THE END OF AN INSANE YEAR

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I must admit that I contemplated taking the weekend off. But then I remembered that I am now a professional blogger. Last week, I finally reached the threshold on WordAds where the ads generated enough to warrant them cutting me a check. It’s only 100 bucks, but it does signify a monetary reward for my words, and for that I thank all of you. Your support is always appreciated.

In light of having been elevated to the status of professional, I decided to use today’s blog post as a catch up and clear out. Here are a few thoughts and stories rattling around at the end of the year. Do with them what you will.

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?

It is the end of the year, and if you are like me, you are a getting a flood of emails from non-profits looking for end-of-year donations. One of the more interesting ones I received came from MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph on behalf of the Nashville Public Education Foundation. If you’ll remember, NPEF played a large role in Dr. Joseph securing the position as head of MNPS.

In his fundraising email, Joseph makes the following pitch for NPEF:

We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the leadership of the Nashville Public Education Foundation. They are the spark that ignites all of us to work harder, think bigger, do better and rally together.  

While we have made a lot of progress together in the last year, we still have a long way to go. But with this community — the friends of the NPEF — I am more convinced than ever that we will get there.

When you donate to support the NPEF, you are committing to public school excellence and showing how Nashville rallies together for our kids and our school system. 

That is quite the ask. But it also raises a few questions for me. Where exactly are we and what exactly has NPEF’s role been in us getting there? Is it the creation of a Literacy Council that doesn’t have a teacher on it? Is it the creation of the largest retail discount program in the Southeast? Is it the hosting of the annual Hall of Fame Dinner that this year took place at the Omni hotel? All are worthy of accolades, but do they rise to the level of being worthy of enticing a pitch from the Director of Schools?

Off of the top of my head, I can think of a number of non-profits doing equally essential work. ProjectLit is doing actual hands-on work to improve literacy rates throughout the city. Metropolitan Nashville Education Foundation has a scholarship program for MNPS graduating seniors who are interested in studying to pursue a degree in education. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition continues to fight for MNPS students.  Music Makes Us takes advantage of the unique resources afforded by Nashville to improve educational outcomes for our students. I cannot begin to even mention all the churches that regularly go into our immigrant communities when school is not in session to ensure children have safe activities to participate in while getting food and clothing if needed.

My point is, not to disparage NPEF, but there are a lot of worthy charities who toil in the shadows but have a larger impact on our children’s lives than NPEF does. A message of support for those organizations as a whole, instead of pointing out one politically connected organization, to me would have had a larger impact. It’s not like Dr. Joseph has any problems asking for money either. The Mayor herself has noted on several recent occasions that every time she sees him, he brings up funding needs. And to hear the two of them talk, she sees him a lot.

It should be noted that Dr. Joseph has never been shy about asking for money in his role as Director of Schools, whether it’s the Seaford School District or here in Nashville. Increased funding has to come from somewhere, and with a much needed and well thought out transportation plan already on the table, as well as funding for a soccer stadium, some financial fatigue may be setting in for Nashville residents. I’m not quite sure that a large increase of funding by the city would go over well at this juncture. Perhaps that’s why Joseph is out pitching for NPEF.

AN INTERESTING DEFENSE

Perusing social media postings the other day, I came across an interesting public post questioning whether or not the criticism of Shawn Joseph was personally or racially motivated or not. It’s a valid question, and I think one that needs to be repeatedly asked in order to keep everyone honest. I will say a reply by school board chairman Anna Shepherd bothered me quite a bit though. Shepherd wrote in response:

I completely agree with you regarding the criticisms of Dr. J. As a community and “It” city, we pat ourselves on the back but, truth be told, we are not that “It” when we can’t accept the fact that we have a person of color at the helm of our school system.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the last few years, I’ll think you’ll recognize that I try to be very sensitive to racial issues. Race, on some level, influences everything. I agree that the city of Nashville needs to have a deeper conversation on race and that we haven’t done enough in the past to address racial inequalities in staffing MNPS. The fact that we are unclear of what is a racially motivated criticism and what is a legitimate criticism would indicate to me a need for a deeper conversation. I am also willing to accept that in order to balance things out, the pendulum probably needs to swing further in the other direction. What I do take exception to is an administrator’s race trumping what’s good for kids.

Demanding that kids attend schools that don’t put them at risk for lead poisoning has nothing to do with accepting the fact that we have a person of color at the helm of our school system. Is Shepherd inferring that parents would be more willing to have kids poisoned if the Director of Schools was not a person of color? Yes, by testing the water, Dr. Joseph did more than the previous administration did, but that doesn’t change the fact that kids were knowingly put at risk for over a year before MNPS acknowledged that yes, they could do more.

Questioning a literacy program that is near universally rejected by teachers shouldn’t be blunted because the Director of Schools and his Chiefs are African-Americans. Calling attention to the fact that there are 182 open positions for certified instructors at the mid-point of the school year is not an unfair criticism. Nor is questioning a response to a holiday party that included extravagant gifts. There is a disconnect when you continually ask for more money but are able to secure a slew of high dollar prizes to give away. People have a right to question this and any other of a Director of School’s actions. It’s one of the reasons why a Director is paid $300k a year.

I understand that in the past, the community might have been slow to question the moves of the Director of Schools. That’s part of the learning curve. Look at how the last several Directors’ tenures ended. Pedro Garcia was only removed upon the State’s takeover of the district and was a mess for a long time afterwards. Dr. Register’s reign ended with open warfare between large portions of Nashville’s community and mixed reviews. Do we really want to repeat those situations? Perhaps by being more vigilant we could avoid those mistakes of the past and work towards better outcomes.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same old actions over and over and expecting different outcomes. By that definition, this past year has been riddled with evidence of insanity. I can’t speak to the motivations of other critics, but all I’m asking for is an honest and transparent conversation. One we seem incapable of having. Are we really benefitting anybody by failing to openly address legitimate concerns? I’m hoping that in 2018 we get a little more sane.

It appears that vouchers will take a back seat during this year’s state legislative session. The lawmakers who have driven proposed legislation in the past are indicating that this year they will focus on boosting resources for the state’s public schools. Rep. Harry Brooks, who was a sponsor of this past legislative session’s school voucher bill, said he wants more money for teacher pay, school technology, and for staff to help guide Tennessee’s Response to Instruction and Intervention program. This all bears watching, but on the surface is very welcome news.

QUICK HITS

After the holidays, I believe the campaign for Governor will really start to heat up. Democratic candidate Karl Dean has been out in Memphis drumming up support. He recently did an interview with the Tri-State Defender and talked about education. It’s worth reading.

I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review from April called “What To Do About Mediocrity on Your Team.” I found a whole lot of the article to be relevant, but for me the following was the money quote:

When you ask a group to step up to high performance, you are inviting them to a place of stress — one where they must stretch, where failure is possible, where interpersonal conflicts must be addressed. Rather than step into this uncomfortable place, some will watch for hypocrisy in you in order to excuse their retreat to safety. How you handle these crucial moments will either amplify or eliminate your influence.

I encourage you to read the whole thing and if you know anybody that could benefit from it, please share.

Nashville education blogger and Ebony-published writer Vesia Hawkins has a new post out with her plans for next year, Four Things That Must Stay in 2017 and the Boss Behavior Required for 2018.

The Tennessean has been doing excellent features on the changing makeup of Nashville neighborhoods. Nothing impacts public schools like housing.

Things are jumping in Chattanooga. New Superintendent Brian Johnson has proposed a name change to of Hamilton County Schools to The Public Schools of Hamilton County, installing Future Ready Institutes in High Schools, and has hired Dr. T. Nakia Towns Edwards as the Chief of Staff. The Towns hire is the most interesting, as she doesn’t show up at your door baggage free. Stops in both Knoxville and at the TNDOE did not go without controversy. Some may view her exit from the TNDOE as a case of either she goes or TNReady goes.

POLL QUESTIONS

Time now for a couple of questions. The first one I want to ask is what you plan to focus on in the new year. Eating better? Reading more? Reducing stress? I’m curious to find out.

Here at DGW, I often focus on the negative but try to look at the positive. I’d like to know who you think the district’s MVP is. Who is the one person you don’t think the district could afford to lose? This one should be interesting.

What elected official do you consider the most knowledgable when it comes to education issues? Let’s see how this one turns out.

That’s it for now. I hope everybody has a safe and festive New Year. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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WINTER BREAK REFLECTIONS

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Yesterday was supposed to be a day for an update, but instead I decided it was a day for family. We took the dog to the dog park, ran some family errands, went to the movies, and had dinner together. It was a marvelous day and much needed.

The movie we saw yesterday was The Greatest Showman, and I can’t praise it enough. My daughter stared in amazement through most of the show and my son was equally mesmerized. Imbedded within the movie was a very important lesson: don’t lose sight of what’s important while chasing perceived glory.

In his constant pursuit of elevated status, P.T. Barnum lost track of his family and the very things that made him successful in the first place. It is important as the year closes for us all to reflect on our own pursuit of greatness and ensure that we are not falling into a similar trap. As stated by Mrs. Barnum to her husband, “It’s not important that everyone love you, just a small group of important people.”

DGW RUMINATIONS

It seems that this season lends itself to reflection, and lately I’ve been doing a little more reflecting than usual on the state of public education. I used to spend a great deal of time railing against the forces of privatization and their machinations. But I’ve come to believe that in some ways, those of us who claim a love for public education are in fact enablers of its destruction. I know that’s going to upset some of you, but hear me out.

Everyday social media feeds are filled with tales of corruption committed by those who appear bent on destroying our beloved public schools. Yet nary a word is said about the injustices that are committed in traditional schools just as frequently.

Consider, for example, if KIPP Charter School had replaced its elementary school principal with one whose only experience was at the high school level. At the same time, they also ended a multiple-classroom leadership program that allowed for their very best teachers to earn extra money. A program that had contributed to the much needed stabilizing of their staff. Furthermore, back in August when registration was low, KIPP decreased their staffing levels, thus failing to take into account the influx of homeless students who would show up when the weather turned cold, just like those students did every year.

I believe school board members and community members would be outraged and would, rightly so, demand action. But this didn’t happen at KIPP. It happened at Buena Vista Elementary School. One of our most challenging schools. These are actions that have a direct impact on students and their learning, yet I haven’t heard any outcry. Have you?

Two years ago, there was a huge controversy about a book assigned to students at Nashville Prep, a charter school. There was outrage that such an inappropriate book was assigned to students. This year, the district has implemented a literacy plan that is almost universally rejected by teachers, yet not a question is raised on the board floor. In all fairness, board member Jill Speering did try to raise questions during a presentation at a board meeting earlier in the year, but received little support from fellow board members. One was so disinterested that they decided to go ahead and leave the meeting.

These are just a couple of examples that, in my opinion, have contributed to an overall acceptance of the shortcomings of public education. Just this year alone, on top of the literacy issues, we’ve seen a multi-million dollar initiative, STEAM, devoid of leadership for the majority of the year while implementation was ongoing. At a time when there is a heightened awareness of workplace sexual harassment, we’ve seen one investigation take almost two months before reaching a conclusion and another that is still unresolved, despite complaints being filed on November 17th. Imagine if Rocketship Academy had similar issues.

I’ve come to the belief that public education, like many of our democratic institutions, sufferers from a public perception of being inherently inept. Some of this is the result of prolonged attacks by those who devalue the role of government, but much of it stems from our unwillingness to demand more. Instead of expressing outrage over these failings, we shrug and consider them just a factor of a large organization.

If you look at polls over the last several decades, you’ll see that faith in the system has suffered while satisfaction with our individual schools remains consistently high. I believe that’s because we expect the large bureaucracy that is public education to be filled with inadequacies, while we are not as willing to accept that in our individual schools and so we demand more from them. In essence, that’s what parents who choose charter schools are doing.

By choosing a charter school, they are reducing the size of the bureaucracy to a much more manageable level. And in a choice system, like Nashville has, I would argue that parents who choose non-zoned schools are doing the same. They are choosing to fight for their piece of the pie and to leave the whole to basically fend for itself.

