I hope all of you in Nashville are planning to get to bed early tonight, because tomorrow is going to be a busy, busy day in the Nashville education world. MNPS will be holding their annual School Choice Festival tomorrow night at the fairgrounds starting at 5 pm and ending at 7 pm. At 7 pm, there is the Tennessee gubernatorial education debate. If that’s not enough, tomorrow night is a MNPS school board meeting with an agenda packed full enough for 2 or 3 meetings. It makes me tired just thinking about it.
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
This morning I took a look at the agenda for the school board meeting, and then I proceeded to spend the rest of the day on the phone asking questions. To say there is a lot packed into the agenda would be an understatement. I would say several things on it could drive their own meeting. Let’s see if we can’t unpack some of the items and give you a few things to look for as the action unfolds tomorrow. Make sure you keep the agenda handy because I’m going to refer back to it a number of times in this article.
The biggest agenda item to me is the one scheduled to come at the end of the meeting, MAP testing results. Last winter the district began implementing MAP testing as a benchmark. The test is given three times a year, so to date, we have results from 4 testing periods over the course of a year and a half. MAP will be administered again in a couple of weeks for Spring 2018. For whatever reason, the presentation for tomorrow’s meeting only shows results for this year. Those results show a 2% drop in literacy and a 1% drop in math between Fall and Winter 2017.
Let’s step back, though, and look at all 4 results combined. For the purpose of brevity, and because that’s where our focus has been, I’m only looking at literacy today. MAP testing results are divided up into 5 quintiles, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. For the MNPS presentation at tomorrow’s board meeting, the charts group the numbers in the 4th and 5th quintiles together. When results were presented in October of this year, quintiles 3 -5 were grouped together. For the sake of comparison, I’ve also grouped quintiles 3-5.
Winter 2016 showed the 3-5 quintile at 51.3%. Over half of our kids were scoring on par or above kids in the rest of the country. Spring 2017 showed a drop to 46.3%. Fall 2017 testing, given a few weeks after kids returned from the summer, saw us bounce back to 50.3%. Winter 2017 showed a drop back down to 47.1%. Taken as a whole, these results warrant a few questions.
First question should be why are kids doing better after summer break than they are when they are in school? My next question would be why are we not moving the needle at all? As one education advocate pointed out to me, these results are like my gas tank. I put a little in. I take a little out. Four tests, four results, and no trajectory.
It’s very troubling to me that with all the focus we’ve put on literacy, and all the resources dedicated to it, we are still not even as high as we were when we first began MAP testing. Clearly the vaunted scripted curriculum is not having the desired impact. I suspect that the lack of impact is the impetus for district leadership doubling down on the IFL units at the recently-held curriculum update meetings.
The argument could be made that teachers are not implementing the literacy plan, and without fidelity to the plan, increases won’t be seen. However, leadership continues to fail to grasp that you can’t get fidelity without trust, and there is no trust.
There are a limited number of hours in a day, and as a teacher, am I going to focus on MAP testing and sacrifice on TNReady test prep? The district says MAP and TNReady are aligned, but what evidence does a teacher have of that? If it turns out the two tests are not as close as advertised and a teacher’s students’ score well on MAP but bomb on TNReady, there could be a real devastating effect on a teacher’s career. That’s not a risk/ reward equation that compels participation.
In looking at individual school results, some other questions emerge. I don’t want to get too deep into those individual school results, but I do think some things need to be highlighted. First up, how do you accurately compare a school with 103 kids taking the test to a school with 432 students taking the test? With apologies to Dr. Young at West End Middle School, who is doing a fantastic job, let’s compare West End Middle to Oliver Middle, specifically 7th grade, in order raise further discussion.
West End has 48.5% of their students in the 4-5 quintile (the highest quintile) and 24.2% in the 1 quintile (the lowest quintile). Oliver MS has 47.5% of their students in the 4-5 quintile and 18.4% of them in the 1 quintile. Both are solid results, but West End is doing it with 493 students, while Oliver is doing it with 900. Both very solid numbers, but is it a fair comparison? Again, I only bring this up to further discussion.
We talk about how parents should opt to keep their kids in a zoned school instead of choosing an academic magnet, but if I am at the Choice Festival, I’m going to ask Meigs Magnet for their MAP scores. If the answer is 91.2% in the 4-5 quintile and 0% in the 1 quintile, where do you think I’m going to try to send my kids?
I know I’m not even touching on the growth scores, but to be honest, I need more instruction on interpreting them. In further fairness, all my interpretations may be wrong. I would argue, though, that the way I see the results is the way the average parent would interpret them. Therefore if the problem isn’t with the scores, then there is a problem with the messaging.
The next major item on the school board agenda is a discussion on the recently-released results of the climate survey. I’ve spent a fair amount of time diving into individual school results, and the biggest takeaway I have is the disparity in participation. My recommendation going forward would be to put some kind of participation threshold in place, say 70-75%, and if a school doesn’t hit that mark, the results would be nullified. As it is, you are comparing schools with a 50% participation to schools with 85% participation. I don’t believe that is a recipe for fair comparisons.
