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 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|
|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|
|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.