This weekend’s post received a comment that illustrates that very tenet:

I wonder on some level, when has MNPS been a stellar place to work, where teachers felt supported, students were wonderfully behaved in every cluster, and diversity was championed? IMO the frustrations and problems are systemic and indicative of a larger issue that goes far beyond a figure head or board. I’ve definitely desired more planning time, but when colleagues use planning time to go to bank, run errands, and not actually “plan” it hurts the argument. Ive needed more resources, but when I went to another school with abundance I lacked nothing, I’ve disliked curricular choices BUT that didn’t stop me from making it work with what I have and Ss succeeding. There’s no quick fix, magic bullet, one person to change it all…it isn’t me vs my principal vs my school vs my area sup vs my district vs Dr J vs the school board vs the state vs the feds.

The argument put forth here is that it’s a flawed system by nature, and therefore, the only way to navigate is to focus on just the immediate area. The flawed literacy plan is rendered moot because individual teachers are able to modify and ignore it in order to make it effective. Sexual harassment is not taking place in my building, so I leave that to someone else. In essence, ignore the whole and focus only on what you can impact.

Parents recognize that not all schools are created equal. They recognize that not all schools have the resources to fend for themselves. They don’t have PTO’s that can provide technology when the district fails to provide. They don’t have parents who can supplement a budget to ensure that the best teachers remain employed. They recognize they don’t have the political clout to demand that the district respond to their inadequacies.

In response, parents search for schools that are set up in a manner that they feel will be more responsive to them and meet their needs. Some have the ability to do so within the district, while others choose to leave the district or choose charter schools. I believe if you strip it all down, most parents want the same thing, and the major discrepancy is access.

Listen to charter parents talk and they will often site a sense of community and responsiveness as a reason for their choice. Public school advocates will quickly cite incidents as a counterargument and speak to their own sense of communities. But are these advocates putting forth their arguments based on the schools charter parents are leaving or the ones their own children attend? It’s important to acknowledge when discussing choice that not all schools are created equal.

There is a scene in The Greatest Showman where one of the performers is introduced to the wealthy parents of the ringmaster and they dismiss her as being a lesser person. He tries to reassure her that their reaction has no value, whereas she responds to him, “You’ll never know what it’s like to have someone look at you like that.”

I think too often we try to make proclamations based on our own experiences and by dismissing the experiences of others. I try to instill in my children the value that just because it didn’t happen to you does not make it an invalid experience. Our experience at our school may be exceptional, but that doesn’t make it a universal experience. If we don’t acknowledge that as a truism, how will we ever achieve equity?

These are just my thoughts today. More than ever, I have become convinced that in order for public education to be preserved, we need to raise our expectations for the entire system. We must not dismiss inadequacies as long as our own experience is relatively good. I don’t believe the solution lies in reducing our focus, but rather in recommitting to making all schools a place where we would feel comfortable sending our children.

Maybe MNPS was never a good place to work; does that mean it can’t be today? Maybe discipline and segregation have always been problems; does that mean they must always remain so? Why is it that we have no problem continually raising expectations for students and teachers, but remain unwilling to do the same for the district? Why is it considered beneficial for students to point out that 1 in 3 are reading at less than grade level, but pointing out the failings of the districtwide literacy plan is considered as undermining our schools?

Those are questions I am sure some are uncomfortable with me asking because they don’t afford easy answers. Some will write my questions off as giving a pass to charter schools when nothing could be further from the truth. There are certainly elements in the charter school movement that have greatly contributed to the undermining of our public education system. But we can’t allow those elements to distract us from making all our schools the best that they can be, and I believe that begins with raising the expectations for the whole system.

QUICK HITS

One of my favorite education bloggers, Peter Greene, has a child facing a huge medical challenge. Per usual, he uses the crisis to remind us of some universal truths that we may have forgotten. Peter is one of the really good guys, and I know he wouldn’t mind a few additional prayers for his child. I can’t even imagine facing such a challenge.

I think this is a really interesting look at the effects of school choice on racial segregation in EducationNext, New Evidence on School Choice and Racially Segregated Schools. The author does a very good job of not just focusing on charter schools, but also on other elements that are connected. I encourage you to read it.

Have questions about the school choice process? MNPS can help! They are hosting a School Choice Festival on Tuesday, January 23, to help you with all your school choice needs. More info here: .

MNPS folks, I hope you enjoy the rest of the week. Remember, teachers report back on Tuesday and kids on Wednesday.

I realize that this post is probably full of contradictions, but then again so is life. We just try to work our way through them.

POLL RESULTS

The response to last week’s questions was overwhelming. Apparently they resonated with more than a few of you. Let’s break down the results.

The first question asked for your impression of this year’s Chamber Report Card. The overwhelming reaction was negative, with 47% of you dismissing the leading recommendation for more data coaches. 22% of you felt they once again missed the mark, and 18% of you said that you weren’t even going to read the report. Only 5% of you had a positive reaction.

I’m sure that the Chamber is of the mind that readers of Dad Gone Wild are predisposed to dismiss their report, but I would argue that those who take the time to read my musings are among the most dedicated to public education in whatever form it takes and it would be a mistake to ignore them. I would suggest that maybe it’s time for a little self-reflection on the report card committee’s part and perhaps discussions on how to make the report card more relevant are long overdue. I do believe that the report card can play a vital role in improving our education system.

Here are the write-ins:

Haven’t read it. Enjoying vacation. 1
Should have said that Dr. Felder is the problem 1
Haven’t read it yet 1
???????????? the report card and their love affair with Joseph

The second question asked for your reaction to last week’s Central Office holiday party. It must be noted that this question received nearly twice the response of a typical poll question. That’s noteworthy in its own right.

The majority of you, 42%, found fault more with the district’s response than the actual party. For 18% of you, it wasn’t a big deal, but you found it indicative of MNPS’s culture. Only 3% of you indicated that it was of no concern to you. I’d say that MNPS has some work to do on its culture, but then again that’s nothing new.

It is my opinion that the district continues to suffer from a dearth of leadership. Nobody, whether it’s district leadership or the school board, seems predisposed to filling that void. The party is another example of where leadership could have easily preempted any perceived crisis. A simple addressing of the issue and acknowledgement of concerns would have diffused everything. Instead, actions were allowed to become fodder for yet another negative news story. Sooner or later somebody is going to have to step up and be a leader instead of a reactor.

Here are the write-ins. They’ll make you think.

Who cares? My Title 1 school has no supplies 1
Typical whacked priorities of MNPS. 1
How much longer will Dr. Joseph & Team be able to waste taxpayer $ going tof 1
Party fine, gifts too extravagant, lies and blocks by PIO unacceptable 1
It bothered me that they lied about inviting teachers 1
HELP US! The culture is so bad. 1
many hard working hourly paid employees at board 1
Badly handled, par for the course for central office, sadly. 1
indicative of the culture and Joseph’s refusal to acknowledge any issues 1
We got leftover bagged popcorn and powdered hot chocolate…not one thank you

The last question was on what you plan to read over break. I was glad to see that many ProjectLit selections made the list, though I was dismayed to see that over 25% of you indicated a lack of time to read. That must be addressed if we are ever truly going to have a culture rooted in literacy.

Thank you for sharing what you are reading. Here are your write-ins:

The Hate U Give 2
Brian’s Winter (with my daughter) 1
Huge stack. 1
My Eyelids 1
Counting by Sevens 1
The warmth of other suns 1
New books for Project Lit this upcoming semester 1
The Conquerors 1
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F%$k 1
No time-grades and lesson plans 1
The new tax reform bill 🙂 1
Journey of Souls 1
This year’s Project Lit selections 1
Joan Didion 1
Past issues of Dad Gone Wild 1
My next IFL unit, of course! How else will I be ready for January 3rd??? 1
Mani: Travels in S. Peloponnesus by Patrick Fervor 1
Reading about jobs outside of MNPS 1
Mom Set Free by Jeannie Cunnion 1
Anchor texts for IFL required unit 1
Subtitles on my Netflix binging 1
how to get rid of a corrupt school administration 1
Do Not Be Alarmed by Maile Melloy 1
Tribe of Mentors 1
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 1
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 1
Infinite Jest 1
Christmas Classics 1
Pursuit of Power: Europse 1815-1914 1
Piecing Me Together, Enrique’s Jout 1
Some selections from Project Lit 1
Talk Like Ted 1
freakonomics 1
Simon Sinek – Start With Why 1
A long walk to water
That’s it for now. I hope everybody continues to have a great holiday. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.

AN HONEST CONVERSATION

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‘Twas the Friday before Christmas and all through the district, the creatures were stirring… You would think this past week would be the quietest week of the year for school-related news, surpassed perhaps only by next week. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Quite a bit took place this week. I was tempted to rush off to the keyboard a number of times, but instead chose to sit with things and let my thoughts collect. That reflection has allowed me to realize that this week’s events are less about what’s on the surface and more about what lurks below. That said, let’s dive in.

CHAMBER REPORT CARD

Every year, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce puts together a committee to study the state of Nashville’s schools. The committee dissects the available data, visits schools, talks to administrators, and then submits a Report Card of its findings and recommendations. This is usually followed with a large clamor, which then dissipates into nothingness. Perhaps this year will be different.

Before we go any further, I want to recognize the hard work done by those on this year’s committee. I consider a number of them personal friends and have a great deal of respect for their diligence and intelligence. I don’t subscribe to the belief that only elected school board members and district leadership are capable of offering insight into school policy, and I’m always interested to hear what others have to offer. We need to focus more on policy and less on personalities. The job is a daunting one, and I appreciate the committee members’ willingness to undertake it.

I will admit that I actually approached this year’s Report Card with some optimism. It was my belief that the folks putting together the Report Card would hear similar feedback to what I hear on a regular basis. Feedback that continually remains unaddressed by the district. The committee was actually walking into an opportunity to lead. They had a pulpit and if they chose, they could shine a light on the true issues facing the district. That pulpit could be used as a vehicle to create an honest conversation where the MNPS school board and the Mayor’s office had failed to do so. That’s not quite what happened, but there is room for continued optimism.

The Report Card committee chose to focus on an increased utilization of data. They did so while failing to recognize that this year, MNPS has introduced a more inflexible curriculum. Teachers have less ability to take that data and individualize it than at any other time in recent memory. This recommendation also fails to recognize that many parents have reached a saturation point with the over reliance on data.

I will commend the committee for recognizing that teachers need more planning time. That has been a common refrain heard not only around MNPS this past year, but the entire state. They also deserve credit for recognizing the need for better practices when it comes to teacher recruitment and retention. I do take a little objection to the focus on diversity hiring.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand and support the need for a diverse staff. However, MNPS’s staffing needs right now are so great that I personally feel the recruiting of quality teachers should be our first and foremost goal. A perusal of MNPS’s employment listings currently show 181 certified positions as being open. That should be unacceptable to us all.

I also commend the committee for pointing out that there is no way to measure the district’s ridiculous vision statement of being “the fastest improving district in the country.” Of course that didn’t deter Dr. Joseph from minutes later promising that we would meet that goal in the coming years. It’s like promising to be the best looking kid in school. How do you back that claim up?

There are some points in the Report Card things I question. For one, it cites Dr. Joseph and his team’s commitment to equity and urgency, yet nowhere in this report are English Language Learners mentioned. EL students make up a substantial portion of our student population, 22% according to the included charts. That’s up from 16% two years ago. The EL department has done exceptional work over the last several years, managing to outperform the state’s annual mandated outcomes by large margins. That work needs recognition.

There was plenty of talk about literacy and our increased focus on improving literacy numbers, yet there was no talk about the implementation this year’s literacy plan that has been almost universally rejected by teachers. This is where an honest conversation is needed. We can focus on literacy all we want, but without a plan that teachers and principals are willing to invest in, that focus is meaningless. If you want grass to grow, you can’t just stare at it, declare it to be the fastest growing grass in the country, and will it to happen. You have to fertilize it, water it, make sure it gets enough sunlight, and then it will grow. You have to follow universally-recognized and current best practices or you will never have the best lawn in the neighborhood.

The committee also got it wrong when they cited an increase in site-based budgeting this year. Sure, principals had more money, but they had less flexibility. Look at it this way. I give you an allowance of $10 and allow you to spend it on whatever you want. I then raise your allowance to $12, but dictate what you have to spend $4 of it on. Did I really raise your allowance? That’s how the game worked for principals this past year.

