Common Sense

Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern News - April 27, 2015

About the Title

Common Sense was a pamphlet authored by Thomas Paine in 1775-76. It was written to inspire American colonists to declare independence from British Rule at the beginning of The Revolution. This weekly, modern, online relative of that pamphlet documents the news, events, updates, and celebrations of the TJ Revolution - the educational sensation sweeping through northwest Dallas.

TJ Feeder Pattern News in Brief

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Executive Director's Message

Third and Eighth grade STAAR results are in and the TJ Feeder pattern made a strong showing! Eight of 12 TJ Feeder campuses scored above the district average on the two tests. Some of the individual campus highlights are below:

  • Longfellow MS achieved 100% passing with 55% Advanced (an increase of 15-points)
  • Walnut Hill ES ranks as the 8th highest elementary campus in all of Dallas ISD with 90 percent passing
  • 6 other TJ Feeder elementary campuses are in the top quartile of Dallas ISD schools, ranking: (21) Williams ES, (24) Field ES, (25) Knight ES, (31) Foster ES, (33) Saldivar ES, (68) Burnet ES.
  • Cary MS was one of only 2 comprehensive middle schools in Dallas ISD to show an increase from 2014 to 2015, moving from 57 to 61 percent meeting standard.

It remains important to stay ever-focused on high quality instruction and run through the finish. Continue your instructional routines and focus on Good First Instruction. Learning goes on!

Have a great week with students!

Timothy J. Hise

Executive Director, Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern

Stories from "The Hub"

What Drives Many Teachers Away from High Poverty Schools

from Marshall Memo #583

In this Teachers College Record article, Nicole Simon and Susan Moore Johnson (Harvard Graduate School of Education) say that teacher turnover in U.S. public schools has increased substantially over the past three decades, especially in schools serving low-income neighborhoods. This constant teacher (and administrator) churn means the children of poverty are frequently taught by the least experienced and often the least effective teachers and attend schools without stable, trusting, productive adult-adult and adult-child relationships.

Why do so many idealistic young educators leave inner-city schools for greener pastures – or leave the professional entirely? Policymakers and researchers have focused primarily on student and teacher characteristics (teachers seemingly prefer working with higher-achieving, more privileged students) and salaries, professional status, and geographic location. But Simon and Johnson draw on six recent studies to make the case that something much more powerful is at work: the suboptimal professional working conditions in most high-poverty schools, specifically, their problems with administrative support, collegial relationships, and school culture.

Administrative support – Principals affect the professional lives of teachers in numerous ways, including:

- Articulating a clear vision for the school and seeing the vision through;

- Hiring skilled teachers and support staff who are committed to the vision;

- Assigning teachers to appropriate subjects and grades;

- Putting in place effective discipline, mentoring, and common planning time;

- Setting a positive professional tone, facilitating differentiated roles for teachers, and rewarding collaboration;

- Partnering with community organizations to maximize students’ learning opportunities;

- Navigating tricky political situations and sheltering teachers from distracting external demands and mandates.

Simon and Johnson suggest that principals are even more important in high-poverty schools than in more advantaged communities – and yet, perversely, the neediest schools are more likely to have a succession of inexperienced and less-effective leaders. “It is especially common for novice teachers in such schools to cope with several aspects of mismanagement simultaneously,” say the authors, “which bears heavily on their sense of efficacy and likely affects their students.”

“It is difficult to disentangle the many ways in which principals affect teachers’ work and their decisions about whether to stay or go,” they continue. “However, teachers repeatedly cite a small number of factors – the principal’s effectiveness as a school manager, instructional leadership, and inclusiveness in decision-making.” School management includes scheduling, facilities, budget, classroom supplies, communication – and simple decency and fairness. Instructional leadership includes hiring and retaining the right people, conducting thoughtful evaluations of teaching practice and making helpful suggestions for improvement, and orchestrating collegial support for new teachers. Decision-making includes listening to teachers’ views, giving them a measure of autonomy and discretion, and making them partners in the improvement process.

Collegial relationships – In surveys over the last 50 years, teachers consistently rate cooperative, competent colleagues and mentors as the most important workplace variable. There are three dimensions:

- An inclusive environment of respect and trust – This is especially important in schools where students’ needs are greatest.

- Formal structures for team collaboration, mentoring, and support – In the words of Judith Warren Little, this means “frequent, continuous, and increasingly concrete and precise talk about teaching practice (as distinct from teacher characteristics and failings, the social lives of teachers, and foibles and failures of students and their families, and the unfortunate demands of society on the school).”

- Shared professional goals and purpose – This is essential to good collaboration and contributes to a “can do” attitude among colleagues and a willingness to take responsibility for making the whole organization work.

When these are not present in a school, even the most talented and committed teachers are likely to leave.

