ONE PARENT’S VOICE ON SCHOOL CHOICE

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I started this blog some four years ago due to encouragement and inspiration by a blogger named Crazy Crawfish. Crazy would say, I’m not the smartest man in the room but my job is to make enough noise to get the smartest people possible in to the room to start having a real convesation about the issues. I’ve always aspired for this blog to be a similar tool. In ordere to have a real conversation, you need to have as many perspectives as possible. Education policy discussions tend to produce a lot of tshirt slogans while in reality things are much more nuanced then they appear. Over the years I’ve been blessed to have readers share their experiences with me. Which might actually be the best part of doing this blog. When given permission, I try to share. These are the words of Aidan Hoyal, a parent brave enough and kind enough to give us insight into her families education decision making process. In my opinion, hearing people’s stories is critical to making good policy. So thank you Aidan for allowing me to share and all of you please take these words in the spirit they are shared. We may not agree but remember all of our experiences are not identical.

Disclaimer: I am a parent. I don’t work for a school or a school board or school district. I taught Spanish for a long time, but not K-12. These opinions are my own.

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“One Parent’s Voice on School Choice”

The dialogue around school choice in Nashville needs to include more parent and student voices. The discussion about charter schools has become so polarized that it sometimes seems completely divorced from the realities faced by Nashville families. As a parent who opted for a charter school, I am by definition a “charter supporter” in that I support the school we chose. That doesn’t mean I support all charter schools. Nor does it mean I support vouchers. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I agree with the current Presidential administration’s outright attack on public education.

Unfortunately, the media, as well as blogs and social media posts from education advocates including some of our elected school board members, often label families that chose charters (aka “charter supporters”) with extreme characterizations. We’re either depicted as corporate cronies out to privatize and destroy public schools with unabated charter growth and vouchers; or we’re painted as poor, uneducated, uninformed parents who have no choice, don’t care, or don’t know any better.

This is simply not reality. Nashville families who choose charter schools ARE public school supporters with myriad concerns, pressures, preferences, and challenges faced by any family. Demonizing families for choosing the schools they feel best fit their children’s needs, or talking about those families in a patronizing way, does not support kids or improve schools.

My husband and I chose our neighborhood zone school K-4 for our child and had a very positive experience there. When we faced the transition to middle school, our default was our neighborhood school. In fact, I attended the same schools my child is zoned for in middle and high school. But, we also wanted to explore all options offered by Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). We narrowed it down to three schools: our zone school, one magnet school, and one charter.

When we chose the charter school for our child, it was NOT because we wanted our neighborhood public school to fail. It was NOT because we feel charters are a magic bullet that will save public education. We did NOT make the choice based on what we felt would be right according to a political party, school board members, district superintendents, nonprofit organizations, charter marketers, or education policy wonks.

What we DID do was spend months studying everything we could learn about those specific schools, visiting each school more than once, asking countless questions, talking to other parents, letting our child “shadow” another student at the schools, and openly discussing different options as a family. I also did a lot of soul searching, balancing what we learned with my deeply held belief that public education forms the backbone of our democracy, and that every child has a fundamental right to a quality education.

These ARE the reasons why we chose our school:

* a discipline policy firmly grounded in restorative justice practices;
* a curriculum tightly integrated with social and emotional learning;
* a shared community identity intentionally informed by the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of its families;
* a culture of kindness and engagement that includes every child in the learning process, no matter what their test scores, what language they speak at home, or if they have an IEP; and-
* necessary bus transportation

I’m not saying this all works perfectly. Like at any school, there is always room for improvement. Nor am I saying that other schools don’t incorporate some of these same practices. The point is, MNPS made these public schools available, and we carefully examined our options. As is the case with the academic magnet and special theme schools, this charter school offers something unique. We chose this school model because we believe it is the best fit for our family, as well as a benefit to the broader Nashville community.

I am aware that shady business practices and financial loopholes have made it possible for unscrupulous people at some charter organizations to profit off failing schools paid for on the public dime. Exposing this kind of abuse is vital to the public interest. We should expect nothing less than complete transparency from all our schools. The examples raised by charter opponents about charter mismanagement, and in a few cases outright misconduct, are not lost on me. Corruption and profiteering in charter organizations is no more acceptable than it is in our existing public school system.

But that does not mean that EVERY charter school or charter supporter is corrupt or willfully blind. Nor does EVERY charter school “cream” high-performing students from the crop (as many academic magnet schools do). Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Presenting a specific charter operator’s failure as an indictment against all charter schools is misleading, particularly if that school operates in a different state. If we are worried about charter school mismanagement, then we need Metro Nashville and the State of Tennessee to LIMIT charter authorization to highly qualified, rigorously vetted charter organizations that meet communities’ needs, and agree to complete transparency and regulatory oversight.

There are some states that allow for-profit entities to operate public charter schools. And some states allow non-profit charter organizations to contract with for-profit entities to operate or manage their schools. Tennessee currently prohibits both. Charter schools in Tennessee are subject to state audit procedures and requirements. It is my expectation that in carrying out these audits, Tennessee protects the public interest by holding all our schools to the highest standards of accountability.

People on either side of the charter school issue struggle with the persistent and deeply rooted systemic inequalities in our public education system. Yet, it is often the voices of those most impacted by these inequalities that are left out of the school choice conversation. If we believe that our public schools have a role to play in dismantling inequality and preparing all children to be thoughtful, engaged citizens, we must look at what is and is not working in individual school communities for different populations.

We also have to recognize that traditional neighborhood schools housed in separate school district zones are themselves rooted in the context of economic inequality and racial segregation. Failing to tackle the institutional structures that helped create existing inequalities prevents us from moving forward. Some charter schools aim to level the playing field, helping kids succeed (and stay) in school by trying new approaches. That’s one of the reasons we chose our school. We need schools like this, especially when they provide a small-scale model for system-wide change.

I can only speak to our experience at our chosen school. If that school stands out as an exception among charter schools, then so be it. As a parent and an engaged citizen, I believe there is room in Nashville for exceptional public schools, be they traditional neighborhood schools, magnet/theme schools, or public charter schools. I know that my family is not alone in thoughtfully and carefully choosing the right public school for our child. I have no doubt that if charter school opponents would keep this in mind, rather than making sweeping generalizations about all charter schools and “charter supporters,” it would drive more meaningful and productive community dialogue around school choice.

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12 comments on “ONE PARENT’S VOICE ON SCHOOL CHOICE

  1. Aidan Hoyal says:

    Thank you for sharing my thoughts in the spirit of listening to one another’s perspectives and encouraging open, honest, and appreciative dialogue.

  2. jtmcs says:

    I am always alarmed to hear stories of parents being criticized or ostracized for choosing a low-discipline high-average-score school. In my own work on promoting support of average-discipline average-scoring integrated zoned schools, my criticism is always directed at our legislature, our Chamber of Commerce, and MNPS. Feelings are easily hurt in the discussion – and for that – I apologize for all of us who feel under siege, and on emotionally uncorked occasions, let the wrong words slip out.

    Ultimately, we, like the rest of the USA, have a binary decision to make as a community, regarding the structure of our schools.

    0) We can commit to the challenge of running economically integrated schools, with average scores, and an average level of discipline referrals.

    Or
    1) We can re-segregate our system along economic lines, to observe pockets of high scoring schools (with much lower discipline rates), and large swaths of low-scoring, high discipline schools everywhere else.

    Option #1 is what we had prior to 1969, and what Williamson County offers today. You bought a house in a “nice neighborhood”… It appears to be what Denver has returned to in its charter-mania.

