Dirty Schools and Bad Teachers: Mike Miles Delivers His Assessment of DISD

Mike Miles DIsd.jpg
DISD
You already knew that Mike Miles, DISD's new superintendent, isn't one to mince words. That was, after all, part of the thinking in hiring him: that a straight-talking, pull-no-punches leader could transform DISD from an improving but still struggling urban district into one of the country's finest.

So far, Miles' rhetoric has been focused on the need for more accountability in DISD: among teachers, among principals, and among district administrators. All fairly general stuff. But Miles' critique of the district is about to get very, very specific.

On Thursday, Miles will brief DISD board members on all of the major, systemic flaws in the way the district is run. There are 32 of them, and yes, that is a lot.

A lot of the areas for improvement identified in the list deal with arcane aspects of district administration (Shortcoming No. 16: the process for filing contracts and bid documents needs to be streamlined) or ripped more or less straight from Miles' Destination 2020 plan (No. 1: "Employees are overall satisfied with modest gains or minor changes to the status quo. We need to build an organization that strives for excellence and that understands the need for significant change.")

Taken together, though, the individual bullet points portray a district paralyzed by a sclerotic bureaucracy and amount to a scathing critique of the way the district has been run. There are no mechanisms in place to seek out and recruit highly-qualified candidates to DISD; more than 100 coaches aren't certified to teach; teacher and principal evaluations are "routine and meaningless"; cleaning and maintenance standards at schools are far too low; the bus system is poorly run, causing kids to miss school; programs that have clearly failed are funded and continued through sheer inertia.

The list doesn't propose solutions, but it does identify the member of Miles' cabinet responsible for fixing the problems and how long he or she has to do so. And it's far more revealing than anything Miles has said yet of how he intends to deliver on his promises.

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38 comments
Michael.MacNaughton
Michael.MacNaughton

Over on the DISD teachers blog at www.disdblog.com a poster called "Pressing Issues" has asked some of the best questions ever.

 

This is the information that the trustees (and the DMN?) should be seeking from Miles (edited for brevity):  

 

 "Probably most in the teaching community have pressing concerns regarding the future of the profession and the future of Dallas ISD. It would be nice if someone would pull back the curtain and see if all the chaos is actually having any effect.  

 

There are around 300 teaching vacancies in this district. If Miles carries out his threat for 30% turnover, there could be 3,000 vacancies. If HR is the reason teachers are not hired in a timely fashion, how did all the layers of administrators get processed so quickly this summer? 

 If Miles fills in the vacancies with TFA recruits, what will that cost taxpayers? Why don’t teachers want to teach in this district? Are other districts having the same problems? What is the pipeline from area universities? Is DISD’s AC program in full swing? Will there be enough teachers in the future?  

 

Exactly how many students are enrolled in remedial EOC courses? Thousands? Do these courses even exist? What happened on the retests this summer? Rather than reporting on open toes or close toes, how about some reporting on an issue that could keep half the high school students from graduating?   If the state legislators pass a voucher system next year, what does that mean to area private schools? Are there any seats in area private schools? Sure hope so, because DISD principals and charters report on their leaver codes that hundreds of students are leaving high school and going to private schools. Might want to check that out.  

 

 If ASATR disappears, how will the district downsize again?

 

If many teachers retire in January, what is the plan on hiring teachers for their positions? Will the district just wait until these teachers leave in January and stick permanent subs in their rooms? Why does the district stay in reactive mode?  

 

Where is the district org chart? How can continued central administrators be hired without one? How many central administrators has Miles hired and how far over budget is he? Please include all the rehired academic coaches and coordinators.  

 

 Where is the salary schedule for Dallas new hires? How far out of line is it with other school districts? Is this the reason Dallas can’t fill teaching positions? Why isn’t it posted on the webs site?   Does any other major urban school district have as its HR a TFA person with 2 years teaching experience and no formal HR experience?  

 

How about the spot check observations? The info isn’t given directly to teachers but filtered through principals, maybe to the point of being gibberish. Is there any real benefit to all the layers of administrators hired this summer, some at double what they were making? Are these spot checks having any impact on increasing student learning? (No urban district using this method is high achieving.)  

