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Agenda and board book published on "information" page

by Ann Sutherland on 01/20/17

Focus has an entry on p.79

The item I requested for the resolution on A-F grading is near the end of the Action agenda.  So far there are about 1/3 of all Texas districts in support.  The item is on p. 142.

$1.4 million proposed for Racial Equity.

Also the first reading of the shift in the South Hills HS / Southwest HS attendance zones is an Action item.

District refuses to deal with major student violence

by Ann Sutherland on 01/19/17

There was a major fight yesterday at Southwest High School between four students, a parent of one of the students, and an outside adult. The adults have been arrested. Severe disciplinary action is anticipated for the four girls, especially as it appears this was planned ahead of time.

Principal John Engel has done wonders with the school this year (his 2nd at SHS). But there is little support downtown to remove students from our high schools even when there are many instances of student referrals. 
--To get a picture of the scope of the problem in our schools, I did a study two years ago of the office referrals at Paschal over a six-month referral. The worst TEN students at Paschal had 14% of the referrals. One student was caught with marijuana and, on ahother occasion, set a girl's hair on fire. None of these students was sent away from the school.
--last year I begged for money in the budget to provide additional help at the school sites and got zero in our $700 million budget.

This situation will not change until the public insists or until stronger board members are elected.

REVISED: A-F requirements challenged by many school districts

by Ann Sutherland on 01/13/17

Nearly 300 Texas school districts have called for elimination of the new A-F requirements.  The draft resolution is very strong.  Here is a partial summary, thanks to the Fort Bend ISD board and superintendent:
Our Board of Trustees passed a resolution calling  for state legislators to repeal the new system because the  majority (55%) of the A through F grades will be based on
 a high-stakes, standardized test that does not accurately measure student learning. There are also concerns about how the grades in each domain will be calculated. In short, I
> would say that, on the surface, letter grades seem relatively simple. But the calculations behind them are not
– they are complex and difficult to understand.
www.tasanet.org presents the proposed resolution and a list of all districts that have adopted it.  I think it will be on the board agenda for Tuesday.

What you should expect: typical growth in a Title I elementary school

by Ann Sutherland on 01/12/17

One of the reasons that administrators can "snow" the public with grandiose promises of student growth is that, in general, the public doesn't understand the tremendous range of student performance in the US.  In one of my inner-city Oakland (CA) schools years ago, the eighth grade students were three YEARS behind, ON AVERAGE.ItThis is "average" per a recognized, nationally normed achievement test.


"It is possible for all but 5 to ten percent of children in a classroom to reach grade level but that is with extensive interventions not possible in a regular classroom.

"Usually when this is done . . . there are several hours a week of pull-out tutoring.  This is handled by interventionist teachers generally performed by a master's level teacher."

Board workshop scheduled for TuesdayJan. 17th @ 4:30 PM

by Ann Sutherland on 01/11/17

Agenda:


1.  Call to order in board conference room  (sorry, no video).
2.  Discussion and Review of two-day Lone Star Governmence Board Training
3.  Completion of Board Self-Evaluation and Baseline
4.  Draft preliminary student outcome goals
5.  Adjourn

This workshop was supposed to be on the budget but since we have been ordered by TEA to set achievable goals first, several of us have asked that it be a goal-setting workshop with the budget workshop to follow the goals set.


TEA tells us how to fix student performance

by Ann Sutherland on 01/08/17

You will recall that our board and Superintendent were required to attend a two-day workshop because four of our schools (Maude Logan, I M Terrell, Forest Oak Middle School and John T. White) failed to meet IR standards for multiple years and THEN didn't produce adequate plans for improvement.


So, in order to avoid having the state take over the district (which I am still not sure is a bad idea), turn one or more into charters, or replace principals, we went.  by 

We were led by a dynamic man with a truly disadvantaged past who had prepared a set of requirements and then required us to set up a great list of goals, measuring them, and and possibly revising them quarterly.  

 But first he told us that we had to give the superintendent more time by ceasing to ask him for things and taking him away from his real job.  If we did, and we followed the plan, the superintendent had the power to get 100% of the students to succeed.

