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Claudia MacMillan is the director of the Cowan Center for Education at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.

I met her several years ago when I was invited to speak at the Institute. At that time, Claudia allowed me to sit in on seminars where public school teachers were discussing the Iliad, Shakespeare, and other great classics. I met with school superintendents from Dallas and the surrounding region. I also met Louise Cowan, the scholar who had inspired the work of the Institute (she called me (“an education warrior”).

I invited Claudia to share with you what the Institute is doing now. I was astonished to find this wonderful oasis of learning and knowledge in Dallas. May it grow and prosper!

Learning to Love the World

Claudia MacMillan

“You are the guardians of culture,” my teacher said in a melodious voice to a small auditorium filled with teachers at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. That was 1989. I was among those school teachers, and Dr. Louise Cowan’s words, her vision, changed the course of my life.

​I would not bother sharing this anecdote or the words that follow if my experience had been an isolated one, or if I were the only one whose life had been transformed by this educational philosophy of generosity, openness, intellectual integrity, and communal grace. But for forty years at the Dallas Institute, the hearts and minds of primary and secondary educators have been lifted up and treasured, and I believe that this message of love and hope needs to be in the world.

​In 2004, I had the privilege of assuming responsibility for the programs that changed me in what is now the Dallas Institute’s Louise and Donald Cowan Center for Education™. Since coming, I and others have spent our time and energy trying to shape and share this ennobling vision that the Drs. Cowan conceived and taught. Their aspiration was that every child in America receive a liberal education of the quality that only privileged students in the nation’s highest-tiered private schools typically receive.

​The Cowans created a work at the Dallas Institute designed to foster this sea change. And in the public schools of Fort Worth, Texas, a bold educational experiment that is modeled on their philosophy—on their love of learning, of teachers, and of human life—is currently underway.

​In three public schools in the Fort Worth Independent School District, students are enrolled in Cowan Academy® in the Humanities classes. The results have been impressive and hopeful. In the first year of classes (2018-2019), at the high school where all students are enrolled in Cowan Academy® in the Humanities classes, teachers, administrators, parents, and the students themselves saw and felt the impact of this unique experience and the quality of community that it seemed to inspire.

​Cowan Academy® in the Humanities classes were piloted in three 8th grade classes in this same year in one Fort Worth middle school. Students with all ranges of abilities were invited to join the class. The only prerequisite was that they be willing to do the work.

The Cowan Academy® in the Humanities Educational Model

I should begin with a nod to what drives public school education. So for those who consider standardized test scores important, although little test prep was introduced into these classes, in both original Fort Worth schools, scores the first year (2018-2019) were outstanding. The 8th grade averages in every category in reading and social studies were above the rest of the campus and above the district averages. Some of the strongest gains were for “English Language Learner” students. Regarding the benchmark tests given in December 2019, one middle school student reported, “Everything we read in this class is so much harder than those test passages, so the test was so much easier than it seemed before.” In the high school, where every student is enrolled in Cowan Academy® in the Humanities classes, the 9th grade English I scores ranked the school among the top in the state of Texas, and this in its first year of operation. In the category of “closing the achievement gap,” their English I scores earned them a 100%, tying for third in the state! Granted, this is the new magnet school in the district, but the district has wisely required the school to represent the district demographically, and in addition, the school has very generous entrance requirements. So although it is a magnet school, students with a wide range of abilities are enrolled.

​There are a few critical standards worked into this educational model designed to help it to succeed.

1. In order to learn to read by writing—a luxury that most public school students are not given—Cowan Academy® in the Humanities students must receive their own personal copies of the books (not the textbooks) so that they can read with pen in hand. Cowan Academy® in the Humanities classes are very low-tech, teaching students, rather, to engage with the texts and with one another in conversation daily. The Fort Worth ISD has been wonderfully generous in providing books for each Cowan Academy® student.

2. In addition, Cowan Academy® teachers who teach history and English must not have more than 75 students a year so that they can tutor and mentor their students like their peers in a private school. However, this usually works out easily for those who are teaching a Cowan Center™ humanities course. Technically, they are teaching 75 English students and 75 history students. Their total is 150 students like many of their colleagues in the district.

