CNN Walks Halls of School of Science and Engineering, the Best Public High in the U.S.

In May, you no doubt recall, longtime Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews put the Dallas Independent School District's School of Science and Engineering at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center at the very top of his list of the best public high schools in the country. In the video you see above, posted today, CNN asks: Why?
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Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

I hope CNN is reading this. What would have been great/ Have them film Roosevelt H S right down the road from Townview. Walk its halls, look at its kids, facilities, labs, gym, etc... Look at its scores, etc... THEN do a comparison and ask, "WHY?"

Thelawwon
Thelawwon

I know that DISD's SEM and the TAG magnets are awesome, but why is the SEM better than all the other magnets around the country?  Is it merely because the applicant pool is so big and only a small number is granted admission  (i.e., most other magnets have larger student bodies)?  Or are the teachers' qualifications (e.g., master's degrees) better than most other magnets?  Or are some innovative teaching methods being used?  Do other large jurisdictions (e.g., NY, LA, and Chicago) not have magnets?

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

The ranking is based on the number of advanced placement tests the kids take.  Not even how many they pass...just how many they take.  Although I would agree it's one of the best schools in the U.S.

rSF
rSF

Nice piece from CNN - no preconceived notions about all of DISD being bad. The East Dallas/Lakewood community is banding together to offer International Baccalaureate at Woodrow Wilson High, J.L. Long Middle School and at some of the elementaries.  Maybe we should call CNN because The Dallas Morning News doesn't seem to want to cover the story.

Pls No excuses
Pls No excuses

Pleaasssee... there is no story about Woodrow and JL Long. DMN and CNN will cover success stories of schools. Woodrow is low performing. JL Long is low performing. Until the community sees the results of IB, these schools are nothing but any other schools in the district - low performing. No excuses for now. Get the scores up and you will see cameras rolling. 

plfarmer
plfarmer

Give me a bunch of motivated, disciplined, willing learners, and I could teach.You want the best district, hire the best teachers. And that means doubling salaries.Only that will work.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

No money - you could fire every administrator and not even get close. The amount allocated per student at DISD is $5,250 and it's been exactly the same since 2006. School district costs rise, according to Moak-Casey, at an annual rate of 3% and the national inflation rate has averaged 2.25% since 2006. The State reduced education funding this year and next by $4 billion and DISD will have to cut another $25M out of the budget next year.  Less than no money.

plfarmer
plfarmer

I get the budget, but the question was, what do we do to improve performance in the classroom, to which I will repeat, hire the best. Put teaching on par with other professions. Everyone knows this to be true.We could pay for the raises a hundred different ways, if we wanted to.This begs the question, why we will not ?

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

So what do you see as the problem with "performance in the classroom?"  No, really.  I'm not being flippant.  I'd like to know what you think is happening.  What exactly do you mean?  I've been looking at these issues almost every day for the last two years.  I am not an expert but I am pretty well informed.

We have some darn good teachers and they already make pretty good money for 175 days of instruction and are among the highest paid in the state: 

4058 teachers at DISD earn between $40K and $50K4337 teachers at DISD earn between $50K and $60K1708 teachers at DISD earn between $60K and $70K521 teachers at DISD earn between $70K and $80K14 teachers at DISD earn between $80K and $90K 

http://www.texastribune.org/li...

In the 175 days of instruction this school year on some campuses there are 61 days of testing!  I saw two different testing schedules on Wednesday evening for a middle school and a high school that were unbelievable!  On many campuses when one grade is tested they lock down the other classes causing a huge disruption in instruction.  Do you think this might be an issue?:  

Blaming the teachers is easy but they are not the root of all evil.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

I agree that teacher and principal excellence is paramount.

But you said the only way to get good teachers is to double their pay.

We pay pretty well now...4058 DISD teachers earn between $40K and $50K

4337 DISD teachers earn between $50K and $60K

1708 DISD teachers earn between $60K and $70K

521 DISD teachers earn between $70K and $80K

14 DISD teachers earn between $80K and $90K

http://www.texastribune.org/li...

Why do you think classroom performance is the problem again?

As a matter of fact, just what problems do you think you see?  Really.  I'm not being flippant.  I've looked at this from just about every angle almost every day for the last two years.  I'm not an expert but I'm pretty well informed. There are a zillion moving parts.

