Good Monday morning to y’all. I hope the weekend was kind to you. Sunday was the 18th anniversary of my sobriety, and I spent it bartending a book signing by Fox and Friends contributor Brian Kilmeade. He was promoting his new book Andrew Jackson and The Miracle of New Orleans. It was a pleasant affair but trust me, the irony was not lost on me.
Today is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge, with no real overarching theme. It’s getting close to legislative season in Tennessee, and we probably ought to give a little preview of what to expect. A lot of folks are expecting it to be quick and quiet.
AT THE STATE LEVEL
The Tennessee State Legislative Session kicks off tomorrow, and normally around this time of year we would be gearing up to make another stand against proposed voucher legislation. However, this year, previous sponsors are saying they won’t be pushing legislation. Instead, they plan to focus on increased funding for schools. Hmmm… I’m not sure whether I’m ready to fall for that or not, but for now I’ll take them at their word. It’s got to be hard pushing legislation where every year new evidence emerges showing that vouchers do not improve educational outcomes for kids.
I suspect we’ll see some legislation addressing issues with both the Tennessee Achievement School District and standardized testing. At the end of last year, State Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) and Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee held hearings on TNReady. After the hearings, Faison voiced strong concerns and vowed to bring legislation forward to untie scores from teacher evaluations. Last week he re-iterated that intent:
“Me and several others are going to attempt to tell the Department of Education that you can’t tie teachers evaluations to a flawed test,” said Faison, who said that plan would be aimed at not allowing evaluation scores to be tied to test scores until the TNReady process can be flaw free for a year.
This is legislation I think most teachers would welcome.
There have been rumors that some legislation addressing Response To Intervention (RTI) funding could surface. It’s not like we haven’t been down that road before. Last year Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) introduced some legislation with widespread support, only to have State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen say, “Not this year.” As a result, it was sent to summer study. What the plan may look like this year is anybody’s guess, and maybe tomorrow when McQueen presents to the House Joint Education Committee at at 3pm, we’ll get a clearer picture.
There has also been some talk about simplifying the teacher licensure process and giving teachers more planning time. Currently there is a little bit of ambiguity when it comes to planning days. MNPS has converted all planning days into professional development days based on supposed communication from the TNDOE. I don’t have access to said communication but have no reason to doubt the district. Whatever the case, planning days are essential to teachers’ success and policy regarding them should be clear of any ambiguity.
I do suspect there will be some discussion on the issue of granting in-state tuition to people living in the state illegally. Many of those are children who were born here to undocumented parents. Legislators have indicated that they will look to Washington for guidance on this issue:
“One of my hopes is that Congress will address the DACA issue. If they address that and make it a federal issue, it will help our regional bill,” said Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, a sponsor of efforts to enact in-state tuition for students who entered the country illegally as children or overstayed their visas. “That’s where we have lost in the past. It was an executive order. But it is Congress’ responsibility.”
Immigrant students who entered the country illegally must currently pay out-of-state tuition to attend a public college. The out-of-state rates — which can be two or three times higher than in-state tuition — can create a barrier for students who grew up in Tennessee, immigrant advocates say. A bill attempting to rectify this situation last year failed by one vote. This is one we are hoping passes this year no matter what Washington does.
Keep in mind there is a race for governor this year, as well as races involving state legislators, so people will want to get back to active campaigning as quick as possible. Whatever happens, we’ll be watching.
For an even better overview, make sure you read TN Education Report’s review. Andy Spears does a much better job than most of us at policy review.
This year in MNPS, and across the country, there has been a lot of talk about STEAM education. STEAM is rooted in the philosophy that Science & Technology is interpreted through Engineering & the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, some questions are starting to be raised as more schools make the conversion. Chief question is becoming how much science instruction are kids really getting?
According to a report by non-profit group Change the Equation, which works with the business community to advocate for improved STEM learning, more than half of 4th graders spend less than three hours a week on science, the data show. And 1 in 5 students get less than two hours. Keep in mind as well, science is not going to be a part of TNReady this year. If I’m a teacher and scores are a major part of my evaluation, what’s getting focused on? Keep that in mind when you read the hype.
In related news, a recent article in the Washington Post about Google analyzing the most important skills for employee success might surprise you. The leading element wasn’t STEM-related skills but rather the ones promoted by a Liberal Arts education. The article closes with the following statement that I think we should all take to heart:
No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed. Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers. What helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. It may just well be social science, and, yes, even the humanities and the arts that contribute to making you not just workforce ready but world ready.
We spend a great deal of time talking about the importance of literacy, but very little time on ways to improve literacy. Russ Walsh is a blogger who focuses on strategies to improve literacy. His latest, titled Oral Language, should be a must for everybody. When you finish that one, I suggest reading Background Knowledge. There is a lot more that goes into literacy rates than just what happens in schools, and the sooner we realize it, the sooner we can take steps to improve those rates.
Next Tuesday, January 16, Cambridge Assessment International and Regional Higher Education Advisory Council are hosting a College Connection Night at Overton High School (
@OvertonMNPS). Come learn about financial aid, admission requirements, and more!
MNPS has announced graduation dates for 2018. It’s never too soon to start planning,
Teachers, just in case you haven’t seen this, here is the 2017-2018 pay schedule.
