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.
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