MEMORIAL DAY POLL THOUGHTS

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I hope everybody had themselves a pretty good Memorial Day holiday. This weekends poll got condiderably less responses than the last couple of weeks, hopefully because everyone was out enjoying the holiday,  but the responses were no less interesting. Before we take a look at poll results I’d like to make some quick observations about some education related activity from this past weekend. Summer is supposed to be a time of decreased activity in the world of education policy, but if this weekend was any indication, that might not hold true.

Sunday’s Tennessean published an article written bt Joey Garrison and Nate Rau that focused on Charter School facilities and featured several quotes by MNPS board member Will Pinkston. I’m a little baffled by why this suddenly became a story – school is out, there are no charter school applications pending,  and per the article, “The deals approved by the Metro Health and Educational Facilities Board for Rocketship and Purpose Prep charter schools do not use local taxpayer money and contain no provisions that would put taxpayers on the hook.” Yes, Agassi’s private investor deals are deeply troubling, but they were just as troubling back in 2014 when I wrote about them and Joey Garrison did an exceptional article on the model.  Last year an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer shed further light on the program. These are all concerns I expressed to School Board member Pinkston 3 years ago when the Rocketship south building was proposed, yet nothing was done to counter those concerns. So why now are they being brought to life.

Equally troubling to me is that in this article it is mentioned that Regional Shaka Mitchell is departing from Rocketship. The information is brought to light two paragraphs after Mitchell is quoted defending the bond arrangement, “Rocketship announced on Friday that Mitchell is leaving his position in a move apparently unrelated to this story.” A classic when did you stop beating your wife move by the writers, as there is no follow up information included and therefore the reader is led to come to the conclusion that there is indeed a conection and probably a cover up. Sloppy reporting and once again an attempt to create a villainous demigod. I’m not quite sure how the continued villainization of those who hold different philosophical views than us helps the conversation. And yes, under his watch Rocketship did fail to meet state mandated requirements, but corrective action has ensued and unfortunately that failure is a too often occurence in all schools and doesn’t make Rocketship demonstrably unique.

Equally confusing to me is that Board Member Will Pinkston is the deemed arbitrator of what reeks and what is unethical. From the article, “This whole situation reeks and appears borderline corrupt,” said school board member Will Pinkston, who has made opposition to charter schools a centerpiece of his time on the board. “Adams and Reese has a clear conflict of interest and the Health and Educational Facilities Board needs to be investigated for facilitating a scheme that could lead to Nashville taxpayers funding charter schools in other states.” In a report on mold at Bellvue Middle School fellow board member Amy Frogge refused to comment on camera citing board policy that the only person that can speak on camera on behalf of the board is the chair, Anna Shepherd. Yet Pinkston is repeatedly cited in papers and appears on camera to criticize charter schools. Pinkston makes an argument that others are failing to follow policy while failing to follow policy himself. Or does the actual policy read, “Only the board chair and Will Pinkston are allowed to make statements on behalf of the Metro Nashville School Board.”? Wonder if Ms. Shepherd will ever clear that up or if, like the communication piece on MNPS employees communicating with school board members, it’ll just linger out there forever open to interpretation.

My position on charter schools is well documented. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of public education as a cornerstone of our democracy. But, I am baffled by people who can recognize the futility of the drug wars and its basis in attacks on the suppliers who fail to see the paralles playing out in the fight for public education. Repeatedly attacking suppliers while ignoring why there is demand is a strategy that has demonstrably failed to achieve success in the drug war and offers a preview of what to expect if we employ the same strategy in the fight against charter school proliferation. If we don’t address demand, parents will continue to search out alternatives regardless of how had we try and paint that alternative. Let me give you an example.

Earlier in the year, several hundred Antioch HS students staged a walkout over conditions in their school. An action that was never oppenly addressed by the school board. Last week I recieved documentation that shows over 60 teachers have left Antioch HS this year and that the Principal non-renewed 10 more. I’m told that they have roughly 115 teachers total. After the student walkout Dr. Joseph held a restorative justice circle with the teachers. They told him that if he didn’t do something about the principal he was going to lose a lot of teachers. Joseph’s reported response was that the principals was not going anywhere and the teachers could either get on the bus or get run over by the bus. Antioch HS is not the only school in the district facing huge teacher turnover – Sylvan Park, Warner, Overton, Joelton, to name a few. I ask you, which story, charter school building finance or high teacher turnover,  do you think has greater impact on student outcomes?  Which story has the ability to affect charter growth? If I’m a parent in a school with that kind of teacher turnover and my only choice is enrolling in a school that appears more stable but uses dubious means to fund its capital investments, where do you think I’m going?

The MNPS School Board and the the districts administration often talks about how much they value teachers. They’ve even partnered with Nashville Public Education Foundation to offer discounts from area merchants to teachers. Yet, beyond the superficial, their actions never seem to match their words. Teacher’s recently had to fight to keep a proposed 3% raise and no one ever raises the question about high teacher turnover. It’s time we made words and deeds match up.

My kid’s go to a highly challenged public school. Let me state the obvious here, all title 1 schools do not look the same. Do not think for a moment that you can understand the lives of our most challenged kids with out spending time with them. This year has been an eye opener for me. I have spent the year gainfully unemployed and so I’ve spent a great deal of time with children that daily demonstrate more grit then should be asked from anyone. I’ve watched more and more of them matriculate to charter schools due to their parents wanting nothing more then a better opportunity for their children and not having faith in their neighborhood schools despite their love for their teachers. Sports announcer Colin Cowherd once said that if you have to argue for a player’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame then they are not a Hall of Famer. I’d argue the same applies to the charter school argument. If we have to explain why neighborhood schools are superior and charter schools are bad, we’ve already lost the fight. A fight that is too important to lose.

Ok, enough ranting. Let’s get to results. On the first question, “How should the state of Tennessee respond to yet another year of testing problems?”, not surprisingly many of you were looking for some accountability. Right behind that accountability was a desire to suspend testing. The two answers came in at 33% and 32%. I suspect state officials would oppose suspending testing out of fear that that if we do, we’ll discover that it’s not quite as imperative as we thought. Here’s the write-in answers.

Align tests we already take, MAP, Fastbtidge, finals, so no Addtl $$ test reqd. 1
Get rid of the test! Teachers shouldn’t be held accountable for this joke. 1
Stop using testing data f 1
Abandon all state maandated testing. 1
Hold state lawsakers accountable with Department of Education staff for not gete 1
hold districts accountable for test window n/allowing time for scores to return 1
Stop testing 1
Stop all the testing and let the teachers teach their students 1
teachers shouldn’t be held accountable for scores since students aren’t 1
Stop all testing. Teachers know what students have learned & what they need to l

The second question asked you to give Tennessee’s Education Superintendent Candice McQueen a mark for the year. The overwelming response, 44%,  was a “C” for the superintendents performance. Unfortunately the two next popular answers were “D” and “F”. Seems most of you think that she is doing a less then proficient job. Personally, I’ve come to appreciate her efforts but am deeply troubled by her recently joining the Chiefs for Change. The fact that she is the lone state chief in the new class of members, for an organization that was founded for state chiefs, does not bode well. Here’s the write ins for this question and I must admit they made me chuckle.

