Step One Is Admitting You Have a Problem And Other Lessons Learned During Flores's Forum

EdwinFloresTHankYouNote.JPG
Well, January is School Board Recognition Month.
In the end, of course, the commenter was right: They took it easy on Edwin Flores last night at E.L. DeGolyer Elementary -- mighty easy. The audience was small, equal parts critics and cheerleaders; the faces, familiar -- Michael MacNaughton, Bill Betzen, one-time school board candidate Kyle Renard, newly announced District 1 candidate Mike Greenberg, Aliance-AFT reps, neighborhood parents. Maybe 20, 25 people in all -- not including the three Dallas ISD police officers posted at the auditorium doors.

And if you're following along, you know why they were there: Teachers blame Flores for having fourth-grade elementary school teacher Joseph Drake put on leave, after Drake sent the trustee a fist-shaking missive over the board's vote Thursday to formally extend workdays by 45 minutes. Flores insists he was just following policy to pass the letter to 3700 Ross, since the email contained personal information obtained through an easy search of public records -- the trustee's home address, for starters. He said after the meeting that the letter left him feeling ... uneasy.

I asked one of the few teachers in attendance why he didn't address the incident with Flores in front of an audience; he said he didn't feel it was the right forum. Besides, there is a press conference this morning at AFT-Alliance HQ, during which teachers' reps will "call on the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees to stop bullying and intimidating school employees and parents and keeping them from having a voice in Dallas schools," per the release that landed in the in-box last night.

"We can't build a stronger school system without providing equal voice to teachers, parents, students and school board members," says AFT-Alliance President Rena Honea. "We should be able to disagree without fear of retaliation. Teachers and parents will no longer allow some school board leaders to use fear and intimidation to drive their agenda at the expense of our students."

There is at least one trustee who agrees -- Carla Ranger, who else. "Should a teacher be suspended for criticizing a Trustee?" she asks on her blog. "Of course not. A teacher and father of six should not become a victim of Dallas ISD political injustice and reprisal."

Flores would only briefly touch upon his -- and the board's -- vote to extend workdays. Said he: "I saw it more as aligning our policy with our practice."

And yet he managed to fill two hours nevertheless with remarkably precise stats: "30 percent of our students move schools every year" ... "The superintendent spends 80 percent of his time dealing with trustees" ... "We turn over 30 percent of our custodial staff every year, and it costs us 35 percent more per square foot to clean our schools than other districts in the area.". Said one teacher at the end: "He's an extraordinary politician."

The Dallas ISD trustee spoke broadly of superintendent searches and trying to bust out of E-Rate jail and how the ghost of Ruben Bohuchot haunts this district still. He spoke about whether he thought it likely the board will vote to outsource custodial services to save a few million, another Alliance-AFT concern in recent months. And for the record, no, he believes "that's going to be close to impossible."

He offered kind words for interim superintendent Alan King, who has spent months cleaning house of higher-ups at 3700 Ross like it was his money: "Alan's going a great job," Flores said, "because it's not his job." Said the trustee, King has no interest in keeping the top job, and even less interest in making friends. "And maybe that makes it perfect." And Flores, who is leading the teacher-evaluation revamp, acknowledged: "We turn over not enough principals."

Said Flores, what the district is missing is "a great communicator," someone who could have explained to teachers and parents and students why the district needed to close 11 campuses and why the board was formally extending workdays even though many teachers already work beyond the policy. "Unless you can communicate with teachers, parents what you're doing and why you're doing it ..." He paused. "It's tough." Then, a grin. "And the board is part of the problem."
My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

As of 2010 only 4.6% of Finnish residents had been born in another country compared with 12.7% here. Also there is the GINI coefficient which measures the extent to which the distribution of income among individuals within a country deviates from perfectly equal distribution. Finland ranks 4 with an income inequality coefficientof 0.269 while the U.S.is dead last among the 17 peer countries at 0.381. In your terms, Finland gets a grade of "A" while the U.S. flunks with a "D".  Clearly there are things we can learn about education from Finland but trying to compare systems with little common ground is a waste of time.

Bbetzen
Bbetzen

Then the 18 states in the US that have a lower foreign born percentage than Finland should do as well as Finland?

Regarding income distribution, I presume you are using the Gini index. You have the correct number for Finland but the most recent US index according to the CIA web site (https://www.cia.gov/library/pu... is (2007) 0.45 for the US. It was 0.408 in 1997.  The rich are certainly getting richer here and the poor getting poorer.

When a nation is doing as well as Finland we would ignore it at our own risk, and to the risk of our children.

Redjacketlady
Redjacketlady

Idk, it's kind of nice to read a civil and polite disagreement on a comments page for once.  I'm tempted to bookmark it, it's so rare.

Stop it...both of you!
Stop it...both of you!

