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SAGA POD: Miguel Solis on Pre-K, Mike Morath, and Wu-Tang

Miguel Solis drops by the new SAGA Pod World Headquarters in beautiful Oak Lawn to break some news about the latest developments in his efforts to establish a pre-K board policy for DISD. We also talk smack about his soon-to-be-former colleague on the school board, new Texas education commissioner Mike Morath. We wonder what changes a Morath-led TEA might undergo, and what his absence means to kids, parents, and citizens of Dallas. Solis also makes fun of my previous world headquarters, and he demands I try to play some intro and outro music, which does not go swimmingly. You can listen on FrontBurner, or subscribe here on iTunes. As always, please listen with your ears.

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Why I’m Hopeful the DMN Will End Its False Balance on DISD Stories

On Monday, I told you that the coverage of Joyce Foreman’s wrongheaded rants against the DISD bond (or anything related to the district, really) generally gives you a false impression: Most sensible people don’t believe what she believes, because what she believes is wrong.

Here’s another example I came across that explains what I mean. See her quote in this story from July, which I’ve pulled out here:

“Why would we move forward talking about new schools when we haven’t talked about attendance zones to determine if some of these children could be moved to other schools?” trustee Joyce Foreman asked.

This went unchallenged. A problem, since it’s not true and easily verifiable.

To see where and how, read the full post on Frontburner.

SAGA Pod — Jim Schutze on Texas educators dumbing down tests and Joyce Foreman

Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer breaks a little news — or at least breaks a rumor that is news-y — about DA Susan Hawk at the beginning of the SAGA Pod this week. We discuss whether the district attorney’s actions are raising any red flags. Then we talk a lot of education — why the state of Texas is making it harder to teach poor kids, and why Joyce Foreman is doing the same. We discuss why the DISD bond is needed. We wonder why the politics of urban education make for strange bedfellows — Clinton Democrats and business leaders on one side, far left-wingers and far right-winger on the other. And we ask why Houston is kicking our ass when it comes to urban planning. I also reveal how I, on a reporter’s salary, am able to buy a townhouse in central Dallas. (Hint: My looks have something to do with it.)

You can listen at FrontBurner or go there to get links to download to your phone. As always, please listen with your ears.

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Why Would a Trustee Lie to Us?

If you’ve read any articles about the proposed bond program on the ballot this November, you have undoubtedly read a quote or two from School Board Trustee Joyce Foreman. She has been very vocal in her opposition to the bond, and she always gets quoted. This is because the media want to “cover both sides” of the issue, and she is the most vocal opponent of the DISD bond.

Actually, that’s not accurate: Joyce Foreman is the ONLY vocal opponent to the DISD bond, at least among elected officials in Dallas.

Why? I think it’s because she’s lying about crucial facts about the bond. Read my full fact-check of her statements here.

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SAGA Pod Returns: Schutze talks about the end of Hinojosa’s Honeymoon


We’re back! Jim Schutze promises to make this at least a bi-weekly exercise. We’ll see. This week we talk about the D Magazine story on Susan Hawk’s return, why Democrats are wrong to call for her resignation (at least over this), the real story behind the end of Michael Hinojosa’s honeymoon, and whether Highland Park has a pocket of racists located within. Oh, and we ask Jim why he’s such a baseless speculator. There’s also a some light cursing. Fun for the whole family.

Go to Frontburner for the full post.

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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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