If we give her an “F”, are we forced to give unlimited retakes? 1
I’d give her a 0 but we aren’t allowed to give below a 50

The last question pertained to how teachers will be spending their “vacation”. For most of you it won’t be a vacation. Forty eight percent of you indicated that you would either be pursuing professional development opportunities or working a second job to make ends meet. Those two answers don’t exactly conjure up the ingrained vision of teachers spending the summer on the beach drinking Mai Tais while reading the latest James Paterson. What it does do is paint a picture of the hard working dedicated professionals that actually inhgabit our schools. Thank you for all you do. Here’s the write ins, and they made me chuckle as well and I really appreciate the one answer.

All of the above 1
Looking for another job 1
3 cocktails down. Hundreds to go. 1
Transitioning to a new job 1
Drunk 1
Practicing for knocking doors for TC next summer! 1
professional dev, time with family,read, and if time left clean my house 1
Catching up on all the things I neglect during the school year working long days 1
Professional development AND working a second job 1
Just chilling 1
Drinking heavily 1
Catching up on missed tv and reading lots of books! 1
Summer school, PD, and personal projects

Have a great week. I’m going to try and get my latest educator interview with State Education Board Member Wendy Tucker edited and out in the next couple of days. I think it’s a pretty good one and raises some interesting points. We’ll also be back next Friday with some more poll questions. Here at Dad Gone Wild we never take time off. I’m also going to leave you with this warning about how we fight our battles. If we are loathe to call out “our” assholes because they are “our” assholes, we shouldn’t be surprised if we end up with a world full of assholes.

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MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND POLL

It’s official now. Summer is here and another school year has passed. It was a hectic week here in Dad Gone Wild Land. Graduation ceremonies took place all across MNPS and as always they were emotional for teachers and parents. I’m particularily proud of the one at Tusculum ES seeing as my wife played a large role in putting it together and it was quite inspiring. It’s onward and upward now for these amazing 4th graders.

In the last two weeks, two of Nashville’s higher profile schools, have lost dynamic leaders. Eakin Principal Tim Drinkwine is leaving to spend more time focusing on family. West End Middle School Principal Craig Hammond has been promoted to a newly created district leadership position, executive director of school support and improvement (EDSSI). Wright Middle School, Cockrill ES, and Big Picture High School will also be looking for new principals as Erin Anderson, Susan Cochrane, Chaerea Snorten were also promoted to the newly created EDSSI position. All 5 of these have exceptional leaders have provided extrordinary service to their respective schools over the years and parting is bitter sweet but I suspect all will continue to do great work. They leave some big shoes to fill.

Wednesday I had a chance to experience the opening phase of the principal replacement process first hand, as newly appointed Community Superintendent Dr. Dottie Critchlow held a community meeting to out line the process. Dr. Critchlow did an excellent job of explaining a process that raises a few questions to say the least. As part of the first step of the process, parents were asked to fill out a survey selecting the 5 top traits they would look for in a principal. Teachers completed theirs seperately. Out of these surveys 5 – 6 questions are crafted that are supposed to illuminate the traits most desired by the community. A panel is then constructed of various stake holders -administrators, teachers, parents, community members. All panel members nust sign a non-disclosure form that they will not discuss anything that happens during the interview. Interviews are scheduled on a single day with 4 -5 candidates that have been pre-screened by human resources.

At the interview, each principal candidate is required to produce a writing sample and then is asked the crafted questions in front of the panel. The panel is not permitted to ask any additional questions nor to ask any follow up questions. I believe every interview is scheduled for 45 minutes. If the interviewee answers all questions and there is time remaining, they can be asked if there is any additional information they would like to share. After the interview ends, and the candidate leaves, two pieces of butcher paper are placed on the wall with columes for “likes” and “I wonders”. Panel members submit their feedback. All feedback must me based on the questions asked. The use of Google or outside sources is not permitted. “I wonders” are never addressed to the panel though Dr. Critchlow testified that Dr. Joseph uses them in the final interview.

After all interviews are completed each panel member ranks their top 3 and places that information in a sealed envelope and turns it in. Nobody knows who anybody else has in their top 3. The envelopes are then collected and given to Dr. Joseph. He opens them and based on the results,  selects the top two candidates for the next round of interviews. That is the process in a nutshell. Those candidates who are not selected  are given their lists of  “Likes” and “I wonders” to review for professional development. A practice that makes me cringe and hope that legal has signed off on it. When I described this process of principal selection to a friend, they labled it the Pontius Pilot method. If things go south…well, that’s who the panel picked.

Like I said, I see a lot of problems with this model. The main thing that concerns me though is the lack of transparency embedded in the process. Why are people being asked to sign non-disclosures? The official argument is that it’s to protect the potential principals. My counter is that Chattanooga recently allowed access to the interview process via Twitter and secondly, when was the last time that a quality person got fired from a position because they sought different employment?

We need to realize a couple things. First, this is education not national security that we are talking about. If you are doing things above board you shouldn’t fear people hearing what you are discussing.  Secondly, this is Nashville, we all talk. Telling us not to talk…only makes us talk more. You know what makes us talk less? Being transparent and including us in conversations. We are capable of evaluating whether you are truly doing what’s best for our kids. Include us in the conversations at all levels and amazingly the mis-information that you so fear, will decrease. If I am told by a panel participant that the questions actually represented what parents expressed, I’m going to be less critical. If the hire matches what the community had in their top two it lends credence to the process. I know that takes a little work but it should be inherent in the process. We used to have a saying in the service industry, “This would be a great job if it wasn’t for the customers.” Some times it feels like district leadership holds that view.

One last thing on the process. Dr. Critchlow did a very good job of informing parents and attempting to address the parents’ concerns but she was the only representative of MNPS, besides Dr. Hammond, present. That is the first time in 5 years I can remember a community/parent meeting that didn’t have a member of the communication team and at least one more central office representative present. That is a lot of pressure to put on one person. Perhaps in the future the community superintendent will have members of their still being hired team present, but it feels to me a little like the position of community superintendent was created to serve as one more bulwark to protect and isolate Dr. Joseph and his leadership team. I could be wrong but he hasn’t exactly been quick to assume responsibilty for problems that arose throughout the year. I guess time will offer the final judgement on all of it.

Enough of that, let’s get to this week’s questions. Once again TNReady has proven to be not so much. In a nutshell, quick scores are supposed to be included in students’ final report cards. After promising to have them back to districts in time for them to be included, the state is failing to once again hold up their end of the bargin. Andy Spears over at the TNEd Report has done a spectacular job of covering the fiasco.  My question is, based on a multi-year failure to execute, what should be the next step for Tennessee in regards to standardized testing?