My recommendation when it comes to the Chamber’s Report Card is that you ignore the headlines and instead read the whole report. When you read the actual report, I think you’ll find the basis of an honest conversation. After the presentation of the Report Card, I talked with a longtime educator, and I was a bit out of sorts because I couldn’t believe that the recommendation for more data coaches was the best that the committee could offer. This educator brushed my take aside and cut to the meat, “That wasn’t a very flattering presentation.”

At that point, I wasn’t ready to entertain that view. After spending some time with the report, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are right. It wasn’t a flattering report and there is a lot of meat in it that could lead eventually to an improved evaluation. Contained within is the basis for an honest conversation if we choose to have it. So the choice really becomes ours. Focus on the primary recommendation and the people who gave it, or take the report, use the information curated, and have an honest conversation about our schools and how to improve them.

DISCERNING TROLLS FROM TEACHERS

Tuesday evening, I was scrolling through my social media accounts and came across some pictures from the MNPS central office “Holiday Hoedown.” Apparently, MNPS central office employees had a big holiday shindig that included giveaways like a 65-inch color TV and $50 Walmart gift cards. “Tone deaf,” I muttered to myself as I scrolled on.

Teachers weren’t content to let it go at that, and some questioned the district’s Public Information Officer Michelle Michaud via Twitter about the appropriateness of giving away TV’s while teachers were using their own money to buy anchor texts required by the new literacy plan and copier paper. Michaud responded by saying that all district employees had been invited, an assertion that later proved to be untrue. Pressed further on the issue, she responded by blocking the questioning teachers.

Needless to say, the issue began to blow up. TV news stations began to take notice. Bus drivers chimed in that they hadn’t been invited to the party either. Teachers pointed out that the parties at their individual schools were nowhere near as extravagant and one teacher remarked to me that at their party teachers received bread. Not the dough that Michaud was referring to in her tweets, but actual bread. Once again, Dr. Joseph and his team found themselves in another avoidable controversy.

I’ve had a number of people remark to me that they think this is silly criticism. My counter to that is that it isn’t about the party, but rather that this is just one more indication of the culture being cultivated. Dr. Joseph may talk a lot about respect for teachers but his actions don’t backup his words. Teachers are still waiting for an MOU despite the Collaborative Conferencing work being wrapped up and turned over to legal in October. There has been little adjustment in the the literacy plan despite teachers voicing concerns through several avenues. In fact, as previously mentioned, teachers are having to buy copies of texts needed for curriculum they’re being told is required. In the last budget hearing, teachers had to show up en masse in order to prevent a 3% raise from being cut to 2%. They are still buying copier paper and other needed supplies out of their own pocket as well. So forgive them if they take exception to central office holding a hoedown where extravagant prizes are handed out.

Once again though, when presented with an issue that could easily be defused, the administration chooses to throw gasoline on it instead. Michaud responded by giving out false information and then proceeded to block a teacher from what she has said is an official MNPS account. Neither should have happened, and thank you to board member Jill Speering for recognizing that and tweeting out, “I’m embarrassed that one of our employees would treat you this way.” I’m told that apologies were eventually issued, but they weren’t done in a manner nearly as public as the rest of the exchanges, and no official acknowledgement was ever given by Dr. Joseph.

Nobody is begrudging central office employees a Christmas party. Nobody is insinuating that the work they do is less valuable than classroom work. What is being asked is that people recognize the work and sacrifices teachers make every single day. Recognize the money that comes out of their own pocket. Recognize the time sacrificed away from families. This year, the level of stress experienced by teachers is significantly higher than it has been in previous years. I don’t think it is unreasonable to question where the money for prizes comes from or the terms of agreement if the prizes were donated. Failure to recognize any of the aforementioned is not part of a recipe for success.

This whole controversy could have been defused with a simple, “We were wrong, and I’m sorry.” But that seems to be a phrase this administration is incapable of saying. Instead Joseph sent a response out to district employees stating that:

“Bitter unhappy people will never meet their destiny. While we cannot stop people from being negative, even during the holiday season, we can choose how we respond to them. I’ve learned to forgive quickly, and turn my thoughts towards the many things I am thankful for in my life.”

I’m not sure what that means, or who he’s forgiving, but I don’t see any acknowledgement of his role in the controversy being stated. The party may seem like a trivial thing, but understand that when you have a toxic culture, it’s often the seemingly inconsequential things that break out. Effective leaders don’t dismiss those instances as inconsequential, but rather use them as a springboard to a deeper, more honest conversation. I find myself continually questioning whether this administration is capable of such a conversation as the evidence to the contrary continues to mount.

Once again, knowing history can allow us to make better decisions about the future. MNPS Directors battling with news reporters is nothing new. Dr. Pedro Garcia engaged in a running feud with WSMV reporter Larry Brinton to the extent that it led one school board member to remark, “I suspect what has clouded Dr Garcia’s judgment is his anger at [WSMV reporter] Larry Brinton.” That board member was referring to events connected to long-time Garcia ally and MNPS employee Gene Hughes. Board Member Nevill concurred, “This fight was between Larry Brinton and Pedro Garcia. I believe that we’ve allowed a fight with the media to damage us considerably. And that’s silly. That’s just silly.” Hmmmm… sounds familiar.

The Hughes situation itself is eerily similar to current events involving recently departed administrator Mo Carrasco. Read the whole article, “The Lover’s Quarrel” published back in 2003, and I suspect you’ll get a strange sense of deja vu. The scary part is that despite the writing on the wall, it took 5 more years to take corrective action back then. Maybe Dr. Joseph is studying history and betting we’ll repeat it.

HOLIDAY POLL QUESTIONS

Thanks to the week’s activities, creating poll questions this week was pretty easy.

The first question asks what is your impression of this year’s Nashville Chamber of Commerce Report Card? Is it a good read? Do you like the recommendations? Do you think the whole thing is useless? Let me know.

Question two is about the great Christmas party controversy. Warranted or not?

Lastly, since we as a district are focused on literacy, I wanted to ask, what do you plan to read over this holiday break? Feel free to write in your answers.

That’s it for now. I hope everybody has a great holiday. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short – Ms. Goodenough. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.
 

 

THE START OF CHRISTMAS BREAK

I’m going to start off with a bit of a warning this week. Christmas break officially started this morning and though I knew it was coming, I am not fully prepared. That’s going to be reflected in today’s blog post, and if things appear a bit random, I apologize. You do what you can do.

TVAAS EMAIL

Every once in a while, I get emails that really make me think. This week I got one from an MNPS teacher:

This past week, I have discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading about the comedy of errors swirling above my oblivious head. Your most recent post mentioned TVAAS scores and reminded me of burning questions about TVAAS. My score floats in the 3-4 range.
Is it really a formula for projected harvest of crops?
I thought this was a rumor when I first heard it at a workshop 4 years ago. If this is true, why hasn’t the whole scoring system been rendered invalid?
 
Do TVAAS scores have any effect on salary?  
To my knowledge, the scores have no effect on teacher salary. Do admins get any sort of bonus for having the faculty reach a certain average score?
Do you know of any teachers that have been fired due to low score TVAAS?
 
I have known roughly 30 teachers that have left school since my arrival in 2013, and the only one that didn’t exit voluntarily was a pathway teacher who was laid off due to low projected enrollment for the subsequent school year. With the district’s turnover rate being at a constant high, the district doesn’t seem to have any bargaining leverage to hire prospective teachers based on TVAAS scores.
Do they have an effect on renewing / advancing a license?
 
I recently advanced my apprentice license to a professional, and it hinged on PD hours.
If salary & employment are not tied to the TVAAS score,  what are the reasons to be emotionally invested in the scores? It seems like the scores have no existential consequence on our jobs. I imagine some action could be taken against a teacher who got straight 1’s, but other than that, what does the level 5 teacher work for that the level 3 isn’t getting?
I look forward to reading your thoughts.
Well, I sat back and thought for a moment. Yes, TVAAS does have its origins in agricultural practices, and I’m sure lots of people wonder why it hasn’t been rendered invalid. It is certainly not due to lack of evidence.
Due to the lack of a discovery of a teacher orchard where level 4 and 5 teachers can be harvested at whim, I don’t think many MNPS teachers have lost jobs due to low scores. I would think the low scores would lead to a difficulty in getting hired, but when I look at the MNPS want ads and see 180-plus openings, I have my doubts. I do know of several teachers who have been inexplicably unable to secure employment, but I think that has more to do with their personnel files than it does with TVAAS scores.
TVAAS scores do come in handy when renewing teaching licenses. In order to renew their license, a teacher needs 60 hours of PD, and having consistent years of 4’s and 5’s can knock those hours approximately in half. Your TVAAS score also comes into play when applying for tenure. In order to secure tenure, a teacher must have 2 consecutive years of 4/5 scores in order to be eligible for tenure. Mind you, that’s eligible, not granted.
While the observation on TVAAS relevance is correct when it comes to MNPS, outside of Nashville things get a little more tricky. In some of the more rural counties of Tennessee, where they are having a hard time attracting teachers, TVAAS probably holds less weight. But in some counties, like Wilson county,  TVAAS scores are linked to salary increases. In Knoxville, from what I’m told, the entire pay schedule is linked to TVAAS scores, as well as eligibility to move into administrative roles.
The short answer is that there is no short answer and that’s why people are fighting to have TVAAS scores unlinked from teacher evaluations. After recent hearings, State Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) stated that the state’s teacher evaluation system, and especially the portion that relies on student scores on TNReady, is causing headaches for Tennessee’s teachers. He wasn’t lying. He has promised to introduce legislation this year to help alleviate that headache. It’s imperative that we support that legislation.
The National Education Policy Center released further information on Value-Added Measures (VAM) that I encourage everyone to read.
#METOO
Last week, I wrote about the resignation of MNPS administrator Mo Carrasco. It seems that report caught the eye of parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, where Carrasco and Dr. Joseph worked together in the past. The Parents Coalition of Montgomery County released a blog post where they couldn’t resist saying “I told you so” to us here in Nashville. And the truth is that they did.
The post comes with a further warning that I think bears noting:

Please folks – know that an experienced principal or school administrator, or group of administrators, doesn’t simply find themselves available, especially as a group, unless something is wrong. Its not as simple as Montgomery County’s loss is your gain.

Yes, the internet may have false stories, and its often hard to figure out what is real and what is fantasy.

But – if you don’t look, you will never know, until your own school system gets hurt.

Prince George’s County Public Schools released their response today to the state audit that found evidence of tampering with grades and graduation rates. The scandal has definitely caught the eye of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan: “There were where whistle blowers all over the system that came forward that were threatened by the County Superintendent.” I haven’t had a chance to review the response in-depth yet, but I urge you to as the scandal involves the years 2016 and 2017. Years that many recently-relocated to Nashville educators were employed by PGCPS.

