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3/19: will tonight's board meeting involve a shift in secondary scheduling?

by Ann Sutherland on 03/19/19

Tonight's meeting includes a presentation titled "Instructional Planning and Development Update".   I'm hoping there will be a change in the 8-period day.


Also included is a budget change, including a $750,000 shift OUT of instruction and into Campus needs/repair.  I'm hoping this will relate to our heating systems in some schools.  South Hills HS and Southwest HS get rather cold during some winter days.  I asked for this.  

Next week, March 26, is a workshop on the budget roll-out.  My objectives:
raise for teachers, fair pay for cafeteria workers, no more cuts in secondary staffing, a working budget that reflects actual projected spending.  

Corrected data on Per-student cost of small schools: almost 40% more.

by Ann Sutherland on 03/19/19

President Jackson mentioned at the last board meeting that some board members have concerns about the differential cost of our choice schools.  Here is the General Fund data projected last spring for some smaller choice schools for the 2018-19 year.  Note that this excludes expenditures that are budgeted outside of the school sites.*                                    
           
School                        Enrollment    Total cost   Cost per student (site only)
Como Montessori             318           $2.738,000            $ 8,610
Daggett Montessori          491             3,300,000               6,720
YWLA                              394             3,462,000               8,787
TABS                                398             2,578,000               6,477
YMLA                              386             4,118,000              10,668
World Languages             390             4,047,000              10,377
STEM/VPA                      200             4,123,000              20,615
    TOTAL                      2,577        $24,366,000            $  9,455  
                     
The data for the entire district budged for school sites (including admin and supporting services) is:
                                     85,838      $584,500,000            $ 6,808
 
We are budgeted to spend almost 40% more on the special schools. 

Between the 16-17 actual and the 18-19 budget years, school site spending went up $16 million while central office spending increased $31 million*

Thanks to the two readers who alerted me to the issue. I also added the cost of Daggett Middle School.
________________
*Sources:  
(a) Enrollment from district school-by-school planning documents.  These are presented on the "information" page of this website at positions 7, 8 and 9..  
(b) The total district enrollment number (85,838) is from the June 5, 2018 budget presentation..

Tell her your views for our district

by Ann Sutherland on 03/11/19

Anne Darr, running for District 6, wants to know your views on major current issues.  She will publish the results.  Here is the link:


https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSccDNengLe2OJa-CHFlmGp76ncro3NAdR_CjBgWo-n-CColqw/viewform 

Thanks for thinking about these issues.  

Legislature hears about the STAAR misalignment. Some are upset.

by Ann Sutherland on 03/08/19

Readers will remember my earlier post on the national story that our STAAR tessts are not normed on national standards.  To the extent they actually measure the level, the norms are TWO YEARS above a given student's grade level.  The AFT reports on a hearing last week:


"On Tuesday a thorough hearing was held on the misalignment of STAAR tests to curriculum standards and STAAR's impact on students and districts. The extensive testimony ranged from substantive discussions on the difference in performance of students on national tests, to the emotional stories of parents and teachers who have been frustrated by a less-than-fair test of grade-level skills. While there was no resolution in the committee, several members seemed shocked by the degree to which STAAR is intended not to measure current grade level aptitude, but rather to be predictive of future post-secondary and career success."

And my hunch is that assertion of its predictive ability is a little exaggerated; norm referenced tests do not do this particularly well.

No new legal actions from FWISD on Palazzolo case

by Ann Sutherland on 03/04/19

The earlier comment re spending on the Palazzolo case is mis-directed.  The ORR requestor asked for all expenditures from the Brandt firm, but did not single out requests on this old lawsuit.  Any payments to Brandt's firm were for other purposes.


Counsel did return the call on the same day but from a 512 area code number which I did not answer.

Paz, superintendent move to shut down information flow

by Ann Sutherland on 02/27/19

Trustee Ashley Paz's rude interruption of my comment clarifying that schools of choice spend twice as much money per child as children at traditional sites is a drop in the budget compared to Dr. Scribner's refusal to answer legitimate and very significant questions about our budgeting.  