    Through 1968, you went to Overton/Hillwood/Hillsboro/Stratford/Pearl and your kids interacted with kids who pretty much looked like yours, acted like yours, and had a similar set of aspirations for life. You had great facilities at, the richer public schools, long -tenured teachers nested, nurtured and respected nested in your community….
    But, in 1968, brutal injustice was everywhere in the setup. It’s hard to imagine today – but we also had separate, much lower, pay rates for African American teachers. We had zero (or very little) college-prep in the African American high schools. Facilities were unimaginably bad. We had over a dozen schools with stove heaters around North Nashville. When the poor are out-of-sight, out-of-mind, …. “Separate but equal” is never that. (References abound – I strongly recommend Ansley Erickson’s Making the Unequal Metroplis).

    The courts sent us to option #0 in the former direction with cross-town mandated busing in 1969. Our district shrank from 90,000 children to 50,000 virtually overnight.
    And, to cope with flight, as alternative to hated cross-town busing, the courts mandated that we open Hume Fogg and MLK in the early 1980s . One African American student was admitted for every two white students, to insure the diversity ratio of the city in 1983. In 1999, we took the steps that would put us back solidly on the course to option #1. We setup auto pathways from Meigs to Hume Fogg. We dropped the dual race-based entrance lotteries. We expanded Hume Fogg.

    The vote to do those things in 1999 was very controversial, and the dissenters on the School Board exactly predicted the insanity that has followed: The long wait-list for high-scoring, low-discipline magnets has mushroomed. Parents are convinced that they must win a slot in their dream high school based on 3rd grade TCAP scores. (For references, see the School Board minutes I assembled at fairpathways.com)

    Understandably, desperate Lottery-losing parents demanded Great Hearts Charter a few years ago. In the aftermath of that battle, and the $3.4 million fine from our State, we installed Valor Charter instead – unanimously installed by our Board of Education. During the Great Hearts battle, in my first public speech to the School Board, I claimed “Great Hearts will be like Meigs Magnet, only worse”. I could not have been more correct. More students, over 100, (leave integrated traditional public middle school) JT Moore’s geographic zone for Meigs magnet – than any other integrated middle school zone. Today, with Valor Charter now opened down the street, even more students leave JT Moore’s zone for Valor, than leave us for Meigs. JT Moore has been converted to “open enrollment” Lots of families zoned for other clusters now join us… That “fixed our problem” of empty seats. But, what of the integrated zoned schools those families are leaving?

    Somewhat following the model of the Great Hearts charter application, and unlike JT Moore, Valor charter serves no children of entrenched multi-generational poverty. I admire founder Todd Dickson’s energy, and the business-like conviction of their Board. I’ve attended several of their meetings, and hope to get back to them soon.

    To Todd’s credit, Valor does utter the word “diversity” in its structural documents. But, Valor’s “diversity model” focuses on first generation immigrant families. With no children coming to Valor from inner city public housing projects, its _average_ test scores, will be significantly higher than any zoned schools. We should expect “no less” than scores to mirror score-segregated Meigs-magnet, Williamson County, etc.
    The reformers say “JT Moore just needs to do better. You need to work harder – to compete.” Sorry, but clearly that is hogwash. JT Moore already has the highest average scores of any integrated zoned middle school in the district. Across Nashville, ironically, it is precisely MNPS’ highest scoring integrated schools from which parents flee at the greatest rate.

    Of course, the reason we fiddle with blog posts – is that we all so want to find the the best answers to “What next”?

    To the core of my being, I have been convinced recently that Denver is exactly the wrong model for Nashville. Denver has gone charter-crazy, and as a result, you see exactly what public school supporters like me have been saying for years. You wind up with a system split between affluence(score)-segregated Valor-type schools, and integrated JT-Moore type schools – and “surprise” to all us Sneetches – average scores go absolutely nowhere as we run away from each other In fact, if Denver and Phoenix are any guide, it is likely that overall ACT scores drop by 0.1 or 0.2 in the face of rampant privatization. Yes, a few parents like the author here are “happy”. That’s nice. But, what have we accomplished for our children as a city?

