John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, has been researching the lives and times of the superintendents trained by the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, funded by billionaire Eli Broad. This post features the three-year tenure of Mike Miles in Dallas. Miles was a West Point graduate, military veteran, and foreign service officer before he entered the Broad program.

My recent series on failed Broad Academy superintendents, and the links sent by commenters, even surprised me. The similarity between the Broadies I’ve tried to communicate with, and the behaviors of their counterparts across the nation is astounding. And as Thomas Frank explains, the long sad story of neoliberal school reform is extra depressing during this time of budget cuts that are so extreme that they have provoked strikes in so many states.
To borrow Frank’s excellent terminology, what could have happened in Colorado had corporate reformers not set out to “Fire teachers, specifically,” teach educators “fear and discipline,” and “slay the foot-dragging unions and the red-tape rules.”  For instance, what could we have done to improve schools had the state, and the rest of the country, not gambled on Broad graduates like Mike Miles?
Sadly, what we know for sure is the discord and the failure Miles produced in Harrison County, Colo. and Dallas, Texas. As Julian Vasquez Heilig documents, during the pre-Miles 2003-2004 school year, 82% of the Harrison County’s students graduated. During the Miles yeas, it fluctuated between 74.1% and below 65%. Heilig then recounts the:
Disconcerting data trends in the years spanning Mr. Miles’ time in Harrison, specifically the rates of attrition at the secondary level and academic performance for minority, Free and Reduced Price Lunch, English Language Learners (ELLs), Special Education, and Students “needing to catch up.”
Reformers believed Miles’ spin, which exaggerated his gains that occurred in some areas, but teachers didn’t. As Chalkbeat Colorado reported, Miles efforts:
Have proven less popular with teachers unions in the state and with some Harrison parents and community members, who are openly advocating the recall of board members supportive of his work. “Prayers answered” wrote one poster about the Dallas announcement on a Facebook page titled “Mike Miles – Get Him Out.”
When he arrived in Dallas, Miles “told principals during a training session, ‘The best-trained principals in this country are in Colorado Springs. You’re not trained as well as they are, but you will be in one year.’” He mandated a new principal-evaluation system and “hired 60 aspiring school leaders that were trained for a year before letting them compete for principal jobs in the district.” This introduction “was received like a verbal middle finger” to administrators.
Even so, Miles said afterwards:
I’m not sure I’ll ever get totally used to the amount of scrutiny and some of the negativity. … I mean, I think that’s part of any job—I mean, any job where you’re trying to change things, so I’m not saying that. But, I don’t know, does anybody ever get used to getting beat up?
The Dallas Morning News described Miles’ approach in a similar manner. It recounted the “frayed relationship” between Miles and his board, illustrated by a first-year board meeting which lasted until 1.03 am. It noted that Miles “isn’t one to dwell on the details of his plans and wants to be judged on results”
So, what were Miles’ results?
As Heinig writes, the Miles approach couldn’t have been more different than the successful policies under his predecessor,   Michael Hinojosa. At first, Miles and his multi-million dollar experiments produced mixed results, but he mostly presided over a district on a downward trajectory.  
Retired middle school teacher, Bill Betzen, documented Miles disappointing record in terms of student achievement, as well as the costs to educators. Before Miles, teacher turnover fluctuated between 8.5% and 12.2%, but under Miles it rose to 21.9%. Every year from 2014 to 2016 was the highest Dallas ISD teacher turnover on record! It is now down to about 14%.
As a result, the experience levels of all teachers, but especially the newest teachers, fell rapidly. There was a significant increase in inexperienced teachers, including those who didn’t make it through their rookie year.  In the FY2012 school year, 10 teachers left the job before they had completed 3 months in the classroom. By FY 2015, 97 teachers left within 3 months or less.
Betzen published charts documenting, “The best concentrated years of progress in Dallas ISD history since WWII were 2007-2013” but “then the progress stopped!” He further shows how the “teacher turnover explosion” increased the number of no-experience teachers by 250%, as principal turnover nearly tripled. The DISD achievement gap, in comparison with the rest of the state, had been steadily decreasing under Hinojosa, but then seven years of progress were wiped out in 2014 and 2015.
Miles’ biggest defeat grew out of the opening of the new $36 million Dade Middle school. It was later dubbed, “the sixth nail in his coffin.” The Dallas Observer explained, “Dade was where Miles’ shortcomings as a leader — his prickly ego, his tin ear for politics and community relations, his hamfisted personnel decisions — were laid bare.” It was also the conflict which led to his final battle with DISD trustee Bernadette Nutall. This dispute, along with the way that Miles defied the board when firing three principals, led to his resignation.
Miles had previously fought with the school board over a review of his handling of a service contract. An early conflict resulted in Miles’ house being picketed, and near the end of his time in Dallas:
Things got worse a few months later when, on Miles’ orders, security guards wrangled Nutall out of Billy Dade Middle School in her district. The superintendent was at the school for a staff meeting after a personnel shake-up. When Nutall showed up uninvited, he accused her of trespassing and interfering.
The Oakcliff Advocate acknowledged that “a common criticism of Nutal” is that she is “heavy-handed,” but, “In the Dade situation, however, even her critics believed Miles had gone too far.”
After Miles resigned, the Dallas Morning News explained that “in Texas, superintendents are graded by state STAAR results, and DISD scores have stayed flat or dropped under him.” His supporters “praised him for his tireless passion and dedication to education reform.” But Miles “marginalized many who found him to be stubborn and arrogant.” It added, “He also battled a revolving door of top administrators, including his former chief of staff who resigned days before he was indicted on federal bribery charges that led to a prison sentence.”
The Morning News wrote about Miles:
His tenure was marked by his expansion of the district’s communications, public relations and advertising efforts, creating flashy campaigns touting DISD’s accomplishments. He spoke in grandiose terms, often calling on the district’s “heroes” to carry out his vision. At the news conference Tuesday, Miles compared the district to Camelot and himself to King Arthur.
After Miles left, Michael Hinojosa returned as superintendent and Dallas schools progressed once again. And that brings us back to the question of what would have happened if educators could have just battled poverty and other problems in our schools, as opposed to fighting off Broadies and other corporate reformers with our left hands, while defending our students from reformers with our right hands.
By the way, one reason why I studied the Miles administration was that I hoped to see his infamous video of his dance with students. Apparently it has been taken down, but maybe readers will find and share it. If not, this video documents his hubris: