Once again the week begins with a heavy heart due to the loss of a child’s life. The Oliver Middle School family is in mourning this week over the loss of 8th grade student Ariana Binave as a result of a medical condition. Principal Steve Sheaffer released a statement saying,
“She was deeply loved by her family, friends, and by the Oliver faculty and staff. Prior to attending Oliver, she was a student at Shayne Elementary. She was seldom seen without a smile on her face and was an absolute joy to have in school.”
There will be a collection on Monday and Tuesday morning before school to help the family with funeral expenses. Checks can be made out to OMS PTA. Our prayers go out to the family and the Oliver community.
GUN VIOLENCE CONTINUES
On Wednesday, a White’s Creek High School student was shot and killed inside an East Nashville apartment. He was 15 years old. On Friday, just after school let out, a 17-year-old former student was shot just outside the Pearl-Cohn HS campus. The Friday night basketball game at Stratford HS was stopped and ultimately canceled after information was received that 2 individuals were carrying guns. That’s a lot of guns around a lot of kids in one week. If you are not already alarmed, you should be.
I’m sure there will be a lot of blame placed on the schools and suppositions made. The reality is that these are not really school problems, but rather, societal problems. Nashville enjoys its reputation as an “It” city, but how much of an “It” city can you be if your youth are dying regularly as a result of violent acts? At some point, the city as a whole needs to collectively declare the violence unacceptable and work to find a solution. Instead, though, I suspect we’ll continue to try to put more of the weight on our schools. To their credit, despite a lack of resources, our schools are attempting to tackle these issues as best they can.
Over the last several years, statistics have come to light showing that a disproportionate number of students being suspended are Black and Hispanic children. Further data illuminates the negative consequences of suspending children. In order to counter balance these negative outcomes, more and more schools have been turning to Social Emotional Learning programs and Restorative Justice practices. Metro Nashville Public Schools has seen some very positive outcomes where programs have been implemented with fidelity.
As we head into budget season, talk has begun to heat up for increased financial resources for the further implementation of restorative practices in MNPS schools. Director of Schools Shawn Joseph has been quoted in the Tennessee Tribune as saying:
“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.”
In the Tennessean, Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway and Dr. Joseph have an editorial piece that gives very disturbing statistics:
In 2017, 54 children were shot in Davidson County and 10 of those died. Arrests of children on weapons violations increased nearly 24 percent from 2016, while robbery arrests were up nearly 22 percent.
The editorial goes on to talk about the ways that the court and schools can work together through restorative practices to address this crisis. There is a promise to increase focus through funding in the upcoming budget:
We can choose to invest in our children’s success, or we will end up spending much more to address their failure – in the form of additional healthcare and criminal justice costs, as well as the negative impacts to the local workforce and property values.
All of this is very laudatory, but at some point the devil is going to be in the details. We can start by defining exactly what “restorative practice” means. I know what it’s not, because every time I raise a criticism I get a response like “That’s not restorative practice being done right” or “That wouldn’t be the case if they were really implementing restorative practices.” Ok, so what is restorative practice? What does it actually look like? What are the components?
Here again is where things get tricky. Because when you start trying to pin down what restorative practices actually mean, you get vague answers like, “Well, it’s not a one size fits all” or “It’s about meeting students where they are.” These are beautiful thoughts, but they are not definitions, nor is, “Well it’s a complete shift in culture” or “It’s a complete different way of looking at things.” People need more details.
When people don’t have details, they tend to create their own narratives and those narratives are seldom supportive. The narrative becomes that it’s all about prayer circles. Or it’s a lack of accountability. Or kids just focus on their role in the equation. Or we focus on the minority of kids at the expense of the majority. Or it’s all a bunch of touchy-feely hogwash. I’m sure all of you have heard the same and more. None of these narratives are helpful.
Despite not having details, I’m giving tepid support to the concept of restorative practices because some people I really, really respect extol the virtues of it. But the conversation has to become more concrete. If we say we are going to devote more resources to it in the budget, then what does that mean? Are we looking for $100k more or 20 million dollars, a more realistic number if we are going to things right? How is that money going to be used?
Dr. Joseph talks about training teachers, and that sounds good if you say it fast, but when is that training supposed to take place and what is it going to look like? What other training gets sacrificed in order to make time for RJ training? Will instructional time or planning time be given up? Teachers don’t exactly have wide open gaps in their daily schedule waiting to be filled. Is this going to need to be a training that takes place over the summer, and if so, then teachers need to be made aware of that potential probably a year ahead of time. We may envision that teachers are kicking it by the pool drinking daiquiris during the summer months, but the reality is that those months are filled with acquiring advanced degrees, traveling, or working a second job. Advance notice is going to be required.
This conversation is not dissimilar to one I had with Dr. Schunn Turner last year in regards to the district’s Encore program. There needs to be a focus on using language that gives an accurate description to what is expected to transpire on a day-to-day basis. In regards to Encore, there were some very good changes taking place, but parents couldn’t recognize them because the language being utilized painted too vague a picture. After Dr. Turner presented parents with a clearer picture of what the actual details included, she was able to secure more support.
