BACK TO CLASS

I hope everybody in Nashville had themselves a wonderful fall break. The news of school reopening was met with mixed emotions here at the Weber household. My third grade daughter was absolutely stoked to be heading back, while my second grade son was decidedly less enthused.

Before we get into things, I have to comment on the “MeToo” posts on social media. I find them extremely powerful, though they fill me with great deal of sadness. A realization creeps in that perhaps my innocent youthful indiscretions weren’t as innocent as I thought, and for any I may have hurt, I’m truly sorry.

I read the words and stories, I see players taking a knee over racial inequity, and I can’t help but realize that for many, life is a lot harder than it rightfully should be. The powerful inflicting their will on the powerless should never be acceptable. Whether it be sex, race, sexual orientation, economic… none of it is ok. The world may never be equal, but we can’t just accept things as fine the way they are. We need to never stop trying to improve things. Anything less is unacceptable and morally wrong.

KNOXVILLE

Last Friday I wrote a post about recent events in Knoxville surrounding a proposed language change to the district’s harassment policy. While I write a lot about MNPS, I try to keep my eyes and ears open for other interesting education stories across the state and even nationally. Unfortunately when covering those stories I’m more at the mercy of the local press than I am with Nashville stories. Which means sometimes I fall short in capturing the whole story.

Luckily when I do so, somebody local usually steps forward and presents a deeper picture of what’s going on. I’m eternally grateful when people do that, as I’m just one guy trying to share as much info as possible. In this case, Jennifer Owen, the Knox County school board member from District 2, was kind enough to share her insight, and I feel it’s important to share her thoughts here instead of letting them get lost in the comment section:

The information regarding the Knox County Superintendent and Board is not accurate. Superintendent Thomas did not recommend any language change. It was listed as “recommended by the superintendent” in the agenda, largely due to habit. (Prior superintendents brought changes forward from the committee, which was administrative, rather than a committee of the Board with noticed meetings.) That has since been corrected, to more accurately reflect that policies have been reviewed by the committee and are being sent forward as such, rather than appearing that the superintendent recommends or carries forward any changes that come from the committee. I think this will be a great improvement, regarding transparency, as the community will have more accurate information regarding who or what department or committee is responsible for agenda items.

I was in that first committee meeting where this policy was discussed and the only changes, beyond legal references at the bottom, came from Board members – not from the superintendent, the law department, or anyone else, as has repeatedly been reported. It should be noted that no reporters or private citizens attended that meeting, meaning original reports (and many follow-ups) were put together largely from conjecture and from what people assumed, before they spoke with anyone who was actually there. That misinformation has been very difficult to correct.

Though I would like to agree with your optimism, there was, in fact, quite a lot of name-calling, villification, and other nastiness. It came from people reacting, before discussing – and much of it could have been avoided had people talked to their Board members before reacting in other ways.

New policy language could not have been supported by the Board, as there was no vote until October. Reports that the Board “planned” or “intended” to change anything were not true, since the Board ONLY has power as a whole. Without an initial vote, intention for or against any change could not be confirmed.

Knox County still has a long way to go toward recovering from past administrations and toward trusting that the current administration and Board would rather be working together with our communities than working as adversaries, though we do get a little closer every day.

I’ve been watching Knoxville from afar over the last few years and have come to know several of their exceptional educators. They, like Nashville and Chattanooga, have hired a new Superintendent over the last year. All three districts have taken a different approach to their leadership transition process. Knoxville seems to be working extra hard to secure buy-in from as many stakeholders as possible and therefore have created a blueprint worth studying. At the end of the day, I think theirs will be a positive story.

TN(NOT)READY

Here we go again. Another year and another testing fiasco. To be honest with you, I don’t even know what to write. We’ve been down this road so many times and nothing changes. I suspect that next year I’ll be sitting right here, writing another piece about failed state standardized testing.

Accountability is preached to kids and educators like Moses delivering the tablets, yet administrators continue to sin year after year without repercussions. The MNPS school board creates policy, fails to adhere to it, and nobody says a thing. The TNDOE fails year after year to effectively administer standardized testing and nothing happens. Hell, I saw this weekend that Dr. McQueen was out telling whomever would listen how these past 10 years have set our education system up to soar. How is that possible without an uncorrupted data base and the inability to effectively measure learning?

I love the line that starts off a recent ChalkbeatTN story: “Just when it seemed that this year’s state testing had gone off without a hitch, it has emerged that thousands of exams were incorrectly scored.”

In whose eyes did this year’s testing go off without a hitch? It’s mid-October, and district scores, let alone individual school’s scores, have yet to be released. Which translates to the the data being virtually useless for driving instruction. Sure, sure, an argument could be made that in terms of an overall picture, it could be utilized to potentially spot trends down the road. But can it really? And how is failure to deliver scores in a timely fashion considered without a hitch?

The state releases TVAAS scores that seem to be conjured from the air. If you ever read The Fountainhead, you’ll be familiar with a subplot where the newspaper editor conspires to make a new play a success despite it being absolute garbage. The strategy employed is to have as many of the “in the know” and “wealthy” people publicly praise the play as being brilliant. Apparently the TNDOE has studied the book and feels it can replicate that strategy.

