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.

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