A PUSH FOR EXPANDING RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IN MNPS

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I hope everybody enjoyed their Super Bowl festivities yesterday. The NFL did not have a very good season this year, but I think yesterday’s game redeemed the season. It was wall-to-wall action with seldom a dull moment. My MVP award would go to Eagles coach Doug Pederson. He made it clear right from the beginning of the game that he intended to win and would settle for nothing less. He wasn’t going to play it safe and planned to make calculated risks in order to put his team in the best position to win.

Much has been made of Pederson’s attempted 2-point conversions, but for me the real gamble came late in the fourth quarter when the Eagles had fourth and 1 at the 46. Eagles were trailing by 1 with under 6 minutes left. Conventional wisdom would have called for a punt, pinning the Patriots deep in their own territory. If you go for the first and don’t make it, the Patriots would be in a great position to increase the lead. QB Foles hit TE Ertz for just enough for the first down and Eagles went on to win it. As the proverb says, “Fortune favors the bold.”

Any chance of a Patriot comeback was squelched by a fumble recovery made by Eagle rookie Derek Barnett. Many people remember Barnett as a player for the University of Tennessee. But for the Tusculum Elementary School community, the connection goes back a little further. Today Tusculum ES students have a former student to look towards as an example that anything is possible when you work hard and dream big.

MONEY FOR RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

Over the last couple weeks, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), a faith-based coalition of 62 churches that works on housing, criminal justice, and job issues, has begun calling for increased resources to be included in the upcoming school budget to expand restorative justice practices.

“We must ensure full support of social emotional learning and positive discipline practices in MNPS because these practices have been proven to work in stopping the school to prison pipeline,” said Dawana Wade of NOAH’s School Discipline Subcommittee.

In an article published in the Tennessee Tribune, a Black American weekly newspaper, Director of Schools Shawn Joseph voiced agreement with NOAH’s stance:

“We need teacher training in a number of areas. We are looking at cultural awareness training to pick up implicit bias, training to help teachers understand how they can build stronger relationships with kids, helping teachers think about how they can help students resolve conflicts.”

He goes on to indicate that how much the district expands the discipline practice is dependent on the budgetary resources they receive. The budget is currently being prepared, and at this time he says it calls for 24 new positions for 42 schools that currently utilize restorative practices. Currently, 17 schools have a restorative specialist. These specialists have their own standalone offices and offer designated spaces in which to utilize restorative practices.

I am very pleased to see someone drawing increased focus to our discipline policies. It is obvious to anyone who gives even a cursory look that this is an area that needs more resources. Metro schools are allowed the option of choosing one of three discipline models: Restorative Practices, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS), or Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Forty-five Metro schools have adopted SEL, 45 Restorative Practices, and 35 have adopted PBIS.

I’m very interested in knowing which schools utilize which practices and how that matches up with their demographics. The article in the Tribune cites positive results with SEL at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School. Office referrals were reduced by 87 percent last year. Students in grades 4-6 improved English scores by 7 percent and Math scores by 9 percent. But is this causation or correlation? I don’t know.

As stated before, I support the concepts of restorative practices, but my experience shows me the shortcomings of the program when not fully implemented. We had an incident involving my daughter this past year where another student violated her personal boundaries in a very troubling manner. I don’t want to go too much into detail out of respect for the other student, my daughter, and school leadership, but the child should have been removed. That is no knock against school leadership, because they were fantastic and handled things the best they could with the existing parameters. However, that child is still in school and on occasion still has contact with my daughter.

Luckily, she is a mature young lady and comes to us or her teachers when she is made to feel uncomfortable. Because of the support she gets at home and through her teachers,  her trauma is mitigated. But that doesn’t hold true for every child. There has to be a balance struck between the needs and rights of the misbehaving student and that of the student who is not misbehaving. Everybody acknowledges that fact in theory, but it’s often lost in practice.

It could very well be a training and staffing issue, but if we are talking the kind of money – several million dollars – I think we are, the devil is going to be in the details. Parents want to know that their children are going to be safe when they send them to school. Most are concerned for all kids, but first they need to be reassured that their kids are going to be safe. My recommendation is that in asking for additional forces, proponents spend as much time telling parents how the rights of their children will be protected, as well as those who commit the infractions.