Kids are not stupid, though, nor are they naive. They know bullshit when they see it. And let’s be honest, the Tennessee Department of Education’s testing policy is… bullshit. Successful testing is dependent on those being tested believing that the test has validity. If you really believe that kids and educators find any validity in these tests, then you aren’t spending enough time with kids and educators.

Still, the TNDOE marches on with blinders, like Clydesdales pulling the Budweiser wagon. These unreliable scores are used to determine educational policy, on both state and local levels, and dictate teachers’ professional lives and by de facto impact their personal lives. It’s almost criminal, and yet nobody seems willing to step in and say, “Let’s stop this madness.”

Maybe it will be conservative Republican candidate for governor Mae Beavers who gets the ball rolling. I may not be a fan of hers, but she sums the situation up quite succinctly and appropriately:

“Our teachers are having to spend too much time focused on high stakes tests rather than on teaching. Our kids are forced to focus on tests rather on learning. Once again we are learning that the TVAAS tests, and those who we are paying to score them, have failed us again. Enough is enough.”

Not to be out done, House Speaker and candidate for Governor Beth Harwell has also called for hearings:

“The news that nearly 10,000 TNReady tests were scored incorrectly has resulted in educators, parents, and legislators seeking answers,” Harwell said in a Monday statement. “In addition, the amount of testing has also raised questions. To that end, I have asked Representative Jeremy Faison, the Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, to hold a hearing on these issues surrounding testing.”

Maybe there is hope.

QUICK HITS

Kids returning to MNPS schools this week will get an opportunity to take a climate survey. Panorama Educational Services is managing the survey and will ensure student privacy. Parents can request a copy of the survey, or opt out their kids, by contacting their schools. Teachers also get a crack at the survey where they’ll be asked questions like, “How possible do you think it is for your students to change how much talent they have?” Oh poor Gregor Mendel.

Come see Robin Hood at Overton HS this week! It opens this Thursday, Oct 19th at 7:00PM. Closing night is Monday, Oct 23rd at 7:00PM. Tickets are just $5.

Over at Hume-Fogg HS, they’ll be celebrating Teen Read Week all this week. Get all those NPL fines waived and read fabulous books along the way. There will be prizes, too!

How awesome of the Honorable State Rep. Brenda Gilmore to stop by to speak with Antioch Middle Prep students during Career Day.

POLL RESULTS

When I first started creating polls, I thought it would be any easy way to increase reader participation. How hard could writing a few questions a week be? Oh, how little did I know.

It’s easy to write questions that will garner the responses you want. It’s a lot harder writing neutral questions that bring in broader feedback. It’s also proven challenging for me to figure out just which questions will garner responses and which ones will garner indifference. I’ve yet to to get a handle on that challenge.

Questions that I think will provoke a lot of response often don’t. And the opposite holds true as well. This week is a case in point. I still saw the normal 500 people viewing the post, but of those 500, only 72 responded to the fall break question, and less than 60 responded to the school board questions. Last week, 127 people responded to the question on community superintendents. I don’t know what inference I can draw from those numbers, but it is worth noting. Maybe I could get some guidance from the TNDOE.

Let’s look at results. Question 1 asked what you planned on doing for fall break. Lot of traveling going on out there, as 26% of you indicated that you took a family trip. The number 2 answer, at 25%, was to rest. Sadly, 22% of you utilized the time to get caught up on rest.

I think it’s important to note here that for many MNPS employees, it wasn’t a fall break as much as it was a fall furlough. Many people may not know this, but during fall break, para-professionals, cafeteria staff, crossing guards, and bus drivers are off-schedule and thus, off payroll as well. That’s a whole week without a paycheck for those who can’t really afford it. That’s a lot to ask and hopefully will soon be rectified.

Here are the write-ins:

Worked at my 2nd job 1
College visit (I’ve got a senior!) 1
Kid went to the beach w/ a friend; I wasted time re-watching the Saw franchise:(

 

Question 2 asked for your opinion on the recently completed school board evaluation of Director of Schools Shawn Joseph. The overwhelming answer was, at 44%, that there was a disconnect between the board and what happens in schools. The two runner-up answers, with a combined 31%, questioned the transparency of the process. Only 2% said the evaluations were spot on.

Here are the write-ins:

All of the above 1
The clandestine nature of the process is new for MNPS. What are they hiding? 1
Did I miss the teacher input? 1
ALL of the above except spot on 1
Bless their hearts! 1
What planet are these people on? This is not what I see down in the trenches.

Christiane Buggs was recently named Nashville Scene School Board Member of the Year, and I thought I would ask who you would have voted for. Not surprisingly, Amy Frogge continues to get high marks with 34% of you giving her your vote. Mary Pierce continues to be the number 2 most popular vote getter with 17% of you giving her your vote. Everybody else kind of falls into place behind them. Despite his boorish behavior, Will Pinkston managed to come in at third with 10% of the vote.

Before I give you the write-ins, I’d like to point out that I do have a lot of readers in the Antioch area. Not saying anything, just saying:

Anyone else 1
This is like picking the MVP of Cleveland Browns 1
Why is that a category? 1
The one who finally speaks the truth about Dr. J & cronies

Hope you have a great week. You can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. And please check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page.

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