Put simply, he refused to provide data I requested which would explain why the district underspent its last full-year general fund budget by $50 million.  Neither he, nor the CFO, nor the budget officer could explain what happened.  Since he refuses to give real information, following is my estimate of the shortchanging education to our children.

Since 75% of this money is spent at the school site, we can estimate that $37.5 million at school sites, where the kids are, went unspent.  This money is sitting in the bank, not in our classrooms.  

And while children need services, as pointed out in the careful staff report and amplified by President Jackson last night, our savings account is growing, by $70 million just in the last year (enriched by additional dollar sources to the general fund).  

"Do not ask for whom the bell tolls," wrote John Donne in the 15th century, "It tolls for thee."  We are one, and this tragedy is all of ours.


STAAR passing levels set for student failure--by two years!

by Ann Sutherland on 02/23/19

Turns out the norms for failure in the STAAR test are set two years higher.  This is unbelievable.  Example:  3rd grade kids fail unless they score at the 5th grade level.  This was exposed in several research studies, but TEA refuses to budge.


This is the biggest testing scandal in US history--imagine misinforming an entire state of parents.  

Contribution points for Anne Darr

by Ann Sutherland on 02/20/19

Mrs. Darr will be having a fundraiser but the date is not yet set.  Meanwhile, readers can make a contribution at the following portals:

Articulate summary of 8-period day perils

by Ann Sutherland on 02/20/19

(but first, let me remind readers that Dr. Scribner refuses to allow a vote even though this is clearly a policy matter, which, by law, is the board's responsibility.)

Feb 20 at 1:06 PM
The parent writes, 

"Like so many things in FWISD, the trial balloon of adding an 8th period to the school day of our middle school and high school students was rolled out without regard for the consequences of this policy.

In a misguided attempt to help students who are "behind" in graduation credits...you have punished:

Our teachers - who do not have enough time to teach their coursework - 45 minute classes are not adequate, and they are not getting extra pay for the additional lesson planning and grading you have added to their plate

Our administrators - who were promised that this would magically lead to smaller class sizes, and who are struggling with shortened passing periods and lunches, and facilities usage

Our students - who now have yet another course to manage in their already over-packed school days, leading to endless amounts of homework, excessive stress levels and abbreviated lunches - they will be choosing to take easier classes just to manage the loads

I have two students at Arlington Heights, both are in honors, pre-AP and AP classes. WE WILL NOT BE TAKING ANY AP LEVEL CLASSES NEXT YEAR!  NOT ONE! And our family is not alone!

You heard me right...this year has been such a nightmare that we will be speaking to our academic counselors and adjusting the classes they choose to to register for downward, just to balance out the ridiculous work load. My students (and many of their high achieving classmates) will be signing up for four of the easiest electives possible and NO AP level classes just to balance out their lives! 

Not the outcome you had hoped for! There are real consequences to your decisions. 

If you keep this policy in place, over the next 5 years FWISD will lose all the momentum it had achieved in the past decade, as far as students registering for AP and Dual Credit courses. It will all disappear!

Your haphazard decision to add an 8th period (to help students who are "behind") has punished my students and has increased their workload exponentially and added to their stress level in ways you cannot even imagine. 

Neither student has time to eat lunch and socialize...instead they are forced to get to classes before school, during lunch and after school just to stay caught up and get all their work turned in on time and all their quiz and test grades brought up. They are frustrated, exhausted and running on empty...I just hope they can get through this school year. 

Please correct this policy, before FWISD reaps the devastating results. We have already decided to "dumb down" the course selections of our high achieving students, to balance out your mistake."

ANNE DARR for school board!

by Ann Sutherland on 02/18/19

I'd hoped for a strong candidate to take over my seat on the FWISD board when the time came for me to retire and I am thrilled to have Anne Darr step up to the plate.  She's a former elementary teacher and now special ed consultant for Region 11.  She's a real Texan whose kids who have gone through our schools--one still at Paschal and another at TCU.  She was even a Teacher of the Year! 


