I heard that you were talking shit
And you didn’t think that I would hear it
People hear you talking like that, getting everybody fired up
So I’m ready to attack, gonna lead the pack
Gonna get a touchdown, gonna take you out
That’s right, put your pom-poms down, getting everybody fired up – Gwen Steffani, “Holla Back Girl”
That’s the tune that started running through my head as I read the reply letter from Candace McQueen to Shelbly County Director of Schools Dorsey Hopson and Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph. Last week the two of them thought that through a ghost writer they could make a holla back girl out of Dr. McQueen. I say that since Dr. McQueen has yet to receive said letter, “Let me begin by sharing my disappointment that the letter you addressed to Governor Haslam and me has been shared widely in the media but has yet to actually be shared with the Governor or me.” Really bad form.
Upon initial release of the letter sent to McQueen, I raised a number of concerns. In a letter dripping with southern hospitality, McQueen wastes little time shredding Hopson and Joseph’s arguments. Pointing out that if they actually attended meetings they might know that there are already Tennessee teachers involved in the creation of TNReady. The purchase of technology argument, which made me laugh aloud when I first read it, is also quickly dismissed, “To suggest that an investment in technology is limited to online testing shows a misunderstanding of the increasing role of technology in education and undervalues the great work many of your teachers have done to enhance their teaching through technology.” Ouch.
Look, I’m no fan of McQueen’s but if we are ever going to make meaningful change to education policy, we have to demand more from our quarterbacks. You can’t have a game plan that consists of nothing but “Hail Mary’s” and expect to win the game. Yet that’s what they threw up, and not just a hail mary, but one that stunk of CYA.
Over at TNEd report Andy Spears offered his analysis of the back forth. Spears takes an exception to McQueen’s claim that halting TnReady would violate federal law,
Let’s be clear: The Tennessee Department of Education is the enforcer of the state testing mandate. The DOE could refuse to penalize districts who paused testing OR the DOE could take the suggestion made by Dorsey Hopson of Memphis and Shawn Joseph of Nashville and just hit the pause button for this year and work toward an effective administration of testing for 2019-20.
He continues to argue that the federal government tends to leave decisions regarding punishment up to the states. And the problems with testing have not been limited to Tennessee.
I get the issues with the test. But you can’t just say, “The test sucks, look at my MAP scores”, which is what Joseph seems to be proposing. You have to look at the data and evaluate what is useful and what is not. In my eyes there is information revealed by the tests that needs to be pulled out and examined a lot closer.
Most of the reporting on results uses percentages to convey results. I believe that is intentional by design in order to dehumanize the results. For example, if I say that 1.8% of black kids between grades 3-5 scored at a “mastery” level, it’s concerning. But what if I tell you that out of nearly 8k kids across the district only 142 scored at a mastered level. That’s makes things a little more disturbing to me, as it comes to less than 2 kids per school.
Looking at Hispanic kids it is even worse. Out of 4800 kids, 83 are on the “mastered level”. You good with that?
Conversely, white kids grade 3-5, out of 5563 kids 625 scored mastery. Still not great shakes, but a damned sight better than 83, or 143.
So why is that? I don’t know, but I certainly believe it needs to be addressed. If the test is so bad that so few can reach mastery, and some will argue that it is, why are we subjecting kids to it? Going back to the teacher advisory committee, why are they letting a test go through that one a minuscule amount of kids can score mastery?
Some would argue that mastery is not a good indicator, we should look at on track as well. Why? The test is given in the Spring, towards the end of the year, shouldn’t the goal be to “master” each grade levels subject content by the end of the year? Doesn’t “on track” mean that students will be entering their next grade trying to catch up and master last years subject matter? How does that play forward?
I looked at high school numbers for black kids and out of nearly 6800 tests only 122 scored mastery. For Hispanics, it’s 2966 kids producing valid tests and only 66 kids producing mastery numbers. That certainly doesn’t indicate anybody catching up to me.
It’s hard to find comparison numbers in districts across the state because few have similar sizes of Black and Hispanic populations. Though examining other Tennesse urban districts paints a similar picture. If you look at Shelby County, you’ll see they produce similar results but with double the number of black kids. Hispanic numbers are comparable. Hamilton County, with smaller numbers, produces slightly worse, but still comparable numbers to MNPS and Shelby County. Knox County writes the same story.
Montgomery County, which is Clarksville, produces slightly better numbers. Out of 2502 Black kids, 112 showed mastery. With Hispanic kids it’s 81 showing mastery out of 1046. These numbers shouldn’t produce dancing in streets, but they should fuel a deeper conversation. What is Clarksville doing that the other urban counties are not doing? Obviously socio-economic factors are coming into pay, but clearly Clarksville is doing a better job at mitigating those factors and perhaps tailoring curriculum.
