Once again we have arrived at the end of another week. That may appear to be a case of stating the obvious, but lately that doesn’t seem to be a given. A whole lot got crammed into this week, let’s see how much of it we can cover.
We’ll start with the releasing of this year’s TNReady scores. Let me throw a little warning flag up here. Those of you in the “TNReady is worthless crap” camp may not like today’s post so much. While I’m certainly no testing fan, for me the world is not as black and white as some may like to paint it. I tend to find a whole lot of gray out here.
Two week’s ago Will Pinkston, oops, I mean MNPS Director Shawn Joseph and Shelby County Chief of Schools Dorsey Hopson sent a letter to the press calling TNReady worthless to the press hoping to catch TN State Director of Education Candace McQueen’s attention and hopefully kick up enough dust that nobody would talk results. It worked.
After the letter hit, everybody with a keyboard, or a microphone, weighed in. Consider the dust kicked up. Into the maelstrom, TNReady results were released and for MNPS it was a mixed bag, There were some positive results but the district scored a composite TVAAS of 1 due to low high school scores.
I spent a couple of hours yesterday going through the data and I want to reiterate that there are some good stories in there. More good stories then I initially thought there would be. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because the resiliency of Nashville teachers and administrators is the stuff of legend. Contained in last years stories are testimony to some incredible hard work and a dedication that should not be summarily written off because you think the test is crap. Some examples,
- Tusculum ES, a school with a high poverty level and a high concentration of EL students, that was previously in the lower 10% of the state scored 5’s across the board. One of only 65 schools across the state to do so.
- Whitsitt ES, another school with a high concentration of poverty and EL students, that was previously on the priority list scored a composite score of 4 and will surely exit the priority school list this year.
- John F Kennedy Middle School, a school whose leadership is currently embroiled in crisis, still managed to achieve 5″s in both Literacy and Science.
- McMurray MS, which has basically been a construction site all year, overcame significant obstacles in order to achieve a composite score of 5.
- Eakin ES, a school that was led for most of the year by the AP Mary Holland, managed to score 5’s across the board.
- Charlotte Park, a school where just 3 years ago things were so bad the that 6 weeks before the end of school the principal had to be walked out of the building , scored 5’s across the board.
- Valor Academy scored 5’s across the board. Maybe they are a charter school, but those are MNPS students achieving at high levels under an MNPS banner.
- Una, Glenn, and Swabb ES, all scored composite scores of 5.
Those are just a few of the stories, and if I missed your school, please correct me in the comments. Those scores weren’t achieved just because a magic fairy came a long and touched them with a wand. They did the work. Teachers did the work and self sacrificed and should be damn proud of their work. Students did the work and should be extremely proud of it as well.
Now do the results tell everything about that school? Did those who did not hit the high marks not sacrifice and sweat blood and tears? No and of course they did. The scores are just a snap shot of what goes on a school at a given moment. Like any other snap shot, you can’t just look at one picture and pronounce the definitive evaluation. But if I showed you a handful of pictures and one of them happened to catch me in a better light than in the others, would you just those it out , or would you say, “This is really good picture of you”? And we’d both smile and enjoy the moment.
I hope we get to a place where the emphasis on standardized testing is diminished, but there are so few celebrations in public education. Teachers, parents, advocates, will testify that it often feels like you are always fighting something. That’s why I think it’s important to celebrate the victories when they come. If you are a school that did well, celebrate while realizing that the race is not over. If you area school that did not do well, evaluate. Take what’s valid. Leave what’s not. Build for the future. Celebrate the success of your peers and their stories. I am unabashedly proud of my wife and her teammates. Theirs and other’s stories deserve to be told.
Unfortunately, since the director of schools told us all that the scores were crap, we can’t tell those stories ourselves. Knox County Schools are telling their story. Greeneville County Schools are telling their story. Cleveland County Schools are telling their story. Chattanooga Schools are telling their story. Even Memphis schools are telling their story. Nashville is leaving it to the Tennessean’s Jason Gonzales to tell our story. A story without one quote from our director. After all Pinkston’s, I mean, Joseph’s letter said it all, right?
Gonzalez’s story chooses to focus on abysmal high school scores and rightfully so, they are extremely concerning. These scores’ would seem to indicate that a lot of good work and progress made over the last several years is being undone. That’s something a director of schools might want to speak to.
But that said, there are also some elements to the story that a director might want to help explain. Did you know that students enrolled in the advanced academic programs generally do not take EOC exams?
At Overton High School this year 16 kids earned the prestigious Cambridge AICE Diploma. Up from 12 in 2017. The overall pass rate was 67%. Slightly lower than last year, but still better than the national average. Last year was exceptionally good, and therefore would have been tough to match.
