• Denton ISD DOI Colloquy: Tuesday, September 13, 2016
     The DOI Committee met for the second time on Tuesday, September  13,  2016 at Braswell HS. Superintendent, Dr. Jamie Wilson, addressed  the  role of the committee. Members are to identify barriers to student  achievement and local control. While the DOI Committee will assist  administrators in identifying barriers, appropriate district staff will be  assigned to craft solutions to overcome the identified barriers. Once  identified, a plan is to be crafted noting the specific exemptions the  district is seeking under the DOI legislation. The plan is to be complete  and posted prior to the winter break.
     Members discussed the results of the Circles of Concern, Influence, and  Control activity completed at the July 19, 2016 colloquy as seen in the  handout above. In the July 19 colloquy, members identified time,  expectations, and students as the top three areas of influence.
     Members participated in roundtable discussions addressing the following  questions:
    •  What barriers prevent Denton ISD from meeting students’ needs and/or  impedes teaching and learning, student opportunities, school  culture/climate, and growth/management?
    •  Explain this barrier in more detail.
    •  What would evidence of its implementation look like?
    •  What would evidence could demonstrate its impact (on teaching and  learning, student opportunities, school culture/climate, and/or  growth/management)?
    •  Identify is this barrier is this internal (i.e. local policy, procedure, etc.)  or external (i.e. federal or state law, mandate, etc.)?
    To answer the first question, time was used as an example. However, "time" is a broad answer and needs more detail, and the school calendar was mentioned. Texas law prohibits school districts from beginning instruction for students for a school year before the fourth Monday in August. Currently, most professional development must be crammed into  the month of August. Furthermore, starting school so late in August causes an imbalance in the number of days in the fall and spring semesters; and a majority of secondary teachers believe semester exams should be taken prior to the winter break. By starting school earlier, professional development days could be spread throughout the school year (i.e. federal holidays, etc. for students and families) and the semester for secondary students could be balanced ensuring equal class time in both the fall and spring semesters.
    A calendar that begins prior to the fourth Monday in August would serve as evidence; and student grades and standardized assessment scores could demonstrate the impact.
    Because Texas law prohibits school districts from beginning instruction for students for a school year before the fourth Monday in August unless the District operates a year-round system; and school districts may not receive a waiver of this requirement, this is an external barrier. However, under current DOI legislation, a district of innovation plan may exempt the district from this mandated start date. 
    A second example of "time" would be the number of weeks in a grading period. Currently, secondary schools have 9-week grading periods and elementary schools have 6-week grading periods. Some have expressed standards based grading requires more time; and a 9-week grading period would give students more time to master the content. A newly designed report with 9-week grading periods would demonstrate implementation. Report card grades, common assessment scores, and teacher feedback could demonstrate its effectiveness.
    State law does not specifically address the length of district grading periods, therefore this is an internal issue. 
    Between the second and third meeting of the DOI Committee, members of the Superintendent's Cabinet (i.e. directors, superintendents, etc.) and campus principals. will participate in the same exercise identifying barriers. DOI committee members will review the barriers identified in its third meeting on Tuesday, September 27, 2016.   
    In the DOI process, external issues will be addressed first. Because internal issues can be address absent a DOI plan, these issues will not be addressed in the DOI plan, but will be addressed by appropriate district staff. 
    While the term District of "Innovation" is somewhat of a misnomer (in that the legislation is really more about local control), Denton ISD still wants to embrace this opportunity to discuss innovation. DOI committee members were offered the opportunity to participate in The Innovator's Mindset Massive Online Open Course (http://immooc.org/). To join, sign up here. In his book, Couros wrote of innovating "inside the box." In other words, while the district will receive no further funding as a part of this legislation, finding ways to be innovative in the current constructs is possible. Once barriers have been identified, the DOI Committee will examine the possibilities and opportunities for innovation "inside the box."