    Read this ultra-enthusiastic reformer-opinion piece from Denver. It sounds great on first read – but on second, it is obvious that the better title is: “Wow, look, we’ve made a few parents really really happy – and overall average scores have tanked in Denver. How great is that!”

    http://educationnext.org/public-school-choice-competitive-advantage-look-denver-public-schools/

    Some will say “Happy parents mean less flight”. To that I must respond with brutal clarity. If parent contentment, and less flight are the dominant goals, then we should just return to the structure we had in 1968. – when opinion polls taken showed high levels of satisfaction with MNPS. A few years ago, Memphis ring suburb voters were asked if they’d like to have a system like we had in 1968. Many details omitted – but the vote went 95% to 5% for the suburbs to not be part of the urban district.

    If we just chase parent-happiness with “more Valors”, we are doomed to Minneapolis’ outcome (see Univ of Minnesota studies on flight) – where parents, exasperated with the endless application forms, “you lose (again)” letters and all the other accoutrements that come with running from each other – simply give up and move out of town. In Minneapolis, the 99% white “German immersion” charter school will, I suppose, make some parents very happy. But I would guess the wait list is very long. And, an immersion German school obviously doesn’t speak to our history of Jim Crow segregation in Nashville.

    Fortunately, because we are a city of great thinkers, with a great tradition of coming together across divides, we have started to think on how to step out of the mess we’ve been making. The Transition Team (which included the dedicated service of Valor CEO Todd Dickson, and many other Charter leaders!) report lists exactly the tough steps Nashville must take to move our district forward sensibly. Some of the steps are going to be politically tough. Feathers will be ruffled. But its past time to take action when our most thoughtful leaders have told us exactly what to do.

    We can’t let this strategic plan go into the trash can like so many others have at MNPS. The author suggests that Charter and Traditional public school proponents need to work together.

    Idea: Let’s unify around the Transition Team plan!

    It’s time to suspend blogging and commenting – and get to work!

    Here it is:

    http://www.mnps.org/transition-team/

    Let’s go!

  3. Aidan Hoyal says:

    Dear jtmcs (name?),

    I look forward to reviewing the Transition Team documents (I haven’t read these), and to participating in upcoming NEXT meetings. I agree 100% that we (all public school families) need to work together.

    I want to clarify a couple of points you raised specifically about Valor, since that is the school we chose.

    1) Valor and Great Hearts have very different models. Your comments don’t make this distinction, but it’s important. Our family would not have chosen Great Hearts, and I believe the Board made the right decision in rejecting their charter application as not being a good fit for Nashville’s needs.

    2) While some people choose schools based on test scores, we chose our school more for its culture and SEL-driven model than for its test scores. I believe that school culture (however people decide to define it) plays a big role in many families’ decision-making process.

    3) I don’t believe it’s the case that Valor “serves no children of entrenched multi-generational poverty.” I don’t have school data for you, but I believe our school population is made up of around 50% or more kids qualifying for free or reduced lunch. I am basing this on my experience at the school and at school presentations. You are correct that there are many kids at Valor from immigrant families. Many immigrant families experience multi-generational poverty.

    Perhaps you are referring specifically to families living in or near public housing complexes. The bus my child rides (one of five routes) has stops at Watkins Park, Chestnut Hill, Edgehill and Sevier Park before continuing southbound. There are public housing complexes on and near this route. While I can’t tell you how many kids get on at each stop, how close they actually live to those stops, or if they live in poverty, I do know that there are kids that ride the bus from these neighborhoods, and that number could probably grow.

    My point is, I would not characterize Valor as segregated either socioeconomically or racially – this is by design. Valor is also fortunate to be one of seven MNPS schools to partner with Communities in Schools (http://www.cistn.org/).

    I agree “parent happiness” should not be a school district’s goal, but I think it’s an oversimplification of the many variables families consider in choosing a school to describe the purpose of the process as “happiness.” Parents’ reasons for being happy with a school are many and vary widely. I speak only for myself when I say that what makes me happy as a parent is seeing my child thriving both intellectually and socially in a truly diverse, inclusive, and academically challenging school environment. I’m thankful for our school.