3. Perhaps the most important feature of a Cowan Academy® or a Cowan School® (another trademarked educational model certified by the Dallas Institute’s Cowan Center™) is that the principals who lead both educational models have the exact same certification “training” requirements as their teachers so that they can foster the community of the school in this human vision and support the vision of liberal learning overall. The educational vision that gives shape to this work is vastly different from what the bureaucracy knows or provides. And this is not a “do as I say” kind of “training.” It is a “do as I do” vision.

​Cowan Academy® in the Humanities students have largely responded with pride about their achievement. They have even sensed the importance of community that this philosophy seeks to foster. After their first year in a Cowan Academy® class, 8th graders like Eduardo stated, “Thanks to humanities, writing essays is easy, and I am not afraid to talk out loud in front of my speech class.” Madison explained, “This class gives me an advantage for my future. I have learned to see many different perspectives,” while Ke’Onna observed, “we work hard, but the class is getting us ready for high school.” According to the Cowans’ vision, non-competition and community are daily fostered in each class, making a burgeoning human community one of the most common features in a Cowan Academy® class that is observed both by students and by the grown-ups in their lives. As Fernando stated, “I feel a part of a large community in this class.” His classmate, Uriel, proudly claimed, “Humanities makes me feel like I’m part of something so important.”

Cowan Center® Humanities Curricula

Next month, the Cowan Center™ will begin its third year of Cowan Academy® in the Humanities classes in three Fort Worth ISD schools and will be serving students in grades 6-11. All three campuses have chosen to use the trademarked Cowan Center™ curricula. These daily syllabi are modeled on an integrated history/English curriculum used with great success for more than twenty-five years in a private school in Dallas. Cowan Academy® in the Humanities students in the Upper School level, grades 6-12, write and present original speeches to sharpen their powers of persuasion and their public speaking skills. They read aloud daily. They study grammar and rhetoric, write often in journals and frequently compose and revise formal essays on literature, history, and philosophy. They participate in formal small-group seminars that are guided by their own text-based questions or responses. They memorize and recite at least five lyric poems each year. Students do art projects and presentations based on ideas or images from the readings that have captured their imaginations. In addition, students at each level view, sketch, and study the form and meaning of art, architecture, and monuments from around the world. In each grade, then, Cowan Academy® in the Humanities students are tenderly taught to read, write, listen, think, and speak at a high level of sophistication about ideas and situations that have challenged and inspired humanity in every age.

​At each grade level, Cowan Academy® in the Humanities curricula are organized historically around the epoch studied in that year. Freshman Cowan Academy® in the Humanities students study world history and geography from prehistory through the early modern period launched by Machiavelli’s thought. Titles here include The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Ramayana, the Odyssey, Plato’s Apology, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, One Thousand and One Nights, The West African Mwindo Epic, Dante’s (entire) Divine Comedy, and Erasmus’ The Praise of Folly. Connections and comparisons are steadily considered among themes and cultures throughout the year. Apparently startled by the continuity, one 9th grade Cowan Academy® in the Humanities student asked her teacher in the second half of the year, “Are we ever going to stop talking about The Epic of Gilgamesh?” The answer is no, and why would we want to?

​An example of the continuity of the curriculum is found in the way in which freshmen are guided to treat primary documents. Throughout the year, as they read passages from The Code of Hammurabi, the 10 Commandments, Confucius’ Analects, Laozi’s Way of the Dao, The Code of Justinian, the “Beatitudes,” the Tang Code of China, Shotoku’s Constitution, the Magna Carta, Luther’s 95 Theses, and Machiavelli’s The Prince, the class compares the new code or set of laws to preceeding ones to consider what the new codes reveal about the people who wrote them. Ninth grade student also read primary texts to trace the historical development of the three “Abrahamic” religions— Hebrew, Christian, and Muslim—to help lay the foundations for a better understanding of the complex relationship that exits among these traditions even to this day. Lyric poetry by Rumi, Petrarch, and Shakespeare complement one another and deepen in the daily reading of lyric poetry in every class. For their end-of-year speech, each freshman choses an image or idea and traces it through the major historical epochs in at least three different cultures.