School is ending across the state and students are recieving their final grades for the year, albeit some a little later than others. Why should the commisioner of education be any different? What grade would you give Dr. McQueen this year?

Lastly, everybody knows that teachers have it made because they get summers off, but I’m curious on how you teachers plan to spend this summer.

That’s what I got. Hope everybody has a wonderful and safe holiday. Remember feed back is always welcome.

THOUGHTS ON 5/19 POLL

To say the results from this weekend’s poll were surprising, would be an understatement. They certainly were not what I would have predicted. I appreciate all of you who shared their views with us. Overall we had 265 people respond. I think that’s a pretty decent number and a large enough sample size to make some inferences. Before diving in and looking at the results I’d like to make a few points.

In starting these polls, the purpose has never been to establish a definitive answer but rather to facilitate conversation. In this process I’ve learned just how difficult it is to write questions that don’t lead people to specific answers. It’s something I think I’m improving at, but like everything else, it’s a journey. It is really important to me that people walk away from these polls thinking a little deeper rather than just confirming an opinion.

It has been brought to my attention that some teachers or administrators feel a trepidation in participating in the polls for fear of their responses being traced back to them. Please rest assured that all responses are confidential. I never look at IP addresses unless I see a trend that indicates someone is trying to game the process – a bot voting. This only happened during the first couple of polls when the Dad Gone Wild team noticed a flury of answers come in simutaneously with the same opinion. I have worked very diligently over the past several years to earn the trust of Nashville’s educators and hold that trust sacred. You may not always agree with me, but hopefully you know I would never do anything to jeopardize someone’s employment.

Every week I struggle with the question of whether or not to print the write in answers. For me, it always comes down to the position that if this blog is going to be a vehicle for people to express their opinion, then it’s not my role to censor those opinions. Even angry comments have validity, because if somebody is angry enough, or uninformed enough, to post those thoughts, we need to try and figure out why they are feeling that disinfranchised. I’ve always said perception is nine-tenths of reality. It’s important to analyze what people’s perceptions are and how they are arriving at those perceptions. Especially if those perceptions run counter to the message that we are trying to send. Often times it’s something we are doing, without realizing it, that is causing these perceptions and potentially making our work even more difficult. Often it’s something easily correctable through better communication.

Last point before looking at the results. This week’s questions deal with racial bias, and people I respect have raised the argument that results may be tilted because the majority of my readers are white. I don’t know what the actual numbers are, perhaps that should be poll question. I’m sure that I have less African-American readers then Vesia Hawkins , but it’s something I continue to work on. However, not everybody who answers the poll questions is neccesarily a reader. Poll posts are distributed, when Nashville-centric, through various neighborhood groups throughout the city – Bellevue, 12 South, 16th District, Antioch, Bradford Hills, Inglewood, East Thompson Lane – as well as through the normal avenues. I greatly appreciate those groups allowing me to occasionally post and I always try to be very sensitive to making sure that when I post, it’s relevant. It’d be great if I could get access to even more groups and I am constantly trying to make readership more diverse. With that said, I would argue that minority representation is higher then perceived, but still not overwelming and therefore should be a caveat. Let’s get to the questions now.

Question 1 asked, Do you believe that criticism of MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and his leadership team is racially motivated? Ever since the first stories critical of Dr. Joseph emerged,  there has been a narrative generated that the only reason he was being criticized was because he was a black man. Proponents of this narrative pointed to past transgressions by previous administrations. The argument utilizing past tragressions is a pet peeve of mine. We should evaluate policy on whether it is good or bad, not on what transgressions previous administrations committed. History is important in the context of what’s worked and not worked and why policy might have failed. It’s not a defense for bad policy.

The majority of repondents felt that either there was no racial motivation, or that any racial bias was due to Joseph and his administration’s framing of the conversation. That opinion was held by a total of 83% of the respondents. It shocked me, to be honest, that only 12 people out of 263 responded that the criticism was racially motivated. I would have expected the numbers to be much closer to a 60/40 split. I think part of the disparity results from how insidious institutional racism can be. It is easy for us to claim no individual bias while ignoring how ingrained racial biases are in our institutions. Here are the write ins:

Dr. Joseph hates white people 1
This is going to give Vesia Hawkins about 1000 more things to complain about 1
They have caused the racial issues in MNPS . 1
I believe Dr Joseph and his team wants people to believe it is racially motivat. 1
I think it’s due to their policies. But I can’t say “racial bias plays no role.”

Question two attempted to flip the table and ask, Do you feel that Dr. Joseph and his team show a bias toward African Americans in their policies?  There is a comment on this question that I need to respond to. It asked why I used the word “Unfortunately” in the response affirming this percieved bias. It’s a great question and I wish I had a better answer for why I used it. The truth is, I tried to soft pedal an answer that I was a little scared of getting. Despite my many criticisms I still hold out hope that I’m wrong in my interpretations and that Dr. Joseph will turn out to be the leader we all envisioned. Accusing someone of racial bias is a severe accusation. I assumed that nobody choosing that response would do so with joy and therefore I tried to offer what I percieved as softer answer. I shouldn’t have and I apologize.

“Unfortunately, I do blieve that they do” was the number one response. It got 57% of the votes. Coming in second was “I think they don’t value experience and since the majority of our employees are white, some people have gotten that perception” at 23%. Extremely troubling to me was that only 8 people out of 263 answered “I believe that they are committed to having the most qualified people, regardless of race or sexual orientation, in place.” That’s a little scary and if I was part of the MNPS administration I’d put that on my radar. Maybe  a series of blog posts over the summer interviewing people in leadership highlighting their qualifications would be in order. Here  are the write in answers:

Yes. They’re the racists. 1
both Central Office and Charters just playing the race card now 1
His kind are what have ruined our schools 1
Black LIves Matter. 1
Yes!!! And rightfully so!!! #blacklivesmatter 1
They don’t value experience and are rewarding friends with positions power 1
Many white principals will be removed this summer 1
Dr. Joseph is a racist. 1
It didn’t start with dr Joseph. promotions go to dr majors frat bros 1
Isn’t increasing black leadership & teachers a district goal? 1
I think they show bias toward former PG County cronies

The last question had to do with the state not having quick scores ready in a timely manner again this year. It seems to be a statewide issue but in a report by channel 5 they shared MNPS’s response that seemed to indicate that the delay was caused by MNPS getting their materials in late. I must say that every administrator I talked to said it was clearly a state issue. Andy Spears does a great job covering the constantly evolving story over on TN ED Report.

