In my last blog (click here to read), I shared the background on a program in the Dallas Independent School District, the School Time Capsule Project. Founded by Bill Betzen, a retired middle school teacher in DISD, this program focuses on helping 8th grade students define a vision for their futures and, more importantly, sets the stage for a reunion ten years later at which time these students share the positive outcomes tied to their involvement in the program.
Bill shared with me some of the outstanding successes of the program and discussed how the DISD School Effectiveness Index (SEI) has documented these successes. For additional information on the impact by campus, click here to access a blog written by Bill that provides details on progress of campuses across the district.
I wanted to gain a better understanding of the impact of the Project and what Bill sees as the outlook to expand the program. Following are excerpts from my discussion with him.
CRAIG: How did you select the schools that participate?
BILL: I started with the school where I was teaching (Quintanilla Middle School), moved to the high school it fed into, and was contacted by a teacher in the other middle school that fed into that high school. He was a TAG (talented and gifted) teacher who read about the project in the paper and wanted to start it at Greiner.
CRAIG: What criteria were used in expanding to other campuses?
BILL: The other schools were added because I approached the principals, had the money for the vaults due to a $15,000 donation, and was able to install them and get started. While not intentional, most of the schools were high poverty and mostly 99% minority.
CRAIG: Who is the Project champion of the campuses?
BILL: Typically it is the principal.
CRAIG: What are the plans to expand the program onto other campuses?
BILL: A DISD administrator has been tasked with defining how to expand the program, including an effort to expand into 3rd through 12th grades.
CRAIG: What are the biggest challenges to making this program an ongoing success?
BILL: Keeping a focus on simplicity and simply getting the steps done that are now known as making a difference. We need to fund a full time bi-lingual director position.
At the conclusion of our meeting, I asked Bill why he thought the results had been so impressive. He replied that, "Having students write down their plans for the future is common in education. It works to improve achievement and focus. An article about nuns having students write such letters to themselves which were then mailed years later to those students gave the initial idea that grew into the School Time Capsule Project in DISD. School climate changes with a documented focus on the future. Achievement and graduation rates go up, behavior problems and pregnancy rates go down."
All of this makes me wonder where we would be with public education in this state (and in the country) if any of our “leaders” had the foresight to create a vision that included public education as a cornerstone for future success. But that’s a story for another day and another blog.
Through his program, Bill clearly has focused his energies on making education a priority for these and other public education students. For that, we all owe Bill a special thank you. For further information, contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Project's web site, www.studentmotivation.org.