I hope everybody had a glorious Labor Day. We had a nice one here. Though I must admit I do feel nostalgic for the Labor Days of my youth when the holiday meant nobody labored. It used to be that you had to stock up on Saturday because come Sunday and Monday, everything was going to be closed. Driving around this year and it was hard to find anything that was closed, which kind of defeats the whole point of the holiday, but what are you going to do?
DATA WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Watching the Tennessee Department of Education and the states two largest school districts, Nashville and Memphis, wrangle over student data continues to resemble WWE’s Summer Smackdown – lots of posing coupled with little substance. Quick recap, in case you are new to the game, new legislation passed last spring that School Districts have to share directory data with charter schools and Memphis and Nashville don’t want to do it.
Over the last couple weeks just everybody, including council members and state representatives, have wrapped themselves in the flag and strode to the podium to talk about the injustice being perpetrated by charter schools mis-using the data provided, despite evidence of a wide spread threat. The districts arguments are that sharing the data is a violation of a federal rule amended in 2011, and that the intent of the state statute was to exclude the data from being used for marketing purposes. The holes in those arguments are that their is dispute about whether the federal rule contradicts open records laws and that whatever the intent of the new legislation, explicit language excluding recruitment purposes was not put in place.
In the center of this is the the Tennessee Achievement School District. They are like that prom queen fallen from grace. Once they were everybody’s darling and now they can’t buy a friend. In talking to people in Memphis, an important element in the fight is the fact that for years the ASD unwarrantedly bullied everybody else and now that they are weakened, turn around is fair play and this is one more way to quicken their exit towards the door.
I’ve long said the ASD needs to go. ASD director Malika Anderson has always been forthright with me and I believe her heart is the right place, but let’s face it, founder and former ASD head Chris Barbic handed her a defective product when he left. In fact, if it was a used car, I think she’d have a case under the lemon laws. So, this part of the argument I’m good with it. It’s the posturing and hypocrisy with the rest of debate that loses me.
It was reported last week that Board Chairwoman Anna Shepherd sent a letter to State Superintendent Candice McQueen pushing back on the state requirements. Let me rephrase that, at the conclusion of a meeting with Ms. McQueen, in which everybody had the chance to air and discuss grievances, MNPS presented a letter raising issues never raised in the meeting. You can read for yourself how that went over in Ms. McQueen’s response letter. In the immortal words of Keith Moon, like a lead ballon.
In my eyes the whole argument boils down to opening another front in the battle against charter schools. Which would be fine, and welcomed, if somebody actually was able to describe what happens when the war is won. How are you going to ensure that all kids have access to a quality school once district is free of charter schools. That’s where I’d like to see the focus – eradicating demand instead of supply.
I suspect the goal here is less about getting rid of all charter schools and more about making sure only the ones certain board members like survive. The privacy issue in my eyes is just a piece of a strategy to get to that place. A strategy not all that dissimilar to the one employed by President Trump to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, starve it and then decry its failures.
I’m not down playing the seriousness of student privacy. Peter Greene has an excellent post and interactive map highlighting the seriousness. It’s a vital issue, which is why I hate to see it hijacked for political posturing. I asked people in the know how many outside companies does MNPS provide directory information. While I haven’t been able to get an official response yet, estimates run between 50 and 75 third party vendors. McQueen herself in her letter mentions companies selling class rings, yearbooks, and photographs. Those popular MNPS call out? Third party vender provided directory information. Charter schools are just a small portion of this issue.
A larger conversation about student privacy would be a good thing. I think that an annual review of policy to ensure that everything is being done to protect student information should be a priority. But it needs be an honest conversation, not one cloaked in hidden agendas. In an NPR interview Shepard let the cat out of the bag about what’s driving this fight, “I think that we are at a saturation point. I know we are at a saturation point monetarily,” McQueen is kind enough in her letter to point out that under the new state law MNPS should recoup about a million dollars in costs associated with charter schools.
Over the last several years MNPS, along with many other school districts, has been besieged by a shortage of substitute teachers. It’s a huge problem and one that has a direct impact on student learning. Recognizing that sub pay was long over due to be increased, MNPS did so at the end of last school year. Apparently that has had little effect because they have now gone to a favorite tool of theirs, an outside consulting agency.
