The lovely woman you see at right is Willietta Bradley, a kindergarten math teacher at F.P. Caillet Elementary, where, on Tuesday, I took part in the Dallas Independent School District's Principal for a Day program. I was especially delighted to have been assigned there, of all places: Only a few days ago, the state comptroller's office named it a Texas Honor Circle Award Winner in the 2011 Financial Allocation Study for Texas -- meaning, it does more with less money. It's also a few blocks from where I live, and where I attended elementary school beginning in 1974 -- the very year Miss Bradley began teaching there, straight out of North Texas State University. As a matter of fact, she was my kindergarten math teacher.
I spent time in several classrooms Tuesday, but lingered longer in Miss Bradley's -- time enough to watch her interact with her students. She's been there 37 years -- "through the good times and the challenging times," she said, "and these are challenging times" -- but has lost none of her passion, warmth, wisdom.
The lesson on this particular afternoon, right before lunch, involved counting by fives. Two dozen children sat in front of her, on a carpet, facing her and the blackboard. And each time the kids got what she was talking about, she told them: "Now, snap a picture of the answer." They got out their invisible cameras and took imaginary photos: Click. "Now, lock it up." They put their hands to their heads and turned the key: Click. It stirred a vague memory. I asked her later: Did she do that when we were kids? "Absolutely."
During my time in DISD, I was taught by a lot of great teachers; so too were my father and brother and, now, my son, who is in the third grade. I remember quite a few, Miss Bradley among them -- Miss Johnson, Mr. Washington, Miss Nease, Mr. Sweetman, Miss Fleming, Miss Ballard, Mr. Newman and others too. They all shared an extraordinary quality: They saw teaching in a public school as a calling, and made the experience as joyful as possible, even when it could be positively painful.
Which I mention today because of this: Two months back we sneak-previewed the Dallas Independent School District's new plan to evaluate teachers. It's a stunningly long-term process expected to wrap by 2014. Meanwhile, of course, good teachers are being shown the door because of leveling; and many veterans took the buyout earlier this year, among them veterans with no less enthusiasm and love for their students than Miss Bradley.
I see the district now wants outside input for the evaluation process: On the DISD website is a page that reads, in part:
Dallas ISD is launching a teacher evaluation project, and we need your help! Teacher evaluation provides a great opportunity to improve instructional quality in the district and provide targeted development and support to teachers. The 2011-2012 school year will be focused on designing the enhanced system through a collaborative effort between Dallas ISD teachers, campus leaders, parents and community members. Throughout the process, we will be building multiple avenues for all staff to participate in the design.
It then links to this survey, which has three questions -- one of which is, "How should we name this project?" Your choices:
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RISE: Raising Instructional and Student Excellence
STAR: Strengthening Teaching and Academic Results
BUILD: Boost and Uplift Instruction through Lasting Development
SPARK (no acronym)
SHINE (no acronym)
SOAR (no acronym)
Other (please specify)
Like she says, these are challenging times for the DISD. I can't imagine why.
Update at 2:34 p.m.: Moments after I posted this, the district sent out the following press release:
DALLAS ISD SOLICITS INPUT ON NEW TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM
First year of three-year process to focus on designing an enhanced system
DALLAS - The Dallas ISD will be designing, refining, and implementing a new teacher evaluation system during the next three years. The 2011-2012 school year will be focused on designing an enhanced system through a collaborative effort between Dallas ISD teachers, campus leaders, parents and community members. Throughout the process, the district will be building multiple avenues for all to participate in the design.
Two opportunities to provide input are being offered this month:
First, Dallas ISD will hold several Teacher Evaluation System Public Information Sessions throughout the months of October and November (Please see schedule below). Information on the progress made so far in the design process will be presented. All members of the community are welcome to attend and to offer input on the design process.
Second, a new Web page has been launched that houses information and provides updates on the process to develop the new teacher evaluation system.
The meetings are scheduled as follows:
• 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at César Chávez Learning Center, 1710 N. Carroll St.
• 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, George H.W. Bush Elementary, 3939 Spring Valley Road
• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at H. Grady Spruce High School, 9733 Old Seagoville Road
• 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center, 1201 E. Eighth St.
• 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, at Bryan Adams High School, 2101 Milmar Drive
• 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, at Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, 5828 E. Mockingbird Lane
• 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, at David W.Carter High School, 1819 W. Wheatland Road
• 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Skyline High School, 7777 Forney Road
To learn more and provide input, go to www.dallasisd.org/effectiveteachers. Please contact Gina Castillo at 972-925-3721 for information about the public hearings.