A weekend that began in a tenuous state ended up in a place of hope. On Friday, I shared how my mother-in-law had broken her back. Surgery was a success, but doctors were unable to take out the breathing tube until Sunday. That made for a very tough Saturday, as it was necessary to lessen sedation in order to prep for the tube removal. Her pain would come in waves along with the anxiety, actually panic, over the inserted tube. My father-in-law, along with my wife and her sisters, never left their mom’s side, but were extremely shaken.
However, on Sunday, once the tube was removed, everything improved dramatically. She is expected to make a full recovery with plans in place for her to try walking in the next day or two. I remember when I was first in recovery 17 years ago and there were those who insisted that they’d never experienced a miracle. I made the argument then that I still hold true today: miracles are all around us. You just have to open yourself up to receive them. My family received one this weekend, and we will be eternally grateful.
There continues to be a lot of conversation centered around TNReady. In an effort to try to clear the air, ChalkbeatTN asked for questions from readers and then posed them to the TNDOE. When I read the Department’s answers to the questions, the only thing that became clearer to me is that we have lost our ever-loving mind.
For example, here’s TNDOE’s response to questions about how TVAAS growth scores are calculated since the last bit of data we have is from the 2015 TCAP exams and we are now trying to achieve a growth score by comparing those scores to this year’s TN Ready scores:
“Because TVAAS always looks at relative growth from year to year, not absolute test scores, it can be stable through transitions — and that is what we saw this year. Students can still grow, even if their overall proficiency level is now different. You can think about it like a running race. If you used to finish a 5K at about the same time as 10 other students, and all 10 students made the same shift to a new race at the same time with the same amount of time to prepare, you should finish the new race at about the same time. If you finished ahead of the group’s average time, you grew faster than your peers. If you lagged behind everyone, that would indicate you did not grow as much as was expected. Because students’ performance will be compared to the performance of their peers and because their peers are making the transition at the same time, drops in statewide proficiency rates resulting from increased rigor of the new assessments had no impact on the ability of teachers, schools, and districts to earn strong TVAAS scores. Transitions to higher standards and expectations do not change the fact that we still want all students in a district to make a full year’s worth of growth, relative to their peers who are all experiencing the same transition.”
Huh? So here’s a question that I haven’t heard anybody raise – Andy Spears over at TN Ed Report did cover the letter that some teachers received in regards to being unable to match them to all of their students. Say I’m a teacher in a high poverty/high mobility school. In 2015, I had 100 kids who took TCAP. Two years later, it’s not inconceivable that 40 of those children are no longer in a Tennessee school.
On the flip side, if I am a teacher in an affluent district, odds are that most of my 100 kids are still not only in the state, but in the district as well. Maybe I lose 5. That means one teacher receives a growth score based on 60 data points, while another receives a score based on 95. Furthermore, to use the State’s 5K analogy, one teacher gets runners who’ve all participated in the same training program, while the other has runners from multiple training programs. I fail to see how this produces an equitable comparison.
Let’s also consider the fact that under TNDOE’s analogy, all 5K’s are the same. Which, as a runner, I can confirm is just not true. Every race on every day is a different beast. I could run the same course in the same week and get a different result. A result that is not always reflective of my abilities as a runner.
Say if, on Monday, I run the course in 25 minutes, and then turn around and run it on Friday with a time of 22 minutes. What can you conclude? Is the time I recorded on Friday really indicative of the training I did during the week? Or could it be attributed to other factors – diet, rest, health, weather?
Now take the same scenario and apply it to two different courses. Is it not possible that the second course is structured in a way that is more palpable to me? This year, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School scored a 5 on growth. This was a bit of a head scratcher for them because a high growth score, due to their high achievement scores, is a rare occurrence. Perhaps this test, with its focus on critical thinking, was more in the wheel house of their students and therefore they were able to score higher on it than on TCAP, which didn’t focus as much on critical thinking. Does that translate into students actually learning more last year? I’d be suspect and want to wait until next year’s scores arrived to begin to draw conclusions.
We keep trying to paint these test scores as an indicator, or even predictor, of kids’ futures. Which, in my mind, is extremely disingenuous. I’m reading my children these books about famous people who changed the world. They focus a great deal on the childhood of these great people. Amazingly, not a single one of these individuals is cited for their ability to perform on a standardized test. Several, including Gandhi and Einstein, actually… gasp!… struggled at times with school.
The unifying point on those who struggled is that they loved learning and they were independent readers. Perhaps we’d better served if we followed those examples and spent more time focusing on cultivating the love of learning and allowing students more time in school to select books to read. Maybe then the TNDOE wouldn’t have to respond thus when asked about how to keep kids engaged with testing:
“We believe that if districts and schools set the tone that performing your best on TNReady is important, then students will take the test seriously, regardless of whether TNReady factors into their grade. We should be able to expect our students will try and do their best at any academic exercise, whether or not it is graded. This is a value that is established through local communication from educators and leaders, and it will always be key to our test administration. We believe that when we share these messages and values — celebrating the variety of accomplishments our students have made, taking advantage of TNReady’s scheduling flexibility to minimize disruption, focusing on strong standards-based instruction every day, sending positive messages around the importance of the variety of tests that students take, and sharing that students should always do their best — then students will buy-in and TNReady will be successful.”
I think a more fitting quote for the TNDOE and testing would be this passage from George Orwell’s 1984:
“You are a slow learner, Winston.”
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”
I have been looking at demographic numbers for MNPS lately, and while I’m not yet ready to draw any conclusions, I find it very interesting.