This plan has never been tested so, of course, there is no evidence that it will work.  And, not to be an elitist, though he has many fine qualities and has never taught nor been an administrator.  But we have to do it in order to avoid being taken over.

Of course we already have our goal, which is to increase third graders' performance from 30 percent at grade level (27% for ELLs) to 100% by 2025.  I gracefully pointed out that this goal was set by the mayor and superintendent, neither of whom is likely to be in office by then, and indicated that this would require an increase in the passing rate of 8% per year (from 30 to 38, then to 46, etc.).  

I can't wait to see what the benchmarks are.  Maybe the board will decide to have 1% growth each year until we are all dead or out of office so that we can meet the required targets.
We also 

About those "strange" semester grades

by Ann Sutherland on 01/04/17

If two of you (hopefully from different schools) will send me a copy of one of your grade sheets without name or school, that shows an irregularity in calculating semester grades, I will write and send a complaint to TEA.


You can email them to me @ ann.sutherland@sbcglobal.net  or send them to 4028 Aragon Drive, Fort Worth 76133.

Reader reports that Focus is changing grades . . . up.

by Ann Sutherland on 12/28/16

Please let me know where this is happening; I will track it down.

Home life in the primary grades

by Ann Sutherland on 12/21/16

Here is a post from Classical Education Today: 

Is Tech Taking Away from Family Time?

by editor@classicaleducationtoday.com

We took a Districtwide test this week that had a writing prompt which asked the children to write about an activity they enjoyed with their family.  One student shocked me with his response:

"My family doesn't do anything together.  My mom plays Candy Crush on her phone, my dad plays with his x-box, my brother plays with his toys, and I play with my tablet.  So there's nothing we actually do together."

From the mouths of babes.  I was ... well, a little disturbed.  This is a nice kid, I should tell you.  His mother is active, emails me,  checks his folder, he comes in with hair combed neatly and spotless clothes, and he's in no way a discipline problem.  I was thinking of showing the paper to his mother ... and then decided against it.  What would she think?  I know this kid is perhaps a little dramatic ... and sometimes he does't completely listen to directions (gifted, right?) but somehow it seemed that he had spoken to ills of an entire society in his short paragraph

I was just overtired at work this week anyway, felt I could barely handle my class.  At recess, I told a colleague this.  "You should be grateful you're not my friend over in (neighboring suburban district)" she replied.   "She had such a bad kindergarten class, they split it in half and got a new teacher for the other half of them, and she says even the half is still too much, and she still has three left that throw chairs."

"Chair throwers" are a thing in primary these days.  They're everywhere, and most teachers are sure this is an increasing problem.  But no one is sure why.  Now, I propose the answer:  Mom is on Candy Crush, Dad is on x-box, and junior is on his own.  The result is that junior is not learning from mom and dad appropriate behavior.  When Junior comes to school, he's not a *bad* kid, necessarily, but he lacks self control and adequate respect.

It's not just them, either, it's us, my own family!  My husband watches Netflix, I work on online grad school, my daughter's on the phone ... we've talked about a "shut down" of all electrics for family time, but haven't actually done it.  Now it's winter break, and I'm going to try it.  Six to eight every night.  I'll report back and tell you how it goes.

editor@classicaleducationtoday.com | December 21, 2016 at 12:51 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p6qx03-6h

Reader asks for comment on STEM/VPA completion delay

by Ann Sutherland on 12/18/16

I received the following complaint about the delay in completing the STEM/VPA project.  Yes, it was postponed; at the time no one mentioned (and I didn't think of it) that the applications for programs of choice closed two days before.


Yes there is no excuse; it could have been communicated to us a lot earlier.  (Read the Dallas News piece; there is nothing new about this.  It's just another deception by the board and administration.  I'm partly to blame.)

Ann, it is not fair for you to take a break before addressing the decision      
reached unilaterally by Scribner, announced quietly on the FWISD website (see   
below) to postpone the opening of the STEM / Visual and Performing Arts High    
School for a full year.  This was announced AFTER the Gold Seal Program of      
Choice process and December 9 deadline.  Next year's high schoolers were        
promised this option.  They would have applied to other programs if they had    
known.  Most families do not even realize this is happening.  What is the       
Board's stance on this?