Report Cards come home January 9th.
Congratulations to Tom Joy Elementary School teacher Ms. MacKay’s 2nd graders who reached their reading goals. They were presented with their Readers/Leaders t-shirts. Every student who reaches their goal receives a shirt. That’s what I’m talking about.
Maplewood High School Teacher and ProjectLit Founder Jarred Amato has started blogging and obviously I think you should read his musings.
Today’s blog has been fueled by the music stylings from Rodney Crowell’s latest.
Last week, a little bit of row erupted over MNEA leadership. I knew that current leadership had been in place for a long time but had no idea that it had been almost a quarter of a century. I have no beef with current leadership, but sometimes some new blood can help. Just saying. Over the last couple of years I’ve watched teachers Amanda Kail and Michele Prater Sheriff demonstrate what good leadership looks like. I don’t know if either is interested in a greater leadership role, but these are the kind of teachers MNEA needs to embrace. Now I’m probably in trouble with both for saying it, but I think it needed to be said.
This week’s poll questions had a huge response, and I thank all of you who participated. They were fun and enlightening. Let’s take a look at the results.
The first question asked who you thought the MVP of MNPS was. Who is that one person that it would hurt to lose? The number one answer was… “other,” and I loved that. Not only did many of you mention our dedicated and often overlooked classroom teachers, but you also took time to recognize those who often perform in the background, thereby giving them some much deserved recognition.
In 2nd place was Jarred Amato with 18% of the vote. Director of Literacy Tammy Lipsey and data guru, Paul Changas were next with 11 and 10 percent, respectively. EL head Kevin Stacey was next with 8% and West End Middle and TN Teacher of the year Cicely Woodard closely followed at 7%. All the aforementioned are very worthy of the accolades.
I also think it’s worth noting that both Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and Chief Academic Officer Monique Felder each only received one vote a piece. That means if they walked into a room full of 179 people, only one person would think they were the MVP. Might want to work on that. Here are the write-in votes:
|the teachers who go on in spite of all the names above.||1|
|Teachers like me who keep our head down and do the daily work of helping kids||1|
|the Teachers and Paras||1|
|Every Teacher that has lasted longer than the last 2 or 3 years in Metro.||1|
|Phil Williams and TC Weber for letting us know what’s actually going on in mnps||1|
|No one who works in central office is a MVP.||1|
|Anyone but Sylvan Park Elementary principal Robin Elder. 3 teachers quit mid year||1|
|all of the teachers who actually care about the kids||1|
|Some of the names made me laugh out loud.||1|
|None. Terrible list||1|
|Most are UNKNOWNS across the district. MVPs are the teachers who show up.||1|
|Fred Carr is the MVP. Mistake to fire him.||1|
|Dr Hughes principal of JTM||1|
|Classroom teachers and those who work with students||1|
|None of them. My co-teachers!||1|
|Monique Felder & David Williams should be removed||1|
|You have brought me more information that anyone else.||1|
The second question asked for your opinion on the two-hour delay. Like myself, most of you were confused as to exactly why we had the delay. 33% of you responded “Not sure what problem was solved.” I think the number two answer gives room for optimism as 22% of you acknowledged that early communication problems were corrected and things worked out overall. Most of the complaints seemed centered around the timing of the announcement, which MNPS corrected the next day by announcing Friday’s delay before school let out. 13% of you said “close or run on regular schedule,” while 6% answered that you loved it. So it doesn’t appear like there is an overwhelming demand for more delays. Here are the write ins:
|Announced too late to have a positive effect||1|
|Caused more problems than it solved.||1|
|Horribly executed. Created chaos for some families. Solved nothing.||1|
|No translation for robocalls meant very confused students||1|
|2 degrees warmer and 2 instructional hours lost.||1|
|Schools need to fix their heating systems.||1|
|Mixed feelings due to low attendance||1|
|I didn’t like it. There are reasons it hasn’t been done in Metro for years.||1|
|Impossible for working parents||1|
|Everyone seemed well rested and pleasant||1|
|did not take parent’s work schedules or transportation issues into account||1|
|Dear Central Office: Please get your shit together.||1|
|My room was just as cold at 10 as it was at 8||1|
|It was ok except for the problem about when teachers were supposed to report|
The last question sought your input on the recently retooled Communications Department in MNPS. The number one answer, with 31%, stated that it was a bit of a dumpster fire. But good news wasn’t far behind as 27% acknowledged that they are hearing more good news stories. Perhaps the missteps of the last month are just anomalies and overall the communications department is on an upward trajectory. Fingers crossed though: 14% of you did say that you missed Joe Bass.
Here are the other responses:
|Reflects Joseph’s insecurity and incompetence — will school board wake up?!||1|
|Push all the “good” news but don’t deal with reality.||1|
|Messaging is vague and confusing.||1|
|Both a dumpster fire and about the same as always.||1|
|ineffective, but I don’t expect much better||1|
|Churching our positive PR stories without communicating real information.||1|
|Awful. Why did Tony Majors go to a faith based leadership conference||1|
|A LOT of a dumpster fire|
That’s it for now. Stay warm. 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.