It was quite surprising to me that 75% of respondents were willing to assign at least some of the blame to MNPS, with 49% willing to put the blame squarely on MNPS’s shoulders. That speaks to a bit of a credibility problem to me. It also speaks to the ability of the communication department. A situation where blame, by most accounts, should rest squarely on the state gets shifted to the district. Is the lack of quick scores being available due to MNPS’s failure to meet a deadline? Or rather a statewide failing? MNPS’s communications department leaves that up to interpretation and I would say that’s a problem. Here’s question 3’s write in answers:

t’s not the end of the world. This is the first year taking this new test, so 1
FAST MCAP WIDA tests are real problem 1
Affirmative action 1
RACISTS Trying to make a strong black man look bad 1
RACIST white people 1
Dr. Joseph

I would say that the answers to all these questions indicates a lack of buy-in by stakeholders to Dr. Joseph, his team, and their policies. A prime opportunity to increase buy-in was missed during the latest budgeting process by attempting to lower teacher salary increases from 3% to 2%. The administration caved and retained the 3% but only after teachers braved rush hour traffic and traveled cross town to strongly recommend keeping it at 3% at a 5pm budget hearing. Despite their words, this administration seems to value programs and consultants over the actual people doing the work. As I recently told a central office adnministrator, you can fund programs at 200% but if you don’t have buy-in, they will fail every time. I hope Dr. Joseph and his team will take a look at these results and use them for what they are intended for, a place to start the conversation. A conversation that can put us on the path to success.

MAY 19TH WEEKEND POLL

The last full week of schools for MNPS students comes to a close today. Hope it was a good week for you as it was for me. The highlight of my week was attending Project Lit’s book club meeting with the students in Nashville’s SIFE(Students w/ Interrupted Formal Education) program.

If you are unfamiliar with Project Lit, it’s a literacy program rooted in project based learning that addresses the literacy needs of students living in book deserts. The community book club has been meeting since January and it brings together Maplewood HS students and members of the community over literacy. Two months ago a book club involving students enrolled in SIFE programs throughout the district was added. SIFE students are kids from around the world who have come to Nashville with a very limited grasp of the English language, so you can imagine the challenges of a book club. Somehow administrators  of the SIFE program and Project Lit have managed to overcome those challenges.

The thing that most impressed me about this week’s book club is how closely the SIFE Book Club resembles the Community Book Club. The expectation is that both groups will read the book and come prepared to discuss it. Both groups participate in the vocabulary and trivia contests. Both groups rose to the challenge. I sat with a group of Syrian students and we worked through both the vocabulary and trivia challenges and while it was extremely difficult for them, they stuck with it and were fully engaged. In fact, the Syrian young man proved to be extremely adept at trivia. If you get a chance to attend either book club, I strongly encourage you do so.

Before we get to poll questions, I  want to give a shout out to the staff at Tusculum ES. They do more with less on a daily basis and I just continue to be  blown away by their dedication and creativity. Thursday was Field Day or more aptly described at Tusculum, Asphalt Day. Due to a lack of greenspace Asphalt Day has been held in the main parking lot for the last two years. Despite the less then optimal circumstances, the staff comes together to ensure an incredible experience for the kids. Tusculum ES staff rocks. (Is my homer bias showing?) On to the questions.

To give a little fair warning, questions this week are not going to be as “fun filled” as last week. In fact they may offend some people. That is not my purpose. My purpose, as always, is to spark conversation in order to make us all better. My belief is that if there is an elephant in the room, let’s name it. Let’s go ahead and see if we can’t have a healthy conversation about that elephant. So please keep that in mind.

Last July when Dr. Joseph took over as the MNPS Director of Schools he became the first African American to hold that position. The majority of  people he brought with him to the district where also African American. Over the last several months there have been several critical stories directed towards Dr. Joseph. The argument has been raised that these criticisms are more rooted in racism then him and his teams actual performance. By the same token, the accusation has also been raised in some quarters that the new leadership team favors African Americans or white and hispanic staff members and students. The subject of race is a conversation that is probably long over due for Nashville – as a district we didn’t exit desegregation until 1996.  To start the conversation, I wanted to get your opinion on the current state. I understand that this will probably prove to be a long, painful, and complex conversation, as it should be. And please while comments are always welcome and encouraged, let’s keep our words as respectful as possible.

My other question has to do with testing issues. Letter’s went home to parents this week  informing them that the state is once again unable to provide quick scores in a timely manner and therefore TNReady scores will not be included in report cards. On the surface this appears to be the state once again unable to fufill their obligation. But, if you listen to the Channel 5 story, you’ll hear MNPS admit that the deadline to get tests in to the state’s testing vendor was May 10th and that MNPS submitted theirs on May 12th. The state maintains that they are adhering to the time line released at the beginning of the year, but was that an appropriate time line? Why did MNPS not make adjustments back when the time line was released? Andy  Spears over at Tennessee Education Report has done a good job of trying to make sense of a confusing never ending story that seems has no shortage of blame to go around. I honestly don’t know who’s responsible for once again testing administrators failing to live up to expectations. I do know that more questions need to be asked and that these continued snafu’s only undermine the tests credibility. Who do you think is responsible?

So there you have it. Three questions that hopefully will generate some healthy conversation. I’ll report back on Monday.

FOLLOW UP ON 5/12 POLL

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Wow! This weekend’s poll got phenomenal response. I was amazed and appreciative that over 300 of you responded to this past weekends poll questions. Once again, the leading answers surprised me a bit. Let’s review.

On magnet schools, it turns out that people are not nearly as against them as I initially thought. Over the past year there has been a lot of talk about their role in segregation and families leaving the district. It was my assumption that people were starting to have negative feelings towards them. However, our poll didn’t reflect that as the leading response, at  36%, was “I’m all for them. I wish we had more.” If you add in the responses with the caveat that admission be solely based on academic measurement, 21%,  you get 57% of respondents who outright support academic magnet schools and seemingly desire more.

The second leading answer was “I wish they’d all go away and that every school had the same advanced academic offerings” at 26%, so it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. With the district moving to offer advanced academics at all middle schools starting next year, it will be interesting to revisit this question in a year or so. Perhaps that offering will off set some of the demand. Here’s the “others” answers:

Depends on if it is a legit magnet or a Joseph creation. 1
I’m for but descrip. Not clear. Specific academic focus including arts. 1
I like them, but diversity.., MLK has equal black & white. ACT scores match too. 1
Increase the number of alternative schools and all schools would be magnets 1
Wish we had more AND more advanced academics at ALL schools.

Next year is an election year for governor in Tennessee and since obviously the governor has a lot of influence on the state’s education policy, I though we’d do an early straw poll. This one wasn’t that surprising. Democrat Craig Fitzhugh was the winner, claiming 42% of the responses. Fitzhugh is my personal choice and one of the things that I find most appealing about him is the fact that no matter who you talk to, republican or democrat, they refer to him as someone who would be good for everyone. The runner up was Republican and former state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd with 26% of the vote. I don’t know to much about Mr. Boyd but by all accounts he’s a centrist in the mold of current governor Bill Haslam. Democrat and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Republican and Franklin businessman Bill Lee were up next tied in a virtual dead heat.