While we are talking about social emotional learning, can anybody tell me why the district isn’t working with Jarred Amato to create a secondary Scope and Sequence that would utilize the tenets of ProjectLit? I’m not a teacher, and I don’t play one on TV, but for the life of me, I don’t see a reason why units incorporating ProjectLit books couldn’t be created that function like the IFL units. Amato has relationships with publishers and authors that could mitigate costs and provide life-altering experiences for students. Schools could decide whether to use the ProjectLit plan or the IFL plan. As previously noted, schools are already given a choice when it comes to discipline, so why not literacy? Especially a literacy plan that would incorporate elements of which ever discipline plan a school choses.

ENCORE EXPANSION

Encore is the MNPS’s gifted and talented education program. The key words here are gifted and talented. Gifted and talented kids are not just really smart kids. They are students who have a brain process that functions in a different manner than most children. That brain process often results in higher academic performance, but not always. That’s a distinction that often gets lost.

In previous years, students were primarily identified for the screening process by either parents or a teacher advocating for them to get tested. Predictably, that resulted in demographics that were primarily white and/or of higher economic standards. According to a Nashville Scene article from 2016 written by Amanda Haggard, 70% of the students in Encore were white. Black students made up only 16%, and Hispanic students made up 6%. That is a little appalling. Disclaimer here, my children are among the 70% and have benefited greatly from it.

The district recognizes that disparity and has begun to take steps to increase equity in access. I’m going to put a disclaimer here, though – increased access does not mean reduced criteria. Again, gifted and “really smart” are completely different students and that cannot be said enough. At this point, there has been no evidence that the district is reducing criteria, but constant vigilance is required.

One of the first steps MNPS undertook in increasing equity was the expanding of the number of exceptional education teachers available to schools and the number of hours those teachers are available. Each school now gets one Advanced Academics Resource Teachers (AARTs) who specialize in gifted and talented education for two-and-a-half days a week. At Tusculum ES, we have been blessed by the presence of Dr. Paula Pendergrass, or Dr. P, as the kids call her, who has made a huge difference.

In October, for the first time, all second graders in MNPS were given the universal screener to test for gifted ability. The screener the district currently uses is the The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), a nonverbal measure of general ability. This spring the district will move to utilizing a multiple screener process. Which screeners will be included is being discussed. Parents can expect to receive their child’s score in the mail over the next couple of weeks. Early indications are that we should see an uptick in the number of Black and Hispanic students identified.

Students who are already receiving Encore services but are not identified as still being gifted by the Fall’s testing will still receive Encore services. It’s long been district policy that ending a child’s services causes unnecessary trauma. I’m sure there are plenty of parents grateful for that news.

These are very positive steps and MNPS deserves credit for taking them. I do have some further questions and I’ve submitted those to the district. I am curious about the actual numbers and breakdown of Encore students. I am curious about the steps we’ve taken to make the program more accessible to our English Language Learners. Just because you are not fluent in English does not mean you are not gifted. When I get that information, I will share, but I am very hopeful about the direction our exceptional education services is trending.

QUICK HITS

This week is National School Counseling week. Have you hugged your school counselor today?

United Way of Metropolitan Nashville is offering free tax assistance to eligible Metro Schools employees and families starting today! To learn more, visit http://bit.ly/2FRZoGY

Are you looking for a job with Metro Schools? They’re hosting a Spring 2018 Teacher and Support Recruitment Fair on Saturday, February 17. Don’t miss your opportunity to be part of the fastest-growing urban district filled with opportunities to effect change daily. The deadline to register for the event is February 12: http://bit.ly/2Gv3Mfm

All eighth graders who will attend MNPS high schools are eligible to apply for School Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV). Deadline is February 16! More info here: .

Blogger Russ on Reading has been writing a series of articles on when readers struggle. His latest installment is on comprehension. Everybody who is concerned with literacy should read this series.

If you enjoyed Justin Timberlake’s halftime show, check out his latest.

I just finished James Lee Burke’s latest, Robicheaux, A Novel. The man is an American Treasure. This book really dives into the role sex, violence, class, and history play in defining who we are as individuals.

POLL RESULTS

Awesome results to this week’s poll questions. Thank you to all who responded. Let’s look at the results.

