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Dallas ISD Superintendent Expected To Give Upbeat State Of District Address

Bill Zeeble
DISD Superintendent Mike Miles

Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles is expected to take credit for rising graduation rates and a new teacher evaluation system when he gives his State of the District address today. Critics are skeptical.

Miles will call new evaluation systems for both principals and teachers big achievements. The variation on a controversial pay for performance model has caused strife in other districts and other states. But DISD spokesman Andre Riley says these changes are needed for more students to improve.

“You have to start somewhere,” Riley says. "And you’ve got to get the right tools in place and the right initiatives in place to raise student achievement. It’s a great note the board has supported the administration in its implementation of these important programs. It’s up to us to make those things a reality, to make them work effectively.”

Riley says Miles will also cite higher graduation rates. But a recent district audit suggests many students listed as graduates may not have met all their requirements and the numbers may be inflated.

“We’re aware of those concerns,” Riley says. “We’re continuing to get better. But in the short term, our diplomas -- they are valid, they’re strong and they’ll help our students get to where they need to go.”

Rena Honea’s not so sure. The head of the district’s largest teacher group also says the jury’s still out on other reforms Miles has introduced.

“We’ve not seen achievement gains of students like he promised to bring forward as leader of the Dallas Independent School District," Honea said.

Honea is especially concerned about new lesson plans teachers must prepare that she says waste time and don’t make sense.

"Teachers are having to spend eight, 10 and 12 hours doing lesson plans alone,” Honea says. “Most teachers that have come to us have said: 'This is outrageous. I have no time to be with my family on the weekends because of the amount of work in lesson plan preparation alone.'”

Honea also blames Miles for many veteran teachers and administrators who’ve left under his leadership since 2012. But she also gives him credit for filling most posts by the beginning of this school year, something she hadn’t seen happen in a long time.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.