At some point, there should be a deeper conversation on what the purpose of the climate survey is. Is it to get an idea of how policies and initiatives are being translated and impacting the classroom, or is it to back up a pre-conceived narrative? I’ve heard reports that not all teachers received the same questions and that some received an abbreviated survey. I’ve also heard that climate survey results and MAP scores are being used as the sole criteria in giving some principals sub-par evaluation scores. With a nod to Three 6 Mafia, it’s hard out here for a principal.
Once again, Smithson-Craighead Academy is on the agenda. This time, the district has created a presentation sure to convince the most soft-hearted school board member that the school should be closed. I believe it probably should be closed as well, but this presentation raises some concerns.
There are survey results incorporated into the presentation that I assume come from student responses. But there are only 20 – 23 respondents per question, and the school has 189 kids. So… I’m confused.
There is also a chart on a non-branded slide that lists all the district charter schools and their “success rate.” MNPS is listed with a success rate of 31.1%. Smithson-Craighead is listed at the bottom at 6.8%. What catches my eye, though, is that there 8 other charter schools listed below MNPS. There is no context given, nor further explanation.
If there are indeed 8 charter schools with a “success rate,” whatever that is, below MNPS, I would think that warrants a larger discussion. We probably ought to take a hard look at what’s happening in those schools. If this is not an accurate representation, then I think it’s disingenuous to just throw this chart out there without explanation or context.
Just the aforementioned items would be enough to constitute a full night’s work at the school board, but there is more on the agenda. The capital improvement budget plan is being shared. It’s only a $348,824,762 request that includes money for new schools in the Antioch, Cane Ridge, and Overton clusters, and a new School of the Arts.
Last, but not least, the board is scheduled to approve new board policy in regards to fiscal management. Under Fundraising Activities, it appears that there will be tighter control placed on individual teacher-created GoFundMe campaigns. I understand the need for tighter regulation, but I have some trepidation when it comes to limiting the methods teachers can use to address some of the fiscal shortcomings they encounter.
This agenda asks for a heavy lift from board members, especially in light of the other activities taking place in the district. Every one of the aforementioned agenda items requires the full attention of all members of district leadership, so who will be representing leadership at both the School Choice Festival and the gubernatorial education debate? Somehow I can’t help but think that something, or someone, is going to get shortchanged, and in the end, students and their families will pay the price.
Denver, a city that has a lot in common with Nashville, is seeing many lower income families squeezed out of the city. That means fewer lower income families enrolled in DPS. Now KIPP is looking to possibly follow those lower income families out to the suburbs. Could it happen in Nashville? A KIPP school in Mount Juliet? A Rocketship in Spring Hill?
Look for the Dad Gone Wild interview with Nashville Rise’s Allison Simpson later this week. It’s been a long time coming, but I think well worth the wait.
Former Eakin ES principal Tim Drinkwine has been writing a blog to chronicle his family’s yearlong trek of the globe. His latest entry is a harrowing one.
Steven Singer is a public education teacher who has written a new book called Gadfly On The Wall: A Public Education Teacher Speaks Out On Racism and Reform. It is a worthy read.
Sometimes you just have to go old school, and today I’ve been listening to a little Tony Toni Tone. Getting my 90’s New Jack Swing on.
I’ve yet to figure out just what makes one poll question garner more answers than another. This week’s questions certainly didn’t rise to the challenge, but we still got some interesting results.
The first question asked for your opinion on the idea of allowing individual schools flexibility on snow days. The overwhelming answer, with 69% of the vote, was that it was a recipe for disaster. Several of you brought up reasons that I hadn’t considered – open enrollment zones, kids in multiple schools, number of teachers who live in district.
Here are the write-ins:
|Needs to be done through quadrants||1|
|Won’t work because of many open enrollment zones||1|
|Stats bureaucracy might prevent it||1|
|Families have students in multiple schools|
Question two looked for your response on NPEF giving seats on their board to the prison management company CoreCivic. The idea didn’t sit well with y’all as 33% of you found it completely inappropriate. 30% expressed reservations toward NPEF independent of the seating of the CEOs. I really hope NPEF rethinks this action.
Here are the write-ins:
|Inappropriate and furthers my concern with NPEF||1|
|Why not? MNPS schools are already like prisons||1|
|More crookedness from Dr Joseph|
Last question asked which city council person you trusted the most on education issues. If you count the write-in votes, the number one answer was… no one. Coming in at number 2 was Dave Rosenberg, closely followed by Russ Pulley. For some reason, this one garnered considerably less votes than the other questions, but it did get the most write-ins. Like I said, I haven’t figured it out.
|None? I’ve become skeptical of all leadership||1|
|One that will fire Dr. Joseph||1|
|CMs in my experience lack knowledge/expertise re:education||1|
|None of the above||1|
|No one! They aren’t in today’s schools!|
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