The first question related to what’s on everyone’s mind in Nashville: what is your reaction to the Mayor’s affair? It seems that DGW readers are a pretty open-minded bunch. Twenty-nine percent indicated that as long as there were no financial shenanigans, you were good. The number 2 answer was that you were deeply disappointed but hoped she stayed in office. However, twenty-five percent of you gave answers that seemed to indicate that you thought she should resign.

Betsy Phillips, who writes for the Nashville Scene, has an article that I think comes the closest to summing up the situation for me. She calls for the need to separate the sex from the scandal:

I don’t begin to understand what the compassion I’m supposed to feel for Barry is. Am I supposed to believe it’s just too bad that she has utterly normal desires and the ability to act on them? What does it say about our views of women’s sexuality that our first instinct when we discover a woman is having even more sex than we expect her to is to pity her? To feel sorry for her?

I feel sorry for the two people who may have discovered they were in open marriages the hard way. That really sucks.

But Megan Barry has even more sex with the kind of guy she likes? That’s not a tragedy. It might be a dick move, but it’s not a tragedy. That’s not how sex works. It doesn’t ruin women.

Phillips points out the fallacy of those who argue that this isn’t a #METOO moment:

But when Barry insists this isn’t a #MeToo moment, she’s wrong. The mayor certainly has final say over who makes up her security detail. And she certainly has control of the amount of overtime that security detail works. Having the power to decide who gets to do a job and having control over how much overtime he’ll be needed for can easily be coercive.

She then goes on to conclude:

Can the mayor run the city effectively if the people surrounding her believe that she plays favorites? Can the mayor run the city effectively if she has a weird relationship with the police department? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I know they’re more important questions for the city to be dwelling on than whether we ought to forgive Megan Barry.

It’s not our job to forgive her personal foibles. It’s our job to evaluate her ability to effectively lead our city.

I encourage you to read the whole article. Here are the write-in votes:

Another politician who forgot character matters and forgot she is a role model. 1
Terrible. Wasn’t she an ethics officer previously? SMH 1
She needs to step down 1
Resign 1
Terribly disappointed 1
MNEA endorsed her and I voted with my Union. Major disappointment.

Question 2 was in regards to establishing meeting norms. Twenty-nine percent of you recognized their usefulness in certain situations. Seventeen percent of you would prefer to just get down to business, and sixteen percent of you hate them. There was only one write in answer:

I agree they are passive-aggressive and controlling.

Looking at the recently released “cusp” and “priority” school list recently published in the Tennessean, I wanted to know your opinion for the final poll question. No matter how you feel about the state and its testing policies, the top three answers should be a concern to anyone who cares about Nashville’s public education system,

Not surprised. 26 26%  
It’s kinda indicative of where we are. 19 19%  
Probably going to get worse. 17 17%

Here are the write-in votes:

Labeling schools by scores from an invalid test…only hurts children 1
There will always be a bottom 5%! 1
Not useful – poor schools score worse 1
Fire Dr. Felder and it will get better 1
I think these lists are ridiculous! 1
These are the same schools that struggle. When will we address their struggles? 1
The state needs to get over this crap and let us teach.

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.

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4 comments on “A PUSH FOR EXPANDING RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IN MNPS

  1. Aidan Hoyal says:

    Video of NOAH’s press release: https://youtu.be/Irp_Jux90j0

  2. Lisa M says:

    You should run like heck when you hear PBIS, SEL and Restorative Justice. My son was PBISed from K+ and they are the worst behavior class ever in ES and now in MS. PBIS is like crack cocaine for kids….read the literature as it’s overuse causes the exact opposite of the intended behavior. So now because his class is so bad, they are using SEL (growth mindset in particular). Growth mindset cannot be “taught” as it’s a way of raising children. Dr. Dweck is concerned that her research on growth mindset has been hijacked and is being used in a nefarious way. All of this will be entered into your child’s permanent record on a LDS. You should complain and complain very loud. My son will be going to private HS next year because of all this data collection added on with the testing madness and common core.

  3. Stop the Insanity says:

    Do NOT give this leadership more money. They are hoarding it & using it to promote themselves throughout the country & NOT for supporting MNPS students.

    While they are auditing Mayor Berry, please have them audit this leadership team around the non-bid contracts that’s new awarded…..

  4. Vesia Hawkins says:

    Thanks for the Russ on Reading tip!

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