What if instead of sending nasty-grams to the press, the state’s urban superintendents sat down with members of the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition and discussed these numbers and how the test appears to not be serving the needs of black/hispanic kids. Either TNReady is not giving an accurate portrait of achievement or instructional practices, and/or socio-economic needs have to be further addressed. Based on a perfunctory look something seems to be going on. Than, what if after they reached a conclusion, they went to the TNDOE and presented a united front on why the testing/instruction wasn’t working? Might that not be more productive?
We spend so much time vilifying each other and not nearly enough time looking for collaboration. Admittedly, at times I’m guilty as well, but based on my observations of the data, there is a lot of room for collaboration and we owe it to schools to explore those opportunities.
I’m sure right now, there are readers shaking their head and saying, “TC, TC, you are looking at things all wrong. That’s not how you read results.”
Maybe I am reading them wrong, but that’s how I read them as a parent. These are the questions I would ask as a parent. I don’t care how you look at results, having only 143 black kids achieve mastery in a school district the size of Nashville, is not acceptable to me. And it shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone else.
INSTEAD OF WHAT YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DO, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?
On the agenda for today’s MNPS School Board meeting is a proposed policy that will prevent MNPS from suspending any child between the grade levels of K-4. There are no shortage of studies that demonstrate the damage done to kids when they are continuously removed from the class room. Studies also show that there are a disportioncate number of black and brown kids that are suspended. Today’s proposal is framed with those facts in the background and the implied supposition is that you are either for this policy, or you are for the suspending of kids between k-4.
I most certainly am not a supporter of suspending kids between grades k-4. But neither am I supporter for this policy. As with everything, the devil is in the details and there are way too many missing.
What are we going to do with kid’s that are kept in the classroom despite committing egregious offenses? We all recognize that too many kids are entering the classroom suffering from severe trauma. They need professional services. Schools are not equipped to provide those services. So how are we going to serve them?
No offense to teachers, you are about as caring and willing a lot as could be imagined, but teachers are not equipped to provide adequate social emotional services to students suffering from severe trauma. I applaud the efforts the district has made in the realm of social emotional learning, though it’d be nice if they gave the department a budget, but no amount of restorative circles or 4 hour PD sessions are going to make teachers qualified caregivers.
That means schools need increased social services through licensed psychologists and counselors. There is no mention of that in the announcement for the proposed policy. So what are we going to do for kids?
Furthermore, I believe that all teacher have the right to teach in a safe environment and all students have the right to learn in a safe environment. What’s the plan to keep kids who commit violent infractions in school and ensure safety for all students? Is there increased funding for SRO’s? Again no details about our promise to all students, just a proclamation of a promise to a limited number of students.
Instead of proposing policy that says what we are not going to do, why don’t we propose policy that says what we are going to do? How about we promise to fully equip schools with the resources to get kids the help they need? How about we promise to meet the needs of all students?
Tonight’s meeting is another example of stacking the comments program. There are 10 people speaking in support of this proposal and zero against. Does that mean everyone supports this proposal? No, it just means that only supporters were made aware of the pending presentation in time to sign up to speak.
I see that MNPS leadership is on the program, did they even run this by membership? I know plenty of teachers who are a little alarmed at this policy proposition. Is this just one more example where the current leadership makes decisions without input from members?
Let’s see what happens. Proponents argue that this is just the beginning and that they fully intend to focus on things we plan to do for kids and not just on what we are not going to do. They refer to today’s action as a conversation starter in which all people will be invited to the table. There are some very good people involved in this initiative and there should be some optimism around it.
Regardless of the outcome, I still disagree with the process of stacking the comment agenda. It is not congruent with democratic principles and as such, should not be an acceptable practice for anyone. Before something of this magnitude is brought to the floor, ample notification should be given to all parties. This would ensure robust conversation by all.
HUMAN RESOURCE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES
Last night, Channel 5 News reporter Phil Williams aired his latest report on the mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations by MNPS’s HR department. This report focuses on an interview with head of HR Debra Story and it’s nothing short of embarrassing. In the interview Story touts the newly created anonymous tip line, only to moments later confess that they don’t investigate anonymous tips. The exchange reads like an Abbott and Costello episode.
“You’re saying that people can make anonymous complaints.”
“Yeah, they can,” she answered.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, “But Dr. Joseph is saying we don’t do investigations based on anonymous complaints.”
Story’s response: “If somebody’s being accused of something, you can ask a question of that person: did you do this? That person could say yes or no, but you would have no way to corroborate it.”