WHY THE PRESS MATTERS
Over the last year, News Channel 5 has done 7 news stories on lead levels in the water at MNPS schools. After every report, MNPS reacted in a defensive manner. This past summer, they issued a press release stating, “The drinking water in the district’s oldest buildings meet all federal and state lead drinking water standards.” The MNPS communications department continually accused Channel 5 reporter Phil Williams of unfair and inaccurate reporting practices. Still, he persisted.
Thank goodness he did. Last week MNPS suddenly discovered that there was more that they could do, and they decided to do it. Do you believe for one minute that this would have happened without the continual pressure from Williams and News Channel 5? It’s a prime example of why a free and active press is so important. They give voice and power to those who individually lack it. Thank you, News Channel 5.
QUICK HITS
Last month at Hunter’s Lane High School, students used virtual reality technology to interact with students from the other side of the world. Read about that experience in this latest blog post.
MNPS is seeking feedback on proposed new Board policies. Please review the policies and provide your feedback via the submission form. Currently, they are soliciting comments on Section 2 of 6. They will accept comments until noon on Tuesday, December 26.
The Chamber Of Commerce will be releasing their School Report Card tomorrow at the downtown Nashville Library. Activities kick off at 10AM, with the actual report card being released at 10:30. I hope to see all of you there.
Interesting report out of Memphis. Sen. Brian Kelsey said Monday that he won’t ask a Senate committee to take up his voucher bill — which would pilot a program in Memphis — when the legislature reconvenes its two-year session in January. According to Kelsey:
“I listen to my community. Right now, there’s not enough parental support,” the Germantown Republican lawmaker told Chalkbeat after sharing the news with Shelby County’s legislative delegation.
No word on whether Rep. Harry Brooks, who sponsors the proposal in the House, will seek a new Senate sponsor or whether Kelsey will support a bill if brought by another senator. Oh, what will we do without a voucher bill to fight against?
Don’t get too excited. Odds are this is primarily an election year interruption and things will be back to normal next year. Don’t vote for anyone who won’t tell you how they’ll vote.
If you haven’t been following former Eakin ES Principal Tim Drinkwine’s blog about his family’s trip around the world, you are missing out. I found this recent tweet particularly meaningful:
It may take traveling the world to realize Christmas is, in fact, not “under attack.” We see Christmas trees, hear Christmas Carols (even Silent Night and Joy to the World) everywhere. Even in one predominantly Muslim country and one predominantly Buddhist country.
I couldn’t think of better ambassadors than the Drinkwine family.
POLL RESULTS
Let’s review the results of the weekend’s poll questions.
The first question asked for your opinion on Will Pinkston joining the Phil Bredesen campaign for U.S. Senator. The results from this question offered a prime example of getting caught up in the “inside baseball” aspect of politics. To many, Pinkston is a polarizing figure who evokes strong responses. Based on this emotion, it is easy to make the supposition that everybody knows who he is and that he evokes a similar reaction in them. The truth is, most people are unaware. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends on individual interpretation.
The number one answer to this question, with 36% of the votes, was “I don’t care one way or the other.” 31% of you answered, “I don’t think Pinkston deserves to be rewarded for past boorish behavior.” It’s worth noting that only 7% of you thought “I think it’s awesome. Will’s a skilled operator and can help.”
Here are the write-in votes:
Surely Bredesen is smarter than to hire the most toxic human in Nashville. 1
He could be problematic for Bredesen. 1
if it gets him off the school board for a special election go for it 1
I’d hate to see Pinkston leave the school board. 1
As long as he leaves our school board 1
No opinion. He has gone silent like the rest of the School Board members. 1
Okay – I wouldn’t be voting for either one any way.

Question two asked for your opinion on the recent Phil Williams/Mo Carrasco interview. Sadly, 45% of you responded that nothing he said surprised you, and 28% replied, “Wish he’d say something I didn’t already know.” Only 1 of you responded that he was a disgruntled employee, and 1 of you said you were surprised by the allegations. That’s a problem.

I know that people will try to write these results off to a low and pre-disposed sample size, but the fact that I can’t find 1 person in a roomful of 90 people to say they don’t believe the allegations should be troubling. There should be at least a handful of folks willing to express doubt. If nothing more, the administration should care enough to submit a few ringers. The fact that they don’t and there isn’t is a problem. Maybe they just don’t take the complaints as being serious.

Here are the write-in votes. In all fairness, there were a few defenses offered:

Williams should have focused more on the accusations than on criticisms on MNPS 1
I wish he would share “all” the info. He probably knows. 1
Surprised he turned in his friend but confirmed some beliefs many of us have 1
wish he said more and presented proof 1
He only touched on the corruption. Keep digging 1
Would be more credible from someone without a grudge for being fired 1
Teachers know all of the info- just wish it would make a difference.

Question three asked for your impression of an email sent out to MNPS staff members by Dr. Joseph in response to the aforementioned interview. Tellingly, 44% of you responded that you laughed aloud at the email. Only 1 of you expressed appreciation for the email. I appreciate Dr. Felder’s continued support of the blog.

Dr. Joseph likes to tell people that you have to tune out the noise. Any parent will tell you though that you can’t tell what’s going on with your children unless you listen to the noise they make. It’ll tell you when they are happy, sick, or sad. No parent would ever attempt to parent without listening to their children, so why should it be an acceptable leadership style? At some point, he’s going to have to tune in to the noise.

Here are the write-in responses:

dismayed that he refused to condemn a serial sexual harasser 1
I do not believe Joseph has told the truth with anything he has said since he came here 1
Having taught at Antioch HS last year, it was incredibly tone deaf. 1
It was an appropriate, professional response 1
Standard, generic, cautious statement that’s probably wise for now, 1
I laughed- unfortunately, I think he truly believes what he says at the point 1
Didn’t address issues. Smoke & mirrors
That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short – Ms Goodenough. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.

LAST DAY OF SCHOOL FOR 2017

This week ends, as too many have this year, with the mourning of yet another recently departed friend. This week, it is songwriter and front man of The Smithereens Pat DiNizio. I only spent time with Pat a handful of times, and half of those times he was mad at me, but I always counted him among my friends. And those encounters were always memorable. I recall the first time we spent any time together, and he gave me his home number in New York. “Call me sometime,” he said. I sat that number on top of my dresser and for years looked at it, wondering what I was supposed to do with it. After all, he was a world famous musician, and I was simply a punk rock kid in Nashville. Over the years I came to realize that the number really held no mystery, just a simple invitation to call.

Last time I saw Pat, he was in town for Tin Pan South, and I was bartending a couple doors down from a venue where he was attending a show. Upon finding out that I was nearby, he immediately popped in, and we spent a couple hours reminiscing and cutting up. There were maybe 8 people in the bar at the time, so we were uninterrupted for the most part, and I was able to introduce him to my future bride. Pat was his usual charming self and when he saw I had a guitar behind the bar, he immediately picked it up and proceeded to play us a private show.

After a couple tequilas, or more, but who was counting, he began to put The Smithereen’s songs on the jukebox and play along. Ribbing him, I inquired, “Isn’t this like wearing your own band’s t-shirt on stage?” Pat didn’t take that joke well and ended up storming out. I just chuckled because that’s how our relationship had always been. He was the most generous of people with a sensitive side that he hid with his gruffness. I always thought that someday soon, he’d be walking through the door again. Unfortunately, that’s not going to ever happen again, and Pat DiNizio is never going to get mad at me again. Knowing that makes the Christmas season a little duller. Give them hell, Patty, wherever you are.

STATE HITS

With all the craziness happening locally, and we’ll touch on that shortly, we almost overlooked a couple statewide stories that bear noting. This week, the Tennessee State House Government Operations Committee held a meeting to look into the state’s most recent problems with the its standardized test for grades 3-11, TNReady. The last few years have seen one issue after another arise with standardized testing, and many legislators, including Committee Chair Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), are starting to lose patience. In Faison’s words, “If the Department of Education was up for evaluation, along with Questar, there are things that you all would get threes, fours and fives on. But, I would say you’d get a one on some things, too.”

Areas that Faison feels would warrant a “one” – teachers receive scores between 1 and 5 based on results of TNReady, with 1 being the lowest – are communications and testing company Questar’s ability to get results and accompanying data out in a timely manner. Faison went on to criticize the Department by pointing out that their failures were having a negative impact on teachers across the state and promised to take action this coming year:

“What we’re doing is driving the teachers crazy. They’re scared to death to teach anything other than get prepared for this test. They’re not even enjoying life right now. They’re not even enjoying teaching because we’ve put so much emphasis on this evaluation,” Faison said. “So I think you’re going to see movement in the legislature this year to detach the evaluation portion of the TNReady test from the teachers and the students.”

This is welcome news and news that, as evidenced by responses in previous polls, DGW readers support. It’s time to admit that we don’t have all the bugs worked out in order to test students with fidelity, and to use inaccurate data to rate teachers is just not a fair practice. Andy Spears dives into things a little deeper over at the Tennessee Education  Report.

This week, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced that he would be seeking the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bob Corker. Corker recently announced that he would not be running for re-election. This is good news for Democrats, as Bredesen did exemplary work as both the mayor of Nashville and the governor of Tennessee.

However, it didn’t take long for speculation to start running rampant about what role current MNPS school board member, and former Bredesen advisor, Will Pinkston would have in both the campaign and going forth should Bredesen win the election. Pinkston is widely recognized for his prowess in opposition research, but equally derided for his political tactics. Many feel that he has been extremely degrading to female politicians from both parties over the past several years and will bring a plethora of baggage to the Bredesen campaign. Personally I believe that we have a president who ably demonstrates what a “win at all costs” philosophy looks like and that recent events in Alabama indicate a desire for a return of decency to governance. Time will tell what happens here.

IT IS ALL LOCAL

The fallout from last week’s News Channel 5 interview with former MNPS official Mo Carrasco continues. Instead of taking the bull by the horn and sitting down with Phil Williams, Director of Schools Shawn Joseph opted to take a safer road and stage a press event with the Tennessean and News Channel 4. Both outlets proceeded to toss softballs at the Director and the Tennessean even edited out the portion of an earlier version of the story where Joseph fails to acknowledge that bringing Carrasco to Nashville might, in hindsight, be considered a mistake. To their credit, Channel 4 left the exchange intact.

There are a number of things that concern me at this juncture. First and foremost, neither MNPS School Board Chair Anna Shepherd nor Joseph himself appears willing to make a strong statement that sexual harassment in the MNPS workplace will not be tolerated. The best Joseph can do is a tepid promise to “investigate if brought forward.” The Blankenship and Carrasco incidents are not the lone charges brought forth this year either. A district principal recently returned to work after being out on administrative leave while similar charges were investigated. I think it’s imperative for MNPS leadership to issue as strong a response on sexual harassment as they did in response to President Trump’s immigration policies. A safe workplace has to be a primary concern.

On Thursday, Joseph sent his response to the Williams/Carrasco interview via email to district staff members. He began his response by quoting Friedrich Nietzsche, noted philosopher, cultural critic, and scholar: “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power.” He omitted the remainder of the quote, “and not truth.” That changes things a bit. I’m not sure that in trying justify my actions or inspire people that Nietzsche is the philosopher I would turn to. Maybe he should have quoted Plato instead: “And isn’t it a bad thing to be deceived about the truth, and a good thing to know what the truth is? For I assume that by knowing the truth you mean knowing things as they really are.” Even Richard Bach would have been better:

“There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.”

In his communication, Joseph defends his policies, saying:

We have rigorous hiring practices. Over the past 18 months, we have hired for many positions. The majority of administrative hires have come from within MNPS because we have strong candidates who were able to fill the jobs. When we create interview panels, a diverse team is established and the top candidates are sent to a chief or to me for the final decision. All panels understand they are making a recommendation, not a decision. The only time there has been a “preferred” candidate is when I have decided to present one person to a panel or I have chosen to interview one candidate for a position because I feel that candidate brings the experience, training and personality required for a position. Otherwise, we do our work on the front end to present a strong slate of candidates for jobs and we ensure there are objective processes for principal and senior level selections.

He goes on to say:

We have an ambitious strategic plan and we have established clear key performance indicators. Now, we have the difficult work of executing this plan. We are working to build the capacity necessary to execute effectively in many areas, including literacy, pre-k, STEAM, social and emotional learning, English learners, special education, and performance management, to name a few key areas. We have a lean Central Office, and as a result, we have strategically used consultant support to accelerate some of our more complex work.

It should be noted here, that once again central office is under renovation. What? You say, “Weren’t those offices renovated just last year?” Yes, they were, but I guess a lean staff deserves its posh digs.

What most concerns me is the Director’s inability to admit a mistake. As mentioned earlier, when asked if bringing Carrasco to MNPS was a mistake, he replied, “No.” I don’t think anybody would find fault if he would simply look at the camera and say, “Considering that multiple charges of sexual harassment have been brought forth and he’s on TV trashing our work, I think it’s safe to say that I’m certainly entertaining that notion.” But instead we continue to get the shield of infallibility. Perhaps this would be a good place for a Winston Churchill quote: “All men make mistakes. But only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

On a positive note: The district has agreed to increase its efforts at lead reduction. You’ll remember that over the summer, a number of schools were showing high levels of lead in the drinking water. Previously, MNPS set a goal to have all fountains show a lead level of less than 15 parts per billion. They have now lowered that number to 5 parts per billion. A welcome change. The district will replace older bubblers that seem to be part of the problem. Those are fixtures that turn classroom sinks into water fountains. In addition, after the winter break, it will begin a process to flush all water lines to get rid of any lead that may have built up. All very welcome moves, and better late than never.