 

 Is Miles really going to test K-2? What will be the cost and who is getting the contract? Do they have any ties with Miles or his former company? Why are the leading school districts going away from massive testing and DISD and Miles headed in the opposite direction? Is there any research to support the costs of increased testing in terms of student learning? Or is Miles willing to spend millions to have enough data points for his pay for performance system that hasn’t proven effective anywhere?

 

Here’s a real zinger - is title I money, ESL, CTE, and special ed being used to supplant, not supplement, campus budgets? What would be the repercussions if Dallas lowered spending on campuses as these funds are added instead of supplementing spending? What percentage of these funds are being kept downtown for administrative costs and having no effect on students?  

 

Did any trustee ever receive a copy of the grant application they gave their approval to with SMU? Since SMU needed DISD to even apply for the grant, what are the details? Is Jennifer Sprague assisting SMU in these plans? What is her role?  

 

 What was the cost of substitutes for this year to date? How does that compare to last year? Which schools have the most vacancies in core academic areas? Why?"

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

 @Michael.MacNaughton MIles knew all this when he hired Glover.  Didn't the CEO of Container Store brief the mis-trustees about the disaster that is HR?

 

And then Miles, eager to employ yet ANOTHER TFA alum, puts Glover in charge.

 

And yes, the long-term subs often need subs.  

 

I bet Miles' son at Marsh doesn't have ANY long-term subs.

Michael.MacNaughton
Michael.MacNaughton

HR is the major issue - we have too many positions filled by substitutes and now I hear there are subs for the subs...not good, especially for a school like Irma Rangel.  Those Rangel parents have been sold a pig in a poke. 

 

Instruction is the next major item to address.

 

The technology needs are without funding with no funding coming anytime soon...so, it's nice to have a plan I suppose. 

 

 #31 is my pet peeve.  "There is not currently...an effective process for evaluating programs. Programs are not ended even if the evaluation shows that they are not helping to meet District goals or improve achievement."  That is an area of investigation that I tried numerous times to interest the administration in pursuing in the past two years of the Budget Commission meetings...glad it's on Miles' list...he identified that as a major problem when the DFPE met with him several months ago.

 

Another good issue raised are Contractor and Vendor agreements and information that is scattered about (and, by the way, not very transparent).  We identified ALL of these items and started work on the major budget impacts under Alan King 18 months ago. I am glad Miles is in agreement. 

 

Now he has to understand the district is broke.  For every new penny spent there has to be a corresponding penny cut...show me the cuts.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I think a better and far less costly approach is to follow in the footsteps of the Chief Brown crime mitigation plan: Just stop reporting bad news.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

If its so bad here how did the last superintendent manage to cash in and up grade based on his performance as he made  his way out of here ?

 

Sounds like the Fix is in with the Superintendent search firms .

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

Such great comments by mmarple.

 

And before I head off to school, I'd like to ask Miles WHY it is taking so long to process new hires?

 

He placed Charles Glover--a TFA 2-year teaching alum--as HR chief (excuse me, as chief of Human Capital Management) before school ever started.

 

If Rangel girls have not been taught/ learning chemistry for the past 6 weeks, whose fault is that? Hasn't Miles' hand-picked Charles Glover been head of Human Capital?

 

Miles does not get points for "identifying" this problem.

His people have been in place for a couple of months.

 

I saw Charles Glover at Miles' convocation, the one teachers were forced to attend the Friday before school.  Maybe Glover should have been in his Human Capital Management office instead.

 

Failure to get teachers on the campuses is on Miles and Glover and "suddenly" deciding to overhaul HR is a merely a way to deflect criticism away from themselves.

 

mmarple59
mmarple59

There are many issues which have been correctly targeted by Mike Miles. It is interesting that it has taken him only a few months to pinpoint these things which have obviously been building up over a number of years.  Yet the public has been told time and time again over the past several years how much progress DISD has been making and how we are so close to meeting our goal of becoming the "premiere urban school district in the country."  And yet now we are told by the new superintendent about the gaping holes which exist, and provided with this list to prove his point.  So why has the public been mislead for so many years about the real state of DISD? And what about the trustees who have presided over all of this- many of them have been there long enough to have seen these problems themselves and called for the necessary changes. Yet they did not.  They need to be added into the list as Problem #33:  "Trustees who do not fulfill their role as stewards of the taxpayer dollars and who do not provide proper governance of the district."