The district is in the process of finalizing arrangements with Education Solution Services to address the needs of 24 schools selected to pilot their services. Education Solution Services is a company based out of Knoxville that specializes in school staffing. Wilson county employs them to mixed results, great service at increased expense. This week an email was sent out to begin the recruitment process in Nashville. It read,
The schools chosen to pilot the program are:
Margaret Allen Middle, Antioch Middle, Apollo Middle, Jere Baxter Middle, Buena Vista Elementary Caldwell Elementary, Carter-Lawrence Elementary, DuPont Tyler Middle, John Early Middle, Gra-Mar Middle, Harris-Hillman Johnson ALC, Issac Litton Middle, Madison Middle, McKissack Middle McMurray Middle, J.T. Moore Middle, Murrell School, Napier Elementary, Park Avenue Elementary Robert Churchill Elementary, Rosebank Elementary,Two Rivers Middle, Warner Elementary
I called ESS and talked to a very nice woman who was only too happy to give me what details she could, but admitted the list was a bit random. For whatever reason those were the schools selected by the district. Let’s see how this one works out. It should be noted though that we continue to pay large salaries to administrators and then outsource the work. The job at central office seems to have morphed into one of managing consulting companies and not district employees.
If you are a parent, educator, or a community member in the Overton Cluster, there will be an informal Parent Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday September 21 in the Tusculum ES library at 6:30. Under previous administrations the PAC was a vehicle for parents in the whole cluster to be informed about what was going on in schools. Last year PAC was not officially active but the Hillsboro cluster continued to meet. Maplewood also met a few times. This is an attempt to emulate those two clusters. All are welcome. Come share the positive news of your schools.
Its neat seeing Whites Creek Students featured in this video from Ford Steam Day.
Once again we had good response to the poll questions and I am very appreciative. Thank you for your continued support. Let’s look at results.
The first question asked for your thoughts on closing schools. The number one answer with 35% of the vote was that we should close charters first. The district should take heart in that the number 2 answer at 30% was “I wish we didn’t have to but…”. This shows that people recognize the need and if the district communicates it’s intentions clearly they should find some willing partners. Closing schools and rezoning is hard work and requires as many partners as possible.
Here’s the write in votes. There are often ideas worthy of further exploration in these “other” responses.
|5th graders belonged in elementary to begin with!||1|
|Needs to be thoroughly studied and considered||1|
|I am hopeful MNPS will use their buildings in the best way possible||1|
|Investigate why schools are underenrolled||1|
|Merge JB and Gra Mar!||1|
|Why are we paying for execs’ doctorate degrees?||1|
|Rezoning is preferable to closing schools. Too bad either is necessary, but it is||1|
|If closed, public land should stay in public hands||1|
|id go with rezoning to balance numbers.||1|
|look at out of zone students. Some legit some costing $$$ and issues!||1|
|Community should be engaged every step of the way in something like this.|
The second question was in regards to the IFL units included in the new Advanced Literacy policy. If you are confused, and poll results indicate many of you are, don’t feel bad. This policy has been implanted as a shining example of building the plane while you fly it. I’ve never understood why people invoke that phrase with a sense of pride, but I digress.
The top two answers, with 20% of the vote each, were “Haven’t been given enough information to form an opinion.” and “Getting awful close to scripted lessons aren’t we?” That doesn’t bode well, especially when you consider the number 3 answer, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not using them.”
I’ve been turning that 3rd answer over in my head all weekend. What are the consequences if teachers do ignore the IFL units? What is the district going to do? They can’t afford to fire anyone because they don’t have enough teachers as it is. I tend to think that the ones who would ignore the policy would be the older more experienced teachers. When you consider that the majority of teachers in our priority schools are young teachers, how does this impact equity?
Literacy coaches are evaluated on part, I would assume, on adherence to district policy. However, they don’t have any power to enforce adherence. I would think this puts them in kind of a precarious position and let’s not forget the district had to open up applications for that position twice last year in order to get enough applicants. Seem’s like we are running the risk of a negative impact here if we are not careful.
Logic would tell me that when rolling out an initiative of this size you might want to spend some time informing and securing the support of veteran teachers before implementing. You might also want to develop clear instructions and a rubric for evaluating end of unit tasks. In other words, you might want to build the plane before it takes off. Here are the write-in answers and there are a lot.
|Stop buying junk/stop changing scope and sequence and content a last minute!||1|
|Felder and Lashley need to go||1|
|Ours haven’t been distributed yet||1|
|I haven’t had enough planning time to even look at them.||1|
|I equally need to pick useless to me/too close to scripted/don’t tell Imnotusing||1|
|Flat, uninteresting, not innovative, counter to previous initiatives||1|
|Couldn’t the units MNPS teachers wrote been used and saved us a ton of money?||1|
|3rd grade is good, but the partner work is advanced for this time of the year||1|
|wastw of money-again!!!!!!||1|
|No experience with them. Yet.||1|
|Feels like big brother micromanaging. Everyone becomes mediocre, art of ed lost.|
Question 3 asked for what song best summed up the first month of school. The number one answer with 30% of the vote was Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” whose chorus is,
Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind
Again, you wonder if anybody is listening.
Here’s the write-ins:
|Vivaldi Four Seasons – especially Summer and Fall 🙂||1|
|Not the Nationwide jingle! I feel like policies are being made w/o teacher input||1|
|Maniac (From Flashdance)|
That’s it for now. 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.