Speaking of apologies, here’s a couple from me. Sorry about the misinformation on the date for the Chamber of Commerce’s Education Report Card. It is this Tuesday at 10:00 am at the downtown public library. Thank God that Marc Hill sent me a correction before I got in my car and headed down there last Tuesday.

Last week, I was sent a picture of the band recital for McMurray Middle Prep, and I fully intended to share it today, but due to my chaotic life, I’ve misplaced it. I apologize for that and promise I will share it as soon as I find it. McMurray is still rocking it despite the challenges.

Gotta love the Hunters Lane HS College Tree.

There is a reason so many are singing ProjectLit’s praises. On to more success next year.

POLL QUESTIONS

Lots of potential questions to ask here, but I think I’ll go with the elephants in the room.

For the first question, I want to know your thoughts on the potential involvement of Will Pinkston in Bredesen’s senate race. I know I risk unleashing the Kracken here, but I truly just want to know your thoughts. Will he help? Hinder? You tell me.

For the second question, I want to get your impression of the interview that Phil Williams just conducted with Mo Carrasco.

The last question is for MNPS employees. What is your response to Dr. Joseph’s response to the Williams/Carrasco interview?

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short – Ms Goodenough. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.

TWO DAYS IN THE VALLEY

Whew… it’s a good thing that the Chamber of Commerce Report Card comes out next week and not this week. (Yea… I messed up the dates.) Enough has already happened this week to compel me to write a mid-week special edition. Strap yourself in and let’s take a look at this week’s events that could impact public education in Nashville.

Lets’s start with yesterday’s MNPS school board meeting. On the consent agenda was QuaverMusic.com. Quaver is an integral part of MNPS’s Music Makes Us Program and was initially on the agenda for the last meeting in November before being mysteriously pulled at the last minute. This action put a 1.25 million dollar grant in jeopardy. Board member Mary Pierce attempted to get clarification at that meeting and was told that it was a “question of capacity” and that on December 12th the board would get more information.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. The Vice-President at Quaver Music is Alice Rolli. Rolli was on the founding board of Teach for America and was a big supporter of Jackson Miller for the last school board election. Now for the TMZ portion of the program. Word on the street is that Rolli approached a board member at a function to express her excitement about the pending project. The board member’s reaction was not what she expected, but it should have been. Let’s just say if our children acted in a similar manner towards someone, we would rebuke them. Shortly thereafter, Quaver was removed from the consent agenda of the November 28th meeting over “capacity issues.”

Last night, Quaver passed the consent agenda as those “capacity issues” had apparently been alleviated. Unfortunately, not all board members were in attendance for last night’s vote, so we’ll never know if everyone’s concerns were alleviated. I would really hate to think that programs that are good for kids are being put at risk purely for political reasons. For now though, we’ll just have to give the benefit of the doubt.

WHERE’S BOB?

Last week, we reported that the Executive Officer of STEAM Bob Blankenship had returned from administrative leave. If you’ll remember, Blankenship replaced Kris Elliot at the beginning of the year, but had been on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons since early October. Elliot is now at Oregon State University leading their outdoor education program. He was highly respected by his peers while at MNPS.

Blankenship was also highly respected in MNPS and few could understand what actions he might have committed that would lead to him being placed on administrative leave. On Tuesday, it was revealed that an internal investigation had found that Blankenship did touch a subordinate’s arm “in a manner that was unwelcome.” Furthermore, the investigation also found that he’d engaged in a “conversation on a subject that was inappropriate and demonstrated a lack of sensitivity regarding a co-worker’s alleged religious affiliation.” I have to say that while I believe in the accuracy of the finding, nothing in my conversations with educators indicated that this was a pattern of behavior with Blankenship.

It must have been in this light that the district concluded that he could return to work if he participated in sensitivity training and supervision. After returning to work on Friday, Blankenship chose retirement. What makes this especially curious is that there were indications that in both of the sexual harassment cases recently brought forth, Blankenship and Carrasco – who we will talk more about shortly – HR provided a pathway back to work, but both men chose retirement.

I find the district’s response to Blankenship’s retirement a little troubling:

“Bob Blankenship, director of STEAM for MNPS, has chosen to retire as of December 15, 2017 after 32 years serving our district. MNPS thanks Mr. Blankenship for his long and dedicated career as a teacher, multiple award-winning principal and finally STEAM director. He had already planned to retire when MNPS tapped him to fill the unexpected need for a STEAM director at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. His willingness to jump in to support and lead our STEAM project will not be forgotten. We wish him every bit of happiness as he embarks on his next adventure.”

While Blankenship may be well respected as an educator, his retirement still comes in response to being found guilty of touching someone in an inappropriate manner and making inappropriate comments in the work place. MNPS’s statement suggests that you can harass people and still get get your gold watch as you walk out the door. I’m not sure that’s the message the district should be sending, especially when the current culture is considered toxic.

It should also be highlighted that the district has been continually throwing money at and touting a STEAM transition, when that transition has essentially been leaderless for the first half of the school year. That should be a concern to the public.

TMZ alert. Early word on the street is that Overton HS principal Dr. Jill Pittman may be in the running to replace Blankenship. It seems that Pittman’s name is surfacing in every central office opening that becomes available, and I’m not sure that is fair. This year she has done a better job leading Overton HS despite some real challenges, and perhaps she deserves more recognition for that. We’ll keep our eyes on things as they develop.

THE SINGING CANARY

This week, News Channel 5 did two stories focusing on an MNPS high-ranking official, Mo Carrasco, who recently resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. Night one focused on the actual allegations themselves. Carrasco vehemently denies those allegations, but there are a couple exchanges in the interview that make me say, “Huh?” From what I’m told, there are at least 7 women who signed complaints, but neither Carrasco nor Phil Williams is provided that information. When Carrasco is asked about that, he explains that he asked HR but they told him, “Well, we were hoping the questions would connect and joggle your memory and identify who it was.” Why they wouldn’t tell him the number is baffling to me.

He also goes on to say that HR told him at one point the investigation had been closed and that he had nothing to worry about. He adds that something changed, and he believes that something is connected to enemies he made in the district by saying things about the work that people didn’t want to hear. Rumor has it that there is evidence out there that HR did indeed tell Carrasco that the charges had no merit. I can’t confirm that, because I’m still waiting for my open records request on Carrasco’s emails when he was out on administrative leave to be filled.

Night two of the interview focuses on how the district is run. This portion of the interview is like a live reading of Dad Gone Wild over the last year. I’ve had quite a few of the educators I talk to say, “What is the big deal? This is all stuff we already knew.” And that is true. There is nothing revealed that those who regularly read DGW didn’t already know. The importance comes from an actual high-ranking Maryland transplant saying them out loud for public record. I challenge anyone to produce evidence that what Carrasco says in relation to the running of the district is untrue.

Many will use his resignation in disgrace as a counter to the veracity of what he is saying. While his actions towards women in the district are indefensible, that doesn’t change how the district is being run. The question now becomes what are we going to do about it? Are we going to continue to just say Joseph and his team need more time? There was a lot that had to be fixed, right?

But as we continue to shine a spotlight on leadership, we continue to see more evidence that what we are doing is not working. Early indications on MAP testing completed last month indicate that literacy scores are not rising. Math scores apparently are, but not literacy. Could this be because we have such a terrible literacy plan?

Dr. Joseph continually defends the plan, but I would point to the fact that teachers are still complaining about it as an indication of how bad it really is. The way things typically work is that teachers are presented with a bad plan, they get mad and push back, and then they work on the plan and modify it so it works. After that, they focus on the work and become less vocal about it. I figured that was how things were going to work in regards to new literacy plan introduced at the beginning of the school year.

September came and teachers were only getting more vocal. October brought more complaints. November, equally as many. It is now December, and teachers are still mad and still speaking out. Five-star teachers, the best of the best, are voicing their concerns. That alone should be an indicator that we are on the wrong path and need to recalculate and adjust. Hubris comes right before the fall. Part of leadership is knowing when to adjust.

Carrasco is right, teachers are leaving. A quick look at MNPS’s employment portal will show that there are currently 183 certificated positions available. Anecdotal evidence indicates that there are a large number of teachers that will not be returning after winter break. We already have kids in our high schools being taught via computer. How many more will have to be shifted to a digital platform in January because of a staffing shortage? This should be very concerning to everybody.

The district will try to sell Carrasco’s criticisms as those of a disgruntled employee. But Carrasco was so much more. As he says,”Dr. Joseph is someone I trained as a first-year principal. I mentored him for a long time. He was my daughter’s principal. I nominated him for principal of the year.”

MNPS’s response to the Carrasco interview is as poor as the one issued in regards to Blankenship’s departure:

“The sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Carrasco and his decision to resign prior to the conclusion of the investigation are unfortunate but should not cast a shadow on the exemplary work being done by administrators, teachers, staff and students every day in MNPS.

“Together, we have embarked upon an ambitious and aggressive agenda to improve outcomes for children in multiple areas.  The complexity of the work requires additional capacity to execute.  Our short-term use of consultant support has been necessary and effective to move indicators such as ACT, reading, mathematics and STEAM performance.”

It fails to acknowledge or discredit the described hiring practices, glosses over the sexual harassment charges, and chooses to focuses on what has always been a priority for district leadership, outside consultants. Furthermore, it touts STEAM, again, as a successful endeavor despite being leaderless for the majority of the school year.

So where is Joseph on all of this? Where is the school board? I wish I could tell you, but neither have deemed the situation worthy of a public statement. One can only suppose that Board Chair Anna Shepherd continues her unilateral support of everything that Dr. Joseph is doing in the district. One can only suppose that Dr. Joseph just considers this more noise and that we all just need to tune it out. Neither position could be further from the truth.

I urge everyone to contact their school board member and don’t stop there. Contact your council member. Contact Mayor Barry. As Carrasco says, “People need to know the truth. This district has been living too many lies.” It’s time for an honest conversation.

ADDED NOTE: After publication of this post, the Tennessean published an article with quotes from Dr. Joseph. When asked if bringing Carrasco to the district was a mistake, he responds that he didn’t think it was a mistake to bring Carrasco to Nashville and said, “Ultimately, he ended in MNPS doing the work he had been doing for years.” Read that how you want to.

 

THE POTENTIAL OF AN INTROSPECTIVE WEEK

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NOTE ADDED ON 12/12/2017: Even I make mistakes. The Chamber of Commerce Report Card is actually scheduled to be released next Tuesday. Everything I wrote holds true. Sorry for the mix up.

Last week, if you’ll recall, the week started with me reporting that our car had been stolen. On Friday, I reported that through the power of social media, we had recovered the car undamaged. It’s Monday again, and I’m sad to report that once again the car has been stolen. On Saturday morning just after midnight, the thieves returned to the scene and stole the car back from our driveway in front of the house.

The Metro Nashville Police showed up quickly on Saturday morning, but they were as baffled as we were about the re-theft. When the wife asked if this is a common occurrence, they responded, “No. In fact it almost never happens. Is there anyone who is mad at you?”

“Only about half the world,” was my reply.

Several people have suggested that I look into the whereabouts of certain Nashville school board member.

That last comment was an attempt at some levity. Here’s hoping that by Friday I have better news to report.

This is the last week of school before Winter Break for students and teachers in MNPS, but it could prove to be an interesting one. Tonight over on Channel 5, Phil Williams airs the first of a two-part series based on an interview with Mo Carrasco, an MNPS executive who recently resigned in response to a multitude of accusations of sexual harassment. It should be noted that Carrasco has a long personal history with Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and came to MNPS in response to a personal invite by Joseph.

On Tuesday morning, the spotlight will be focused on MNPS when the Nashville Chamber of Commerce releases its annual school report card. In the past, the Chamber has been very critical of MNPS, focusing on literacy instruction, English learner students, and the school board. What will this year’s focus be on? It has to be pointed out, and is borne out by the weekend’s poll results, the Chamber’s report card suffers a bit of a credibility gap, and while it is widely read, I’m not sure that it is much adhered to and is quickly forgotten.

Let’s take a moment and set the stage for these two events that could have a big impact on MNPS going forward.