​Carrying forward both the content and the modes from their freshman year, sophomore Cowan Academy® in the Humanities students build on this, picking up world history and geography in the early 17th century to study through our time. After Don Quixote, students study literary works such as Hamlet, Candide, Frankenstein, Hard Times, Bartleby the Scrivener, Notes from the Underground, Heart of Darkness, and Kafka’s Metamorphosis, making additional connections to the history and the readings from the 9th grade class. The epic creation story theme continues here from the freshman year with the study of the Popol Vuh. From John Donne to Newton, from Kant to Kobayashi’s haiku, from Blake and Mary Wollstonecraft to Frederick Douglass, from Marx to Mill, from T.S. Eliot to the Harlem Renaissance, from Hitler’s Mein Kampf to Churchill’s and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches, from James Baldwin, William Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez, lyric poetry, political documents, and philosophical works are considered from within the frames of the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, the age of industrialization and the Romantics, and up into modern times. The sophomore end-of-year speech requires students to reach back into the freshman curriculum to trace the idea or image from ancient times to modern day.
​On the high school campus, the original Cowan Academy® students are now going into their junior year, a landmark being initiated with Moby-Dick for their Summer Reading. This level of expectation is not new. Students are assigned Volume I of Don Quixote for Summer Reading going into their sophomore year. But these students going in their third year of Cowan Academy® classes are beginning “The American Experience and the World™” with a broad yet deep foundation from reading, discussing, and writing about world history and geography, as well as about literature, philosophy, political philosophy, religion, and art history from around the world. The junior course is framed by Moby-Dick and Invisible Man, epics whose themes and images will allow students to recall, discuss, and write about works studied in both the freshman and sophomore Cowan Academy® classes. Among the authors studied here are Walt Whitman, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, DuBois, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Elie Weisel, Zora Neale Hurston, Frost, Hemingway, Pound, Eliot, Virginia Woolf, William Carlos Williams, Toni Morrison, O’Connor, Neruda, Baldwin, César Chávez, Malcolm X, Gloria Steinem, Lorca, Faulkner, Borges, Cortázar, Paz, Momaday, Barack Obama, and Jumpa Lahiri. In addition to nonfiction essays and speeches, in each of the four parts of the curriculum, political documents include rulings from important cases from the Supreme Court of the United States to help students understand how the political, cultural, social, and spiritual landscape of America has been created and sustained.

​Middle school Cowan Academy® in the Humanities classes are conducted using the same integration of modes and disciplines as their high school counterparts, with a daily dose of in-class poetry memorization celebrating joyful recitations and readings. On one of the two middle school campuses, all the 6th graders will be enrolled in Cowan Academy® in the Humanities classes beginning in August and the comprehensive Cowan Academy® classes will roll up with the students each year in this neighborhood school.

​In the 6th grade “World Myths: Mappings and Meanings™” course, students review the basics of grammar, of language and form in writing, in speaking, as well as practice active listening and reading deeply by annotating texts. Rather than history, the focus here is on learning world geography and on reading broadly from around the world novels, short stories, and folk tales. A steady diet of beautiful images of the world in power point presentations and beautiful picture books about creation myths from Virginia Hamilton’s In the Beginning and D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths fill students’ hearts and minds with the wonder and complexity of the planet and the human condition. The end-of-year assignment in this grade is an original short story about a child from another culture that includes a focus in the plot on a significant geographical feature from that particular region.

​In the 7th grade “Texas Myths™” course, students study the history and epic spirit of Texas, its glories and its blunders. A book of Texas Indian myths and selections from J. Frank Dobie’s Texas Tales provide a touchstone throughout the year. These works are deepened by the study of significant historical documents and with novels such as Juneteenth, Old Yeller, Summer of the Mariposas, and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Enfolding the idea of Texas in its mythic terms is the study of Virgil’s Aeneid, which these students read in class in its entirety. This ancient poem evokes a timeless landscape from which to consider Texas’ (six!) foundings, the struggles and the achievements thereof. Historical figures in Texas are compared to Aeneas and to other major figures in the poem through formal essays, speeches, and journals. The 7th grade end-of-year assignment is an original “tall tale,” Texas-style, to present to the class.

​In the 8th grade “American Myths™” course, students study American history from Jamestown to Reconstruction, with an emphasis on primary historical documents and nonfiction writers such as John Smith, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Olaudah Equiano, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thoreau, Emerson, Douglass, Harriot Jacobs, and Abraham Lincoln. Lyric poetry and short stories bathe the year, including authors such Native American poets, Anne Bradstreet, Phillis Wheatley, Jonathan Edwards, Jupiter Hammon, Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Emily Dickinson, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, and Walt Whitman. The final assignment for these students is to write and present a formal speech considering the difference between “freedom” and “liberty.” Students must use primary sources that go back to the original colonies and that include the voices of at least three different peoples from the diverse American “myths.”

