Sunday, December 2, 2012

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Dallas

This week U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in Dallas. A powerful and positive Q & A was published in this mornings Dallas  Morning News at .  It is the  most encouraging thinking on education I have read in a long time. Duncan says some things that may be hard for DISD and Texas to take.

He says:
"You have to listen. I think there’s an amazing vision that the mayor and superintendent are putting together. But if it’s the mayor’s vision or the superintendent’s vision or it’s the board’s vision, frankly, I don’t think you get there. But if it is the teachers’ vision, if it is the principals’ vision, the parents’ vision or the kids’ vision — it takes a lot of time."
A book could be written on this critical issue alone. DISD must not only listen but demonstrate consistently that they are hearing what is being said, even by students, and putting it into action. If the input is not used, then why not - it takes a lot of time.

Secretary Duncan, DISD Board Chair Dr. Blackburn, and Mayor Rawlings are standing in front of the Pinkston School Archive.  It may lead to the most consistent and powerful educational vision possible, one formed from the annual feedback of former students.

Arne Duncan also said in this interview:
"... how many ninth-graders does the state have, and how many 12th-graders does the state have? I don’t have my numbers in front of me, but I think the state has something like 400,000 ninth-graders and something like 300,000 12th-graders. That’s a 100,000 spread. So every single year, this state — and it’s not unique in this challenge — but every single year, this state is losing 100,000 kids from its schools to its streets."
Secretary Duncan was correct in his numbers. The exact numbers for 2011/12 were 393,553 9th graders and 298,379 12th graders. Only 75.8% of our Texas 9th grade enrollment is reflected in our statewide 12th grade enrollment.  Here are the same enrollment comparisons for the non-magnet high schools in Dallas ISD:
Dallas ISD Comprehensive (non-magnet) High School Enrollment as of 10-23-12
(Right-click on above image & select "open link" to see larger copy.)
Notice the wonderful fact that DISD numbers are not far from the Texas State numbers.  DISD has a 12th grade enrollment of 73% of the 9th grade enrollment compared to all of Texas having 75.8%!  DISD has made monumental progress!

Just 6 years ago this 73% number for DISD would have been only 49.3%!  DISD in 2005/06 had 14,680 9th graders, but only 7,238 12th graders! This enrollment pattern was decades old at the time! The 12th grade enrollment was only 49.3% of the 9th grade enrollment!   DISD then started monumental progress leading to the current 73% number!  For now DISD can celebrate being the most improved urban school system in the US, but the progress must continue!  Secretary Duncan was wise to point out this measurement during his visit to Dallas. It reflects very well on Dallas ISD.
However, all of Texas is not improving as fast as Dallas. In 2005/06 Texas had 392,051 9th graders but only 65% of that, or 256,799 in the 12th grade. Now the 12th grade in Texas is up to 75.8% of the 9th grade number.  This is about a 10 percentage point improvement for Texas compared with a 24 percentage point improvement for Dallas ISD.

This also points to the sad irony in Texas somehow claiming this past week in the news to have one of the 10 best graduation rates in the nation: . Texas claimed a graduation rate of 86% for the Class of 2011. The Texas Class of 2008 was claimed to have a graduation rate of 67% according to this study:

How can the Texas Class of 2011 have a graduation rate of 86% when an average of 24% of 9th grade enrollment, that became the Class of 2011, disappeared before graduation?  Only 87.7% of that 9th grade class even made it to enroll in the 10th grade!  Fourty states are not loosing more students than Texas before 12th grade! Texas is trying to pull off another "Texas Miracle" math exercise.  Such manipulation is sadly familiar. See

Arne Duncan made many very good and painful points this last week. He gives evidence of being data driven. When will Texas do the same?  There are indications that Dallas ISD may be leading the way, but only if we can continue the progress that was happening up to 2011/12.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pinkston High School, Dallas, a decade leading to improvement

The following chart covers the past 15 years of enrollment history at Pinkston High School in Dallas Texas. Pinkston used to be one of the worst schools in Dallas but is now significantly improving.   More work is needed, but we can document progress.  Enlarge the following chart and print a copy for study.