PHIL WILLIAMS INTERVIEW

Word on the street is that tonight’s story on News Channel 5 could get quite juicy. Despite how the MNPS brass may try to paint him, Carrasco has a long-time personal relationship with Dr. Joseph going back to Montgomery County, Maryland. If we hop in the way-back machine and head to 2008, you’ll find Carrasco in trouble for running a principal training program out of his school, Richard Montgomery High School. A program that was publicly endorsed by one Shawn Joseph.

Carrasco was cleared of charges and was offered a new position at central office. I guess they concluded that since he wasn’t offering a service training principals, they should give him a position doing so. Among the people not-so-happy about the move was a Florida-based company named Breakthrough Coach that had done work for the district. Seems they had suspicions about Carrasco’s business, as it went by the name of Breakthrough Principal.

Of further note, the superintendent of Montgomery County Schools at the the time was Jerry Weast. Weast is a former Superintendent of the Year and often referred to as a mentor of Joseph’s. In a stroke of fate for MNPS, Weast moved to the Cookeville area a few months before Joseph was hired and has graciously served as an occasional informal advisor to Dr. Joseph. Sure is a fortuitous coincidence for MNPS that all 3 could once again somehow manage to re-converge in middle Tennessee.

MNPS has been very quiet about the allegations against Carrasco. To date, they have yet to make an official response to either the charges or Carrasco’s subsequent resignation. A resignation that I’m not convinced was voluntary. Carrasco had vowed to fight the charges, but was rightfully concerned about what his children might read on the internet. On Thursday, when he did the interview with Williams, Carrasco was defiant, but on Friday morning he had a reversal and a change of tone. One can only speculate about the phone calls he received Thursday night.

I have heard people trying to float the idea that former MNPS Number 2 man Jay Steele was behind the scenes manipulating events as a devious attempt to discredit Dr. Joseph. Photos of Steele, who was recently in town for a convention, with MNPS principals and staff have been offered up as evidence of his machinations. There are a few problems with this theory though.

First of all, there is no reward for Steele in discrediting Joseph. The ship with him as Captain of the USS MNPS has long sailed and is not coming back to dock. Second of all, there are at least 8 women who have signed formal complaints against Carrasco. Not all 8 have connections to Steele, nor is it likely that he would be able to get all 8 on board to take collective action. Remember, filing formal charges opens one up for public scrutiny. I don’t think any of us would invite public scrutiny knowing that there was a good chance we could be discredited.

My prevailing thought is that Carrasco and the rest of the Maryland crew, including Joseph, arrived in Nashville thinking they would be treated as saviors by this backwater, podunk Southern town. Therefore, they felt, and arguably continue to feel, that they can act with impunity. Carrasco learned the hard way that Nashville is not nearly as friendly as outward appearances might suggest. You have to treat the locals as you would your family back home. Time will tell if others learn from his painful lesson.

I will offer up empathy for Carrasco’s children. It is an awful thing for a child to have to see a parent portrayed as anything less than exemplary. I think back to almost 18 years ago when my step-daughter was 20 years old. I was drinking at the time and not always behaving in a pious manner. I had to ask myself regularly, if she was to suddenly walk in the room, would I be able to explain in a satisfactory manner what I was doing or saying? It was a driving factor in my decision to change my behavior and get sober. I’m not suggesting that Carrasco has issues with substance abuse, but I would say that there is ample evidence that a change in behavior is in order.

Hopefully, School Board Chair Anna Shepherd will be watching tonight’s news report. In the past, when Williams has aired critical stories, Shepherd has claimed not to watch Channel 5 news. Somebody needs to remind her that just because you didn’t see it does not mean that it didn’t happen. As board chair, she has an obligation to have a working knowledge on all issues that the district is facing. She can’t just trust in the Director of Schools and leave everything up to his discretion.

I know we’ll be watching Channel 5 tonight at 6pm.

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE REPORT CARD

Every year since 1992, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce has released a report card on the state of schools in Nashville. Last year, the report card backed Shawn Joseph’s focus on literacy. Joseph responded by saying, “We need collective impact if we are going to change the trajectory.” Yet the actual response was to introduce a literacy Scope and Sequence that gives a bad name to dumpster fires. Teachers across the district have universally rejected it and the accompanying IFL units. In case you are not familiar with Scope and Sequence, it is a list of all the ideas, concepts, and topics that will be covered in the book, in the course, or in the lesson plans assigned within a curriculum. The IFL unit plans are the scripted units that flesh out the Scope and Sequence.

Joseph was also praised for his leadership prowess last year:

His leadership has also reinvigorated teachers and school leaders in the district. Joseph and his team have the district on the same page, said Zuri Adkins, Una Elementary assistant principal. “There is a refinement from years past,” she said. “Everyone is getting the same information at the same time in the same place.”

A year later, is there anybody who believes that?

Joseph has repeatedly defended the Scope and Sequence as being not as bad as advertised. That defense is not supported by district teachers. Even those who are doing their best to adopt the prescribed curriculum are feeling stressed. The level of frustration brought on by the poorly designed Scope and Sequence is reaching a point where I am seeing indications that it could lead to a mass exodus of teachers. I always try to take threats of people quitting with a grain of salt because it’s a long road between threatening to quit and actually leaving. However, evidence keeps mounting that this is a warning that needs to be heeded.

Primary complaints on the Scope and Sequence center around subject and level appropriateness, whether or not the texts involved are available, how realistic the timelines are, and the communication of expectations in a timely manner. One teacher raised the consideration that the elementary school curriculum is a K-5 curriculum despite our elementary schools being K-4. It has also been pointed out that it leaves little time for small group work. Small group work has previously been an essential part of the district’s literacy work.

Tomorrow, I will attend the unveiling of the report card, anxiously awaiting to see how the Chamber of Commerce committee tackles these concerns. Will they question the strategy or will they continue to blindly back Dr. Joseph? Or will they produce evidence that shows our literacy strategy has been working? That evidence would be interesting because I have seen nothing that points to its existence. Maybe what’ll happen is that somebody will shout, “Charter Schools!” and we’ll all get in a big fist fight and totally ignore the elephant in the room.

QUICK HITS

Many of you have asked why Bob Blankenship has been out on administrative leave. To that question I don’t have an answer. I have heard a lot of conjecture, but none of it seems to fit the narrative of Blankenship’s character. Perhaps at some point we’ll get more clarification.

Speaking of leave, word on the street is that the former Buena Vista ES principal is ready to return from medical leave, but the district might not be ready to give her back her school. We are keeping an eye open to see if those rumors bear out. But we will say that we are happy to hear that she is healthy again.

There is a school board meeting tomorrow. Some items of note on the agenda. Quaver is back on the consent agenda. They were on last meeting’s consent agenda but were mysteriously pulled from the agenda. Hopefully there will be no issues this week. Also on the consent agenda are new board policies. A little of a head scratcher here for me. I would think they would hold enough weight to warrant their own discussion and vote. They do seem to seem to quite promising though.

Also on tomorrow’s agenda is recognition of Maplewood HS teacher Jared Amato and his work with ProjectLit. I went to the last book club of the year this morning and was well rewarded as always. It’s a shame nobody from the school board or central office deemed it important enough to attend.

POLL RESULTS

Let’s take a quick look at this weekend’s poll questions.

The first question was looking for an update on who you support for the next governor of Tennessee. Results would indicate that Fitzhugh has begun to find his mojo. 37% of you indicated that if the election was today you would vote for him. Karl Dean wasn’t far behind with 32% of the vote. Randy Boyd was the leading Republican candidate, but only 9% of you indicated that he would get your vote. Some interesting responses for write-in votes:

Harold Love, Jr 1
Bredesen 1
Undecided 1
Someone that will fire Dr Joseph 1
Anybody but Karl Dean 1
None of the above

The second question asked for your opinion on the aforementioned Chamber of Commerce report card. The results were not very flattering for the Chamber. 30% of you answered that the report card was worthless, and 26% indicated that you wouldn’t be paying any attention to it. 23% of you indicated that you don’t put any stock in the report. That totals nearly 80% of you that hold a negative connotation to the report card. Not good. Here are the write-in votes:

will be quickly forgotten 1
Depends on who got appointed to create the report. 1
Same recommendations no follow through 1
I hope someone is honest about the idiots running MNPS

The last question was about the School Choice Festival. Not surprisingly, school choice is not a popular subject among DGW readers. 70% of you responded, “I hate the whole process no matter what. So hold it when you want.” I don’t think there is any need to dive deeper. Here are the write-in votes:

No thoughts 1
Fire Dr. Felder 1
I don’t care. I just hope Felder is the next to go. 1
Later start lets more families participate.

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

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This week closed a little better than it started. For as much as we deride social media, it certainly has its benefits. On Wednesday, a young lady who had seen my Facebook post was out walking her dogs and spotted our missing vehicle. She contacted us. The miracles continued when we were able to reclaim the car and discovered it was undamaged. Words cannot express our gratitude to the young lady who found our car. Christmas is looking a whole lot brighter.

Earlier in the week, Oliver Middle School principal Dr. Steve Sheaffer sent me an invitation to come see the school’s performance of The Little Mermaid. Since my eldest will be transitioning to Oliver after next year, I decided to take him up on his offer and bring the kids along for a morning performance that was being presented to 4th graders from Granbery ES. One thing MNPS has been doing better this year is promoting the pathways from elementary to middle to high school within existing clusters. Schools in a cluster interact more with each other than they have in the past, therefore giving a clearer picture to students and families of what their educational pathway may look like. I applaud this initiative and hope that it is maintained in the future.

Upon entering Oliver Middle School, I was reminded of a conversation I heard on a sports talk show. The two hosts were debating which ball players should be voted in to the Hall of Fame. One host argued that if you have to argue the merits of a candidate, then they don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. A true Hall of Fame member is someone you can look at and recognize as a Hall of Famer without having to debate their stats. I would argue that you could apply this rule to the evaluating of schools as well.

There is something that hits you immediately upon entry into a good school. It’s something in the air. It’s the way you are greeted in the office. It’s the way the halls are decorated. It’s the way teachers interact among themselves and with students. There are a million elements that go into it, but the feeling is tangible, and you don’t need to start closely evaluating instruction or dissecting data to realize that you are in a good school. Oliver MS qualifies as one of those schools.

We were greeted warmly. As we walked the halls, we saw pictures of students, instead of data charts or stock displays, decorating the walls. The pictures sent a message of what was valued at Oliver Middle School, and while achievement is certainly important, nothing superseded people. This was further evident in the manner that people interacted with each other. It’s clear that Oliver is a place where things run in an orderly fashion, but children are still allowed to be children. Care and respect are evident everywhere you look in the building. The bathrooms, while not sparkling, were even clean.

As a side note, I come from the restaurant/bar business, and it was always drilled into my head that bathrooms are where a facility separates itself from the competition. You want to demonstrate that you care about detail? Keep the bathrooms clean, as they are an area easily overlooked. It’s a view I still subscribe to.

You can’t talk about Oliver without talking about its music program. I knew that the band was a big part of their identity, but I had no idea that the school actually housed 4 bands with over 400 students participating. That’s impressive by any measure.

The play itself was spectacular. I must admit that as a former theater major, I tend to watch the lesser parts more closely. It’s relatively easy to take a few talented kids, put them out front in the leads, and impress an audience. But the true measure comes in what the rest of the cast is doing. There were truly no small parts in Oliver’s production of The Little Mermaid. I was continually impressed by cast members who remained in character and played up their role even while far removed from the action. It was really really really impressive. The leads themselves were also quite good. My daughter liked the seagulls, my son liked Sebastian, while I was partial to the eels.

It was a wonderful morning and left both of my children anticipating their future transition to Oliver Middle School. This is no small feat, as they are true-to-the-heart Tusculum ES kids and would stay there forever if they could. Tusculum teachers have set the bar high, but it looks like Oliver’s teachers will be ready to take the baton when it comes time to be passed. Every child should have access to a school like Oliver Middle. Thank you all.

VOUCHERS

Once Christmas has passed and the calendar has turned to January, it will be time to begin a new legislative session, and in what has become an annual tradition, yet another conversation about vouchers. I’ve lost track of how many years this battle has been raging, but every year has ended in defeat for the promoters of school vouchers and I’m hoping this year will prove no different.