The Cowan Vision of Liberal Learning for All​

Out of the depths of the pandemic lockdown this spring, messages of inspiration and hope issued from Cowan Academy® students, galvanizing our commitment to the work in Fort Worth and to the splendid teachers and principals who guide it. Missives such as Carlos’, a 7th grader who explained, “Humanities has not only been a class to learn history but a life lesson in itself. I think it is very safe to say that this is a great class that not only one school district needs but the whole country needs in every single school.” A 9th grade student remarked to her teacher, “As the year progressed, I started to view humanities as my little opportunity to really understand the world. I had assignments and lessons that didn’t teach me how to read or annotate for a grade, but to look deeper into the ancient worlds to understand what life meant for anyone at any point in time. I was starting to learn how to read for the experience. The experience to live someone else’s life, and to know what it meant for them to be human.” And an 8th grade Cowan Academy® student sagely observed, “Through our class I have learned that we have a great life because others went through difficult things before us.”

​There are many, many more such comments from our Cowan Academy® students, and we are grateful for every one. They are proof, to me, that the Cowans were correct in their estimation of human possibility and in their confidence that liberal learning truly does set one’s heart and mind free.

​I could go on in great detail about the Cowans’ philosophy of liberal learning. They were profound intellectuals and thinkers, and their vision is what I am privileged to consider and apply every day. But in closing, I would simply like to point out what I believe to be most essential to their vision—what they contributed to the tradition of liberal learning. Their most concrete contributions are Donald Cowan’s—a physicist—emphasis on the purpose of a liberal education—-to cultivate a “poetic imagination” first through the proper study of literature.

The other indispensable feature of their mark on the tradition is the loose yet sturdy frame of Louise Cowan’s literary genre theory in which she teaches how to read for understanding, for broadening one’s views and ideas about life. But just as important as their rigorous academic theories are their insights into the impact of what Donald Cowan calls the “spirit of liberal learning.” They believed that the effect of liberal learning is to help enable a person to achieve the true form of his or her life. They taught the unpopular reality that the deepest understanding almost always comes from the greatest struggle. They taught that true learning always begins with submission. They believed in the power of the well-educated imagination, in society and in one’s life. And they believed that wisdom was connected to mystery and beauty along with the search for meaning and truth. Most importantly, to me, what distinguishes their vision of education from cynical educational and social theories is that they believed that an education better fits a person to be in the world, particularly to be in a democracy where a liberally educated citizenry is critical.

And even though they were constantly elevating their sights to transcendent ideals—such as myth and meaning—in order to couch their understanding, I have never known people so deeply in love with people, in love with the frail and glorious human condition. It was this that motivated them, this love that guided their educational dreams and ambitions, and because of this great gift, love and hope motivate and fuel every aspect of the Cowan Center™ work. Because although the Cowans believed that there was something beyond this world, beyond this life, they also believed that until we “shuffle off this mortal coil,” to quote Hamlet, “earth’s the right place for love,” as Frost’s narrator claims. An education, they taught us, should not only prepare us to make our way through the world in work and in society. At its foundation, an education—like the one we strive daily to provide our precious Cowan Academy® students—should prepare our hearts and minds not only to see and judge clearly, an education should prepare us to live open to wonder, and ultimately, to love this world.

Naming names is very important when discussing the movement to privatize public schools. In my book SLAYING GOLIATH, I devote an entire chapter to naming names. It’s not good enough to you “business interests” or “foundations.”

Name names.

Tom Ultican names names. In this podcast, he describes the wealthy people who are determined to privatize education. Why do they do this? They profess their love of the needy at the same time they try to take away one of the few institutions that belongs to them and give it to corporations.

After 20 years of corporate reform in charge of federal education policy, there is not a single example of success. It seems fair to predict that the deformers will fail in Dallas as they have everywhere else.

The charter industry is overrun with scandals because charter laws do not require accountability and transparency. Theft, conflicts of interest, nepotism, and fraud are a feature, not a bug.