One thing that made me extremely happy on a personal note, was the diversity in the voting. I really appreciate that people from all different demographics are taking the time to read and interact with Dad Gone Wild. I started the blog four years ago to encourage conversation and exploration. Truth is, if everybody is agreeing with me, I tend to get a little suspicious.  I’m glad that Dad Gone Wild readership reflects that dogma.

Though it is still way early in the election process, and not everybody has even declared yet, I think this poll gives us a good glimpse of what future leadership might look like. We’ll see how it compares to the final outcome. Hopefully Dad Gone Wild readers can predict the future and next year finds us dancing at the inauguration of Governor Fitzhugh.

Current MNPS school board member Will Pinkston did receive 6 write in votes. You can write your own punchline. The only other write in candidate to get multiple votes was State Rep Bo Mitchell. If Mitchell ever did run for governor I’d be down with it. Here’s the other write ins:

Will Pinkston 6
Bo Mitchell 2
They are all crooks 1
Honestly don’t know 1
Megan Barry 1
Any one but Dean

With another school year about to wrap up, I thought it would be fun to survey everybody’s favorite “end of school” song and y’all didn’t disappoint. This one’s winner I never saw coming. Good Riddance, Time of Your Life by Green Day was the easy winner. Schools Out by Alice Cooper was tied for second with What Time is It from High School Musical. I must admit though, if I hadn’t forgot to make Graduation Day by Vitamin C a selection, it would have been among the leaders as it received 7 write in votes.  It’s a song that I sheepishly admit to being unfamiliar with. Here’s the list of others :that recieved votes:

vitamin c – graduation day 1
Summertime – George Gershwin 1
graduation day – vitamin c 1
Graduation Day Vitamin C 1
Vitamin C’s Graduation Day so g 1
graduation day by vitamin c 1
vitamin c graduation day 1
Summer Time Thing Chuck Profitt 1
Vitamin C – Graduation day 1
summer girls – lfo 1
Fuck You – Lily Allen 1
“Looks Like We Made It” – Barry Manilow 1
I prefer my Will Pinkston Playlist: “Mean,” “Rude,” Cry Cry Cry,” and “Freak.” 1
good riddance could also be my theme for the Joseph admin

That does it for this week’s poll questions. There only 8 more days of school left in Nashville. Tuesday, 5/16, MNPS will be holding a budget hearing. If you can please attend and support MNPS teachers and Hume Fogg students. The teachers are trying to preserve a 3% raise that Dr. Joseph is proposing be reduced to 2%. Hume Fogg students are fighting to save their beloved German program. Both need your support.

Last week I attended the last book club meeting of Project Lit. There are rumors that there will be a meeting over the summer and then things will start back up in the fall. I strongly encourage anyone who can attend, to do so. It’ll enrich your life. That’s it for now. But check back for updates during the week…oh…almost forgot, thank you Mo Carrasco for an excellent lunch today. Been to long since I’ve been to Dunya Kabob. With that I’m out.

WEEKEND POLL 5/12

This has been one action packed week! Between school board meetings focused on teacher raises, a resignation of a popular school leader, and the last book club meeting of Project Lit, this week has progressed at warp speed. We’ve made it to the end though and that means time for some questions. This week’s question’s are a little broader then last week, so everyone can contribute.

My first question has to do with Academic Magnet Schools. As of late, here in Nashville there has been a lot of conversation about them, with perennial State House Representive candidate Chris Moth implicitly asking for an explanation of their value. Do they have value? I thought I’d ask you.

Here in Tennessee, next year is an election year for governor. If you had to vote tomorrow, who would get your vote? Not all of the candidates listed have publically declared, but perhaps your vote could  influence their decision. So tell me who you’d like to see be the next governor.

I have fond memories as kid of blasting Alice Cooper’s School’s Out during the last week of school. Seeing that the end of the school year is on the horizon, I thought it would be fun to ask you for your favorite end of the school year song. If it’s connected to a memory, please share it in the comment section. Hopefully this one will get you humming and bring a smile to your face.

Thanks again for your participation and I’ll see you on the other side.

 

THANK YOU DR. DRINKWINE

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Metro Nashville Public Schools has lost a keeper. Dr. Tim Drinkwine put in his resignation today. He is reportedly taking some time away from education to focus on his family after serving 3 years at the head of Eakin Elementary School. If you ever had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Drinkwine you understand what a special leader he was. The fact that MNPS is letting him get away is a huge loss for the district. The reason he’s leaving is like most things of this nature, complex. I won’t go into them because I respect him too much to co-opt his very personal decision to drive my agenda, but I also refuse to allow others to paint this as a “business as usual” kind of thing.

There are those that will try and lead you to believe that educators of Dr. Drinkwine’s talents are readily available. They will tell you principals change schools every few years and that the school has been through this before and everything will be fine. Do not belive that. There is no magical principal orchard where you can just go out and pluck another great principal. Schools do have a lot of transition at the top but that’s not a healthy sign but rather a sign of how difficult it is to find a really great leader. Lastly, there is no guarantee that things will be all right. Don’t believe me? Just ask the parents of students at Joelton MS, Cumberland ES, Antioch HS, Sylvan Park ES, or Paragon Mills ES.

Dr. Drinkwine is not the first high profile principal that we’ve lost this year. Lance Forman at Smith Springs ES left earlier this year to take a job with Lipscomb University. A job I doubt he would have accepted if he felt more confident in the direction of MNPS. Cental office will probably see a huge exodus this summer. Teachers are transferring at high numbers. Don’t believe me? Ask your kid’s teachers, they’ll tell you the story. For whatever reason, Dr. Joseph and his team are not getting buy in from the troops. (Actually, I know the reason but that would make this a much longer post.)

At the same time people are leaving in high numbers, MNPS has had to extend the application window for Advanced Academic Teachers, Literacy specialists, and Direct District Instructional Support because the district is not able to attract enough applicants. I know we often argue the merits of the new math, but no matter what math you apply, high output plus low input adds up to the same result. School Board member Will Pinkston once told me back when we were still talking, that he didn’t care if people left because that just demonstrated they didn’t have the districts best interests at heart. Spoken like someone who’s never really succesfully managed people and hopefully he’s cultivating his own private educator farm because we are about to have a personnel crisis. The kind of crisis that takes years to dig out from under.

I’ve long said that when you enter a new organization as a leader you will find basically three kinds of people all ready in place – people who are highly qualified and doing great work, people doing terrible work and under qualified, people capable of doing great work with the right management. It’s the directors job to inventory the talent, weed out the clearly unqualified, and convert those capable of good work. Dr. Joseph has never done that inventory nor have we as a public demanded it. Instead we let him believe that we were a district in crisis and he summarily dismissed the work that had been done to date in the district.