 

Another question:  Where will the funding come from to implement these necessary changes?  The HR overhaul alone will cost millions- currently, nothing is computerized and everything needs to be. We haven't gotten E-rate funds in years and it doesn't look promising to get them in the near future.  Where will we find the money to achieve items #15, 16, 18, 19, & 20, all of which deal with technology, without E-rate funds?  How many millions does it take to update financial software in a company with 20,000 employees to compensate for the loss of support of Oracle, and to integrate and align technology platforms?  Much more than we have, I think.

 

We just spent between $24-26 million on the Chancery system which was supposed to integrate student data and perform all kinds of miracles- turns out the whole thing is pretty useless and Gradespeed works better at about $1 per student. What a costly lesson, at the expense of the children. And over the next two years, DISD may lose up to $91 million more dollars due to elimination of ASTAR (Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction).

 

And despite all this, and in spite of the constant criticism heaped upon them, the teachers keep teaching every day and the students keep trying to learn every day.  Despite overloaded classrooms, missing supplies, classes with permanent substitutes, the children show up every day and the teachers who are there do their best to provide them with a good education.

 

Thank a teacher today, for heaven's sake. They are the backbone of DISD and are the only reason the system has not yet imploded.

lemonaioli
lemonaioli

Way to build morale, buddy! I would send my kids to a very small handful of DISD schools. I'm not blaming the teachers. It's been a screwed up district for as long as I can remember and I'm willing to take a chance with just a few places. And reading that assessment, what great teachers not currently employed by DISD would want to go work there?

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

The sophomore girls at Irma Rangel haven't had a chemistry teacher all year.

 

Their parents complete an extensive application process for Rangel,  the school is not an "easy" commute for many parents, and it's supposed to be a place for their studious girls to shine.

 

Instead they get a sub.

 

Miles has an aide (the already-referenced "Tweeter") whom he pays $100,000 a year.  

Why does our superintendent, with layer upon layer of executives/chiefs/assistants need a freaking aide?

 

Meanwhile, the girls of our city who put their trust in Rangel don't even have the basics: a chemistry teacher.

 

http://www.disdblog.com

 

 

biteme
biteme

We are waiting for the metrics that will be used to judge Miles' first year. Certainly he doesn't think doing opinion surveys will suffice.

RonBigges
RonBigges

Has any teacher group ever liked their superintendent in Dallas? Just curious as an outsider because then we could look at them as a model for teachers' discontent.

Some employees may not agree with his style, but I like the ppt file you posted her. 1- it has a time deadline attached to it. 2 - if you look at each bullet point a lot of them make sense.

 

ex: 

*There is not currently an effective process for adopting programs and accepting grants.

 

*A system for assessing needs and gathering input from teachers and principals in order to open up more options for classroom instructional materials (both print and electronic) needs to be developed and put in place.

 

*The standards for the cleaning and maintenance of our buildings and grounds are too low. Again there is low accountability for doing a poor job.

 

*It sometimes takes a couple of months to hire a candidate; in any case, we are losing numerous strong candidates because it takes too long to hire a person

 

I don't see the resistance to getting everything (like the above items) cleaned up. Why resist everything?

beDarned
beDarned

We teachers could make up a list about Might Mite about 4 times longer than this one. Systematic Self Aggrandizement Spent all summer welcoming superflous baggage from Colorado who now does admin work for $185K. Exactly where is the new communications paradigm? Spent all summer recruiting and hiring Lumpy and Tweeter for $100K more than they are worth--each. Totally forgot about the hundreds of openings for teachers, because after all, who needs teachers when hiring layers and layers and layers of high paid administrators gets all the headlines. Ate Through That Surplus Faster than Bush The bogus surplus from firing all those central administrators was used up by hiring twice as many as were fired. If the board were not made up of complete idiots, they might acknowledge that in public. Rude, Insulting, and Condescending The supt must not understand he has 300 teaching vacancies he can't fill and he wants the number to rise to 3,000. His Majesty is condescending to all staff. Thinks He's Part of Dallas Elite Mighty Mite will find out on his way out of town that he is not part of the incrowd. He doesn't have the dollars. He is hired help who will be helped to pack when it's clear he is a total loser. And he is a total loser. Thinks He's Knows Something We Don't Sorry--nothing in his list is news. It was apparent when he arrived and spent all his time with his nose up the butt of TFA when he could have been working through these apparent issues. Finally...for $300,000.. we had hoped for more than this.

engmofo
engmofo

WellI guess he'd be glad to know that ,according to the people I've talked to ,the level of morale in the schools & at DISD headquarters is at an all time low....