A decade of enrollment numbers for Pinkston High School, Dallas Texas
Right-click on above image and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Little Mexico, Klyde Warren Park & connecting students to history

Klyde Warren Park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway looks wonderful!

Klyde Warren Park once was part of "Little Mexico"
(Right click & hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
The map above shows the area of Klyde Warren Park as it existed 68 years ago.  It is certainly a very positive addition to our city!  It is another opportunity to remember the powerful history of Dallas as we move forward.

Dallas must take every chance to connect our students to their own history. Every park is such an opportunity.  Klyde Warren Park is built on land that at one time was known as "Little Mexico," generally the large area in blue on the map.  On the other side of Pearl, northeast from Klyde Warren Park, is land that was known as "North Dallas Freedman's Town", or the "State-Thomas Neighborhood."  It is generally the large area in red. This park is an opportunity for historical markers, and hopefully much more, to record the history upon which our growing and developing city is built.

Klyde Warren Park should become a place where we, and especially our children and students, remember and celebrate our own connections to Dallas History.  Such connections help student envision their own futures in our city. They enhance educational success. They will help us to build an ever more positive future.

The original of the above map is from the digital collection at the Dallas Public Library.  No changes were made to the original other than cropping and inserting changes needed to more clearly show the current location of Klyde Warren Park, and describe what is in this map.  It is the Dallas our ancestors knew, many of whom are are still living.  We need to ask them to record their memories of this history before they also are gone.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Celebrating West Dallas History 3-3-12 & now

3-3-12 parade opening Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
Right click to enlarge and/or print.
As Dallasites embrace and celebrate our history, as in this West Dallas parade with images of some of the West Dallas leaders who went before us, we will better work toward our own future, and thrive!  This is the most powerful lesson we can share with our students.

This month thousands of parents and children will be writing letters about the past and the future, working to master this same powerful lesson.

Parents will be writing letters to their middle school and high school age children about their dreams for them.  They are encouraged to include stories from their family history to possibly explain their dreams for their child.  Students will then bring these priceless letters to school to use in working on their own letters to themselves about their dreams and goals for the future.  Eighth graders and 12th graders will be writing about their plans for 10 years into the future. Then these letters will both be placed into one self addressed envelope for each student.  Then these envelopes are placed into time capsules at each school until the first 10-year class reunions, separate 10-year reunions for middle school and for high school.

At these reunions students know they will receive their letters back.  They know they will also be asked to then speak with current students about their recommendations for success.  They are warned to prepare for questions such as "What would you do differently if you were 13 again?"

Hopefully conversations surrounding this process will help it become easier to understand the value of history, goals, study, and work.   This will be a very busy month at three middle schools and two high schools in Dallas.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

K-8 Schools are better for students than separate middle schools.

Debates over grade configurations surrounding middle school have gone on for as long as middle schools have existed.  That issue is moving beyond the debate stage.

July 2011 Harvard University study documented the damage being done in middle schools. Parents need to read it. This detailed and extensive research concluded (page 23): "Taken as a whole, these results suggest that structural school transitions lower student achievement but that middle schools in particular have adverse consequences for American students."  If parents agree, they must demand change, especially here in Dallas due to the publicly acknowledged issues with our DISD middle schools.

The Harvard study showed that in virtually all subjects the scores on standardized test were lower in middle schools than in K-8 elementary schools. Parents and teachers familiar with both settings will rarely be surprised by these findings.

This past November a powerful editorial was published by CNN giving a simple message: "By all accounts, middle schools are a weak link in the chain of public education."

The K-8 response to this "weak link" is gaining momentum. The number of  K-8 schools has almost doubled in the US since 2000 while over 1,000 middle schools have disappeared or been re-purposed as K-8. Google news for K-8 and middle school.  You will find reports of school districts closing middle schools and changing them to K-8 elementary schools with very few exceptions. The reason is as simple as the statement a decade ago by William Moloney, then the Education Commissioner of Colorado: "K-8s are the place where everybody knows your name."