Here's one...Out of 175 instructional days this school year as many as 61 are testing days...unbelievable but I just saw two different testing schedules from a middle school and high school on Wednesday evening.

At many schools if one grade is being tested they "lock down" the other grades so the disruption to teaching is magnified.

rumpunch
rumpunch

The main difference is mindset.  Hinojosa always thought it was money.  Others thought it was rich white kids (look at the video).  I realize that son enjoys the freedom to be away from some of the negative aspects of DISD as a student at SEM.  As unfair as this may seem to some, he got in under his own merit and I will continue to fight to make sure this program continues.  I have several other children in various other DISD programs.  You give a child a safe place to learn and just look what happens.  I wish that there was a way to replicate this at other schools but I think that this might be impossible since it is change and the pure fact that it will be abused.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

DISD magnets are indeed spectacular and show us what public education can be.

All DISD kids deserve what makes the magnets so special:-freedom from disruptive kids with chronic behavior problems that will not improve without extensive counseling

-freedom from punitive school environments designed to deal with the behavior problems

-freedom from kids who refuse to work, which forces all kids in the school to endure constant repetition and test prep

-freedom from teachers who are required to "differentiate" lessons and so must divide class time between intensive remediation for way-below-level kids, on-level kids, and above-level kids

-freedom to pursue an interest (which should, but doesn't, include auto mechanics, cosmetology, etc).

Sadly, the success of magnets demonstrates yet again how the trustees and 3700 are completely blind to the idea of copying what works.  

heyheymama
heyheymama

Thank you for your freedom from differentiation comment.  This problem is seldom acknowledged, yet families do leave DISD because of it. 

In a nutshell, differentiation means taking the same subject matter and preparing materials and lectures for three learning levels: remedial, mid-level, and advanced learners. Everyone still moves forward at the same pace, just different depths.

My experience is with DISD elementary schools, which, by law, have mixed-ability classrooms.  In our school, the principal did not require teachers to differentiate for advanced learners.  3700 Ross said differentiation was the policy, but principals had the flexibility to disregard it. 

DISD has a slow-paced standardized curriculum, meaning that within any grade level, all classrooms on all campuses are moving in lockstep through the material, regardless of speed of mastery. This slow pace is geared towards getting the most students to pass the TAKS test.  TAG programming is at most 2 hours per week - a joke, a band-aid, certainly not enough to satisfy advanced learners. 

Other options???  Forget about transferring your child to a DISD Montessori school in mid-stream, as all the slots are filled.  TAG magnets aren't available until 4th grade and have few slots.  For example, a friend said Travis had 66 (corrected per nitpicker's comment below) openings for 4th grade. Think back to the video above: SEM has 400 students.  That's only 100 slots for incoming students.

cannedanswer
cannedanswer

The magic moment for releasing the scam that goes by the name of differentiation:

http://teachbad.com/?p=973

You'll never hear the term again without flashbacks to this video.

Differentiation assumes teachers live 48 hours for each 24 for the rest of the population. That is what it would take to write 3 different lessons, so of course the kids who already "get it" are bored out of their minds.

nitpicker
nitpicker

Travis Vanguard has 66 openings each year for incoming 4th graders.

heyheymama
heyheymama

Thank you for the correction.  I've made the update in my original and cited you.  Am glad to hear it's more and hold out hope that the program will be expanded, per Michael's comment.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

I believe that expanding the TAG/Magnet program is possible.  Several Trustees are already taking a hard look at heading this direction. It seems, on the surface, obvious.  The demand is there; the kids are there (overflowing waiting lists); it doesn't require any additional monies (just about every school gets Title I funds now, we are a poor, poor district); the parents are all for it; it doesn't require dumbing-down curriculum; it solves the perception that the program is racist and elitist (a persistent and irritating fiction).  The past DISD bunker mentality corporate culture is slowly going away and innovators may now slowly raise their heads from their tables and help move the district forward.

Travis begins in the 4th grade. The campus houses two schools. A vanguard (4-5) and an Academy (6-8) The shortage of seats is at the 6th grade. A stupid-stupid-stupid policy change prevented re-application between the Vanguard and Academy schools. If you get into the vanguard you are there through 8th grade. Water under the bridge. Travis is packed about as tight as it can get.

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