When They Write About the Schools, Morning News Reporters Have Apples Issue

Categories: Schutze

James Ragland is back writing a metro column for the city's only daily newspaper, and that's a good thing. But Ragland, who took a sabbatical from columnizing to do actual journalism, may need to give himself some catch-up time before launching too many more opinion epistles.

He wrote a piece yesterday in which he basically said Dallas school Superintendent Mike Miles had kind of indulged in an inappropriate relationship with the pooch over the last year but now maybe Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings can help get things back on track.

apples-logo-tm.jpg
Apples-to-Apples
Would somebody please put this poster up at The Dallas Morning News?

Please.

It's more like Miles accomplished every goal he set for himself since coming here from Colorado, and Rawlings has helped some, so let's hope for more of the same.

Ragland summarized Miles' tenure: "In short his first 14 months on the job were a mess. Trustees threatened to fire him, and Miles' family even loaded up the U-Haul and headed back to Colorado."

Yeah. I guess I could summarize the same stretch of history: Miles was able to completely rewire the selection process for school leadership, decoupling it from a decades-old system of political patronage, and is charging ahead toward a merit pay system for teachers in spite of blow-back so nasty that he had to send his family out of town.

Glass half empty, glass half full? I don't know. I think there's a bit of agenda at work here, some of it at Ragland's own shop, something he might want to weigh a bit more carefully before weighing in again. For example, we have the ever-morphing Morning News teacher turnover story, which changes on-line every day, making less and less sense as the paper tries to get it right.

As originally published, Matthew Haag's story purported to show that teachers have been bailing from the Dallas school system at a rate higher than in previous years and higher than rates in comparable-size and nearby school districts. In response to some sharp-eyed on-line commenters, however, Haag had to admit he was comparing apples to ... Greek love poetry or something.

The first problem with Haag's data was that he was comparing numbers from the wrong years. But then it turned out he was also using different methodologies to assess turnover in different districts, taking numbers for other districts whole-cloth from state reports but ginning up numbers for Dallas in his own quite different way.

At some point along the way, the invidious comparisons with other districts -- Houston, for example -- disappeared from the on-line copy, presumably because they no longer worked on an apple-to-apple basis. The latest data I can see from the Texas Education Agency shows Dallas with a teacher turnover rate of 17.8 percent, against a rate of 18.7 percent in Houston. Houston does a little better than us on student achievement (30 percent passing the STAAR tests for all subjects at final Level II, compared with 25 percent here), so maybe we could argue that Miles isn't firing enough teachers.

Or not. Who even knows what causes teacher turnover? The way Haag got himself into a tangle was by trying to make a certain narrative about turnover come true -- the one the anti-school reform claque has been banging on all year. That's the story I wrote about Monday: The anti-reform crowd have been pushing the idea that teachers are thronging the borders with their possessions in wheelbarrows to escape the tyranny of Miles.

Haag came up with a turnover rate, 20.5 percent, that barely made that story come true. Only it turns out that Haag never went back and applied the same methodology to other districts in order to get apples all the way around. So the 20.5 percent rate is left sort of hanging out there without any particular relevance to anything.

Back to Ragland. He knows this city. Certainly he knows that no one was ever going to come in here and accomplish anything meaningful without igniting a ferocious backlash from the old and entrenched church-based black leadership and from the teachers organizations. The black resistance is against management reforms instituted early on by Miles cutting out ministers from their traditional role as school principal and teacher pickers for schools in their neighborhoods. The blow-back from the teachers groups has everything to do with Miles' obvious determination to get rid of seniority pay.

That Miles is even still here, let alone still standing with his program intact, is an unalloyed success. The rest of it is predictable chaff. Why the education beat reporters at the News are such suckers for chaff, nobody knows. But Ragland needs to figure it out before he rides to this particular hunt again.


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21 comments
thomprentice1
thomprentice1


If seniority pay isn't good for teachers, then why is it good for everyone else:you know, like the “seniority”, ahem, I mean “longevity” pay raises typical in, ahem, “da market”.

Or how ‘bout Congressional seniority -- bigger offices, capitol view, chair a committee and get extra staff -- the whole nine yards not to mention the travel budget and access to lobbyist cash and corporate funding of one sort or another? Especially upon retirement?

Or why is "seniority pay" good for the criminal banksters who get millions of dollars in "seniority" -- ahem, I mean "merit" pay" each year?

Or" seniority," ahem, again I mean "merit pay" for CEOs?And why is it that the wealthy financial oligarchs -- ahem, I mean the idle rich, ahem; I mean "education reformers" -- have nothing else to do to keep busy inflicting except AUSTERITY on the DISD?

"Austerity".Like Margaret Thatcher, not an atom of humanity in it.You know, the Greek or Italian or Spanish or Cyprus or Malta or Portugal kinds of AUSTERITY that enrich lives, create jobs, lower prices and generally make life just peachy -- ahem, the kind of AUSTERITY that the US and EU and IMF are fixin' to shove – ahem, I mean generously and kindly give to Ukrainians -- the gift that keeps on giving.