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @Michael.MacNaughton vacancies are just part of the "road bumps" along the way to Hope and Change all the liberal teachers and pootmongers wanted....free food, free clothes, lenient teachers, and poor teachers.

 

BURN EM UP, MILES!!

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @DISDTeacher  @Michael.MacNaughton The Container Store is one of the best run and most successful consumer businesses.

DISD is full of teachers that would not be allowed to sweep their floors, and with attitudes that would prevent them from submitting a job application.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @Michael.MacNaughton well...cancel all initiatives that do not have a clear metric for success and a stated mission goal with a timeline for achievement.  If it cannot be justified, it is no good.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

The superintendent search firm business is full of old former superintendents that all watch each others' backs and promote only from their own bunch.

 

any school board that does not KNOW this are a bunch of stupid numbnuts.

biteme
biteme

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz He sends out Truman Capote vibes. Think about it.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @mmarple59 WHY DOES OBAMA KEEP TELLING PEOPLE THE NATION'S ECONOMY IS IMPROVING AND HE HAS CREATED MILLIONS OF JOBS?   FOLKS LIE IN POWER POSITIONS, AND THE SHEEP WANT TO BELIEVE THE LIES SO THEY JUST LET THEM GO ON.....AND THE NEW GUY GETS TO FIX STUFF, OR KICK THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD TO PREVENT CITIZEN AND BOARD MEMBER UPROAR.

 

WASHINGTON DC HAS THE EXACT SAME PROBLEM....EVERYONE WANTS CHANGE FOR THE OTHER GUY, NOT THEIR OWN LITTLE KINGDOM.

RonBigges
RonBigges

 @mmarple59 great points!  it looks like we've been snowed for the last 2-3 superintendents.

biteme
biteme

@bethbergman Strange that Miles thinks he is going to build a pipeline to great teachers when all he does is denounce them in public. What teacher would want to work for this bloated, top-heavy organization with Truman Capote at the top?

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @DISDTeacher TOUGH LUCK...MAYBE SOME CHEMISTRY RETIRED PERSON WOULD LIKE TO BE A SUB....CLEARLY THEY WOULD BE MORE EDUCATED IN THE SUBJECT THAN JUST SOME TEACHER.  OH, WAIT...THEY DON'T HAVE THE TEXAS TEACHING CERTIFICATE.....THE THING THAT KEEPS QUALIFIED PEOPLE OUT OF TEACHING.

 

MAYBE NO ONE WANTS TO TEACH SOPH GIRLS....THEY ARE, NEXT TO MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRLS, THE WORST BUNCH OF KIDS TO ATTEMPT TO TEACH IN THE WORLD.

biteme
biteme

@DISDTeacher Is it just a chemistry teacher they are missing? It would be horrible to be sitting in study hall 3 periods a day because Glover can't/won't hire teachers.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @biteme BUT WHO IS GOING TO JUDGE THE LOUDMOUTH COMPLAINERS ON THE INTERNET THAT THINK EVERYONE IS WRONG EXCEPT THEM?

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

 @RonBigges There is resistance to Miles because he refuses to address the actual problems that beset our students and our schools.  No one is more disappointed by the lack of true change than teachers.

 

He keeps focusing on cheap, easy, cosmetic things instead of what really needs to be fixed.  Even then all he does is talk about what could be changed--no heads ever roll.  Ever.

 

He blew into town and has required some picky nonsense from teachers.  Big whoop.    I can't believe people fall for it.  

 

The status quo remains intact at 3700 Ross Avenue. 

Don't  believe the blabber; that's all it has amounted to so far.  That and the emptying of your wallet.

