This week is a prime example of that old adage, too much to write about and not enough time. I hope you got a chance to read yesterday’s piece on teacher recruitment and retention. If not, please check it out. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response it has received. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that teachers are frustrated. Apparently though, it does take a rocket scientist to deduce the need to listen. The Atlantic has a great piece on why teachers need their freedom that I strongly recommend as well.
Before we get into things, I would like to express my sympathies to the family and friends of Those Darlins founder Jessi Zazu who succumbed to cancer this week at the much too young age of 28. Zazu was a former attendee of the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp. Her spirit, intellect, and talent will be greatly missed.
Earlier in the week, I received an interesting private message from an MNPS parent. Initially she was interested in the ever-evasive TNReady scores, but then she wanted to know if this message that she had received from her child’s school seemed normal to me:
“While progress reports are scheduled to be sent home next Wednesday, September 6th, there are some factors to consider. Many elementary students are new to school or are still adjusting to school learning expectations and classroom procedures at this point in the school year. We have also been administering MAP-Reading, MAP-Math, FastBridge, and Text Level Assessments to provide a baseline of information so each student can have specific learning needs met going forward. These factors can limit clear and accurate information related to student learning 4 instructional weeks into the school year. Therefore, schools will not be issuing the standard progress reports and will be communicating differently with families. XXX will be sending home information about assessments that students have taken as soon as all of the results are available. Additionally, teachers will communicate with individual families if there are students at risk of not being successful this first quarter.”
I replied, “No it doesn’t.” So of course I did a little digging, and lo and behold, I found some strange doings indeed. Apparently this was a template that MNPS administrators had suggested principals utilize due to the district being so far behind in training staff on the new grading policies. Many principals, though, realized that when the calendar said that progress reports are coming home on September 6, parents actually expected them to come home on September 6. So they sent progress reports home on September 6.
What this translates to is that parents at some schools received progress reports while parents at other schools received something entirely different and a few other schools got something even more different. What it also means is that after 13 months, this administration is still incapable of producing a consistent progress report across the district. To me, that is completely unacceptable, as it should be to anybody who cares about kids’ education.
This administration, as well as members of our school board, talk so much about equity, yet seem to lack an understanding of what that means. You can’t have equity until you demonstrate that you are capable of executing the day-to-day functions of the district. In fact, failure to execute those tasks means that the quality of each child’s education is then placed upon the shoulders of the school level leadership and their ability to navigate the shortcomings of the district leadership. This is an extremely tenuous position to put our principals in, especially our newest principals.
We talk endlessly about the need to find more educators who “look like the kids they are serving.” While that is certainly an important consideration, it can’t supersede quality. I would argue that by focusing on color of skin over quality you actually increase inequities. I’m not accusing Dr. Joseph of purposely pursuing such a strategy, but I do think he needs to add a focus on quality to his message. Furthermore, I would challenge him and anyone else to name me one central office hire over the past year who is a marked improvement over the person they replaced. I can’t do it. Closest I can come is Dennis Queen. That’s a problem.
If the progress report debacle wasn’t enough, yesterday, administrators sent out this message to teachers:
Important Change to K-4 Grade Book
In grades K-4, MNPS used a temporary Progress Report in September. This temporary report required that teachers post grades. Because grades were posted, “In Progress” grades at the reporting category and term level stopped calculating.
To allow “In Progress” grades to calculate in all standards again, MNPS will remove all posted grades in K-4 grade books Thursday, 9/14/2017. This will allow the grade book and family portal to show an accurate and current “In Progress” grade for students.
If posted progress report grades are needed, Executive Principals can request copies of the Q1 Progress Reports and/or a school wide list of posted grades (organized by teacher) by emailing email@example.com.
Thank you for your patience. Please continue to read communications to ensure that you have the information you need to provide families with accurate grades.
I don’t think I need to tell you how that email went over. Teacher’s do not have time to enter, re-enter, re-reading directions. All this memo does is reiterate the impression that central office’s agenda trumps everyone else’s.
