a very bright lady, she nevertheless can’t seem to just answer the question. And when she did finally come to the good part, the commission was often left dangling on the edge of complete understanding.

But that’s OK as the commission has a year, umm…10 and a half months, to understand Chapter 12 and write a charter, if of course, they decide to write a charter. It appears they will need every bit of that time. Have you ever tried to make a decision with 15 people? How about making hundreds of decisions with 15 people?

After a lengthy discussion on meeting times and related issues, the commission had a Q&A with Ms. McBride. Questions on taxes, teachers, programs and governance. Commissioner Danae Gutierrez had an interesting question which could take the commission in a totally different direction.

Ms. Gutierrez asked whether the charter could require universal Pre-K .

Home-rule was proposed in 1995 as an option for districts that, for whatever reason, wanted to get out from under state rules and regulations which were considered limiting and burdensome. What if, instead, the charter was written to require certain programs and procedures? Imagine the possibilities!

Mandatory school attendance for all 4 year olds (hide your babies, they will be coming for them next)

Universal Pre-K (unfunded but required)

Teaching staff retained for maximum of 5 years in the district

All new campuses must be built with natatoriums

Every school day must start with a recitation of Core Beliefs (oops already do that)

You get the picture. Now it’s your turn. What are your suggestions for new rules the charter should include. Remember these are mandates! They are written into the constitution!

On a side note, does anyone have any idea who would enforce these mandates? Is the Texas Education Agency in charge of the charter’s implementation? If the charter mandates universal Pre-K and that doesn’t happen, will the TEA commissioner…do what?

Hmm..worth thinking about that!

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Posted in SOPS, Teachers Rule
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Foundation for Empowerment (FCE) released 3 papers:

1. Disruptive Change: Mike Miles and the Crisis In Dallas ISD, which has been prepared with consultation by education academics, extensive research, review of data and education literature, and meetings and interviews with people of Dallas holding varying and sometimes conflicting points of view;

2. Digging Into Data and Evidence: Mike Miles, Dallas ISD, and Trickle-Down Education Report, by Dr. Julian Vasquez Helig, Lindsay Redd, M.A. and Dr. Ruth Vail; and

3. The Challenge of Disruptive Leadership in Dallas ISD, by Decoteau J. Irby, Ph.D. and Matthew Birkhold, M.A.

"You will see from these papers that, after much research and discussion, we believe the current Superintendent lacks the pedagogical, leadership and integrity qualities necessary to lead Dallas ISD and recommend the Board terminate his contract."

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

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

Miguel Solis, Board President
District 8
Term Expires 2014
(972) 925-3721
Love Field, Northwest Dallas, and Central Dallas

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

Nancy Bingham
District 4
Term Expires 2016
(972) 925-3722
Southeast Dallas, Seagoville, Balch Springs

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

Mike Morath
District 2
Term Expires 2014
(972) 925-3721
North and Near East Dallas

Dan Micciche, Board Secretary
District 3
Term Expires 2015
(972) 925-3722
Northeast Dallas

Joyce Foreman
District 6
Term Expires 2017
email coming
(972) 925-3722
Southwest Dallas

Bernadette Nutall
District 9
Term Expires 2015
(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