 

 

biteme
biteme

@RonBigges As a matter of fact, there were several superintendents who were highly rated by teachers--Linus Wright and Marvin Edwards come to mind. Miles is trying to create a context where he accomplishes great things by pointing out what is apparent. That doesn't mean it will get fixed.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @beDarned JUST A THOUGHT...WHY DON'T YOU GO CONCENTRATE ON YOUR TEACHING AND CLASS AND STFU ON PONTIFICATING ABOUT AN URBAN SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDANT MANAGING HUNDREDS OF BUILDINGS, THOUSANDS OF KIDS AND TEACHERS, AND MILLIONS OF PARENT COMPLAINERS......YOU WOULD NOT HAVE A CLUE WHAT TO DO IN THAT JOB.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @beDarned You're a teacher?  Please, Please, Please tell me you don't teach English or Creative Writing or anything having to do with written communication.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @biteme  @bethbergman THE GOOD TEACHERS WILL WANT TO WORK FOR A MAN THAT WANTS TO KICK THE BAD ONES OUT OF THE SYSTEM....THEY ARE THE SILENT, COMPETENT ONES...THE MOUTHY ONES ARE USUALLY RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF CREATING THE PROBLEMS.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @DISDTeacher  @RonBigges THE CURRENT TEACHERS HAVE BEEN JUST FINE WITH WORKING IN DIRTY SCHOOLS, AND HAVE SEEN TO IT THAT THEY NO LONGER HAVE TO DO GROUND OR VEHICLE DUTY IN THE MORNING OR AFTERNOON.

 

URBAN TEACHERS COMPLAIN ABOUT EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE ELSE...YET IT IS THEIR TEACHING THAT FAILS THE KIDS TO PASS THE TESTS AND THEIR BORING CLASSROOMS THAT PROMOTES DROPOUTS.

 

THE OLD SAYING GOES, "THEM WHAT CAN, DOES, THEM WHAT CAN'T, TEACH.

 

 

todd
todd

 @RTGolden1  @beDarned Can someone who is an English teacher please remind me of the rule of grammar that calls for three repeated capitalized words at the start of a sentence? 

biteme
biteme

@RTGolden1 @beDarned -- The spacing frequently falls out before the response is posted. And you are probably taking a day off from thinking big thoughts.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

 @DISDTeacher  @todd  @RTGolden1  @beDarned SO FAR ALL I SEE IS A BUNCH OF COMPLAINING WHINEY TEACHERS.....YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE....CLEARLY THAT IS BEYOND YOUR PERSONAL CAPACITY....OUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE KIDS OF DISD IS TO GET RID OF BAD APPLES WITH SORRY ATTITUDES AND WORTHLESS TEACHING SKILLS, SO WE GET VALUE FOR OUR TAX DOLLARS.

 

I SUSPECT NONE OF THE KIDS AT RANGEL WILL LOSE A JOB DUE TO SOME LACK OF CHEMISTRY CLASS AT A SOPHOMORE HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL...IF IT IS SUCH A PROBLEM...THE ENTIRE COURSE IS AVAILABLE ON DVD OR INTERNET.....SO WHINE ALL YOU WANT...BUT IF SOMEONE WANTS SOMETHING BAD ENOUGH, THEY WILL FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET IT....INCLUDING A BUNCH OF 15 YEAR OLD KIDS THAT KNOW HOW TO USE AN IPOD, A PC, AND CABLE TV....CHEMISTRY MIGHT BEYOND THEIR LEVEL OF INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY?

biteme
biteme

@RTGolden1 @DISDTeacher @todd @beDarned I didn't assume this was a teacher posting. It's strange that anytime anything goes amiss, must have been low standards for teachers. Maybe it's RTGolden1 who is homeless and sitting in the downtown library flinging crap at people. Or maybe Todd is my dog Missy. Or maybe DISD Teacher is a senior at Molina. And maybe Mike Miles is Truman Capote back from the grave or giving a darned good impression.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @DISDTeacher  @todd  @beDarned Actually, I think he was pointing out my own nitpicking with his nitpicking.  However, I don't believe it absurd to hold a teacher to a higher standard in these things.  If we don't, what the hell good does it do to set a standard for kids to aspire to?

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

 @todd  @RTGolden1  @beDarned Seriously?  This your contribution to the kids of DISD?  

The girls at Irma Rangel, learning next to no chemistry at all, deserve better than nitpicking the grammar of a blog post.

 

No wonder people like Miles aren't booed in public like they should be.

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