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.
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….
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.