    I’m glad to hear your perspective and ideas for working together. Perhaps we’ll meet at an upcoming MNPS-sponsored event. I look forward to public school families working together to bridge divides.

  4. Suzanne Myers says:

    Thank you, TC, for always being open to listening. I wish that was a virus that would spread rapidly! Thank you, Aidan, for saying what, I believe, so many in Nashville are feeling.

    I appreciate the history, JTMCS. I feel like so many of MNPS’s problems stem from a lack of examining it. So many “new” Nashvillians, so I can see how history is easily lost, but it is so important to know.

    This will be a ramble, but here goes:

    I taught for ten years at the “old” East Middle before it morphed into an interest-based magnet along with others around the district. The year I applied to teach in MNPS, I had two offers that I considered carefully: Meigs Magnet and East Middle. I picked East because I had an intense desire to work with a population of kids who desperately needed teachers who would not just teach well, but serve as advocates for them. I loved working there and still keep up with so many of my former students (three are MNPS teachers:)

    As the interest -based literature magnet became a reality for our “B” building, I made the choice to stay in the “regular” building with the kids who did not sign up. A piece of my heart felt ripped out every time one of my students moved over to the magnet, but I completely understood. Who was I to tell a family what to choose for their kids? MNPS decided to offer this as a choice for them. I mention my personal experience, because I do understand how zoned schools must be feeling.

    As years have gone on, more and more “options” within MNPS have been set up. Yet, I have not witnessed this level of outrage over MNPS options until Valor came in. And Valor is where my son (zoned for Bellevue Middle, btw) attends. Not one of my friends or acquaintances ever made a negative comment to me the many years my son attended a private Montessori school, but it’s open season now that he’s at Valor! Of course, not all of my friends have made negative remarks, but enough have that it is quite surprising.

    I did not see where Aidan Hoyle indicated that their family’s school choice was about “happiness.” For our family, too, it’s not about happiness, nor do I for a second think that “family happiness” should be the goal of our district.

    We chose Valor because we loved the diversity, their commitment to social-emotional learning, a solid and creative curriculum, that to me, represented a lot of time, effort, and thought, and also the willingness of the school to adapt as needed. Families are listened to, and it is obvious that family input is factored into school policy changes.

    JTMCS, I’m not sure of your source that points to Valor serving no students from entrenched multi-generational impoverished families, but we do serve those families. I have driven some of these students home, I have donated needed items to a few of those families as many others have. No, Valor does not serve a large housing project, and does not serve nearly as many impoverished students as other schools, but I assure you we serve some, and along with the many immigrant families (and all families for that matter) I think they are served very well.

    I also taught ELL at Stratford High School for a year. I had to buy my own materials for my students. The books we had were worn out and not enough for even half the class to have one. Our group was housed in a dank room with poor lighting. I fixed it up as best I could – enlisting family members to help paint and decorate, but I must say, it was pretty dang depressing. I wrote a grant to get the Rosetta Stone program and computers for my students, and a few other grants for much-needed supplies, which was great, but it was a hard choice to make – spend hours grant writing for more necessities (or spend $$ I didn’t have) or spend time out of the classroom creating lessons for my students or working with them after school. It was a tough year.

    Valor is set-up and ready for these ELL students – it’s wonderful to see. As Aidan said, Valor is not perfect, but instead of taking shots at it, why aren’t we looking to see what is working there (and in all MNPS schools with a particular program(s) that are having a positive impact on students) and collaborate?

    So, as a person who is a supporter of all kids, as a person who is not a “reformer,” a “charter zealot,” and does not believe in the voucher system, I would like to be part of the group that helps all kids. There was talk of a diversity board/committee being created – something I’d love to be a part of. Anyone reading – please know there are many of us with kids in charters who support all kids. Making a school choice for your family is not easy, so let’s stop criticizing what families choose to do. So frustrating to watch some people in education spend excessive amounts of time creating the “us vs. them” narrative. Sad, wasteful, and divisive.