We readily accept that in order for kids to succeed we have to hold them to high expectations, but we don’t apply that to district leadership. Parent’s loathe Grading For Learning but apparently we only too willing to extend the benefits of the concept to district leadership. If I consistently offered healthy critique to students, the narrative would be that I am pushing them to succeed. If I offer the same input to the director of schools, the narrative is that I am undermining his chances at success. I’m sorry, but both statements can not be true.

Once again I am going to ring the warning bells. There are some very troubling trends starting to take root within MNPS. Burying our heads and singing “Everything is going to be all right” will not stop those roots from taking hold. Focusing on just your local school is not going to solve district issues and eventually the issues will translate to your backyard. We have to demand the same level of excellence from our leaders that we do from our students. Our school board can fight over charter schools all they want, and we can continue to allow them to distract us, but if we don’t fix our cultural problems and improve our existing schools, that argument will be moot. Parents will settle that argument with their feet and parents will demand more alternatives. Don’t believe me? Than just stay the course.

Eakin parents, I wouldn’t freak out, you have a great school, but I certainly wouldn’t rest easy either. I’d drop a note to the school board and Bransford Avenue that you expect the district to maintain the high level of leadership you’ve become accustomed to. I’d let them know you intend to be an intregal part of the conversation. I’d be an integral part of that conversation. I’d also take a minute to tell Dr. Drinkwine thank you. It’s been a great three years and we are all better for knowing you.

 

FIRST POLL IN MAY RESULTS

Happy Monday morning! Only 2 more left in Nashville until the end of school. That means I’m soon to have a 2nd and a 3rd grader in the house. Who’d a ever thunk?

There was a lot of input in this weekends poll and as always, some very interesting results. I’ve never been able to predict what will hit a nerve with people and this weekend was certainly no exception. That said, let’s review the outcomes.

We’ll start off with the question that referenced teacher raises. As mentioned previously, Mayor Barry did not approve the entire proposed budget of Director of Schools Dr. Joseph. She approved $36 out of $59 million in additional funding with the caveat that it be dedicated to staff raises, English Language Learners, Literacy, and Social Emotional Learning. Dr. Joseph decided that despite her wishes, he was going to re-submit a budget that kept many of his personal initiatives and reduced the proposed teacher salary increases to 2%. In doing so, he attempted to throw a little shade at the mayor. I was curious as to who y’all blamed.

Overwelmingly you placed the blame at the feet of the one who proposed the cut, Dr. Joseph. By a margin of over three to one you said that Dr. Joseph should bear the brunt of the blame instead of the  mayor. What did surprise me is who you said deserved secondary blame. It wasn’t the Mayor, but rather the school board since they are the ones who approve the budget.

These results fuel my sense of confusion about the strategy that Dr. Joseph is employing here. In several pieces of communication he has squarely taken shots at the mayor for not fully funding his proposed budget. In a piece he sent out to teachers, sent to me by a third party, he wrote that we would be, “aligning our salary increase with that of Mayor Barry’s – and reducing our salary increase from 3% to 2% with a step increase for those who qualify.” The problem with that is, that while MNPS gets the bulk of their funding from Metro, MNPS employees are not Metro employees. Therfore there is no real need for cordination between entities.

I just don’t see where bringing Mayor Barry into the fray is going to end well for anybody. I’ll go on record as saying that if I was a betting person, I’d bet on Megan being here a lot longer then Dr. Joseph. Sorry Dr. J but I’ve watched her work for a number of years and she ain’t no light weight. So even if she did dictate aligning the two entities, I’d play the long game and sell the proposal without evoking her name. Nothing is to be gained by making her the straw man.

Now I do understand that Dr. Joseph feels the need to jump start his incentives. The problem with his incentives is that they all require outside consultants to implement. Whether it’s Scholastic for Literacy or TNTP for culture, every iniative comes with its own personal set of outside consultants. We’ve used so many consultants over the past year that you have to begin to wonder what promises have been made to these folks? Couple the consultants with the increased hiring at central office, and you have a lot of spending that, in my opinion, the mayor felt was not prudent. I’m inclined to agree with her. Dr. Joseph needs to stop playing games and just give the staff the 3%, a bare minimum, that they deserve and start implementing his iniatives sans consultants. If the people recently hired can’t do the work, perhaps we’ve hired the wrong people.

This question had a lot of  “other” answers as well. Here they are (warning: Not all answers are safe for work):

Dr. Joseph’s 3% was a slap in yhe face. I blame both him and Megan Barry. 1
No one in particular. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s par for the course. 1
All Above. 1
Barry and Joseph 1
Voters 1
The State of Tennessee BEP 1
State 1
poor school funding across TN 1
They’re all culpable 1
No one. It’s business. 1
Jesse Register 1
All the above 1
Fuck Dr Joseph & his squad 1
State Edu Dept and TN Legislators 1
A collective decision either through support and/or lack of opposition 1
The voters 1
Mayor and Dr J equally 1
All of the above. 1
All three! A budget of 59 mil was a stretch. 1
Both Joseph and the school board. Apparently they never disagree.

Question two asked for your opinion on the newly hired, or as MNPS likes to say, repurposed community superintendents. Based upon your responses, I would have to say that the district hasn’t done a very good job communicating what exactly a community superinndents role is, as 34% of respondents said they didn’t have enough information about the position to evaluate those selected. Of those who knew enough about the position to evaluate the selections, 23% were unimpressed. Out of 160 respondents, only 6 thought these were inspired choices. That’s a bit of a concern, wouldn’t you think?

It seems that the district seems to define communication as talking and then the process ending. Communicating is a process made up of sending and receiving components. If I’m sending a message and you are not recieving it, we are not communicating. That’s means you have to evaluate how you are sending the message to ensure that it’s in a format that I am fluent in recieving messages. Too often the message is sent in a format that is comfortable for the sender with little regard for the receiver. In order to effectively communicate you have to figure out how the reciever is most comfortable in recieving communications and then utilize that method and then evaluate whether it was effectively communicated or not. The format could be physical or electronic, direct or indirect, written or oral, but you have to figure out how your audience communicates and let that dictate the format. It’s communications 101 but is so often disregarded. Evidently that’s the case here.

Before I share the “other” answers, I want to address the issue of all those selected being employed by MNPS prior to Dr. Joseph’s arrival in Nashville. I understand that was a major qualification for the position and I consider it a grave mistake. There is no doubt that Dr. Joseph and the people he brought to Nashville have not been as respectful to our veteran educators as they deserve. Hopefully, they are adjusting their attitudes. At some point this “Nashville” against “Maryland” culture has to be addressed. When do you officially become recognized as a MNPS team member? Is it after one year? Five years? By selecting only people who were previously with MNPS as community superintendents an opportunity to erase that line has been missed.  It may happen when the new superintendents join the executive team, made up almost entirely of new hires, but I have my doubts.