What better place to endure the uncertainties of the changes of puberty?

This past April the National Middle School Association changed it's name to the Association for Middle Level Education. They saw middle schools being closed in the US, and realized such separate institutions do not exist in the highest achieving school systems in the world, such as Finland.  In such countries the elimination of the middle school transfer trauma appears to help in far exceeding US academic achievement while at the same time investing significantly fewer classroom hours. The name change reflected a more authentic focus on educating students ages 10 to 15. Will Texas public schools see what is happening?

In Cincinnati Ohio the change to K-8 schools happened in the 1990's. It was a positive change. Now Cincinnati wants more improvement and is exploring a K-6, 7-12 configuration.  They are finding better initial results. The jury is still out and questions remain. See this 12-26-11 news report on explorations all school districts should be making.

We must continue to study the growing research. Google "middle school," "K-8," "7-12," "research," and related search combinations, to find such research.  Below is a chronological listing of relevant articles, a list that will continue to grow:

  1. K-8 Schools: An Idea for the New Millenium?, Published 1999, updated 2010 Education World
  2. Revival of the K-8 School: Criticism of middle schools fuels renewed interest in a school configuration of yesteryear , March 2002, Priscilly Pardini, in The School Administrator
  3. Mayhem in the Middle: Why We Should Shift to K–8, April 2006, Cheri Pierson Yecke, ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)
  4. K-8 or middle school? Which is better?,  2008, The Arizona Republic
  5. K-8 beats middle school in study,  2010, JoanneJacobs blog
  6. Study Finds Students in K-8 Schools Do Better than Students in Stand-Alone Middle Schools,  2010, EducationNext
  7. How and why middle schools harm student achievement, Fall 2010, Rockoff & Lockwood, Columbia University
  8. The Middle School Mess, Winter 2011, EducationNex
  9. Why Pre-K - 8?, list of reasons collected by an Atlanta Georgia school.
  10. No middle ground: Middle school may harm achievement, 11/29/11 Silicon Valley Education Foundation: Thoughts on Public Education
  11. Impact of Alternative Grade Configurations on Student Outcomes through Middle and High School, July 15, 2011, Schwerdt & West, Harvard University 
  12. How Grade Level Configurations Affect Student Achievement,  July 2011, Elizabeth Dhuey, University of Toronto
  13. Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement: Start Times, Grade Configurations, and Teacher Assignments, September 2011, Jacob & Rockoff, The Hamilton Project, Brookings Inst.
  14. Finnishing School: The world's top school system gives pointers , 1/20/12, Kathryn Baron, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Thoughts on Public Education (Note: Finland has no middle schools separate from their 1-9 basic schools.)
  15. Finnish far ahead of U.S. schools. The education system in Finland — one of the world’s best — focuses on the students first.  2-19-12, The Register Guard, Eugene, Oregon.
  16. In Finland, Students Win When Teachers Compete. 2-18-12, Heartlander, The Heartland Institute, Chicago, Illinois. 
  17.  The Middle School Plunge. Spring 2012, EducationNex. An update on the research with some meaningful comments.
  18. The Middle-School Cliff. 3-12-12, Society for Quality Education, a discussion of the issue in Ontario.
  19. On 2-16-13 there was a powerful conference on the crisis of black male students dropping out on the pathway to prison.  It was called "The Urgency of Now" and was at Friendship West Baptist Church in South Dallas. The following chart was part of the presentation by Kevin Monday related to his decade+ of work.  It clearly shows the damage of middle school with one plus.  It shows what happened in Dallas ISD from 2005/06 to 2006/07 when DISD moved about 60% of 6th graders from elementary schools into middle schools. Notice how disciplinary actions increase over 130%!: 
Click on the above chart to see the rest of the damage done in middle school! Remember, most of our dropouts never made it into the 10th grade until about 2011 when graduation rate progress pushed that 50% marker into 10th grade for DISD.