    In my opinion, the choices that MNPS made over many, many years are why we have arrived where we are today. Years and years ago (and still today) schools desperately needed all manner of resources, and they were for the most part denied. I never once taught in a classroom without buckets for when the rain started. Rooms smelled of mold. I could go on and on about the classroom conditions – I always told kids to “dress for all seasons” due to a very old heating and cooling system. Yet, I worked along many fabulous teachers and stellar administrators. But we were simply not set up for success, and in the schools where I taught, with such a high-needs population, we struggled like crazy.

    JTMCS, I do agree we need to get to work, and in part, thanks to this blog, I have found people to connect to in order to get to work. I have also been enlightened about MNPS issues by someone who is clearly fair-minded and has a huge heart for kids – ALL of them. Please don’t stop blogging, TC. MNPS and kids need you.

    Suzanne Myers

  5. jtmcs says:

    Chris Moth here again (jtmcs)

    Thank you both so much for the illuminations. I’m learning a lot!.

    Aidan, my first source of integration statistics was speaking to Todd Dickson after my parent tour of Valor (the usual promo tour around choice time). That may be from two years ago. During the wrap-up, he presented charts showing the usual free-and-reduced lunch metrics – the “50% poor 50% not” model. Prospective parents were gushing, “Your commitment to diversity – just so refreshing – so impressive”. I raised my hand and asked how many students were from our public housing projects. He stated that their poor students were mostly immigrants from Section 8 housing.
    Another source of diversity statistics from the state of TN School Board website/report card

    http://www.tn.gov/education/topic/report-card

    In 2017, we know that economic circumstances of families – and not race – correlate most strongly to high score observations. Nonethess, it is fascinating that Valor’s “diversity model” brings the school to 15% African American at one school, 20% at another, lower even than Meigs Magnet at 25%.

    Returning to the relevant socio-economics.. Across the country, less-poor children do better than more-poor children. And sadly, score-“success” with first generation immigrants (which privatizers have been quick to claim) do not translate to success with entrenched multi-generational poverty. My claim about that comes from talking to many school officials over the years, and observations of the impacts of privatization in other large urban cities (Philadelphia/Chicago/etc) But, that research came home most clearly in the “failure” of the Achievement School District to boost scores. Chris Barbic’s inability to replicate Houston’s score “successes” in Tennessee is well-described in his departure note, a must-read for anyone interested in education issues:
    http://achievementschooldistrict.org/chris-barbic-announcement/

    Todd Dickson graciously spoke to the Hillsboro cluster-wide “Parent Advisory Council” – and gave a great presentation on Valor’s goals, and integration model – to a room of parent leaders and principals. I’ve heard some in the Valor community characterize the integration there as being “more successful” because it is “by choice” (like Hume-Fogg/Meigs – but without a score screen) – and they have further noted that Valor stands in contrast to a failed “forced integration” model of JT Moore (“forced integration” being the construct the courts imposed on our zoned schools) Ironically, “choice integration” is exactly how Nashville was structured between adoption of Brown v. Board in the 1950s and the forced (court-ordered) busing mandate of 1969.

    Massive flight (90,000 kids falling to 50,000) came _not_ with Brown v. Board, but with the “forced integration” of busing, a critical historical footnote that many have forgotten.
    The drivers of _why_ the imposed “forced integration” in 1968 can’t be honored if we turn around and create a patchwork of escape valves for parents to leave the stresses that “forced integration” brings with it. That’s why I refer to this all as a binary decision in my first post. “Forced integration” is stressful – but there is some evidence that it is best for social harmony, and perhaps even overall score results – even and especially for scores of affluent children. (See the great book “Burden of Busing” for some backstory). It can’t “work” if people are exiting in droves for greener choice pastures.

    We can’t have an effective conversation around city-wide education without candidly discussing the impact of application-forms and selection bias on school culture, score performance – even teacher hiring.

