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Learning Curve Moving to FrontBurner, Sort Of

The digital wizards at D Magazine tell me that I get many more people reading posts on FrontBurner than when I put the same posts here. That’s partly because, they say, a part-time blog like this does better when surrounded with constantly updated info, which FrontBurner has. Also, because FB has been building its audience for more than a decade.

So we’re going to try to create a Learning Curve category for FrontBurner and see how that goes. Once I get the particulars down, I’ll post the URL that will filter all LC posts into one stream. In the meantime, this morning I’m writing more about pre-K. Go have a read.

Moving Forward on DISD Bond is Good; Giving Up on Pre-K Was Dumb

The first trustee briefing of the year is Thursday, but at a special briefing last week there was one important thing discussed of which you should take note.

That one good thing is the generally favorable response trustees had to putting a bond vote on the ballot in November. New-again superintendent Michael Hinojosa has been vocal in public and in private that he can sell voters on a bond – money that is needed for the “fix buildings” portion of the district’s comprehensive plan. (No, such plans don’t go away just because Mike Miles is gone. Sorry, haters.) The fact that everyone is too scared to try to pass a tax ratification election at the same time to increase taxes for programmatic needs (for example, in expanded pre-K and career/technical areas) hasn’t worried Hinojosa or most trustees in trying to pass the bond.

Now, moving forward on the bond is a good thing. But I think […]

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Again: DISD’s Budget is Nearly $1.9 Billion, DISD is Fiscally Sound, Our Tax Rate is Low

Late last night/early this morning, I listened to this KERA interview with two DISD trustees and the AFT president.

I won’t comment on the particulars of it except to say that host Kris Boyd is, as always, fantastic. That’s because it would just result in my ranting for 2K words, and we’ll get enough of that over the next few months. But I did want to point out that both trustees casually misstated the current DISD budget. One said it was “a billion-dollar budget,” the other quoted $1.6 billion. This is not a surprise, since often the local newspaper misstates just how big the budget of the district is. In particular, I’m going to try to clear up some problems in this story about the budget, because it’s the sort of thing we should get right.

Recall that […]

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I Know What DISD Did This Summer

School is back in session, so we should take a moment to review what happened while everyone was away on summer vaca—

Wait, what? Oh, school is back in for top charter schools in the area, not for public school systems like DISD. But I thought that state Rep. Rafael Anchia was going to pass a bunch of public school reforms in light of Dallas’ home rule committee’s six-month gas-passing exercise. And I thought one of those reforms was starting school earlier, so that poor public school kids could better compete with others who have more time in class, like charter and private school kids.

Oh that’s right! Anchia had to remove the early start-date provision from his bill after the powerful Texas Travel Industry Association lobby …

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Guest Column: Todd Williams on Why STAAR Scores Are Stagnant, and What Must Be Done to Improve

Todd Williams is one of the leading education advocates in Dallas. He runs a nonprofit, Commit, that works with Dallas County schools to find data-driven solutions to tough education problems. He is the mayor’s advisor on education policy. And he is one of the smartest people in Texas on education matters in general. He’s asked that Learning Curve publish the guest column below, which takes an in-depth look at the core issues behind stagnant test scores in Dallas County and Texas — and which makes recommendations for improving these scores.

Todd’s column is below:

There’s been much recent discussion on why 2015 STAAR scores were once again stagnant, both at the state and local level within Dallas ISD, continuing a trend over the past four years. The questions raised were consistent. “Is it the assessment? Do we have the wrong standards? Why aren’t we making progress?”

My immediate reaction was to simply ask, “What have we really done to expect anything other than what we’re seeing?”

In some ways, […]

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Why It’s Dangerous to Judge School Districts on Personnel Decisions

I’ve been avoiding writing about this kerfuffle for weeks. The one about three principals — Joy Morris at Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary, Dinnah Escanilla at North Dallas High, and Anna Brining at Rosemont middle and elementary schools – whose contract non-renewals were overturned by trustees but who were then fired by Mike Miles. I’ve avoided it because it involves personnel decisions at Dallas ISD, which means it involves people’s careers. Because the personnel files of most Chapter 21 employees (i.e., most educators) are confidential, I don’t like having to take someone’s word on what is contained therein. And unlike, say, Brett Shipp, I don’t like suggesting I know someone’s motivation just because it fits my narrative.