Here’s the other replies:

As long as they actually spend time in the communities they represent 1
We need professionals respected and known by the teachers on the front lin es 1
I’m just glad they are from Nashville and not PGC 1
Here we go again. 1
how much $ is being used for Dr. J’s central office admin friends 1
I’m relieved that they were MNPS veterans with actual on the ground experience.

If we could get Will Pinkston to stop talking about charter schools and Jesse Register we could wipe out the top three answers, which accounted for 74% of responses, to the last question. Pinkston’s continued abhorant behavior is particularily troubling to me because of the role I played, regrettably, in getting him re-elected. I’m sure he’ll tell you my input was minimal, but I was extensively quoted in a Scene article on the school board race and wrote several pieces in defense of his behavior. Maybe it was enough to scare up 36 extra votes.

The point is, he’s doubled down on the boorish behavior, making it impossible to engage in any kind of healthy dialog about Nashville education policies. It seems that it’s all personal with Pinkston. He wasn’t anti-charter until he and Ravi Grupta had a falling out. He wasn’t anti-Achievement School District – hell he helped create it – till he had a falling out with Chris Barbic. The Nashville Chamber of Commerce was a contributer to his first campaign as was Holly McCall, but apparently there was a personal falling out with them as well because they too are subject to frequent social media attacks.

STEM Prep is apparently a “good” charter, despite their questionable ELL results, because he likes Kristin L. McGraner who is friends with Renato Soto of Conexion and he likes her as well, though Karl Dean sits on Conexion’s board of directors, so who knows who’ll be colateral damage in that vendetta. The personal attacks on Jesse Register are well documented and there is no need to explore that any further. Dr. Looney turned the job of director of Schools down and that became personal. State Democrat Party Chair Mary Mancini has also become fodder for his personal attacks as has Courtney Rogers who recently ran for the Democratic nomination for the House District 63 seat. It would take another page to list all the personal grudges Pinkston holds and that would probably just scratch the surface. All I can say is that, thank god there is, like, 86 people per day moving to Nashville.

Will is a smart man, brilliant is a term that gets tossed around too loosely, but he seems incapable of having a philosophical conversation without making it personal. This comes at a time when we have someone in the White House that is more than adequately modeling that style of behavior. If you abhore President Trump’s behavior but you excuse Pinkston’s behavior then you are being hypocritical. Where you stand on issues does not give you a right to personally attack people who disagree with you. It’s not a license to be an assclown. There is no difference between Trump refering to Senator Warren as “Pocahantas” and Pinkston refering to recent school board candidate Miranda Christy as “Morticia”.  One thing AA taught me was to focus more on the philosopies and less on the personalities. I’m far from perfect at that but, I do try. It’s past time for Will Pinkston to make that effort and to realize that the school board does not exist to serve as a pulpit for him to grind his personal axes.

Do I harbor any illusions that Pinkston will actually listen? No. Do I think he’ll read this? Maybe. Do I think it’ll have any effect? No. Because Will Pinkston only will listen’s to Will Pinkston. Unfortunately, that’s not good for anyone.

It should be noted that 9% percent of respondents answered that “The percieved short comings of Dr. Joseph” was the topic they were the most tired of discussing. Here are the “other” responses:

Constantly changing programs 1
Focus on real issues in schools like mnps mandated testing like FAST And MAP. 1
becoming the fastest improving district 1
Restorative justice 1
The emphasis on which schools are “best” based on student test scores 1
Test scores 1
Charter schools and test scores. 1
charter advocates calling everyone who disagrees with them racist 1
“Choice”

That does it for the recap. Hopefully next week-end I won’t be sleeping with the fishes and I’ll be back with some more questions. I’m still working on those other blog topics and I promise that someday soon I’ll get another podcast out. Till next time, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT GERMAN AND HUME-FOGG

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On Friday I shared a letter that I had received from students enrolled in German studies at Hume-Fogg HS here in Nashville. They were concerned because due to purported budget cuts their beloved German program was being phased out. Not only was it being phased out, but it was being done in a manner that was leaving student’s with more questions then answers. For example, they were made aware of the plan for students taking German 1 to be able to take German 2, but what about the ones who were currently in German 2 or the ones in German 3 who were planning on taking AP German. (I am told that their is a plan for advanced students to be allowed to continue their studies virtually. Though I’m not sure that’s been communicated to students effectively.)

I talked to a few of the people I know, to try and help these students get some answers. I feel compelled here to put in a plug for our long term MNPS administrators. Despite the brush some school board members have tried to paint them with, I find our administrators, at all levels, to be extremely helpful and forth coming people. Rarely have I run into one who has been less then willing to answer my questions or engage in dialog. (I even had lunch with the infamous Jay Steele once and engaged the nefarious Dr. Register while shopping at the grocery. Shudder) Keep in mind though, getting answers and getting the answers you want are two different things.

On the surface the phasing out of German seems to be a question of a subject with declining interest and a reduced budget. But if you look at numbers, that doesn’t seem to quite be true:

2016-2017 enrollment projection: 920

2017-2018 enrollment projection: 920

2016-2017 per pupil budget allocation: $4,500

2017-2018 per pupil budget allocation: $4,571

2016-2017 total allocation: $4,094,935

2017-2018 total allocation: $4,205,426

2016-2017 staff FTE (Full Time Equivalent): 63.3

2017-2018 staff FTE: 63.7

Furthermore, when you take into account that the principal has chosen to sacrifice teaching positions in order to increase admin positions questions start to arise. You have to ask what the rationale is to continue adding administrative/support positions and reducing the teaching positions and course offerings for student when compared to fellow Magnet School Martin Luther King:

  • Hume-Fogg has over 300 less students than MLK (and 2 less grade levels) yet will have more counselors next year (unless MLK has included additional counselors in their budge next year.
  • Hume-Fogg has 2 Campus Supervisors whereas MLK has one this year.
  • Hume-Fogg has 4 Secretaries/School Assistants whereas MLK has 4.5 for more than 300 additional students.
  • With the phasing out of German HF will offer 3 languages compared to the 5 offered at MLK.
  • While German numbers are not enough to support a full schedule, that has always been the case; the numbers are not down from recent years.

This narrative paints a different picture. It makes it seem like a classic case of money being diverted from the classroom to administration. But, not so fast. You have to take into account that Hume-Fogg is located in the center of downtown and therefore presents some unique safety challenges. There is an argument that they have been administratively understaffed the last several years. In order to get a clearer picture of the schools needs you would need to assess the previous staffing and the pressure put on that staffing.