Could HR not interview the employees in that person’s department?
“Possibly,” Story said, “but you run the risk of — if it’s not a valid complaint — you run the risk of perhaps characterizing that person in a way that’s not fair.”
The pain doesn’t stop there as questions arise about the investigation that was done into allegations against Joseph’s friend Mo Carassco.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Story, “Did Dr. Joseph tell you that he had been told there was a problem with Mo Carrasco?”
“We did a full investigation on Mo Carrasco,” she insisted.
We pushed, “Yes or no, did Dr. Joseph tell you?”
Again, she deflected, “We did a full investigation on Mo Carrasco.”
NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, “So you are not going to say whether Dr. Joseph told you about that complaint or not?”
Her answer: “I say, we did the investigation.”
“Months later,” we noted.
“When we got a complaint, a written complaint, with names involved, we did an investigation.”
One only has to watch the story to understand that current HR leadership is in way over their head. It would behove Dr. Joseph to recognize that and perhaps, make changes at the top less the dumpster keeps burning.
MNPS has an update out to information on the Community Eligibility Program. Check out if your school is eligible for free lunch or not.
Does putting pressure on schools produce better results? Maybe not says a brand new study. “These results suggest that the ratcheting [up] of test-based accountability pressures alone is not enough to sustain improvements in student achievement,” conclude researchers Vivian Wong, Coady Wing, David Martin, and Anandita Krishnamachari. Check out the whole article.
It is football time in Tennessee. That includes high school football. Gone are the days when games were the centerpiece of the weekend social calendar. That doesn’t mean they are not still good for a pleasant start to the week-end. Do yourself a favor and check out the action this year.
The Scarlet Foundation has created a new resource for parents. Their site called Nashville Education Facts takes a deep dive into the individual school districts of Nashville. I’ve spent a little bit of time with the tool trying to get a gauge of its usefulness and I’m still a little unsure of its value for more than just trivia. I admittedly didn’t know the discrepancy in size between the individual districts. For example, District 8 has 4785 students while district 6 has 10765. What that means, I’m not sure. Some of the other facts are interesting but in the case of some, i.e. teacher attrition, they come directly from the district so I’m not sure of their veracity. All in all though, I appreciate the information being centralized.
Local teaching legend Scott Bennett who now resides in South Africa has a new blog post out. I recommend it.
In keeping with our testing motif, national blogger Steven Singer does us all a favor by listing the 10 Reasons You Can’t use Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers.
Lot’s of responses again to this weekend’s poll questions. Let’s take a look at results.
The first question relates to the aforementioned HR crises and asked whether you thought HR number 2 Sharon Pertiller should be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into how HR handled internal investigations into sexual misconduct allegations. 170 of you responded and the majority of you thought somebody should be placed on administrative leave. 60 of you favored Pertiller, but 66 of you felt that it should be Joseph himself. Only 4 of you felt that nobody should be placed on leave.
Here are the write-ins,
|A snake who needs to quit! ASAP||1|
|Both she and Doctor Joseph while their is an investigation.||1|
|All parties involved should be held accountable||1|
|If allegations are true, she should be fired.||1|
|Hell yeah. And Joseph, too||1|
|All of HR should be wiped clean.||1|
|She should be terminated…totally clueless.||1|
|Joseph and Pertiller both.||1|
|She should be fired. She came from corporate, Corporate doesn’t do admin leaves.||1|
|Absolutely. Why can people at Bransford do whatever they please? ACCOUNTABILITY|
Question 2 asked how you rated board chair Anna Shepherd’s leadership over the last year. Out of 158 responses, 73 of you gave her leadership an F and another 38 rated it a D. Only 2 people gave it an A, and 9 a B. That’s what happens when you don’t address major issues. Here are the write-ins,
|F… out of touch with the reality of major problems wiith MNPS||1|
|F. I refused to vote for her. Wrote in Anyone Else|
The last question asked for your opinion on the Tennessean’s coverage of MNPS. This one received 168 responses. 63 of you felt it was the best PR firm Joseph had ever hired. 54 of you were a little kinder but no less disappointed, noting that the Tennessean sure seemed to miss a lot. More telling was that not a single person felt coverage was excellent. Here are the write-ins,
|Pitiful! No wonder no one reads the Tennessean for real MNPS coverage.||1|
|Do they cover MNPS?||1|
|Completely checked out.||1|
|John Seigenthaler’s spirit left Broadway long ago.||1|
|Not very good.||1|
|Who is Shawn Joseph paying off? Tick tock. His time is coming. Soon.|
And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. have a great week!