You know, “austerity”.Oh, and more corporate Wall Street educational reform of the [Achtung!Sieg Heil!”] Michelle Rhee variety.

Regardless of what white folk might think of church-based black leadership -- after 400 years shouldn't blacks HAVE some power? But it is meet, right and salutary to have a “diverse” leadership among blacks as it would be nice to have diverse political parties instead of the current monopoly duopoly [say that three times].Or even better, a multi-party Westminster Parliamentary System with NO districts for anybody to gerrymander and a low threshold – like 1% -- for representation in Congress, the legislature, the city council or school board.And how about “one shareholder, one vote”. Boy wouldn’t THAT cause some “ree-form”?

About those pesky teacher unions -- having educational experts whose expertise is that duh, they went to school, duh, is sort of like having brain surgeon expertise, duh, because you have a brain, duh – doesn’t make any Enlightenment sense at all whatsoever.The teachers are where the rubber meets the road.And what they should be unshackled to do is teach democracy, critical thinking, the useless folly of fine arts, keeping physically fit, good, nutrition, history from the point of view of ordinary people, math and !SCIENCE!, nature and about how to survive 15 years from now -- after all the guns have run out of ammo -- when Global Warming really hits and everybody heads to Saskatchewan.[Only the Saskatchewanese probably won’t want us then either.]Payback really hurts and it isn’t nice to fool Mother Nature.

Teachers and parents and philosphes and thinkers and artists and professors and people who REALLY “think outside of the box” [cough, cough] ought to be the ones running the show -- not bureaucrats, oligarchs, corporate “efficiency experts”, the Standardized Testing Industrial Complex, the [Achtung!] types imported direct from Ukraine, and the meddling idle rich who always have cutting costs and making obscene profits not far from their Buddha nature.

Miles ought to have had more of a "honeymoon" than he has had -- which he didn't -- but then again Miles probably made some "Six Degree of Separation from Kevin Bacon" “understood” deals to those with "educational expertise" duh, because they went to school, duh, and are now rich, and so he is pushing their Margaret Thatcher and [Achtung! Sieg Heil!] Michelle Rhee agendas accordingly. No evidence to that effect, of course, but this ain’t my first time to the rodeo, neither.

The jig is up.

Miles needs to man-up, jettison the Margaret Thatcher AUSTERITY drag and the [Achtung!Sieg Heil!] Michelle Rhee North Korea drag and tell his rich benefactors with, duh, "educational expertise", duh whose agenda he is pushing to go find somewhere else to play.The Mayor also needs to back off -- the Rahm Emmanuel drag just doesn't fit.Oh, and also. Leave White Rock Lake ALONE.

Journalists, moreover, should engage in “authentic journalism” ESPECIALLY when writing columns. Otherwise they are mere stenographers for the ruling class.

That is all.

rrrosco
rrrosco

Schutze's unrequited love for Miles is tiring and makes it difficult to take him seriously.  Don't think he should be the one trying to point fingers about journalistic bias.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

"...who took a sabbatical from columnizing to do actual journalism."

You mean that's an actual option?

golfer4life
golfer4life

What a mess DISD is. I don't even know where to start, but very clearly, our  children's education is second to none. And yes, that includes the minority kids in South Dallas!!! I sure hope the Repubs decide to quit defunding education in Texas; it might be helpful to have an educated group of young'ens for the states future economic prosperity.  

ryan762
ryan762

While I support the idea of merit pay, but my concern is that most teachers (not just ones who we're trying to run off) will see lower pay under the merit pay system and that it will be more difficult to recruit new teachers since they will presumably start at the bottom of the pay scale (which will be lower than it is now) since they don't have a track record to judge.


I am also concerned that even the high end of Miles' merit pay proposal is too low to make the difference that Miles wants to make (Michelle Rhee's merit pay system allowed teachers to make roughly double what a DISD teacher makes. The last I saw of Miles' specific figures, he wanted the high end of merit pay to be about what the highest seniority people make now, plus maybe 5-10% at the very most).


If we're going to commit to reform, let's not do it half-assed (especially if the ass half we're getting is the stick and not the carrots).

milesofsmiles
milesofsmiles

Will WFAA stop aiding the Mike Miles attack now that Channel 8 and Belo have split company?  Should we expect to see NBC 5 pick up where ABC 8 left off?  