You guys need your own little tit-for-tat forum for all of your enlightened discussions.And while I'm sure you can both throw me some stats regarding blog readership here vs setting up a new forum, please don't.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Flores thanks you, Bill, for taking the focus off of him on this thread.

Bbetzen
Bbetzen

These issues are not easy to discuss are they?  Would you like statistics on the dangers of apathy related to education? or the increased taxes we pay due to one dropout? or the effect on crime rate?  prison expenses? etc...?   Not very pretty is it?  Log off and be happy!   Thousands in Texas have responded to these issues as you have.  That is why we are where we are in education in Texas. 

Cassandra
Cassandra

So Cassandra speaks;

The people pray to the wise, to the Gates, the Broad, the Waltons.Bring us the market principles, a business model for our schools.Give us choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data-based decision-making.Show us the way through charters schools, high-stakes standardized testing, teacher firing, closing schools, and longitudinal data collection for students and teachers.

What you will get, with your superiority of the private business model, is closed schools, worse conditions in the public schools left open, extreme degree of teaching to the test, demoralized teachers, rampant corruption by private management companies, thousands of failed charter schools, and more low-income children without a good education.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Yep - education is not a business, it's a complex interaction between a teacher and a student in the framework of a complex heirarchy of state and local policies and funding that directly impact the interaction.

Betzen raised the Finland model as something to emulate.  The problem is that Finland is an apple and we are nopalitos. Finland has a homogeneous population. Finland has a flat municipal income tax of 20%, a progressive state income tax, state value added tax of 23%, capital gains tax of 28%, corporate tax of 26% and the end result is the average middle income worker pays 46% of his wages to the state.  Schools and teachers are well funded and competition does not exist because private schools and charter schools do not exist there.  Finns say, "Real winners do not compete." a wholly un-American idea.  Finnish teachers are required to have a Master degree and the main driver of education policy is cooperation among schools and educators.  There is no standardized testing in Finland. There is no accountability because in the Finnish language there is no WORD for accountability. They believe that "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

Nice Atlantic article here:http://www.theatlantic.com/nat...

RTGolden
RTGolden

Another thing that nobody ever addresses but would make a huge difference in both educational performance and budget is language.  This country adamantly refuses to adhere to an official language.   If you look at it objectively, the only reason to have education departments at the state and federal level is to ensure that you wind up with a basically literate population with a shared language.  Think of language as a the dressing on the salad bowl, it's the one unifying agent that brings together all the disparate parts.  Financially, if you make the children learn and comprehend a single national language from an early age, it lowers the burden on the higher grades to accomodate various languages.

Flores says the District needs a great communicator, fine.  What language is that person going to use to communicate.  English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog?  I really don't care which one it is, but pick one.

Bbetzen
Bbetzen

Interesting .... does anyone know how many of the countries among the top 10 in educational performance in the world have such a declared language?  What does that actually mean for that country?  How many of those countries have a greater percentage of monolingual citizens than the U.S.?  Does it give the US any advantage in world commerce to have such a high percentage of monolingual citizens?

Here is an interesting map of nations with a declared single language: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... 

Bbetzen
Bbetzen

Michael, I just noticed that you and I read the exact same article and came to very different conclusions as to the value of the Finland experience.  I liked to that articfle from my last blog of 2011: http://schoolarchiveproject.bl...

Copied below are three paragraphs from that excellent article in the Atlantic that we both read:

“Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation's education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country's school system than the nation's size or ethnic makeup.

Indeed, Finland's population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state -- after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization in Washington, there were 18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.

What's more, despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. When Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country's education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be competitive, Finland couldn't rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy." Mike, to ignore what is happening in Finland is NOT in the best interest of our students!  We can learn from Finland.  Notice that demographically very similar countries, Finland and Norway, have very different educational systems.  Norway is like the US. and preforms like the US, and Finland is the best in the world, well above both Norway and the US.

Bbetzen
Bbetzen

I should have emphasized this sentence in the first paragraph of the quote from the Atlantic article: " Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country's school system than the nation's size or ethnic makeup."  

Again, the link to this excellent article is http://www.theatlantic.com/nat... 

bbetzen
bbetzen

Michael, before I respond I need to be certain that I understand you correctly.  You seem to think that if Finland was "a homogeneous population" that this characteristic in itself is a significant, if not the main reason for their having the highest performing students in the world. (Finland has a higher percentage of immigrants than 18 states in the U.S..)  Why would being "homogeneous," whatever you mean by that, make a real difference in the ultimate goals we are all working for?  I am not talking about short term goals, but long term goals, 25 years from now. 

Paul Lehmann
Paul Lehmann

Wow. I thought we had it bad at Dallas County. Perhaps if other teachers who shared Drake's frustration copied his words into their own emails and sent it to Dr Flores, then 1- DISD would get overwhelmed with reality and realize their mistake, or 2- rather than a sick out for one day, a thousand or so teachers would get indefinite suspensions wihout pay!

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...