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Why You Should Make Supporting Pre-K in DISD a Relentless Priority

Of the many things I’ve learned the past six months, the importance of early education, or pre-K, is the most astonishing. What’s amazing to me about it is the near-certainty of the evidence that supports how crucial it is for poor kids to be put into a quality pre-K program.

That’s because so much about education is uncertain, and because of this, politically charged: public vs. private vs. charter, mayoral oversight of school boards vs. single-member districts, teacher evaluations vs. seniority, test scores vs. college readiness vs. college completion, you name it. You can find studies or experts or bloggers or political activists who will authoritatively tell you that research is muddy on which approach provides best outcomes in large poor urban districts.

But the benefits of quality pre-K (the adjective is important) keep being proven. Let me be clear: that doesn’t mean that there aren’t […]

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Programming Note

Should have mentioned this Monday, but I’m out of pocket all week, arriving back in Dallas on Monday evening. Big plans for next week, though: a look at DISD’s early education plans; a home rule update with all 10 proposals compiled and suggested as legislation; a look back at why the Dallas deseg case no longer applies to DISD; maybe a school choice update; and coming soon a deeper look at schools like the Momentous Institute, as well as a dive into the local chapter of Teach For America. Maybe even a few more surprises. Okay, that looks like the next two weeks. But you get the idea. Back soon. Cheers.

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DISD Special Board Meeting Only Delays the Coming Showdown

The most important event at 3700 Ross yesterday wasn’t covered by any mainstream media in town, which isn’t surprising. Alan Cohen, DISD’s early education chief, presented his 99-page, 30-initiative report for early education/pre-K strategy in Dallas ISD. (In the meeting he said it was a 245-page plan, but that includes 146 pages of individual school profiles/data that we don’t need for our discussions.) I spent time yesterday talking to early education experts in Dallas, and they spoke in unanimous praise of Cohen and his efforts. The problem, of course, is how to properly fund it. I’ll have to get to these issues next week, because this is an incredibly important issue that change our city and this region over the next two decades.

Today, though, we need to deal with the special meeting that came after the board briefing, the one dealing with the Miles-Nutall Dade incident. You can watch the meeting in the video above and draw your own conclusions. I’ll give you a few bullet-point thoughts below:

• The DMN headline says that trustee Miguel Solis was “removed” from his position running the meeting, suggesting he abdicated his role unwillingly. Technically, sure, but watch it yourself and you’ll see how it went down. Joyce Foreman has several times […]

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Suggestions for Home Rule Commission No. 10 – Mayoral Involvement

I know I’ve been beating the drum quite a bit on Home Rule for Dallas ISD. Our district clearly has governance problems, and home rule is a way for us to write a new constitution for the district to try to improve the governance model a bit, given the extensive evidence that suggests this will lead to ultimate improvements for our kids.

I’m not the only one who thinks we need clearer lines of authority under the current governance model. Board president Miguel Solis yesterday, in explaining the agenda for this Thursday’s special meeting over the Dade incident, said:

“It is my hope that any action the board chooses to take will lead to a better definition of governance and management and to ensure that events leading up to and occurring on October 13th do not repeat themselves.”

I think that’s a worthwhile goal, which is why I’ve been writing for months about governance reform in DISD. I’ve offered nine reasonable, workable suggestions for the Home Rule Commission to include in any charter document that must go in front of the voters. I’ll stop with the nice round number of 10. This one may be the most strategically important. It is also the most controversial. Before I get into the details [..]

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A Proposal for the Haters: Why Don’t You Take Over a School?

I’m pretty concerned by the most recent it’s-all-about-me-not-kids move by Dallas ISD trustee Bernadette Nutall. I’m worried because reading between tea leaves tells me that a) Nutall isn’t getting the reaction she wants from the board in response to the Dade incident, and that means b) she’s going to continue being as destructive as possible in her attempts to get Mike Miles to leave the district. And let’s face it: She does almost nothing well when it comes to being a trustee, but she is a SPECTACULAR destructive force. I’m worried that Miles just might decide he’s had enough and leave.

Regardless your complaints with Miles — and I think current ones about implementation and oversight of TEI are very legitimate — that would be horrible for the district. If we once again allow status-quo ward-heelers to win the day, we set reform efforts back another decade. There are big implementation problems Miles is currently undergoing with his reforms, difficult details concerning both style and substance that need to be addressed. But if we blow all this up now to suit the Miles haters … the thought depresses me.

But this latest news from Crazytown did give me an idea.

I know […]

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DMN Story on DISD Salaries Suffers From Bad Case of Overreach

SWEET MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, does this story make me crazy. No need to read it, because I’m going to reprint it all below, with comments. Let’s get to it.

HEADLINE: Record number of Dallas ISD administrators make more than $100,000, analysis shows

Analysis! Oooh, analysis, analytics, analytical — I love all those words. And, my stars, $100,000? In American dollars? Nothing arbitrary about that figure: That’s the devil’s number! Let’s get to the story proper:

Two years after Superintendent Mike Miles admitted he paid administrators too much money, a record number of top officials in Dallas ISD are making more than $100,000 annually.

Okay, sure. Go on.

An analysis by The Dallas Morning News found that 175 administrators had six-figure salaries — up from 130 in Miles’ first year in the district and 111 the year before that.