If you want another board member with real commitment to teacher needs and solid gold credentials, ANNE DARR is your choice.  Check out her website at DarrforSchools.com.  You will be amazed at her accomplishments.

Dr. Scribner refuses to put the 8-period day to a vote

by Ann Sutherland on 02/17/19

The draft agenda for Feb. 25th does not include a vote on the 8-period day.  Also the district has refused to provide a copy of the organization chart or the grade-equivalents as I requested.  

Voting on 8-period day

by Ann Sutherland on 02/13/19

I have asked Dr. Scribner and President Jackson to place a vote on discontinuing the 8-period day on the agenda.  


The UEA survey indicates that 77% of secondary teachers disagree with the statement, "The 8-period day has resulted in positive academic results."  In addition, 70% want it discontinued.

The 8-period day mandate was implemented without board approval last year. As a result, (a) after five minutes are subtracted from the class time, learning time has decreased from 50 to 40 minutes a day, a 20% decrease in classroom learning.  

More troubling, last night's Annual Performance Report indicates there was an increase in violent and criminal incidents of 17% after four years of improving performance. 

And again, 2/3 of our teachers say restorative discipline is not working (how could it when there is nowhere enough time for individual student/staff consultation?).  And 20% of our teachers say they do not feel safe in their classrooms.

To continue these practices is foolhardy.

How to fix our elementary reading scores

by Ann Sutherland on 01/27/19

The National Assessment of Educational Progress  says Fort Worth 8th grade readers are significantly behind other large urban districts. 


Our scores were up during Superintendent Thomas Tocco's tenure, when we scored next to the top of major Texas urban districts.  I am told that his procedures emphasized an approach which empowered teachers to choose curriculum and classroom routines.

We know our kids hate the computer work.  Why are we continuing it?


 

Videos set the mood at Woodway Elementary

by Ann Sutherland on 01/24/19

I don't think I've ever give a shout-out to a single school but I will now.


 Principal Bryan Johnson's tenure at Woodway Elementary several years ago began with his asking for large-screen TVs to place within sight of the front doors.  Each month, he changes the videos which are of Woodway students, and now Woodway classroom teachers have access to software enabling them to take photos of the children and activities in their classrooms, at which point they are available to the students and their parents via a link online.

I hadn't thought of the power of video to inspire the staff and students at Woodway but they (plus a lot of other hard work!) have changed the atmosphere at the school for the better.

And their scores have risen for 3 of the last 5 years, according to Dr. Roger's presentation last night.

Woodway had been a somewhat challenging school.  It is wonderful to see the change wrought via all the staff's video and  interest in our students.  Thank you, Woodway Wildcats.


Nearly one-quarter of our teachers feel unsafe at work; 2/3 say restorative discipline isn't working

by Ann Sutherland on 01/10/19

Thanks to UEA for keeping at the climate survey.  Here are some of the results:


Q20. Discipline is enforced consistently and effectively at my campus. 
   Strongly agree 10.38% 135 
   Agree 25.44% 331 
   Disagree 31.36% 408 
   Strongly disagree 32.82% 427 
   Answered 1301 
Q21. Unruly students are not permitted to disrupt the learning environment.  
   Strongly agree 8.53% 111 
   Agree 24.96% 325 
   Disagree 30.49% 397 
   Strongly disagree 36.02% 469 
   Answered 1302 

Q22. Additional behavioral supports are available from our school system for students who need them. 
   Strongly agree 10.90% 140 
   Agree 40.26% 517 
   Disagree 29.75% 382 Strongly disagree 19.08% 245 
   Answered 1284 

Q23. Restorative Discipline practices have improved discipline at my school. Strongly agree 7.75% 87 
Agree 25.73% 289 
Disagree 32.95% 370 
Strongly disagree 33.57% 377 
Answered 1123 

Q24. I feel safe at work. 
Strongly agree 22.21% 293 
Agree 54.06% 713 
Disagree 16.45% 217
Strongly Disagree 7.28% 

   
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