    To Suzanne’s note about East magnet. East is another beautiful example of how a “choice screen” (vs “forced integration”) changes culture and operations at a school. In the Hillsboro cluster, we were having stresses around unfilled substitute teacher vacancies – and we dove deeply into data on teacher absenteeism, open positions, etc. We were stunned to see that the overall rate of teacher openings and vacancies was twice as high in all zoned high schools across Nashville vs. choice-based magnets: Hume-Fogg, MLK, and East.

    Suzanne is also exactly on the mark with “schools not setup for success”. And TC Weber, in this blog, reminds us over and over, that (in addition to teachers) many of our zoned schools are missing fundamentals like classrooms, HVAC.. How does opening more Valors fix that? Valor, Meigs, East – all tell Nashville the wrong story, a story of “failure” (low scores) that I am beyond convinced is simply a statistical hoax from the selection bias of these schools. We _must_ re-commit to the choice-less schools. We _must_ stop allowing the decay. But, we’ll never get there through opening charters and magnets that coronate happy winners from our pools of engaged and enthusiastic parents, and in turn, put our poorest kids out-of-sight out-of-mind.

    I am again sorry to hear from both of you that you get criticism for leaving for Valor. I don’t understand that. _I_ am not expressing disdain with _you_ for your decisions. My frustration, again, is with the various administrative and government bodies that setup the system we have in response to political and judicial whims, in the absence of any strategic goals for education.

    Attending schools where entrenched poverty is a component of the culture can be stressful. I understand your decision. After all, our family “chose” JT Moore, in large part, because it has a large cohort of affluent/energetic families committed to the mission of educating all children. I call out my own hypocrisy in not moving to attend one of our middle schools that are 95% free and reduced lunch. During the Great Hearts discussion (and thank you both for distancing yourselves from that, and vouchers both), a lot of folks across town rightly called out me and other parent friends with “You have JT Moore. We don’t” That would be the end of the story – except that “our kids” are leaving our “forced integration” model in droves for low-discipline high-performance choice-screened “choice integration” schools.

    Suzanne hits the nail exactly on the head with “In my opinion, the choices that MNPS made over many, many years are why we have arrived where we are today. ”
    That is the distilled essence of all my hot air over these last 5 years since the Great Hearts discussion.

    And I ask again, can we please get behind the Transition Team report? Let’s do _something_ strategic about the mess!

    We will all find things here in there in that report that don’t make our day. But, taken in total, I can’t remember a better plan to start to move our district out of our messes.

    Here it is again

    http://www.mnps.org/blog/2017/2/7/transition-team-releases-recommendations-report

    Chris Moth

    • norinrad10 says:

      The overwhelming drive to make the transition team report something more then it is is just baffles me. I keep returning to it because of your insistence in looking at it as a true blue print and I continue to find no meat on the bones. Tell me what these three statements taken directly from the report summary even mean.

      Re-imagine parent/family engagement, and better leverage and coordinate community partners.

      Demonstrate a commitment to diversity through continuous improvement in processes for placement, data analysis, and student services regarding its choice options.

      Agree on a broad academic plan, work together on implementing that plan, and stick with it over a sustained period of time.

      These are items you and I could cook up over a long lunch and you are asking that they be treated like Moses coming down from the mountain. There is nothing here that doesn’t require another year of a “deep dive” into actual policy.
      I can sum those 3 statements up as 1) Let’s get parents involved but on our terms. 2) let’s talk diversity focus groups say people like that and maybe a plan will emerge. 3) Let’s come up with a plan and stick with it.

      Brilliant but unfortunately too many kids don’t have another year to burn while we continue to just talk.

      • jtmcs says:

        Taking your note in reverse, well… OK – you got me – mostly – but not completely…….

        I went to the source Transition Team Transition report to copy and paste the text “Move 5th grade to elementary schools to help address student attrition between elementary and middle school.” and I found instead what you told me I’d find “Determine feasibility of moving 5th grade to elementary schools to help address student attrition between elementary and middle school.”