In case you don’t know what school vouchers are, let me supply a definition. School vouchers are tax-funded government monies awarded to students so they can attend a school of their choice. Sounds great, huh? And they might be, except for the fact that these monies never fully cover tuition, books, meals, transportation, or social fees, and they shift needed funding away from schools. I know, it’s the little things.

This year was expected to be a slam dunk for vouchers because of President Trump and his Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ expressed support of the idea. But I’m not so sure it will be. Some things have started to shift that I believe will have an impact on the pending conversation.

Just this week in Colorado, the Douglas County School board voted to end its private school voucher plan and the long running legal fight connected to it. The vote was 6-0. The board’s action is considered a blow to conservative education reform advocates and voucher supporters in Colorado and across the country. They were looking for the Supreme Court to use this case to set precedent and now they’ll have to look elsewhere.

One entity that is not pleased with the board’s action Colorado is Americans for Prosperity. They are vowing to spend “5 figures” to educate parents about the board’s decision and to monitor actions going forward. No word on whether that five figures mean 10K or 99K. Tennesseans are very familiar with the shenanigans of Americans for Prosperity.

The Huffington Post released their study on vouchers this week, and in analyzing voucher schools across the country, they discovered that those schools can teach whatever they want, including religion:

Our analysis found that about 75 percent of voucher schools across the country are religious ― usually Christian or Catholic, with about 2 percent identifying as Jewish and 1 percent identifying as Muslim. There were gray areas: At least six schools identified as non-religious but used a curriculum created by the founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

I encourage you to read the whole study. The bottom line is, the more we know about vouchers, the less we like them. Something tells me that this year’s outcome on voucher legislation in Tennessee is going to mirror previous years.

QUICK HITS

This trip around the sun has certainly been a weird one. For years, parents had to fight for adequate facilities for Tusculum ES students. Now that they finally have a new school, the district is using it to tout their vision for the future and clap themselves on the back for being visionary. I have a couple of words I’d like to say, but I’ll try to remember that any sun shining on Tusculum ES is good. So I’ll just smile and nod.

This new Shovels and Rope record, Busted Jukebox Volume 2, is pretty damn good.

One MNPS administrator on administrative leave has returned to work, while another has resigned. Executive Officer for STEAM Bob Blankenship quietly returned back to work yesterday. Executive Director of Organizational Development Mo Carrasco has resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. According to a report on News Channel 5, Carrasco maintains his innocence. “What I don’t want to do is leave here with my name…,” he said, breaking into tears. “I didn’t come here to dirty my name. These allegations are false.” Channel 5 has a full interview with Carrasco that they’ll be airing all next week. I would call that must-see-TV.

It was with a heavy heart that I received the news about the tragic death of a 17-year-old Hillsboro High School student. Ja’Dontae Lamont Hancock Jr. enrolled at Hillsboro this fall and previously attended East Nashville Magnet School. He planned to join Hillsboro’s DECA chapter and baseball team. Teachers said he had model behavior and was an aspiring leader. This is a tragic case of senseless violence that should sadden all of us in the MNPS family. Our deepest sympathy is extended to the family during their time of grief. A GoFundMe account has been started for Ja’Dontae’s funeral expenses.

This week Cresswell Arts dance students got a master class in dance from the Janet Jackson dancers. How cool is that?

Metro Schools plans to host its 2018 School Choice Festival on Jan. 23.

POLL QUESTIONS

Time now for a couple questions. Let’s see what I can come up with.

The first question is a revisit to the governor’s race. Let’s take a look and see if anything has changed for any of you.

The second question is about the upcoming Chamber of Commerce’s MNPS report card. It’ll be released on Tuesday morning, and I’m interested in how much credence you’ll give it.

My last question is about the just announced dates of the MNPS School Choice Festival. This year, the event takes place earlier in the year and the timeline has been condensed. Do you like it or not?

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.

HOW MUCH DO WE REALLY CARE?

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I know, it’s Tuesday, and I usually publish on Monday. Unfortunately, this week started off with a bit of a challenge. Sunday morning, between 1 and 4 AM, my wife’s 2012 Subaru was stolen from our driveway. It’s perhaps one of the most surreal events I’ve ever experienced. We both wandered around the front of the house for a good 45 minutes before reality sunk in. The police have been extremely helpful and an insurance claim has been filed, so we’ll see what happens.

The stealing of the car dovetailed nicely into the thoughts I was already feeling this weekend. As I am wont to do, I was pondering the state of our public schools in Nashville, and to be honest, I was having a bit of a crisis of faith. I found myself questioning just how much people really cared.

Over the last several years, we’ve all watched the battle lines drawn over charter schools vs public schools – I know, charter schools are public schools. But just bear with me for a minute. Everybody has lined up to stake their positions against corporate takeovers and loss of local control. Rallies are held and activists show up to address the school board on how the system is failing our kids or how the system needs protecting. I’m not downplaying those issues, but those are national issues for the most part. And I would ask, where is the passion for the issues generated locally?

For example, let’s look at Antioch High School. Two years ago, it was a 5-star school; today it’s a shadow of that through no fault of its teachers or students, but instead as a direct result of poor leadership. The state of AHS is no secret to anybody, yet nobody does anything. A month ago, the district held yet another Listen and Learn session with teachers, and once again everybody walked away recognizing there were real issues. But what changed? Nothing. There are plans to rinse and repeat in January.

Last year, students walked out over conditions at AHS, and there was widespread media coverage. But did anybody ever follow up to see if things had changed? Did anyone ask, “Hey kids, anything get any better?” Did anybody ever follow up to see if enough teachers had been hired? Has anybody asked MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Joseph, “Hey, how come your old friend from Prince George’s County is still principal despite everybody recognizing that she is not, by anybody’s approximation and for whatever reason, doing an adequate job?” Or did we just turn a deaf ear and hope that if we ignore things, they’ll somehow magically get better?

Two weeks ago, there was an article in the Tennessean about an MNPS administrator accused of sexual harassment. Nationally, these kind of accusations are met with swift action. In Nashville, it appears that our reaction is a shrug and a failure to dig deeper or follow up, as there hasn’t been a follow up report since the initial report.

How come nobody is asking Dr. Joseph, “Since you and Mo Carrasco have a personal relationship that stretches back to you two working together on a principal training program in Montgomery County, what are your thoughts on multiple women accusing him of sexual harassment?”

Or maybe they could ask, “How is it that an administrator, hand picked by you, and touted as among the best and the brightest, has managed to get themselves placed on administrative leave twice in 18 months?”

LEAD Academy CEO Chris Reynolds resigned the week prior to the start of the school year, and it was covered like the Director of Schools quit. However, there was no mention that over at MNPS proper, the people in charge of the SEL initiative, the choice initiative, and the STEAM initiative all resigned and took new positions outside of the district two weeks before school started. Furthermore, there has been no mention whatsoever that the replacement STEAM Director has been on administrative leave for almost 6 weeks.

It’s been reported that the district has won 23.8 million dollars in STEAM grants, and when you go to MNPS’s web page it says in big bold letters “STEAM in Middle Schools,” yet it seems to not be important to have stability in the leadership position that oversees the entire initiative. Nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “Why can’t we keep a director of STEAM in place? Isn’t that kind of important?”

Then again, it doesn’t seem important that MNPS have a Chief of Staff in place either. Nobody asks why someone with the qualifications of Jana Carlisle would uproot their life from NYC to come to Nashville only to be summarily dismissed a year later under the guise of “her contract was up.” Nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “When will you be hiring a new Chief of Staff? What qualifications will they have that Jana Carlisle didn’t have? Why did she leave, despite you repeatedly referring to her as a key element?” Instead, it’s a shrug and sayonara.

There was at a fight at Overton High School. 15 kids were arrested. Two weeks later, and where is the follow up story? We just shrug and dismiss this incident as an outlier. But is it really? Not if you talk to students, teachers, and parents. They’ll tell you discipline issues are on the rise across all grade levels. Police being called to elementary schools is not nearly as rare an incident as it should be, yet nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “What’s being done to review our disciplinary policies to ensure that they are functioning as effectively as possible?”

A couple months ago, MNPS hired a new Public Information Officer, Michelle Michaud. She walked through the door throwing elbows and didn’t win many fans among local media, but she certainly set the rules for any coverage MNPS would be receiving and whether it’s directly due to her or not, the kid gloves have stayed on. MNPS gets little to no pressure to address its shortcomings. Instead, the Tennessean prints another glowing article about the board and Dr. Joseph.

In the aforementioned article, School Board member Dr. Sharon Gentry is quoted as saying, “What we have managed to do is eliminate the randomness. We aren’t chasing, but actually driving.” What does that mean? What conversation are you driving? Because it isn’t the one about Antioch High School, discipline, STEAM leadership, or sexual harassment.

To be fair, the local media has done some excellent work on travel expenditures and lead in the water, only to get a collective shrug from the community. There were no mass calls to school board members. Nobody demanded action from the city council. Business went on per usual. So that’s where it begs the question, do we really care?

I get it, charter schools and Betsy DeVos make attractive villains, and attractive villains make it easy to pick up the sword. It’s not hard to picture DeVos tying public schools to the railroad track while twirling a mustache. But what happens if she’s defeated and charter schools are run out of town? Are discipline issues solved? Teacher attrition resolved? I often worry that the real danger to public schools does not come from the forces of privatization, but rather from our unwillingness to hold local schools to the same level of accountability that we would demand from charter schools.

I get it. It’s time consuming, unglamorous work. To quote Dr. Joseph, “A lot of the work that we do isn’t glamorous, it isn’t the flashy stuff that everyone sees. It is the policy work, it is the governance work, it is the researching what measures we focus on that often goes unseen to the eye.” Yes it is, and if we don’t do it, running Betsy DeVos out of town becomes meaningless.

When I was a young man, I remember complaining to my father about another young man stealing my girlfriend. My father asked, “Were you attentive to her? Did you put her interests on par with your own? Were you willing to work at the relationship?” And then he closed with advice that has always stuck with me, “You can’t steal away the willing.”

QUICK HITS

This past weekend, I bartended a parent/teacher mixer for the West End Middle School PTO. It was held at the 1979 Studios, and this was my third year working the event. It is always a good time, but this year particularly so because I got to observe West End’s new principal Dr. Young work the room. Watching his interactions with both teachers and parents, it’s clear that he has become an integral part of a community that continues to be a model of parental involvement. They are obviously fond of him, and he equally so of them. This is what it looks like when it works. Kudos to all involved.

Speaking of quality principals, Oliver Middle School principal Steve Sheaffer called this weekend to invite me to see the school’s performance of The Little Mermaid. Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Hope to see you at one of them. The kids and I are quite excited.

(M3 Summit)

Out in the Northwest quadrant of MNPS, the M3 summit took place this past weekend. By all accounts, it was a tremendous success. Kudos to Community Superintendent Pippa Meriwether and her quadrant leadership team on a pulling off such a impactful event.

Former school board candidate Miranda Christy has an op-ed out in the Tennessean today asking for us all to put aside our political bias and come together to work for kids.

Congratulation also go out to MNPS Executive Officer of Diversity Maritza Gonzalez. This year she will be representing MNPS as a Fellow for the Racial Equity Leadership Network. RELN has gathered 12 ambitious school district leaders from across the nation poised to address racial, economic, and academic disparities in their districts, and Dr. Gonzalez is one of them. And if that isn’t enough, she’ll also be representing MNPS as a Fellow for the Deeper Learning Equity Fellowship.

Were you one of those people who thought that TNReady was on the path to improvement? If so, Andy Spears has some bad news for you over at the TN Education Report.

Confused by what the new federal tax bill means for schools? ChalkbeatTN has some answers for you.

Local Blogger Vesia Wilson-Hawkins has some thoughts on recent allegations that charter schools are re-segregating our schools. Agree or disagree, she’s always worth a read.

Did you know that Hillsboro High School has an AP-accredited school paper? Did you know that it is one of the few in the country? Check out the Hillsboro Globe.

(Glencliff Mariachi Band)

A nice job was done entertaining folks at the lighting of the Nashville Christmas tree by the Glencliff HS Mariachi Band

(Dupont Tyler Symphony)

How about that Dupont Tyler Middle School Symphony? Impressive.

