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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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TEI’s Achilles’ heel? Why Teachers Feel SOL on SLOs.

When I worked for a large corporation, I knew a guy we’ll call Frank. Frank wasn’t fond of his boss, Larry, because Larry was kind of a jerk. One day, when Frank was in the office of Larry’s boss, working on a project, Larry’s boss asked Frank, “How are things going on your team? Any feedback I need to hear?”

What did Frank say?

Frank is not an idiot, so Frank said, “Everything’s great.” Because only an idiot would unload about Larry to the big boss. No big boss really wants to hear from someone several levels down, “Hey, you know that person you hired to oversee me? The person you’re friends with? The person you promoted? TERRIBLE CHOICE. Fix it.” Once you say such a thing, it can’t be unsaid — you’re marked as a troublemaker, you have to go through some weird HR-led confrontation/counseling, all when it’s the job of the top brass to know how Larry is doing in the first place.

This dynamic exists in every large organization. It certainly exists in Dallas ISD when it comes to getting feedback from teachers, especially if that feedback would necessarily throw principals or executive directors under the bus. It exists especially when trying to get feedback on the implementation of the district’s teacher merit pay evaluation system, TEI (Teacher Excellence Initiative).

It’s why Dallas ISD brass, even though [...]

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Suggestions for Home Rule Commission No. 9— Redistricting Commission

As I have shown with my last two posts about Home Rule, there is much to be learned from a review of the City of Dallas Home Rule Charter. In fact, every time I read the City Charter I find another useful element of governance reform that would benefit Dallas ISD.

A bit of background: If you don’t already know, the Dallas is a Home Rule City. This means [...]

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Programming Notes: SLOs Tomorrow, Comments Today

I planned to have a post on Student Learning Objectives up today, but it’s turned into another classroom exercise where I’m deep in a study bunker, trying to understand how they are used across the nation. I really feel like that info is important for context, so give me today to finish research. It’ll be up tomorrow.

(Another excuse: Tim almost murdered me yesterday for turning in my column for the magazine so late. So, there’s that.)

Also, for some reason the comment moderation emails I’m supposed to get have started going to my junk mail, and I can’t seem to fix it. I apologize for your comments sitting in the inbox for a few days. I just realized this.

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A Taxing Problem: Breaking Down the Remarkably Low DISD Tax Rate

Yesterday, I mentioned that some people still fail to equate spending with student achievement. Given that point, and in light of the presentation to the board a few weeks ago about the big dollar costs associated with the comprehensive implementation of Destination 2020, I thought I’d look a bit at the school finance picture. I’d like to say said picture is a Monet — up close it’s blurry, but far away you can see clearly what is going on. Really, though, it’s like a Pollock – art majors love it, but to everybody else it looks like the 3:01-to-the-end mark of the Freeze Frame video. 

Let’s start with some basics. [...]

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What Dan Micciche Gets Right — and Wrong — in His DMN Essay

Dallas ISD trustee Dan Micciche wrote a column last week that appeared somewhere in the Dallas Morning News‘ suite of websites/papers that deserves discussion. (Sorry I don’t know where it appeared exactly. I think it ran in something called “Neighbors Go East Dallas-White Rock,” but I don’t really know what that is; sounds like a Dad’s Club festival, or perhaps it’s a targeted news product in the form of several rolled sheets of thin paper still used to litter lawns. All I know is that it’s on the Internet.) Ostensibly, the column is about why a plan to break up DISD is a bad idea, and, oh by the way, why the current home rule process is also a bad idea. But it’s really NOT about that — which is good, because his latter argument is really silly.

Let’s first deal with what the column is really about: haranguing state legislators for not properly funding education in Texas. [...]

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2 Trustees Voted to Cut Off More Than $100 Million to DISD and I Guess No One Cares

I really don’t know what to do. Really don’t. I tell myself I’m going to talk about things besides the performances of trustees Bernadette Nutall and Joyce Foreman, because everyone knows I think they’re too often obstructionist and harmful to the district. So I’ll find other things to discuss when I recap the board meetings. But then they go and completely dominate a meeting, and cap their performance by voting for the district to reject more than $100 million in federal funds, and other media won’t even mention it. It makes my shoulders slump.

You realize that this really happened last night, right? These two trustees, stewards of the public’s trust, repeatedly voted in ways that would have forced the district to lose tens of millions in E-Rate Program funds (federal money for school telecommunications programs). It was shocking, but apparently only to me. Here’s a tweet from me last night: [...]

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Trustee Meeting Tonight to Focus Almost Exclusively on Kids

Just kidding! Actually, 13 of the 14 items from the consent agenda were (of course) pulled by Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall, and all the items have to do with budget decisions. Why we don’t just hire them as co-CFOs, I don’t know. Here are the budget approval items that were pulled, listed for the record and for your enjoyment. From the agenda: [...]

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Mike Rowe Calls Attention to Grand Prairie’s Dubiski Career High School

You might have seen the DMN blog post that mentioned Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame) was in Grand Prairie yesterday to see/promote the kids at Dubiski Career High School. It’s a school that prepares kids for real world jobs, including those in the automotive industry. Rowe just put up a great post on his personal Facebook page detailing his visit. I thought it was worth highlighting here. (Click on the “see more” tab to read the entire post.) [...]

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