School culture – Simon and Johnson define this as the “prevailing norms and values that are expressed through individuals’ practices and behaviors… A strong, positive school culture reinforces the sense of community and social trust necessary for school improvement. Not surprisingly, strong school culture is also linked to increased teacher retention.” Key components are (a) schoolwide student discipline – especially problematic in schools with large numbers of young, inexperienced teachers – and (b) parent engagement: “Parents influence teachers’ commitment to their school and predict turnover at all school levels,” say Simon and Johnson. Teachers need parents to get their children to school with positive attitudes and be available to take part in “joint problem solving” about student behavior – more important than helping with homework. “Some teachers view these challenges as insurmountable and enormously frustrating, but others feel supported by schoolwide parent engagement efforts.”

Simon and Johnson conclude, “The research suggests that building and sustaining strong work environments should be central to every district’s school improvement strategy… Creating school environments where teachers can offer the transformative pedagogy that will prepare historically underserved students for college and careers is extraordinarily difficult work – and it is highly dependent on the collective capacities of school-based practitioners.” So one of the highest priorities is placing experienced, effective principals in high-poverty schools and supporting them as they make key hiring, personnel, and organizational decisions.

“Teacher Turnover in High-Poverty Schools: What We Know and Can Do” by Nicole Simon and Susan Moore Johnson in Teachers College Record, March 2015 (Vol. 117, #3, p. 1-36),; the authors can be reached at and

Tenets of Difficult Conversations

Eleven Criteria for an Effective Pre-Kindergarten Program

from Marshall Memo #583

“Very young children learn differently even from children in primary grades,” say Christopher Brown (University of Texas/Austin) and Brian Mowry (Austin Independent School District) in this Kappan article. They suggest Rigorous DAP, an acronym for a set of principles to guide a developmentally appropriate early-childhood program that will prepare students for K-12 success:

  • Reaching all children – The key is providing activities that will pique children’s interest and increase their participation in academic content. For example, a prekindergarten teacher created a wilderness habitat in her classroom with families of stuffed bears, raccoons, squirrels, robins, and bats (each introduced on a separate day) and integrated all this with readalouds from books and scientific facts.
  • Integrating content – Teachers need to blend literacy, math, science, and other areas and take full advantage of the interconnectedness of learning. For example, a student tells how a raccoon had ravaged his family’s campsite, leading the class to a discussion of nocturnal animals.
  • Growing as a community – Circle times are opportunities to draw on students’ prior knowledge and get them sharing insights and questions.
  • Offering choices – Students should have the chance to shape part of their daily experience as they move among whole-group, small-group, center-based, child-initiated, play-based, indoor and outdoor, and loud and quiet learning experiences.
  • Revisiting new content – Not all students will understand and remember the first time around, so spiraling the curriculum is essential.
  • Offering challenges – It’s sometimes helpful to stretch content, vocabulary, and skills to what students will learn in later grades – for example, a teacher asked about the differences between what robins, squirrels, raccoons, and humans need to live.
  • Understanding each learner – Effective teachers learn about their students in multiple ways – being available to parents at the beginning and end of each day, making home visits, connecting with children’s diverse personal, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, sending home a weekly newsletter, and getting parents’ responses to content-specific questions.
  • Seeing the whole child – Growth in one domain – physical, conceptual, emotional, and social – depends on and influences growth in others.
  • Differentiating instruction – Classroom activities should have built-in variability so students can engage in different ways and the teacher can adjust support depending on how students are doing.
  • Assessing constantly – This includes anecdotal records, work samples, digital photographs, and videos going into portfolios to give the teacher a sense of how students are progressing and how instruction needs to be tweaked.
  • Pushing forward – Teachers maximize each child’s learning through all of the above, keeping in mind the end goals of the content that needs to be learned, a classroom that’s a great place to be, and students growing and being successful in all areas.

“Close Early Learning Gaps with Rigorous DAP” by Christopher Brown and Brian Mowry in Phi Delta Kappan, April 2015 (Vol. 96, #7, p. 53-57),; Brown can be reached at

Leadership Quote of the Week

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Week At-a-Glance

Monday, April 27
  • Campus Visits
  • Report Cards Issued

Tuesday, April 28

  • Campus Visits

Wednesday, April 29

  • Campus Visits

Thursday, April 30

  • Campus Visits
  • Teacher Focus Group @ Cigarroa ES (4-5:30pm)
  • Summer School Leadership Training @ Hulcy (4:30-6pm)

Friday, May 1

  • TJ Feeder Principals' Meeting @ Polk ES (8:30am - 12pm) <-- New Location!!

Saturday, May 2

  • TJ Feeder Pattern Super Saturday Prep-U @ TJHS (9am-12pm)

On The Horizon

April 27 - Report Cards Issued

April 27 - Reasoning Minds Math Inventory (EOY)

April 30 - Teacher Focus Group (Cigarroa ES)

May 1-22 - ISIP EOU Grades K-2/SRI (EOY) Grades 9-12

May 4-8 - Teacher and Teacher Assistant Appreciation Week

May 6 - National School Nurse's Day

May 6 - Principal Focus Group

May 9 - HCM Job Fair

May 11-12 - ACP Performance Tests Grades K-5

May 18-22 - National Educational Bosses' Week

May 18-29 - ACP Performance Tests Grades 6-12

May 25 - Memorial Day Holiday

May 30 - HCM Job Fair

May 30 - Deadline for ZERO VACANCIES

Action Items