I’ve also heard that the teacher can be a bit “difficult”and that phasing out the program may be cover to get rid of her. Lord knows the phasing out of positions has been used that way in the past. I can’t speak on whether that’s the case here or not, since I don’t personally know anyone involved, but I can say that almost any teacher with over 10 years experience could be painted as difficult. If they’ve managed to last that long they’ve probably had to ignore at least one or two mandates from up high and twist a rule or two. Unfortunately the priorities of the classroom teacher and administration don’t always align. One tends to focus on the micro while the other the macro. It doesn’t make either always right or wrong, it’s just what it is.

In my mind, we look at experienced teachers like we look at strong willed children. We all say we want intelligent, creative, independent children until we actually have one. Then we realize, that with that creativity, independence, and intelligence comes the ability to be a pain in ass. My experience has been that this ability is usually exercised at the most inopportune times – when I’m focused on a task that runs counter to their will or I’m tired or I’m focused on a task that doesn’t involve them. Ashley Lamb-Sinclair has an excellent article in praise of challenging children in the Atlantic that I think speaks to the value of the “difficult” teacher as well. (Let me be clear here though, I am not ascribing any of the behaviors cited in the article to any long term teachers and obviously I consider being a pain is the as a compliment.) When it comes to professional management, It wouldn’t hurt us to have a few more “difficult” teachers. When it comes to professional management, I’ve always preached that the title of the job is “manager” not “dictator”. Sometimes managing is more difficult then at other times.

Per any situation of this nature, there are legitimate counter arguments to be made by both sides. What is crystal clear to me though, is that the administration hasn’t made it a priority to speak with the kids and their families that are directly affected by this change. Once again the “public” has been left out of “public education”. This is a prime example of decisions being made without soliciting the opinion and feedback of those affected. It is no different then district administrators deciding to house McMurray MS 5th and 6th graders in a dilapidated building instead of portables without ever engaging the families affected. Just one more example of why “transparency” needs to be brought back as one of the districts core values. There may be very good reasons for the decisions being made but if you are not sharing those, people default to the negative.

I’ve heard some feedback from people that it’s hard to feel sorry for these Magnet School kids because there are so many pressing demands on the system right now. That’s troubling to me. Have we really become so comfortable sorting and ranking kids that we are willing to do it across the board. Folks, it’s called “Public Education”. That means it’s about the “Public.” Last I checked, the “public” was made up of Black people, White people, Hispanic people, Asian people, Arabic people, rich people, poor people, and a whole bunch of others not mentioned. ALL CHILDREN needs to mean ALL CHILDREN and it means talking to the public. We should also applaud when any student or group of students take ownership of their education, no matter what their socio-economic status.

It’s my sincere hope that Hume-Fogg principal Dr. Hargis and Executive Lead Principal Kathleen Dawson will make it a priority to meet with these students and their families this week. It’s clear to me that the students have thought through their arguments. (Many are presented here German Position Paper). I am confident a solution that all can feel comfortable with can be worked out. I’d also encourage the district to use this situation as a reminder to keep the “public” in “public education”.  I know, they can be a pain in the ass, but the rewards almost always offset the challenges.

(Please note that due to wanting to get this out in a timely fashion this post was not run through my normal editor. Usually I would never post a piece of this length without doing so. Therefore any grammatical errors or spellings are all mine. It’s obvious that she makes me, and has made me, a better writer. I also recycled the graphic. I have a great team that none of this would be possible without and I am extremely grateful to them. I just didn’t want to miss the window of opportunity on this story. Thank you for your indulgence.)

A STUDENT VOICE FROM HUME-FOGG

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 Hume-Fogg is an Academic Magnet School here in Nashville Tennessee. It is consitantly ranked  near the top for public schools in the state. Recently Metro Nashville Public Schools has been changing it’s budgetary formula causing many schools to acing very tough decisions about what programs and personel they  will be able to fund.
Since Hume-Fogg is a magnet school we tend to assume that they recieve funding at will. The reality is that they recieve the basic per student funding and then qualify for very little of the money added for servicing special needs students. Magnet schools often get bad rap for their percieved elitism and here in Nashville there is a long brewing conversation about their relative worth. That doesn’t mean they don’t serve real students that have very real needs and that we don’t owe it to them to take those needs into account.
Below is a letter written by the students of Humm-Fogg. I am always impressed when students are willing to step up and enter the fray for what they believe in. It doesn’t matter if it’s in defense of a football coach or to demand that the district honor it’s promises or even if it’s in defense of a beloved program that may not seem that relevant to us adults. In the end, it’s their education and they’ve ggot a right to have their opinions heard and I applaud them for taking ownership. I’m deeply honored that the students of Hume-Fogg have choosen to ask me to help amplify their voice. Please read their words below and if you can, offer them some support. They deserve it.
It has been recently decided that due to a funding deficit for next year’s school year, the German program at Hume Fogg Academic Magnet High School has been cut altogether. As a German student, I and my peers deeply oppose this decision and we want to save our amazing program, which has done wonders to enrich our understanding of the language and the world around us. Since the founding of Hume Fogg as an academic magnet school, German has been an integral part of the curriculum. For decades the German program has distinguished itself both in the region and nationally through results on the National German exam and the AP German exam. Students have received free scholarships to study in Germany; participated in exchange programs; won numerous awards at regional competitions; traveled to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and received numerous academic honors as well. For example, 40% of our students have placed in the top 30% of the country annually on the national German Exam with 80% placing above the national average. The AP German pass rate since 2011 has been 100% every year. Considering the fact that it is one of the most, if not the most successful AP class offered at Hume Fogg, it is confusing that the entire program would be done away with. We are hoping to reverse the decision to reduce Hume Fogg’s budget, considering we are already one of the lowest funded public schools in Metro. Our German teacher has deeply impacted every single life of every single student that she has taught. We are hoping that through emailing the Metro School Board of Education and our district representatives, attending PTO budget meetings, speaking at the Board of Education’s meeting on May 9th, and holding a public protest, we can save the amazing German program at Hume-Fogg.
 
Sincerely,
Students of Hume-Fogg
After doing some digging, it seems that the issue in question arises from the deminishing interest in German as a second language. Which pains me to say because I studied German in school and consider myself a German speaker. The district will not offer German 1 next year but will make sure that course offerings are available to all students who have started their pursuit of the German language. The teacher, unfortunately, is a victim of certification. She isn’t certified in any other subject which makes it difficult to transition her. It’s a shame because I do believe in the result will be one less adult deeply vested in the success of the students at a time when every adult is needed.
It’s always been my belief that part of a well rounded education is the studying of a second language. French, Spanish, and German were always offered during my educational career. Catholic schools, if I’m not mistaken, still offer Latin. It’s curious to me that as the world becomes smaller, language studies are among the first subjects cut. Hopefully these students won’t give up and will couple their efforts to convince the administration that the German department is neccesary with efforts to recruit incoming freshman into the love of German as a second language. Whatever the outcome, I thank them for granting me the privilege of amplifying their voices and will do so again whenever the opportunity is provided.