Wait, 175? Are we sure that’s right? I’m supposed to be outraged, right? Except, DeKalb ISD in Georgia (part of Atlanta) has not quite 100k students, and in 2008-09, it paid 223 administrators $100k or more. Other nearby districts there […]

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DMN Story and DISD Report Show How Trustees Influence the District

Interesting story in the DMN today about something I’d heard a few weeks ago: That the final audit report regarding the incredibly high 9 percent commission paid to the real estate broker on the Dade Middle School land purchase identified former trustee Ron Price as the one who pushed for the deal. (This report was actually posted online last week, and I missed it, because I’m an idiot. Hey, DISD: You can ignore that FOIA request I made for the report.)

The story, based on DISD’s final audit report, says that investigators concluded former trustee Price is the one who pushed behind the scenes for the broker. This goes further than information found in the initial draft of DISD’s report, which was summarized in this story (supplemented by the paper’s own excellent reporting on this issue). Here is a long excerpt (complete with double spaces after periods) from the report’s executive summary, which neatly explains how the shady trustee-backed operation came to be: […]

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Hey, City of Dallas, Wanna Help DISD? Then Get Off Your Butt and Do It.

Last week, I attended a breakfast panel on the importance of early childhood education. It showed one segment of a fantastic six-part documentary called The Raising of America, Early Childhood and the Future of our Nation. We watched the episode, “Are We Crazy About Our Kids?” (It’s the video at the top of this post.) It was an enlightening event; I thought I knew quite a bit about the advantages of early education (birth to 5), especially in poor urban areas, but the economics of investing in quality early childcare are even more pronounced than I realized. (The takeaway stat for armchair economists: For every $1 invested in quality early childhood care/education, society gets back anywhere from $7-$16. A huge economic benefit.)

Afterward, panelist/Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates noted that the city doesn’t spend a lot of money on education directly, so Dallas chips in where it can — by (under)funding libraries, making public space available for edu-events, etc. I asked her if she favored cities having more skin in the game, as it were, by looking at mayoral oversight — or at least partial appointment power — of Dallas ISD’s school board. She smiled and sort of said she kinda favored it, if it was proven to be the right thing to do and everyone else favored it. She wasn’t forgainst it, in other words.

Now, let me be clear: […]

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I Can Help the School Board Expedite Its Meeting: A Trustee Is Powerless

The Dallas ISD school board is right now having a meeting to clarify the role and authority of school board members and the superintendent. I’m watching and will have a recap tomorrow, but first I should clarify something for the hundredth time here.

The DMN last week gave odd credence to Carla Ranger, Esq., when it highlighted her post that supposedly shows how Mike Miles broke state law. It basically said that school trustees have authority to do whatever they want on school grounds.

For the millionth time, this is absurd. State law could not be clearer on this. I’ve […]

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Miles Tried to Talk About Kids, But All Nutall Wanted to Talk About Was Herself

Some updates on the Nutall-Miles squabble:

• At a southern Dallas community meeting last night in which both Mike Miles and Bernadette Nutall were in attendance, the audience grew tired of Miles explaining how the level of instruction at Dade was hurting kids and demanded he address the more important issue: How he hurt Bernadette Nutall’s feelings. From the DMN:

After Miles spent about 20 minutes explaining the situation at Dade, some in the audience could wait no longer to speak. The group of about 70 at CitySquare Opportunity Center wanted to know why Miles had police remove Nutall from the campus Monday.
“People want to get […]

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Bernadette Nutall and Mike Miles Meet, Which Doesn’t Slow Down the Crazies

Before this evening’s planned address to the Dade community, here are some quick-hit thoughts and notes on the ongoing Miles-Nutall flap:

• There were a couple of good blog posts that came out today about this. One was Rudy Bush saying that Bernadette Nutall crossed a line. The other was a Jim Schutze recap which had this wonderful quote from Nutall:

“It’s a crisis there. I’m not the focal point there. I’m not the story. It’s a crisis, just like the mayor went to the Ebola crisis and [County Judge] Clay Jenkins went to it, President Bush and the Katrina crisis.”

• Mike Miles and Bernadette Nutall met late yesterday afternoon to discuss the Dade incident. Trustees Miguel Solis […]

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Dade Middle School, Bernadette Nutall, and the Need for Governance Reform

Last school year, a mother of a female Billy Earl Dade Middle School student marched into her daughter’s class during school hours. She was angry because the school called that parent and said the mother needed to make sure her daughter improved her attendance record. The mother, worried such reports could revoke her parole and send her back to jail, was not stopped as she walked in the front door and marched into her daughter’s class. (This is unusual: At most schools I’ve visited, adults who arrive are immediately quizzed and sent to the office to sign in.) The parent threw open the door, grabbed her daughter, and beat the living shit out of her in front of a horrified teacher (who was too small to stop the enraged mother). The teacher finally found enough adults to subdue the mother, and eventually got her off campus.

This is not a wild aberration. This is what it’s been like at Dade Middle School since 2013-14: chaos.

I’ve spent the better part of the weekend getting first-hand reports of what was going on at Dade Middle School that caused Mike Miles to replace 10 teachers and its entire leadership team. I don’t know exactly what Miles saw, but I have a pretty good idea […]

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The Nation is Beginning to Recognize the Importance of Grit in Education

I kinda-moderated (mostly just stayed out of the way) a panel yesterday morning for D Academy at North Dallas High School. The discussion focused broadly on challenges facing Dallas ISD. Trustee Mike Morath gave an overview of the many slings and arrows of outrageous fortune the district faces every day, while Milan Sevak gave an overview of TEI and discussed the challenges in evaluating teachers. A few times, the word “grit” was discussed, as it always is when reform-minded educators talk about transforming large poor urban districts.

I wrote about grit a few months ago, but I wanted to point you toward […]

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