I hope all of you Nashville peeps are keeping dry today. While nowhere near the catastrophe of Houston, parts of Nashville are submerged due to remnants of Hurricane Harvey. So this morning begins with a prayer for all of you adversely affected by Mother Nature.
If you didn’t catch it, I dropped a bonus piece this week titled Staying Out Of The Weeds. In it, I take a look at the chaos that is currently having a negative impact on MNPS. It might be good reading while you are holed up today. Just saying.
I recently discovered this Keb Mo/Taj Mahal record. Along with the new record by Tyler Childress, it makes for great tunes accompany my writing.
Jason Gonzales of the Tennessean had an interesting article on the district dropping plans to continue exploring moving 5th grade down to elementary school in yesterday’s paper. Of course, those of you who read DGW knew this weeks ago. But this article isn’t really about dropping the plan. It’s about setting the stage and softening up communities to entertain the idea of closing schools.
Per the Tennessean,
“With the move off the table, the district now must decide what to do with over 20 schools with declining or low enrollment, as well as a bevy of schools over capacity. The conversations could include closing schools or rezoning others.”
I like the way that Gonzales opens with plans to abandon the 5th grade idea, drops the above paragraph, and then starts talking again about the 5th grade plan before eventually wrapping things up talking about closing schools. I never went to journalism school, but if I’m not mistaken, that is a textbook example of “burying the lead.” And it worked, because the majority of the chatter on social media has been around the abandoned plan and not the potential of closing schools.
While it’s extremely upsetting to think about the potential of closing schools, I think most people will begrudgingly admit that it is a conversation we need to have. When some schools are serving 800-plus students and others are serving less than 300, it becomes apparent that something needs to be done. I can only hope that somebody in MNPS leadership is studying recent school openings and noting how the lack of a robust communications plan led to some avoidable obstacles and making plans not to repeat those mistakes.
A couple things in the article made me scratch my head. First off, the article notes that the concentration of low enrolled schools is mostly, although not confined to, middle school grades, according to the district’s 2016-17 enrollment and capacity projections. Okay, so wouldn’t the moving of 5th graders back to elementary school have those schools even emptier than they are now? Was the hope that so many families would return to MNPS or not leave the district that the loss of a whole grade would be offset? That seems like a bit of a stretch, and this alone should have halted exploration.
The other head scratcher comes from a quote by MNPS Chief of Staff Jana Carlisle: “Our next steps are to look at if there are any programs that can be moved or co-located. Or if there is a school that is recommended for closure or mothballing, see what other uses there are that would continue to add value to the community.” What programs is she referencing? How will moving programs impact school population numbers? What schools are being recommended for “mothballing”? Very confusing.
The last part of the quote also sets off a few warning bells. Remember when I wrote about the Denver Plan? Part of the Denver Plan is closing schools and then turning them over to charter schools. Is that what Carlisle means by “add value to the community”?
I don’t know that I necessarily take issue with the concept. I think all of our kids need to be in adequate facilities, but in light of the school board’s recent willingness to determine good and bad guys, I would be wary that these buildings don’t become a tool to reward “friends” and punish “enemies.”
I’m also curious how far these conversations will go as we are coming up on a school board election year. Nothing puts a dent in a re-election campaign like a school closure. In that light, if the conversation does go forward, I would keep an eye on what districts the schools under consideration are housed in.
GOING TO WAR WITH THE STATE
The war over what data Memphis and Nashville schools are required to share with charter schools and the Achievement School District heated up some more this week. Both TN Ed Report and Chalkbeat TN published informative articles about what’s transpiring. It should be noted that both articles raise the specter of a lawsuit by the school districts or a financial penalty from the state.
My read on the situation is that both districts see an opportunity to put a spike through the heart of the failed experiment that is the ASD. That’s a sentiment that I can support, especially in light of their recent high school test scores. According to Chalkbeat TN, only about 8 percent of high schoolers passed English — fewer than last year — while math scores stalled with less than 1 percent meeting expectation. At some point lawmakers are going to have to pull the plug on this one.
The only thing I worry about is that in the zeal to strike a blow, we leave ourselves open for a worse blow. Picking a fight with the state never comes without risk. I’m a big believer in not entering into a fray until you have your own house in order, and I would argue that based on the chaos surrounding the first month of school, we have some vulnerabilities the state could exploit if they chose to. So we should proceed with caution.
This has nothing to do with Nashville, other than once you are one of us you are always one of us, but I hope somebody’s noticing what an exceptional job former Maplewood HS AP Ryan Jackson is doing over in Maury County. He’s getting me excited about about STEAM and that’s saying a lot.
The first Croft Middle Project Lit book club of the year met on Thursday, and they had great discussions on the book Wonder. If you didn’t make it, they look forward to seeing you in September when they’ll discuss Towers Falling.
Former school board member Mark North has been hired by MNPS to fill the recently-vacated spot once held by Hank Clay, the position of Director of Government Relations. In related news, Community Engagement Cordinator Allison D’Aurora will be joining Hank over at Communities in Schools. We wish everyone luck.
The Houston Independent School District continues to have an immediate need for children’s clothes of all sizes (clean and in reasonably good repair), school uniforms, and school supplies. All clothes and school supplies should be sent IMMEDIATELY to–
Houston, TX 77092
If you need to, please ask local business, foundations, or education funds to cover shipping costs.
The airports have re-opened so shipments going by plane should get through.
Another way to provide immediate help to the Houston schools would be a donation to the HISD Foundation.
Nothing quite as heavy as last week for this week’s poll questions, and actually one of them will hopefully prove to be a little fun.
The first question is looking to get your general feelings about the potential of possibly closing MNPS schools in the coming year. All I’m looking for right now is your general thoughts. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more to explore in the year ahead.
As part of the new Advance Literacy plan, the district has recently begun to utilize units of instruction from the Institute For Learning. I’m curious how y’all feel about these units.
Lastly, as we come to the end of the first month, I thought I’d ask for the song that best sums up the just concluded month of school. Feel to write in your choices if you don’t see one you like.
That does it for today. Hope everybody has a great Labor Day. Due to the holiday, I’ll release poll results on Tuesday. Please check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, and if you’d like to give me feedback you can send me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great holiday and stay dry.