Student achievement soars
knowing roots and goals!
Student motivation and parental involvement are the goals. The process begins as parents enroll their child in Pre-K and each write the first of 14 annual letters to their child about their dreams for their child. It is explained this will be an annual letter that will be increasingly easy to write until the child graduates high school. Each letter should include another story from the parent's history so their child becomes familiar with their family history and their roots.
This letter writing will hopefully help lead toward a life-long process of their child becoming grounded in their own family and heritage! At the same time students are reading their parents dreams for them each year. They are slowly building toward their own more solid written life goals that are annually updated after third grade.
Before 3rd grade parents write out their dreams for their child each year as they enroll them for school. That practice changes in third grade as parents begin to respond to a letter their child writes to them asking for a letter about their parental dreams for them and one story from their family history.
The student is encouraged more as the years pass to write letters to additional people important in their lives such as relatives, grandparents, close family friends.
As the project evolves parents and the other letter writers will begin quietly planning forward each year thinking of the story they will share in next year’s letter. It will hopefully increase the frequency of families talking about their family history at home.
All letters are considered confidential unless the parent or child wants them to be read by others, or by their teacher.
The letters go into each student’s self-addressed envelope and into the School Time Capsule Vault, separated by class. They remain in the vault until just before the same writing project the next year when they are returned to students. The same process is then repeated. It is recommended that the last elementary school letters follow the student to middle school, helping to make an often difficult middle school transition into one that is more positive. It helps as letters from elementary school are read in middle school to continue the life planning process.
The exceptions to this process are in the 8th and 12th grades when all letters are written planning 10-years into the future. Those two years all letters are then gathered into an adequately large self-addressed envelope that will remain in the School Time Capsule until the 10-year reunion for the student's class.
It is recommended that 10-year reunions be planned just before Career Day so that returning students can be asked to volunteer to speak on Career Day. They will speak about life after 8th or 12th grades, their careers, and give their recommendations for success to current students.
In that same decade the discipline problems at Quintanilla dropped to 14% of what they used to be as counted by referrals made. Student pregnancies dropped significantly. In 2005, the first year 8th graders wrote letters, a girl ran out of the classroom leaving the future planning writing exercise. She knew she was pregnant. How that would change her future was too much for her to face. Active written plans for the future are the most effective birth-control available.
It took a decade, but by 2015 the School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) for Quintanilla was the highest of all DISD middle schools. However, Time Capsule Project changes made, moving letter writing to all grades and adding the first letter written to parents & relatives, now accelerate such school improvement to about 3 years in a normally resourced school.
In 2009 parents were first invited to write letters to their child before the student wrote their letter to themselves planning their future. This followed a brilliant idea by Ms. Thompson, a teacher. The principals and/or teachers would send a message home asking for such a letter, but the percentage of students receiving letters back from parents never went above 30%.
That changed dramatically in May of 2016. Quintanilla Language Arts Coach, Nicki Lincoln, had two brilliant ideas to improve the Project. First she wanted students to write their own parents requesting the letter back themselves. It would be a Language Arts writing project. Second, she wanted all students in all grades to write such letters, writing one each year and reading it a year later until the 8th grade when the 10-year letters are written.
This expanded the positive effects of the Time Capsule future focus to the entire school. All students would receive back the letters they wrote the next year so they could read it and improve the letter they wrote that year. The 8th graders received back their 7th grade letter, studied it, and then at the end of the year they wrote their final 10-year letter. (As this point, if the school wants and students want, larger envelopes can be used so that all the letters from all three years could be placed into the Time Capsule for safe keeping for the next decade.)
It was an immediate success! Quintanilla teachers were reported in tears due to the results when as many as 85% of student received those valuable letters back from their parents and caretakers.
This started the recommendation of annual letter writing by all students from 3rd grade through 12th to help then connect with their roots and their goals more each year.
In the fall of 2018 a DISD Kindergarten volunteer, Elaine Wildman, suggested that when enrolling their child for school that parents of PK through 2nd grade parents include a statement of their goals for their child. This would begin the forward thinking process for parents, the putting of goals into words.
Timing: all letters except the 10-year letters in 8th and 12th grade should be written during the first half of the school year. (8th and 12th graders could also write letters at the start of the school year and then get those letters back at the end of the year before writing their final 10-year letter. It is an alternative for school leadership to decide.) The end of October is recommended due to that being when full enrollment is anticipated. The 10-year letters should be written at the end of the school year so as to sum things up.
While it is recommended this start in the 3rd grade, teachers have spoken about earlier starts. That certainly can be done.
Recommended directions to give to students for writing that first letter to parents:
Here are three sets for directions that can be printed out to share with students with the directions for their letter writing to parents and other relatives they would like to have letters back from.
Directions for 3rd through 5th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:
Time Capsule Project Letter Student Directions
Elementary School 3-8-18
Directions for 6th through 8th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:
Directions for the first Time Capsule Project letter
Middle School 3-8-18
Directions for 9th through 12th grade students for the first Time Capsule Project writing lesson:
Directions for the first Time Capsule Project letter
High School Students 3-8-18