At some point, that is what the conversation on restorative practices has to look like as well. Will be there be a counselor at every school? What will be their defined role? There is already a schedule of infractions and their penalties – is that effective? What will training look like? How will the district provide supports? Some proponents of restorative justice may be scratching their head in puzzlement right now, thinking that this is already being done. And maybe it is in a language that those deeply entrenched in the philosophy understand. Because if it was in a language understood by all, there would be more buy-in and fewer questions. So how about a little translation for us lay people? This conversation is too important to not have it be crystal clear.
Guess who may be having second thoughts about running for re-election to the school board and has pulled papers for just that purpose? Let’s see if an announcement comes soon.
Last week I told you about Rocketship charter schools in Nashville facing some challenges this year. Apparently there is even more news that hasn’t been reported. Purportedly over Christmas break, Rocketship NE fired their principal and the assistant principal resigned. An administrator was brought down from one of Rocketship’s schools in DC to replace Bianca Jones as principal. The administrator quickly cleaned house and forced the AP to resign. On one hand I give Rocketship credit for recognizing a problem and taking action. I know a high school in the Southeast quadrant who could benefit from some decisive action. On the other hand, that’s a lot of change in the middle of the year.
I thought I’d share some more details on the Encore program with you. The universal screener cost an additional $100K this year. The results, per MNPS, are as follows:
720 new second grade students at 70 elementary school sites qualify for Encore as a result of this Universal Screener. The number of second grade English Language Learners (EL) – including students in Tiers 1 through 4 – identified for Encore qualification increased 1,771% as a result of this assessment. English Language Learners (EL) – including students in Tiers 1 through 4 – make up 17.2% of all newly qualified students. This Universal Screener also identified 304 second grade students performing in the top 5th percentile nationally on the NNAT®-3. In Spring 2017, this grade level cohort’s first grade teachers only referred approximately 75 students who performed in the top 5th percentile nationally; the Universal Screener identified approximately 4x as many high potential students who are in need of advanced academic support through the Encore Program.
I think that’s pretty good news. The Encore assessment window for referred Kindergarteners is coming up at the end of April. Kindergarteners referred for Encore assessment will receive letters home in late March or early April.
This weekend I did a little extra reading. Through an open records request, I received the official evaluations by Dr. Joseph on each of the Chiefs. Well, all of them except for Dr. Felder. For some reason, despite these having been completed back in September, I’ve yet to receive hers. The reviews are about what you expect. Dr. Narcisse has a composite score of 3.3. Chris Henson has a composite score of 3.8. Jana Carlisle has a composite score of 3.8. Carlisle is the only chief with a 5. She scored that on the results category. But wait a minute… oh, never mind.
Here’s the latest from educator Russ Walsh in his series of blog posts focusing on when readers struggle.
When it comes to purveyors of power pop, few can rival the exuberance of the Swedish band Franz Ferdinand. Their latest, Always Ascending, doesn’t disappoint.
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise in the latest by one of my favorite authors, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.”
Time now to take a quick look at the week’s questions.
Our first question had to do with the recent division of MNPS management into quadrants. As far as you are concerned, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sixty-one percent of you answered that you could see no change. The number two answer, at 11%, acknowledge some improvement. Interestingly enough, I have heard that within the quadrants, tier level meetings have been re-introduced. Hmmm… who’d have thunk it. Here are the write-ins:
|Are they supporting our work or are we supporting theirs?||1|
|Seems to be an additional level of admin for no reason||1|
|Waste of money||1|
|Designed to get rid of the old executive officers||1|
|Poor culture is poor culture no matter how you structure it.|
Question two asked for your opinion on the soon-to-be introduced MOU between teachers and the district. Unsurprisingly, most of you were withholding judgement. The number one answer, at 32%, was that the proof would be in the enforcing. The number two answer, at 18%, was “I can’t read all of that.” Remember that if you can attend tomorrow’s board meeting at 5 pm, please do, and wear red in support of teachers. Here are the write-in votes:
|95% of it seems like they just took current language from employee handbook||1|
|Should say-Fire Dr. Felder||1|
|MNEA member and RA. I don’t any specifics of MOU.||1|
|What is planning time?|
Lastly, I wanted to see what your response to the Mayor’s situation was at this time. The results were fairly mixed. Twenty-eight percent of you felt she should resign. But, 19% of you felt she should just move forward. The same number also expressed being exhausted with the whole situation. This weekend’s Tennessean had an excellent piece written by the Rev. Jeff Obafemi Carr, an award-winning activist and filmmaker, and the founder and chief spiritual officer of the Infinity Fellowship Interfaith Gathering. I urge you to read it.
Here are the write-in votes. The first comes closest to my thoughts on the whole situation.
|As a friend, I hope she stays, as a progressive, I want a new leader||1|
|She has not supported teachers. Resign!||1|
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.