The rest of the story on the chart above is the terrible 440% increase in discipline problems from 5th graders to 6th graders the first semester of 2012/13 school year in Dallas.  See the following chart.  It is accurate but still being ignored by DISD!
It is from

Below is a erratic listing of articles, gathered as time is available, about school districts now in the process of moving to a K-8 configured system:
  1. Lakewood, New Jersey, 2-17-12 K-8 is proposed but apparently with inadequate information based on comments on page.
  2. Corning, California, 2-17-12
  3. Toledo, Ohio, 3-2-12, a successful transition to K-8 for Toledo Public Schools.
  4. Lakewood, New Jersey, 3-2-12, example of K-8 transition that was rejected in a community with a 50-year middle school tradition.  The battle does not need to end.  A community awareness of the research is needed.
  5. Corning, California, 3-2-12,  Article includes quotes from administrator familiar with k-8, and the research, as this district makes the transition. 
  6. Elizabeth, New Jersey, 3-28-12,  "all six middle schools replaced by reconfigured K-8 elementary schools"
  7. Mariposa Middle School to close, District cites potential budget deficit; K-6 schools will be K-8, 4-3-12, Merced, CA, middle school closing so as to create k-8 school
  8. York schools' middle school idea raises question: What grades should buildings serve?, 4-7-12,  York, PA, considering move to k-8 schools and closing all middle schools. 
  9. York District's planned move to a K-8 model instead of having separate elementary and middle schools will reduce the need for staff.  In Dallas this is NOT the reason to move to a K-8 model.  It is almost certain that as DISD moves to a more K-8 centered model that enrollment will go up as parents return their children to DISD and achievement goes up.  We will need more teachers!
  10. Comparing Achievement between K-8 & Middle Schools By Janie Andrich, of 21st Century Education, writes a good summary of the research and benefits of K-8 schools, July 10, 2012.
  11. New K-8 Schools opening in Colorado
  12. Due to the research on increased achievement, more K-8 schools are opening in Florida:
  13. Research in NYC showing that the worst and least productive configuration for schools is K-5/6-8, the exact configuration now dominating in Dallas ISD: 
  14. Do Middle Schools Make Sense?    Yes!
If anyone knows of any research that indicates K-8 schools have a negative affect on discipline or student achievement compared to K-5/6-8 or K-6/7-8 configuration, please email the links to me at and describe what you found.  Thank you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dallas ISD: one of the most improved graduation rates in all of Dallas County.

Dallas ISD must continue the progress!
Graduation Rate Measurement History for Dallas County Texas Schools
(Right click on above chart to enlarge and/or print.)
This chart clearly documents the dramatic progress in Dallas ISD graduation rates, especially when compared to the other 12 large school districts in Dallas County.

What this chart does not show is that DISD had an 8 percentage point improvement during the two years just before the first year shown, and another percentage point increase last year, also not shown on this chart.  These numbers are shown in the chart below. 

From 2006 through 2011 the CPI graduation rate for DISD has gone up a total of 23.8 percentage points!  DISD is one of the most improved, if not the most improved, urban districts in all of the United States.  It certainly is the most improved in Dallas County!

Dallas ISD is going in the right direction!  We must not slow down!
Dallas ISD Enrollment & Graduation History 1996-2011
(Right-click on above image to enlarge.)
The red squares in the chart above are years in which that graduation rate measurement went down. It appears such red squares may be in the DISD future again if we cannot change the way DISD teachers are treated.   If you see ANY errors in the above please email .

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dallas ISD History & Progress 1971-2011

The following chart tracks DISD enrollment and graduation patterns from 1971 to 2011. It documents one view of the civil rights agony in Dallas that is still too close to objectively access. However, graduation rate progress these past 5 years is clearly documented.  DISD graduation rates are going up. They are now the highest they have been in over 25 years!
Dallas ISD Enrollment & Graduation History from 1971 to 2011
(Right click on above chart to download and/or enlarge.)
This progress must continue, and accelerate!

Thoughts about the above chart are welcome, especially from those who lived through this dramatic history.