FORT WORTH ISD REVISES STEM/VPA ACADEMY TIMELINE

The Fort Worth ISD will open the new I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and Visual   
and Performing Arts in the fall of 2018 in order to give neighborhood families  
more time for the transition.

The new timeline will allow students at I.M. Terrell Elementary to remain at    
their present location throughout the 2016-2017 school year. An earlier plan    
called for the younger children to relocate to the new Van Zandt Guinn          
Elementary School next month to make way for the remodeling of the historic     
Terrell campus. 

Superintendent Kent P. Scribner reached the decision after parents, many of     
whom are residents of the nearby Butler Housing community, asked for more time.


“Implementing a new timeline helps ease the burden for those families who will  
not only experience the change to a new school, but also the upheaval of a      
community in transition,” said Dr. Scribner. “It also gives our new leadership  
team a full year to recruit first-rate administrators and faculty to staff this 
premier school. That extra time will help ensure the Terrell Academy is the     
premier educational facility of its kind in North Texas when it opens in        
August, 2018.  

Voters approved the VPA/STEM concept during the 2013 Capital Improvement        
Program campaign. The District broke ground for a new performance hall at the   
Academy site in December 2015. Construction on that building is expected to be  
completed in January 2018.

Dallas Morning News nails the corruption in Texas school districts

by Ann Sutherland on 12/18/16

Don't miss this one.  Thanks to the CIA blog for sharing it.


http://www.dallasnews.com/news/watchdog/2016/12/09/dishonor-roll-former-fbi-agent-turned-texas-public-school-investigator-sees-corruption-close

The Citizens in Action website is  CIAFWISD.blogspot.com.

Thanks also to Dave Lieber for keeping the faith.  Remember the good old days when he and Betty Brink kept us informed  before Betty died (rest her soul!) and Dave went to the Dallas Morning News.

We will be taking a break this holiday season, but will see you again back in January.

Agenda and board book published on "information" page

by Ann Sutherland on 12/10/16

The district has apparently decided that no one needs to read the board book prior to the meeting.  I am not sure how this was decided, but I don't like it.


I have posted it on the information page.

The most interesting part of the agenda is the revision of policy DFBB(Local) which was withdrawn at the last meeting because it allowed termination of a term contract for teachers based on a single evaluation, with no possibility of rectifying the problem areas.  The impact of the proposed changes i not clear although item 11 (p 41) has been removed.

There is also a Level 3 grievance from a teacher at South Hills HS, so I will not be attending the grievance hearing.

Revised:Board to consider raise for superintendent at Tuesday Workshop

by Ann Sutherland on 12/01/16

Superintendent's contract is at  

    http://www.fwisd.org/Page/4002

Board agenda is at:

   http://www.fwisd.org/site/Default.aspx?PageID=5414&PageType=17&DomainID=148&ModuleInstanceID=6508&EventDateID=28227

How can teachers secure special education assessmsent?

by Ann Sutherland on 11/29/16

Brian Rosenthal of the Houston Chronicle is working on an analysis of the reasons Texas is underidentifying children for special education.  While the national average of identified children is 12%, Texas is identifying at 8.5% and Fort Worth is a full percentage point below this.  


If we are "average", there are 4,000 children who haven't been identified.

I have heard that FWISD identifies proportionately few children before third grade.  Have you experienced this?*

If you have an anecdote to share, please let me know or write Mr. Rosenthal at 
Brian.Rosenthal@chron.com.

Maybe we can get the 3rd grade reading scores to rise beyond the current 30%



Substitute availability??? Leading a horse to water . . .

by Ann Sutherland on 11/22/16

You can lead a school district to find money for substitutes, but you can't make them fill our classes.


Last year, at my insistence, the board put $800,000 into the budget to fund substitutes for all our 100,000 days of teacher absences with no substitutes to take over the classes.  I promised to monitor the improvement each month.

This year, there were few absences through September. 

October was much different:  teachers missed an average of two days in the classroom, but no substitute was hired for one in six of these absences.  It appears that there is no interest in taking care of this problem, even with standards going so far down that some people are being hired as substitutes who have not finished their B.A.s