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

You continue to make the very same mistake you are criticizing Haag for in this article.  You equate being anti-Miles with being anti-reform.  I don't have a dog in this hunt, so I don't have an opinion worth two cents when it comes to DISD, but even I can see that someone can be reform minded and still believe Miles' programs aren't going to make the grade.  You are, as you yourself put it , getting yourself into a tangle by trying to make a certain narrative come true.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Again, my rag on that rag... matt hack. Doing someone's bidding with poorly documented hatchet job, until caught and forced to try again.

m.saldana
m.saldana

Forget the data for a moment and its misinterpretation. ..just ask the teachers. They ARE leaving bc of Miles and all the demands he is implementing. Yes, some make sense but others are just too much, stifling teachers' freedom to do their job effectively and clogging up valuable instructional time. Some are fleeing DISD bc of other injustices such as poor benefits at an outrageous price (just raised again this year), low pay and salary freezes or lack of raises. Basically, when you ask most DISD personnel they will simply say it's just becoming too much.

bbetzen
bbetzen

Jim, 


Can you address the 500+ drop in senior enrollment this year, the first drop following six years of constant growth as graduation rates rose?  Can you address the fact that senior enrollment dropped 32% in the district Mike Miles managed in Colorado during his last 4 years there?  


Can you address the 6% drop in the Cumulative Promotion Index, the first CPI drop for Dallas following 6 years when the CPI grew 25 percentage points in DISD?   Can you address why the CPI constantly fell in Miles' Colorado district, falling over 14 percentage points?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@RTGolden1 

Theoretically you are right. Actually you are wrong. All of the anti-Miles narrative, the phony audit when he first came in, the bullshit internal investigation, the bullshit external investigation, all were ginned up by specific people and groups opposed to reform, from Bernadette Nutall to Rena Honea. You, Golden, may have objections to Miles unrelated to reform, but at least you need to acknowledge the company it puts you in.    

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@m.saldana 

When did you ask the teachers? Can you show me your survey?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bbetzenYour graphs make it hard to determine the answer to a few questions.  1) Does the CPI drop correlate to an overall drop in enrollment DISD-wide at all grade levels? 2) Wouldn't a drop in senior enrollment lead to a drop in the CPI? 3)Why pick 6 years as the yardstick?  Why not 10yrs, where DISD showed a 9pct drop in CPI in a single year (this year's drop was 3.6%).  A good part of your 6 years of amazing growth was spent recovering from that single year drop in 2005-2006 (right outside your 'window') Along those same line, the other indicators you wrote about in the DMN regarding your glowing 'report card' for Hinojosa in 2010, ninth grade bulge and percent of 9th graders moving on to 10th grade continue to improve?

Like I said up above in my other comment, I don't really have an iron in the fire here, so I watch these DISD debates with more the attitude of 'who is bullshitting me and what is the real story?'.  The numbers in this comment come from your own graphs, so I'm guessing I won't have to endure any questioning the source of my information, just get me some good answers.  After all, on any other statistical analysis, a one-year drop would be considered a fluke or a natural correction, until subsequent years showed differently, which is Jim's main point: How can we know if Miles' reforms are working if we don't give them a chance to work?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bbetzen 

Well, Bill, let's do it this way. Since you are bringing these numbers, why don't you address them first. Tell me why these drops occurred, whether the drops are good or bad and, if bad, whether you see culpability on Miles' part. Then I will address your address. Otherwise, it's sort of like, "Please address the fact that the combined weight of all DISD-owned structures has declined over ten years from seven to the sixth power tons to seven to the fifth power. Mmmmm ... like, address how? 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@JimSX@RTGolden1C'mon Jim.  Surely you, of all people, aren't insinuating that there is no difference of thought among Miles' detractors!!  Anyone as liberal as your august and learned self should realize that it is the differences among us that make us great, right? Is diversity only an external feature of human beings?  Are we all supposed to fall into lockstep with the ideals of those in power or in the media?  I do have issues with Miles' reforms, but they're purely theoretical issues with his choice of reforms and methods of implementation.  Were my kid enrolled in DISD, I'd likely take a much closer look at the day to day consequences of his program.  Luckily, I don't have to.

m.saldana
m.saldana

I am a DISD employee, I am speaking from experience not data. This is common talk among my colleagues throughout the district.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bbetzenAnd, by the way, with our 3.6% drop in CPI this school year, we're still 11% ahead of where DISD was in 04-05 and 20% ahead of where the 05-06 drop put the district.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

@RTGolden1@JimSXYes. Some of us support reform ideas that might work, as opposed to repeating "merit pay" over and over again like it's some kind of protective mantra.

m.saldana
m.saldana

Some yes bc those kind of teachers will always be lazy but no, this perspective is shared by all kinds including effective hard working ones. And no, there is not currently an incentive or reward system for effective or top performing teachers. We gain nothing for working harder or more honestly than others. Luckily though, some of us truly dedicated educators continue to stick it out and help our children regardless of how administration treats us or values our skill and experience. For example, I have been seriously tempted to move to Irving ISD bc they are currently paying top salaries and offer incentives for bilingual and top performing teachers BUT my heart is with DISD and its children. At the end of the day, if I don't t stick it out then who will do my job like I can? Only the kids lose.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@m.saldana would the teachers who are leaving happen to be the ones who underperform and therefore would be on Miles hit list?  Because I'm pretty sure if they were top notch teachers Miles would be trying to reward them, not run them off

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