A charter operator in Dallas was sentenced to seven years in jail for taking a kickback, but then convinced the board to give her a bonus of $20,000.

Donna Houston-Woods was convicted of defrauding her own Dallas charter school, but she wasn’t done taking its money for her own benefit, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.

She returned to Nova Academy after her October trial and pocketed a $20,000 bonus. Houston-Woods, the school’s longtime CEO, then asked for another $300,000 in severance, but the school board denied it.

Her actions, the prosecutor said, showed zero remorse and a lack of respect for the law.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Houston-Woods to seven years and three months in prison for accepting $50,000 in kickbacks in exchange for steering a school technology contract to a friend, who then botched the job…

Senior Judge Sidney Fitzwater called it “outrageous” that the Nova board of directors, having been “injured” by Houston-Woods, would pay her a bonus before she resigned. He called it “stunning to me” and said the payment was indicative of the school’s management.

Because Houston-Woods defrauded the federal E-rate program out of about $337,900, Nova is ineligible for any future government money to pay for internet services, Fitzwater said.

The business leadership of Dallas wants more charter schools!

 

This is a very engaging video interview of Tom Ultican, an expert on corporate education reform, explaining the federal takeover of public schools via No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Ultican goes into detail about the corporate assault on public schools in the Dallas Independent School District. He names names, starting with the misguided superintendency of Mike Miles, a Broadie who managed to drive out large numbers of experienced teachers. He identifies the funders of corporate funders, both billionaires and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

He gives a concise analysis of the money behind the “portfolio model,” charters, and privatization in Texas and Dallas.

 

Tom Ultican has been writing a series of brilliant studies of cities where the Destroy Public Education Movement is busily undermining and privatizing its public schools, usually because of an unwarranted admiration for the efficiency of market forces. In their unalloyed love of the market, the DPE forces ignore the fact that markets never create equality; instead, they have a few winners and a lot of losers. They forget that the American education ideal is equality of educational opportunity, not a vast sorting machine that leaves most children behind.

In this post, he analyzes the city of Dallas, where business leaders, in league with the city’s leading newspaper, are determined to privatize public schools.

The business leaders think they are innovative, but in fact they echo the same stale cliches as corporate reformers in other cities. The slogan of the moment is that Dallas (and apparently all of Texas) wants “a system of great schools,” not “a great school system.” When I came across this chestnut in Ultican’s article, I nearly spit out my coffee because I had heard the same words uttered by Joel Klein in New York City in 2003.  Is there a Corporate Reformer hymnal where they learn all the same phrases, then pretend they made them up themselves?

Ultican’s history of Dallas education in the crosshairs of the Privatization Movement is richly detailed, too much to summarize briefly. It involves the brief tenure of a Broadie who arrived with great fanfare, then departed without having accomplished any of his grand goals.

It is safe to predict that nothing positive will come of the money lavished by elites to privatize the schools. It hasn’t succeeded anywhere else, and it won’t succeed in Dallas. When they finish playing with the lives of Other People’s Children, they should all be horsewhipped, an old Texas tradition. That would be real Accountability.

 

The Charter Industry has insisted that charter schools need no regulation, supervision, or oversight so they can have maximum flexibility. But where government money flows, accountability is imperative.

The importance of accountability was demonstrated again recently in Dallas, where the CEO of a charter school was convicted of steering a contract to a friend in exchange for a kickback.

Donna Houston-Woods, CEO of Nova Academy charter school, was convicted of all four counts against her: three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Houston-Woods, 65, the school’s longtime chief executive, approved the $337,951 federal contract for the firm by copying the bid of a competing company that was initially selected for the job, the government alleged.

ADI’s owner, Donatus Anyanwu, returned the favor by secretly paying Houston-Woods about $50,000 in kickbacks, prosecutors said.

Anyanwu, 61, pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme in July. He did not testify during the weeklong wire and mail fraud trial in downtown Dallas.

Houston-Woods and Anyanwu were indicted in December 2017. Houston-Woods was accused of using her position as head of Nova Academy to steer the federal contract to ADI in return for kickbacks. ADI botched the job and shouldn’t have gotten the contract in the first place, prosecutors said.

Tom Ultican tells a sad story about the takeover of the Dallas school board by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and other wealthy elites, who don’t send their children to the public schools.