And let’s not forget Ruby Major Elementary School’s Ruby Rockettes!

‘Tis the season!

 

 

(Ruby Major Elementary Rockettes)

POLL QUESTIONS

Let’s review the poll results from this weekend.

The first question asked if you would support providing kids 30 minutes a day to read in school. 63% responded that you would 100% support this initiative. 17% more of you put the caveat of 3 days a week in. That means 80% of you would support designating time during the school day for kids to do nothing but read. I wonder if anyone is listening?

Here are the write-ins:

Long standing / well-researched practice with results — SSR — Sustained Silent Reading 1
love the idea but with current environment – impossible! 1
It always was part of curriculum until reform came along. 1
Yes, if done in a research-based way with support. 1
Yes. In fact they already do this at my kid’s school 1
Dr. Felder would say read phonics books 1
I would support an hour or longer, maybe 2 30 min reading periods per day

Question two asked how confident you are in your children’s safety at school. The results to this one reinforce the need to have a deeper conversation on discipline. The number one answer, at 42%, was “mostly.” Number 2, at 19%, was “not so much.” Only 15% answered extremely. That, to me, is very concerning.

Only 3 write-in answers for this one:

no kids in school now 1
As long as they aren’t at Maplewood 1
IFL units will solve safety issues

The last question asked if you considered President Trump referring to Senator Warren as Pocahontas as a racial slur. 33% of you said “Absolutely,” while 27% of you answered “I don’t listen to anything the President says anymore.” I’ll stay out of the weeds on this one.

Here are the write-ins:

His verbiage stinks. I think he was just calling her out 1
Just fire Dr. Felder

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.

IT’S DECEMBER 1 AND I DON’T HAVE A CLEVER TITLE.

2

Another week comes to a close as we get another day closer to Christmas. I’m just amazed at how fast this year has flown by. In a blink, it will be 2018. Here at DGW land, we are caught up in Nutcracker fever as my eldest is playing a garden fairy. This is a huge honor and she is above the moon in anticipation of treading the boards of TPAC as a young ballerina.

READING READING READING

This week I managed to hit two separate ProjectLit book club meetings. I attended both the Overton High School and Croft Middle Design Prep’s meetings. Funny story on the Overton club meeting.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 2:15 PM, which means that I would be arriving during dismissal. Shamefully, I was a little intimidated by the thought of navigating the halls through a sea of high school kids. So I convinced myself that today wasn’t a good day to attend and that I had to go to the grocery store instead. It was in the parking lot of Kroger that I re-evaluated and recognized the importance of supporting students and teachers through ProjectLit, so I bucked up and returned to Overton High School. A decision I don’t regret.

At both clubs this week, I learned a lot and both reinforced my belief that if you are going to make education policy for kids, you have to interact with them. And not in a run in, touch the wall, tussle some heads, and snap a picture manner. You have to meet them in their environment and on their terms.

We all think we understand kids and know what they need, but without that real interaction, it’s all supposition. I learned the unique family situations of the kids I sat with. I learned what motivates them to read and what definitely turns them off. I learned about the multitude of outside activities that they engage in, and I learned the pride they take in their school. I saw firsthand the connection between them and their teachers.

Which leads me to my second observation. Why do we not give kids more time to read in school? Why do we not have a 30-minute block a day where kids do nothing but read? This subject has come up numerous times in the past couple of weeks and nobody has an answer.

Talk to a baseball coach. How do kids get better at baseball? They play baseball. How do guitar players become better guitar players? They play guitar. How do dancers become better dancers? They dance more.

What if you showed up for basketball practice and the coach said, “All we are going to do is run, dribble, and shoot. And when you get in the game, you’ll automatically be a better basketball player.” We’d probably laugh out loud. But that’s what we do daily in our schools. We talk a lot about reading, but how much reading do we actually do?

How many times have we started a new job and the person training us said, “I can show you how to do it all day, but the best way to learn is by just doing it.” It just seems like a no brainer to me. If you want kids to be better readers, have them read more.

We try to pass the initiative off by encouraging kids to read more at home, but we can’t control the environment there like we can in school. Many of our poorer kids live in homes with environments unconducive to independent reading. Many of our high school kids go directly to work after school. So when, and where, do we expect our students to read? But if we demonstrated how important reading was by carving out a 30-minute block everyday… I don’t know, it just makes sense to me.

OF TNREADY TESTS AND UNICORNS

This morning I stumbled across an interesting article on a blog called Classroom Chronicles, which is sponsored by the TNDOE. It was called TNReady Reports Foster Collaboration and Inform Instruction. It’s written by Erin Raines, a Bradley County High School English teacher. Hmm… I thought… this should prove interesting.

Now before I go any further, let me be perfectly clear, I bear no malice towards Ms. Raines. For all I know, she is an exceptional teacher and a wonderful human being. She most certainly is a better teacher than I am. But, that said, her post raises a few questions for me.

At the end of the first section she states:

It would be easy to teach what I love most about Language Arts and forget about the rest, but that would be a disservice to my students. TNReady helps keep me on track in my curricular focus by providing multiple user-friendly reports I can utilize to target areas of instruction to strengthen as well as areas where I am equipped to offer support to peers.

So in other words, without TNReady, teachers would be ignoring large swaths of literacy and math and merely focusing on the parts they like. This aligns neatly with the trope that without TNReady teachers would be ignoring kids in poverty and minority children as well. Mind you that these are the same people who regularly sacrifice an extra 10-15 hours a week, uncompensated, to make sure they are meeting the needs of their students. Yea, I’m not buying that.

She then talks about these fantastic reports that she receives in a timely fashion that allow her to connect TNReady scores to her classroom:

For my personal instruction, I analyze my class-level Standards Analysis Summary Report (example here), which shows how my own students performed on each standard.

So here’s the rub: the example she links to is nice, but so is a picture of a unicorn. As far as I know, teachers at all grade levels don’t have access to individual scores yet and nor do parents. So where are these reports coming from? Later she mentions using these reports to plan before the semester starts. What semester? Spring? Because it’s December, and results by schools just arrived recently, and we are still waiting for individual results.

What happens when I read these TNDOE writings is I start to think up is down and I’m missing something. I call other activists and they confirm my thoughts, and then we all end up confused. It’s like we’ve fallen through the looking glass.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think this writing is intended for activists and educators. It’s aimed squarely at parents who don’t know better and trust the TNDOE. When questions arise about the usefulness of TNReady, people will pull this blog post out and say, “Nope, nope, you are wrong. It says right here that teachers are getting timely useful reports. You just hate all testing.” Mission accomplished.

The post closes with an admonishment for teachers “to remember that teacher attitude influences the classroom environment.” So buck up, buttercup. Toe the line and remember… “The more I can emphasize TNReady’s worth as a tool for teachers, as well as parents and students, the better!”

Over at the TN Education Report, Andy Spears has a better idea. He tells us that State Senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro is proposing legislation that would place a two-year moratorium on TNReady testing, and Spears thinks we all should throw our support behind it. Can’t say I disagree.

QUICK HITS

Friday night brings us the sad news the former Pearl Cohn HS basketball player Perry Wallace has passed away. Wallace was a part of the legendary first desegregated high school basketball game in Nashville when Pearl Cohn played Father Ryan. He went on to be the first African American to play four years in the SEC at Vanderbilt. He went to work for Mayor Walter Washington, the first black mayor of Washington, D.C. He then served in the U.S. Justice Department, worked for the National Urban League, and eventually became a professor of law at American University. A true gentleman.

So I check in occasionally with our neighbors to the north… Remember me telling you how MNPS Transition Team member Dallas Dance was under investigation for traveling over 75 days in his last year as a superintendent in Maryland? Well, this week we learned that Dance also failed to report paid consultancy work in 2014 and 2015.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting. The company that Dance was working for, EDRI, has confirmed that Discovery Education is an ERDI client and has had a no-bid $10 million contract with Baltimore County since 2013. Now, guess who has a contract with MNPS? Guess who is transforming all of our middle schools to STEAM schools? If you guessed Discovery… consider yourself a winner of a chicken dinner.

Apparently, Dance’s action were of such a magnitude that this week, his successor agreed to some travel and work restrictions. The current Director of Baltimore Schools agreed to undertake no travel without the written consent of the school board. Remember that meme that the MNPS Transition Team was made up of the best and the brightest? In all fairness, it was never disclosed what they were the best and brightest at.

This week, Croft Middle Design Center announced their virtual zoo initiative. Six cameras were placed in the Nashville Zoo’s animal exhibits, including the rhinoceros, cassowary, flamingo, clouded leopard, red panda, and red ruffed lemur, with a direct link to Croft. This will allow students to check in on the animals with just a click. Included in this initiative is support from a full-time Vanderbilt University scientist. Very exciting news!

Betsy Devos was in town this week. She spoke at an Education Summit sponsored by Jeb Bush, where she warned teachers unions that she’s not going anywhere and is in fact just getting started. In breaking news, DeVos was just informed that teachers unions are made up of… wait for it… teachers.

Outside the summit, union members were on hand to make sure she understood that they will be on the dance floor for this waltz as long as she’s dancing. A Tennessean article quotes MNPS teacher Amanda Kail. “As teachers, we find her budget to be immoral,” Kail said of the billions of dollars in education cuts proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration. “The amount of money she is cutting from the education budget will have devastating effects on public education.”

The announcement of who the members of teacher unions are must have caught the State Collaborative for Reforming Education, or SCORE, off guard as well. They have indicated support for DeVos, and her agenda, and had representatives attend her speech. But they also recently released a report with the stated goal of making Tennessee the best state to live, work, and grow as a teacher. Kinda seems like it has to be one or the other, doesn’t it?

Last week, I mentioned that State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen was reconvening her testing task force. This week, the Momma Bears take a closer look at that task force. After close examination, they can come to only one conclusion:

It’s time to turn this task farce into a force to reckoned with….OPT OUT!!! McQueen has chosen to opt parents out of the decision-making when it comes to testing our children. So, it’s time we opt our children out of the testing!! Stop wasting your child’s time on tests that have been problematic year after year.

​IT’S TIME FOR THIS FARCE TO END. OPT OUT!!!

Can’t say I disagree.

Nashville education blogger Vesia Wilson-Hawkins is back is back after a 9-day bout with the flu, and she’s brought a new friend, Education Conversations podcast host Linda Dunnavant. Always good to have more voices.

Over in the nirvana of Education Reform, Denver, they are getting ready to have a conversation about teacher performance pay, or as its known in Denver, ProComp. The Denver School District and the teachers union, reeling from DeVos’ warning, no doubt, are beginning negotiations about teacher pay. While I am an opponent of performance pay, there are a couple elements of this conversation I really like.

First off, Colorado law requires school districts and unions to bargain in public. That gets a big thumbs up. Secondly, according to Chalkbeat Colorado:

The ProComp negotiations will be different in that the two sides have secured a mediator and are trying a method known as interest-based bargaining. Instead of trading proposals back and forth, they started the more collaborative process at their first meeting before Thanksgiving by making a long list of potential issues to discuss. Next, negotiators said they’ll narrow that list to a handful of key issues and then aim to come to consensus on each one.

I find this concept extremely interesting and am very interested to see how it works out.

In closing, this week I’ve heard so many stories that I can’t share because I don’t want to embarrass people or hurt relationships that I thought my head was going to explode. Damn, but some of those stories were good. It got me thinking, I should start a subscription Snapchat blog that shares nothing but things too hot for the generally uplifting Dad Gone Wild blog. Hmmmmmm….

POLL QUESTIONS

It’s Friday, so we have to have some questions. First off, I would like to know your thoughts on giving kids 30 minutes a day in school just to read. Is it a good idea or a bad one?

Next question, when sending your kids to school everyday, what’s your level of confidence in their safety? Do you worry, or are you confident that everything possible is being done to keep them safe?

For the last question, I want to step a bit outside the realm of education. Recently, at a ceremony honoring Native American veterans, President Trump referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren by the name Pocahontas. Many found this remark offensive, but there is some question as to whether or not it was a racial slur. I want to know your thoughts.

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.