        OK – you got me – maybe this one “Allocate available seats proportionally across the district (based on cluster population) to the magnet schools with academic entrance requirements and their feeder schools.”

        Your right again – without “how” it seems very lose.

        My faith in the document comes not so much because I like it – a lot of it I don’t. My faith comes from my conviction that the junctures in our city (and nation) where we have leaped forward have come exactly at those moments when we came together across oceans of ideological divide – and we’ve said “OK, here are our problems – and here is what our best leaders think we should do about them”.

        Think about who sat on that choice committee. It starts with parent veteran Barry Barlow. We (you and I) were on the Parent Advisory Council board that elected him overwhelmingly – city-wide – from a pretty nice menu of choices 🙂 Todd Dickson – as you read above – a beloved luminary from team privatization. Tony Heard – ueber philanthropist and business leader – with children who have been through Hillsboro and Hume Fogg both. John Ingram – one of the Chamber’s most articulate lobbyists for the mathematically impossible position that our average ACT scores can exceed 19.5 The list goes on. Ministers, NAACP, Ed Kindall – chair of our school board for years. No one knows our history better than Ed Kindall. Ed was there in 1999 – furious with the Board’s decision to create the Meigs auto-pathway, exactly predicting that it would cause the lottery mess we find ourselves in today.

        All these folks chaired by Maree Sneed – a national magnet school activist, former teacher, and now DC attorney

        We need to recognize that we could not have possibly had a more city-representing group of folks than served – and they worked HARD – both in researching our history – relating their stories – and dealing with the radically different viewpoints which each of them brought to that table.

        As an example of what I’m talking about re “different viewpoints” Here is John Ingram’s opinion…. – (mathematically impossible) yet “believed” by so many in power… who are also large taxpayers and candidate supporters in this town:

        http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/05/01/reset-debate-nashville-public-education/26729715/

        I’m saying that when we’ve taken the best of the best – and they have given us their best – we owe them our support.

        I’m exhausted with the endless talk and chatter. We’ve got a few things to _do_ in stark contrast. Let’s DO THEM.

        Let me turn it around. If we can’t do _these_ direct recommendations. If this is just “window dressing” once again, as these plans have always been in the past, then I’m with you – and will start work on exiting the district with you. Because, your rhetoric, increasingly, seems to point us nowhere else.

        My money is on the Transition Team Report… for awhile longer.

      • norinrad10 says:

        We agree on the fact that we’ve got things to do, let’s do them.

  6. jtmcs says:

    A friend pointed me to this thoughtful bit of writing, that addresses some of the “why” driving this discussion:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-we-should-care-about-the-education-of-other-peoples_us_593ea655e4b094fa859f1a49?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003

    While I think the points are well made, I find it fascinating that the top of his crescendo is the NPE’s statement on charter schools. The NPE statement is close to the bulls-eye, but does not mention score-segregated magnet schools, which have had the long wait-lists that drove demand for charters (like Valor, Great Hearts, and many others).

    No one on the left ever says the simple truth that “90% of what we are saying about student exclusion by charters applies to magnets.” The obvious explanation for that silence is comes from “the right” – and it is that magnets hire union teachers. But, I hope someone can point me to more appealing reason for that silence, some day.

  7. Aidan Hoyal says:

    Actually I mentioned the fact that not all charters “cream” the high performing students from the crop like the academic magnets do in my letter above. Go figure. I’m a charter school parent and a liberal progressive. But, nobody talks about that either – which was one of the main points I was trying to make.

  8. Aidan Hoyal says:

    I want to thank TC and everybody here, again, for this thoughtful discussion. It’s easy to become fatigued and frustrated when you feel like your concerns so often fall on deaf ears, or that people are misrepresenting your choices. I appreciate people being willing to listen (read) my perspective as a charter school parent. Believe me when I say I’m not the only left-leaning, progressive minded charter school parent out there! I hope we can build momentum for more conversations like this.

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