I could write 1000 words about the mis-steps that MNPS continues to make, and former teacher and dear friend Mary Holden has written a few of her own, but the only words that seem to fit are, and I know I shouldn’t talk like this, can the district please get it’s head out of it’s….
This week, a tweet from the students at Maplewood High School involved with ProjectLit brought a huge smile to my face. They were kind enough to send me a thank you note for attending their monthly book club. Truth is, I should thanking them for letting me be a part of it.
MNPS has brand new feature on their Children First blog, #MNPSVoices. They will be highlighting various heroes from across the district and telling you a little more about them. The first one features West End Middle crossing guard Teresa Hunter. I look forward to more of these.
Eighteen MNPS students are among the approximately 16,000 National Merit Award Semi-Finalists recently announced. That is cause for celebration. Here’s wishing all of them luck and letting them know they make Nashville proud.
Smith Springs ES held the kick-off meeting for their Watch D.O.G. S. chapter this week. I’d say by the size of the crowd they should expect a huge year this year. Looking forward to hearing more.
MNPS will be hosting a College Fair on September 21st at TSU. It’s a good place to start to seed some of those dreams.
It is football season. I keep hearing from folks who have recently attended their first high school football game in a long time. Every one of them tells me what a great time they had. There’s kind of a big one this week, Glencliff visits Hillsboro tonight at 7:30PM. As much I like my Burro peeps, my heart does live in South Nashville. If you can make the game tonight, I certainly encourage you to do so.
Students and educators from Hillsboro, Overton, and Pearl Cohn High Schools will be heading to Charlottesville this weekend, where they will be performing a song they wrote inspired by recent events. Safe travels and know that Nashville is proud.
The Data Wars show no sign of letting up soon. At last week’s marathon school board meeting, the MNPS board voted to not share student information with the ASD. Of course, State Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen wasted no time in pointing out that this was an illegal action:
“We are disappointed MNPS has chosen to adopt a policy that conflicts with state law. T.C.A. § 49-13-132 is clear that districts must release students’ contact information, as allowed under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), to a chartering authority or charter school. The department has sought to proactively collaborate with MNPS and has taken several steps to clarify and establish protections that ensure that student contact information is not misused or shared against the wishes of a parent. We have allowed the district additional time to ensure parents received a second communication about the rights they have always had to opt out, and we have sought additional clarity from the attorney general.
The school board’s vote ultimately represents a decision to limit information to families about their public school options as they make decisions about what is best for their children – especially families who have students in the district’s Priority schools or lowest performing schools.”
Since irony seems to be lost on the masses, MNPS board member Will Pinkston fired back by accusing the Commissioner of “overestimating” her authority. Hey, I only write the punchlines, I don’t inspire them.
To further complicate matters, the Tennessee Attorney General issued a ruling this week that runs counter to Mr. Pinkston’s assertions. He ruled that requests for student contact information from state-run charter school operators doesn’t violate Federal student privacy law, but rather are “entirely consistent with it.” McQueen wasted no time putting both Shelby County Schools and MNPS on notice:
“If you do not provide this information by Sept. 25, 2017, to the (Achievement School District) and any other charter school or charter authorizer who has an outstanding request, we will be forced to consider actions to enforce the law.”
Yeah… this ain’t going to end well. As always, Andy Spears at TN Ed Report offers further insight, and asks the question, where do the current candidates for Governor stand on protecting student data vs. providing marketing information to competing districts and schools? Maybe while they are at it, they could give us their thoughts on the ASD as well.
Here are the questions for this week. I think I have some interesting ones.
The first question goes back to what I stated earlier, that MNPS has made a firm commitment to hiring more people of color. How do you feel about that?
The second question has to do with magnet school entrance requirements. Some voices across the district have been calling to have magnet school seats designated by either quadrant or cluster. For example, if there were 100 seats available, every quadrent would get 25. How does that sound to you?
My last question has to do with high school football and how many of you plan to attend this year.
That about does it for another week. Remember to check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page for good things happening around the district. If you need to get a hold of me, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org