As a district, MNPS is 42% black, 29% white, and 25% Hispanic. But if you look at second graders, the percentages are 39% black, 25% Hispanic, 31% white. When you look at 6th graders, it breaks down to 43% black, 26% Hispanic, 27% white. In 9th grade, it is 43% black, 25% Hispanic, and 27% white. In 12th grade, it is 48% black, 21% Hispanic, and 32% white. Total enrollment for 2nd grade is 6,999; 6th grade is 6,571; 9th is 5,859; and 12th is 5,122.
I also took a quick look at Pre-k. For Pre-k, out of 2,917 students, 44% are black, 22% are Hispanic, and 29% are white. Again, I’m not sure what any of those numbers mean. I do think that we should be aware of them in discussing MNPS policy.
Rumor has it that the bargaining portion of collaborative conferencing in MNPS has been concluded and that a contract is ready to be presented to the school board. I don’t know the timeline yet, but I do know those connected with the process seem to be pretty pleased. Let’s continue to keep fingers crossed.
A bit of correction on an earlier post. I had reported that Antioch HS had lost their AVID National Demonstration School status. That was not an accurate statement, and for that I apologize. However, don’t take that to mean that all is well with AHS when it comes to AVID. A key component to AVID is teacher training. It is a costly and timely procedure and AHS has been hemorrhaging teachers, which makes maintaining AVID Demonstration School status challenging at best. But for today, they still retain their status.
Continuing with AHS, this weekend, at their home football game against Overton, a fight broke out between the two teams. Apparently the fight was disruptive enough that Antioch players refused to continue the game once order had been restored. The game was called with 9 minutes left to play. The kicker here is that there seems to be a question of whether or not the required administrator was present. Hopefully someone is looking into exactly what happened and taking appropriate action.
Continuing with the subject of fights. I keep hearing reports of an increase in the number of fights at our district high schools. One parent recently related to me a discussion they had with their children where they were informed that students “pretty much see a fight a day.” While I realize that is anecdotal, it’s more than a little disturbing and is backed up by stories from other parents and teachers. I’d request the district’s discipline reports, but based on stories I’ve been told, I question their accuracy.
I’m a huge fan of Executive Officer of Student Services Tony Majors and his work, but at some point we have to have an honest conversation about the district’s discipline plan. There is a lot to like about Restorative Justice, but I liken its implementation to a recent response from a friend when I asked their opinion about the Mayor’s recently proposed transportation plan.
“If we fund it at the requested 5.2 billion dollars, it’ll probably be a successful plan. If we only fund it at 3.2 billion dollars and cut corners, it probably won’t be very successful,” was his reply. I’d argue that a very similar thing is happening with the Restorative Justice program in MNPS. That needs to be corrected.
Are you interested in becoming a nurse at one of MNPS’s schools? Apply here: http://bit.ly/2i7VYVi.
Great story on Channel 5 about the Hillsboro Players performance of Peter Pan.
MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph took some time to talk with MNEA members last week. Those in attendance reported that a good time was had by all.
On Sunday, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry addressed the Nashville Organization for Action and Hope (NOAH). Education is one of this organization’s primary concerns.
Time to look at results for last weekend’s poll questions.
The first question asked what you thought should be next for TNReady. Not surprisingly, 39% of you felt that it shouldn’t be tied to teacher or school evaluations, while 29% of you were in favor of scraping the damn thing. With the next state legislation session just a couple of months away, it’ll be interesting to see where this conversation goes. Several Republican gubernatorial candidates are likely to use it as an example of the ineptitude of big government. Normally that would be cause for a chuckle, but with many predicting that Tennessee is getting ready to move even further to the right, who knows what could happen.
Here are the write-in votes:
|All of the above… except stay the course.||1|
|Get rid of all this standardized testing!||1|
|Give districts autonomy to develop more authentic and meaningful assessments||1|
|Scrap the whole thing and DON’T replace it!|
Question two was in regards to the recently cancelled HS marching band Contest of Champions due to a scheduled White Lives Matter rally that many feared had the potential to erupt into violence. The rally kind of fizzled as the forces for inclusion were able to muster much larger numbers than those of hate. The rally in Murfreesboro was actually canceled after the confrontation in Shelbyville.
As far as the band competition goes, 53% of you felt that the cancellation of the Contest of Champions was the right decision. 25% of you responded that it shouldn’t have been canceled. While it is a shame that the event was canceled, I think the fact that nobody got hurt this weekend is cause for celebration.
Here are the write-in answers:
|Should relocate, not cancel.||1|
|Would have been better to cancel the Nazi rally||1|
|Find alt. location||1|
|Why couldn’t they just relocate it? All you need is a football stadium.|
The last question was asked tongue-in-cheek after Dr. Joseph invited old friend and Maryland gubernatorial candidate Rushern Baker III to a recent MNPS principal meeting. A move that still baffles me unless he’s still trying to keep his options at home open. Principals weren’t overly thrilled with the detour into Maryland politics since every single second of their time is invaluable. Apparently the administration felt differently and that the needs of the Maryland electorate superseded those of our instructional leaders. The lack of a voter registration table for Maryland voters further hampered the impact.
Dolly Parton, someone with the actual ability to inspire, was the number one vote getter with 21% of the vote. Dr. Ron Woodard, who is doing excellent work in Maury County Schools and is also capable of being inspirational, received several votes as well.
Here are the write-in votes, and there are quite a few:
|No one. There is enough work to do during the mtgs w/o grandstanding by guests||1|
|Dr. Register-maybe he can clean up this damn mess.||1|
|Jay Steele. A great Halloween scare.||1|
|How about a veteran MNPS teacher.||1|
|Whoever chairs his exit team||1|
|dad gone wild||1|
|T. C. Weber & Dr. Ron Woodard, the biggest mistake he made is letting him walk||1|
|Teachers and students||1|
|Craig Fitzhugh and/or James Mackler||1|
|I would rather uninvite some…||1|
|He should resign|
That does it. Hope you have a great week. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page.