At Hillsboro HS the cohort averages a 26 on ACT. I think it’s safe to say that if you added those scores into the results, things would look a little different. Pearl Cohn saw growth in a number of areas and Hunters Lane saw 37 points of growth in Chemistry.
So perhaps instead of sending meaningless memos to the state via the press, our director of schools could be adding some context to our stories. Owning failings where they exist and offering context where needed. That doesn’t mean accepting policy as is. It means playing long ball and understanding that narrative matters and that policy change can only come if you are in the game and actually participating.
In this day and age most people are wise to the strategy of diversion. They can spot it better than they can spot fake news. They see right through efforts to distract. What they want is transparency, details, and focus. Central ingredients of quality leadership and things that are sorely lacking in MNPS right now.
OUR SAVIOR MAP
Round these parts we love us some MAP testing. It’s become the chicken soup of the soul for MNPS. I already predicted how leadership was going to try to use it as a supplement for TNReady. But they have also decided that it makes a great universal screener and a qualifier for magnet school admission. We try to use it for everything but what it was intended for, a formative assessment designed to guide instruction.
As much as we love MAP, we seem to be about as good at administrating it as the state is at administrating TNReady. In two year’s we’ve yet to give it with fidelity. One year it was given after TNReady, then last year citing test fatigue, we moved the administration up to February. I’m not sure on what day of statistics 101 the concept of assigning a meaning to a one time occurrence was covered…but I digress. Last year the district attempted to instruct ELL teachers to not allow the accommodations that students are awarded on TNReady. That didn’t go far once teachers informed administrators that they were feeling compelled to share those instructions with TNDOE officials.
This year, it’s special educations turn as we are trying to test students with disabilities sans their accommodations that are listed in their IEP?The district will allow them for math but not reading. For example, kids that are visually impaired will not have the text read to them for reading as they do with TNReady. Neither will kids with dyslexia. This is despite the fact that NWAE has built these accommodations into MAP testing.
Some of the defenses that have been raised are that MAP is being used as a screener and that its not a high stakes test. Weeeellllll…if my child already has been identified with a learning disability and an IEP been created with the state, why do I need another screening? I would also argue that MAP is very much a high stakes test. Once it’s results were designated as a key performance it assumed that role. Decouple it from the KPI and I’ll bite on the myth of it not being high stakes.
I think it’s cruel to sit kids down for a test were the results are completely predictable. For the life of me, I can’t understand why a professional educator would sanction such an action. The cynic in me suspects that prior to the 2nd round of MAP testing the accommodations will be miraculously restored and we’ll marvel at the growth these kids made. I certainly hope I am wrong.
It’s a shame that we are misusing MAP to the extent that we are. When used properly, MAP offers teachers great insight that can lead to better differentiated instruction. Our current practice is squandering a valuable resource.
Early in the year I told you about mNPS raising the rates on buses for field trips and outings. Consider this Facebook post from a Hillsboro HS mom,
MNPS families, I learned this factoid tonight —
Metro Nashville Public Schools increased the cost for bus use for things like field trips, sports team travel, band competition travel and the like by 50 PERCENT for the school year! The increase is effective starting July 1, 2018, but they only alerted teachers, etc., on August 1 — well after budgets have been made, etc.
I’m on the Hillsboro High School Marching Burros band booster board, and we had allotted $2,400 to travel to competitions this year. We were told on August 1 that effective JULY 1, that the cost had increased so much that we are now looking at $5,000 in bus travel costs. In case you’re unversed in this sort of thing, a $2,600 unexpected increase is SIGNIFICANT. That’s a lot of car washes, recycling events, and Smart Card sales.
Here’s where that communications thing raises its head again. Rates on buses haven’t been raised for years, so the rate hike was probably overdue. That said, perhaps back in the spring notes could have gone out to parent groups, boosters, and teachers alerting them to what was coming down the pike? Surely back then somebody looked at somebody else and said, “I bet people are planning Fall events right now based on existing prices. We need to let them know so they don’t get caught short.” Or maybe not?
I don’t think that anticipation is too much to ask, especially considering the fact that we pay the top 5 positions in communications over a half million dollars. Makes me holler.
What do you do if your department is under fire for gross mismanagement and you just went on channel 5 and conducted an interview that played like a SNL skit? Well if you are the Chief Executive Officer for the MNPS Human Resource Department you go on a multi-week out of the country vacation. Good work if you can get it. Better work if you can keep it.
What do you do if you are an MNPS administrator and you are placed on administrative leave for gross misconduct? Why you retire of course. Today the head of MNPS security joins the growing ranks of retired MNPS administrators. I appreciate you.