I’ve often said, “I’m not the smartest man in the room, I’m just fortunate enough to know a lot of really smart people.” To me the greatest benefit to the growth of the Dad Gone Wild blog is the access it provides to the ever-growing network of educators who are regular readers. I’ll write a story and then learn even more on the subject through reader feedback. Friday’s story on Advanced Academics is a prime example.
To get a handle on what’s going on with AA in our schools can be a difficult proposition. There are several different programs – International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, Cambridge, AVID, and Dual Enrollment – and even within the same programs, they look different at whatever school your child attends. Policy has shifted, at all levels, over the last couple years further complicating things.
That said, AA is clearly an area that MNPS is making progress in and is deserving of accolades. I was discussing MNPS’s lack of promotion with a parent this weekend and they remarked, “They release the scores and they give accolades. What more do you want?”
That opened up the door to a much larger issue in my opinion. My answer to the question is, I need the narrative. You can’t just tell me the work is important. You have to tell me the why. You can’t just tell me we are making progress. You have to show me how. I need to see real world impact. Give me the narrative.
Dr. Ryan Jackson offers a prime example of what I’m talking about. Jackson was the Assistant Principal at Maplewood HS until two years ago when he went over to Maury County after his Maplewood Principal, Ron Woodard, took the Number 2 job there. Jackson has a deep commitment to STEAM programming and believes in its merits.
Yet he didn’t show up at Mt. Pleasant HS and say we are doing STEAM and you better get on board because I think it’s important. Instead he told the narrative. He demonstrated why he believed in the programming and why it was important. He doesn’t just supply theory and supposition; he uses real world applications and tells the stories of how individuals are impacted. He uses the narrative to build excitement and buy-in.
When Jackson shows up to ask for increased funding, he has tangible reasons for why he needs that money and concrete ways it will benefit students and their families. It’s not just phrases like,”It increases equity” or “it is good for kids.” He tells you why “it is good for kids” and how “it increases equity.”
One of the most important line items in last year’s budget was the paying of fees for individual students’ Advanced Academics tests. This was one of the largest moves towards equity in access that the district had made in years, yet it sat squarely on the chopping block.
Advocates fought to have it funded, and they were successful, but how much were they helped by MNPS? How many council members knew the individual cost of the tests and exactly how families are impacted? How many knew the benefits that other students had already reaped through the successful completion of these programs? How many understood the results from past years or knew the trajectory MNPS was on? Every one of them should have, but I suspect less than a quarter did.
You may argue that the district doesn’t have time for this kind of PR work. I’d argue the opposite; the district does not have the time not to do this work. You can throw all the key performance indicators in the world up on a projection screen at a board meeting and, sans a narrative, it won’t mean a thing. You’ve got to tell the story and make it compelling.
You can be mad at Metro Council and the mayor for not fully funding schools all you want, but you if can’t tell them the why, then you can’t be surprised if they don’t find the how. School Board member Will Pinkston lectured at the last board meeting on the importance of 7 words, “We are a chronically underfunded school system.” I would argue that we only need to focus on one word: “Why?”
Here’s one of the Advanced Academics stories that I think you’ll find illuminating. There is an unspoken myth about the kind of student that enters the AA programs. The truth is, few students enter at the national norm of “readiness” for the course work, as the knowledge needed for TNReady does not necessarily translate to AP. Some have seldom done regular homework before or read an entire book or written a paper longer than a page and a half (though some have). Yet, many of them are successful at learning college material. Even for those who do not pass the AP Exam, surveys a year later show that they earned A’s in college their freshman year.
On Friday, I talked about kids earning diplomas through the International Baccalaureate program. What that means can be a little confusing. Earning a diploma is a very daunting task and without understanding the process, it’s equally difficult to evaluate the success of the program. As one MNPS educator explained to me:
IB Diplomas are what the district often shines a light upon, but they are a poor measure of IB success. The IB Diploma just means that a student earned enough points across a range of courses from IB assignments/exams; however, IB students also earn certificates for each course. Each IB course is graded by the IBO on a scale of 1-7. A score of 4 typically earns college credit for the course. The IB diploma is earned when a student achieves 24 cumulative points across six courses, but it gives little extra benefit versus doing well in individual courses. As such, a student could do well in IB History and IB Math but struggle some in IB English and not get the IB Diploma. The student would still earn college certificates for History & Math but not earn the whole diploma. I would argue that this was still a successful student and that IB was a cumulative benefit.
It’s also important to remember that some students take individual classes, but not the whole IB program. Their goal is to earn 1-2 classes of college credit; diploma percentages would not capture any benefit to them.
I mentioned that kids who take the advanced classes risk taking a hit to their GPA. For clarification, the students keep their GPA boost if they stay in the course, regardless of the exam. They do lose two perks: they lose their +5 point incentive points added to their third quarter and fourth quarter grade, and they lose their automatic exemption for the teacher’s final exam (for which the AP exam replaces). Important considerations.
The exams being paid for (IB students still pay a registration fee of $122 that MNPS does not cover) is one of the most transformative things that MNPS has done and has changed classrooms in a positive manner. Again, in the words of an MNPS educator:
With AP exams paid for, my AP enrollment was the largest in years as fewer students tried to transfer out. I went from 22 in the class to 31 students, and I went from 12 test-takers in 2018 to 29 this year. The students had a greater sense of focus as well, despite the greater participation, our average score did not drop.
As other kids see kids that look like them and live like them, thrive in the advanced academic programs, it’s only a natural progression that they will want to join in. The programs can only get bigger and more successful. But that can only happen if we do our part, if we tell the narrative. We have to stop focusing on the what – more resources – and begin focusing on the why – the impact on the classroom and the individual students.