So I’m not going to be able to tell you what I think I know about Mike Miles’ decision to terminate three principals after the board of trustees had seemingly saved their jobs by declining to non-renew their contracts. (I’ll explain the difference soon.)

But I do want to explain the process that is going on here, because I find that most people don’t understand the issues that skew reporting on personnel matters. And almost nobody seems to know the difference between […]

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Do Flat STAAR Tests Mean DISD Was Better Under Hinojosa? Of Course Not.

I got sidetracked on school finance, but I want to come back to something I promised last week: Looking at how the newspaper’s editorial writers fail to put school testing results in context. Since I just asked you to slog through 2K words on bridge plans and general operating funds, I will try to keep this as short and sweet as possible.

Recall I had problems with the way the DMN characterized the incomplete STAAR results. If you haven’t read Jeffrey Weiss’s excellent responses in the comments, please do so. He says that even if the paper should have been clearer about not including Spanish language STAAR results in its headline/analysis, the results when they’re included still are mixed-to-poor. I don’t disagree with him – I say in fact that I’m not defending DISD’s STAAR performance, I’m criticizing how incomplete data sets are presented to the public.

In any case, that DMN story begat three editorial board posts: […]

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Brett Shipp and Some Trustees Get an “F” In School Finance

Brett Shipp needs help. Actually, he may be beyond help. But I’m going to try to explain school finance to him one more time, since he seems determined to pretend to report on DISD. His latest example of journalistic malfeasance can be found here.

So, what you should do to prep for this post is watch the video above, cued to the 1:46 mark, for about 10 and a half minutes. (For some reason, I can’t get embeds to work right. If it cues to the wrong spot, just click this link.) It’s from this past Thursday’s board meeting, and it features DISD CFO Jim Terry, trustee Joyce Foreman, trustee Bernadette Nutall, and trustee Mike Morath talking budget stuff. Watch until Foreman gives my favorite quote of the year: “I don’t like being corrected when I know I’m right.” This segment will give you the background you need to read this primer, which will explain why Shipp’s story that DISD is in some sort of financial straights is complete bulsh.

(As an aside, a similar DMN story also quoted ignorant trustees about the same issue, but at least it added the correct information at story’s end.)

In fact, Brett Shipp’s fantasy segment has so much wrong with it, we’re going to have to break the first part of it down piece by piece. Let’s do this: […]

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Why Did the DMN Largely Ignore 35 Percent of DISD Test-takers?

Hey, I’m back! What did I miss?

[Checks Dallas Morning News, sees a three-byline story on STAAR results, sees three blog posts by editorial board members excoriating Mike Miles for said results, sees a guest column saying that Mike Miles and reformers are bad but Aldine ISD is good.]

Good sweet heavens. It’s like I came back on Christmas. So much silliness to digest, it’s going to take three posts to do so properly.

Let’s start with […]

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Guest Column: Kevin Malonson on the tension between reform, teachers, and kids

Home Rule Commissioner Kevin Malonson and I have struck up a weird friendship. We both see the need for better educational opportunities for Dallas ISD kids — especially poor kids — and we often have 180-degree views on how to achieve this. But Malonson is open-minded and sincere, an engaged DISD volunteer and parent. I think his opinions are very worthy of discussion. Here is his second guest column for Learning Curve. Treat him well in the comments folks; he’s a civilian. […]

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We Need Another Hero: Why Miles’ Fate is in the Hands of Dan Micciche and Eric Cowan

To: Eric Cowan and Dan Micciche
From: Eric Celeste
Re: Your vote later today

Eric and Dan:

I know you both think you need to fire Mike Miles today. I know you each think you should do this because a) you hear from a lot of angry people in your district who want him fired, and b) you believe he has made severe management mistakes. I understand. But let’s talk for a minute about why this is a terrible idea for each of you, for your districts, for the city, and for the kids in DISD.

Let’s start with […]

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The Best Data Available to Evaluate DISD Are Being Ignored

Jim Schutze has a good post on Unfair Park about how everything is Mike Miles’ fault, according to his critics. Even things like firing investigators who don’t work for him. But I want to highlight the first comment on that post from “MindingtheStore,” because it gives us a good place to start discussing how parents, teachers, some trustees, and other interested parties take data and frame it to suit their desired narrative.

MTS says several interesting things that are pretty easily refutable, but let’s just concentrate on the first graph (I fixed a few typos): […]

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