After their failed experiment with Mike Miles, a Broadie who surrounded himself with young but very well-compensated aides from TFA, the elites decided to buy control of the school board. It became too expensive for an ordinary citizen to compete with the money that the elites were pouring in. One candidate, Lori Kilpatrick, almost upset an incumbent, even though her resources were meager. The corporate elites decided not to take any chances in the run off. Her opponent won by outspending her 34-1.

The business elites have an agenda. Hire as many TFA as possible and drive out experienced teachers. Close public schools and replace them with charter schools. So far, none of their plans has benefitted the children of Dallas.

It is a sad story and I hope you will take the time to read it.

Tom Ultican often refers to the “Destroy Public Education” movement.

Dallas elites are in the forefront of that movement. Shame on them. They belong on the Wall of Shame.

Mike Miles, former superintendent of Dallas public schools and former superintendent of a Colorado district, was turned down by the Colorado Springs school board when he applied to open a charter school in a former Macy’s department store in a large shopping mall.

Miles led the Dallas district for three tumultuous years, during which time there was a sizable teacher exodus and stagnant test scores, which he had pledged to raise. Miles is a military man who attended the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy.

“The district’s board rejected Miles’ 210-page proposal 6-1 on Wednesday night and relinquished charter authorization, which means Miles will need to petition the Colorado Charter School Institute, a state authorizer, for approval to open in the fall of 2019…

“District administrators and members of the District Accountability Committee raised numerous concerns about the proposal at a Nov. 14 board meeting, including the governance model, finances, not providing transportation for students and the location being in close proximity to marijuana dispensaries and alcohol outlets such as a Hooters restaurant.

“It would be in both of our respective interests” for D-11 to relinquish exclusive chartering authority and permit organizers to apply to CSI, D-11 Superintendent Michael Thomas said.

“I believe the conditional requirements and expectations that would need to be addressed would not be able to be done in a timely fashion,” he said Wednesday, in issuing a recommendation to deny the application.

“Miles agreed to the relinquishment, Thomas said.

“Board member Teresa Null cast the sole opposing vote, saying sending organizers to the state authorizing body won’t remove the concerns of D-11 representatives who reviewed and analyzed the application.

“We do not think this charter school can be ready for our students by next year, and going to CSI is not going to change that dynamic — they’re still not going to be ready,” Null said.

“Among her personal concerns: “They want to put a playground in a parking lot.”

“Coperni 3 would be the second school in a charter school network Miles is building under the name Third Future Schools. The first school in the network, Academy of Advanced Learning, opened in the fall of 2017 in Aurora, as part of Aurora Public Schools.”

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:

 

The Mayor Pro Tem suggested that the NRA hold its convention elsewhere, not in Dallas, but he is likely to be ignored. 

“Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway on Monday urged the National Rifle Association to find a new home for its annual meeting in May.

“Caraway said that the NRA event, scheduled for May 3-6 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, is inappropriate for Dallas after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last week. The NRA’s meeting will include firearms displays and exhibits, and the group’s national elected officials will participate in leadership meetings. According to the website, ammunition sales are permitted, but on-site firearm sales are not.

“In a written statement, Caraway said that it’s “time to put the heat on the NRA.” He followed up his written comments with a news conference outside City Hall in which he decried high-powered civilian-owned weapons and gun violence in Dallas, referencing both the 1963 Kennedy assassination and the July 7, 2016, ambush on police.

“Caraway said asking the NRA to reconsider was “a tough call” but would put the city’s residents first. He said the NRA’s political positions would lead to demonstrations that Dallas would be forced to handle and that the organization needs to “come to the table” and be part of a solution.

“I would hope they would be sensitively moral themselves at some point,” he said of the powerful interest group that has not bowed to past criticisms. “I would hope that the NRA would be watching, as I’m sure they are, around the country what has just taken place. They have children. They have families. At some point, they need to understand, and I think they do, that there will be opposition when they come here.”

Other officials said it would not happen. The contract is signed and the event is May 3-6.

Expect protestors.

Expect students. Maybe survivors of the Parkland Massacre.

Expect parents. Maybe parents of the dead children at Sandy Hook or Columbine.

Expect teachers and principals and superintendents.

Maybe they will carry posters with pictures of students and teachers killed because of NRA’s refusal to regulate access to guns.

Do they have no shame?

No.