DID I NOT MENTION THAT?
Here’s another tale about the power of the Dad Gone Wild network. On Friday, I wrote about MNPS school board member Amy Frogge pulling the extension of the TNTP contract from the consent agenda at the last school board meeting. Her objection was more to the vendor than to the individual contract. In defending the extension, it was argued that this contract was for PD only, and that nobody was using it. The implication being that TNTP was not being utilized in the district. An implication that many readers found puzzling.
Several of you wrote to me that TNTP was in fact being utilized by Jere Baxter MS and Joelton MS. I was further informed that all priority schools were utilizing TNTP and that new priority school head Lisa Coons is a big proponent of TNTP. Here’s where the soup gets a little thicker: TNTP is a proponent of Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA). CKLA is being pushed by district leadership, despite a lack of buy-in from principals. There are those who believe, not without merit, that Reading Recovery was canceled in part to make room for CKLA.
To be fair, there are those that believe in CKLA. I take no issue with the pushing of a curriculum as long as it’s research backed. My questions would be, why are we not having a more transparent conversation around its implementation? It would have taken but a minute to clarify that schools are utilizing the services of TNTP through other contracts. I would also wonder aloud why we are utilizing one curriculum for priority schools and not using the same curriculum in our not-as-high needs schools.
This whole exchange just drives home the point to me why reports from the teaching and learning committee need to be included in board meetings. If those reports were given regularly, then all of us would have a better understanding of what is actually happening in the classroom and the impact board decisions are having in the classroom. Which is supposed to be the reason why we are all here, right?
NEED A JOB?
According to the Tennessean, MNPS has 189 vacancies that need filling. Presenting at last week’s board meeting, Sharon Pertiller, the Human Resources talent strategy director for MNPS, updated the board on the district’s hiring status. Pertiller indicated that the hiring position this year was improved over last year, when the district needed to fill 266 vacancies.
Let’s keep a few things in mind, though. Briefly mentioned at the bottom of the article is the information that MNPS displaced 82 teachers. What nobody is talking about are the Glenn/Caldwell teachers who were displaced when the two schools were merged. So we created a pool of teachers in need of jobs and we used that pool to fill openings. Not exactly a result of improved recruiting.
In order to actually evaluate the success of recruiting efforts, we’d have to know the actual number of certificated positions at this time last year and this year. The article says MNPS has about 6,400 teachers and administrators. If last year we had 6700 and this year we had 6400, then 189 versus 266 does not indicate progress. To be fair, I doubt the swing is that much, but with 162 schools in the district, if each school lost 2 positions… it could be.
The question of the number of positions becomes more important in lieu of a recent email from central office to principals that would seem to indicate a hiring freeze. Though to be fair, despite repeated readings, I can’t decipher the intent of the email. Combine this email with a bullet point in Pertiller’s Power Point presentation to the board that stated, “Adjust staffing, e.g. combining classrooms and utilizing subs to support the teacher of record”, and you’ve got some red flags.
Man, there ain’t no crazy like Prince George’s County crazy. In today’s episode, the PGCPS school board appointed Monica Goldson as acting CEO of schools. News that wasn’t exactly welcomed by the community.
The Metro Health and Educational Facilities board approved on Thursday $13.6 million in tax exempt bonds for KIPP Academy to build a new elementary school in Antioch. I certainly am not looking to restart the charter war, but this is a bit of a problem. KIPP runs 5 schools already and this one’s application was rejected by the district. They took advantage of a new law that allows for a school that’s been rejected by the local LEA to apply to the state. The state approved the application.
It’s my opinion that if the state approves the application, the state should foot the bill. To circumvent the local board and then present them with the tab shouldn’t be an option.
Hard to believe, but freshmen orientations have already started for MNPS students. Here’s the schedule for the 2018-2019 school year. Some schools will offer transportation for students, so please check with your child’s school.
Let’s take a quick look at last week’s poll questions.
The first question asked your opinion on the amount of questioning some board members have been doing as of late. 90% of you answered in a manner that indicated you appreciate the questions and would welcome more. Four of you thought the board needs to ease up and stay in their lane. Here are the write-in answers:
|The only 2 doing their duty are Speering and Frogge.||1|
|MNPS Board Job: Don’t be a shill. Looking at you, CBuggs et al #itstheanswers||1|
|How has the ?ing made the school system better||1|
|The blind defense of Dr J is hurting kids||1|
|Did Maritza have to pay back her stipend?!?||1|
|Only Frogge and Speering are doing their job||1|
|Why are the only two asking questions always getting eye rolls and voted down wh||1|
|We need to change the law and elect a teacher to the BOE||1|
|Why don’t most board members really seem to care at all about employees?|
Question two asked those of you who’d been involved with MNPS’s advanced academic programs to give feedback on your experience. The majority indicated that it was a favorable experience but acknowledged that improvements could be made. Here are the write-in votes:
|Better than reg classes, but like everything else, sabotaged by central office||1|
|Further segregates kids within a school. Look at stats.|
The last question asked if you had ever given a cash donation in a school board race. The majority of you had not, and those that had, only a handful of times. You can rectify that, you know. All you have to do is go to tcforschools.com. Just saying. Here are the write-in votes:
|any day to get a new board||1|
|Not often enough; will participate more in future.||1|
|Only for Weber, Frogge and Speering|
And that’s a wrap. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Feedback is always welcome and I will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.
I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge.Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. 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. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can. Early voting starts in just a couple of weeks.