Love is an angry thing
It’ll tear your heart to pieces
And love is a crazy thing
It’ll tear you down when you least expect it a general rule -Anthony Hamilton, Love is an Angry Thing
When angry count four; when very angry, swear.
– Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar
I try not to write angry, though I challenge you to watch the above video and not become angry yourself. Over the last 5 years, I have only had a couple of incidents were I banged something out while inflamed. Today is a little different. As evidenced by the video, there are a number of things transpiring that I take moral issue with. Things that make my blood boil and so if some of the passion spills over, I apologize in advance. Frankly though, I’m kind of impressed with myself that after 5 years, with all I’ve seen, I can still get pissed. That alone should be testament to my love for public education and MNPS.
There’s a lot going on so let’s dive in here without wasting time.
First up, it is progress report day in MNPS. Well, for some it is. In case there was any doubt, let me clarify, I hate the Elementary School progress report, and doubt I will find any more pleasure or satisfaction in the middle school reports. The over dependence on the standards makes me absolutely nuts. Let me be equally clear that none of what follows is meant to be a reflection on the performance of my children’s teachers, or really any of MNPS’s teachers. It is pure and simply a condemnation of a system created by people who don’t spend enough time with teachers or families.
That said, looking at the progress report. I see that my son, who is in third grade, has a 75% in ELA. Whoa…that’s not good. Looking closer I see that there is only one assessment tied to one standard…
|Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using an effective technique, such as descriptive details and clear event sequences.|
So he actually doesn’t have a 75 or a C in ELA, he has a 75 on that one standard based on one assessment. Is that one standard all they did during the first 5 weeks? No, we all know that there was all kinds of orienting and assessing transpiring. Looking at the assessment itself I see that he got 9 out of 12 questions right, doesn’t sound bad, but it is a 75%.
Last year I didn’t pay as much attention because my daughter always got 90’s and above, and I really didn’t understand the progress report, so I just shrugged and moved on. Now that I’ve spent some time diving into this Frankenstein monster version of grading to standards, I’ve become deeply frustrated. I don’t feel that I get an accurate picture of my son’s learning based on his performance on one standard tied to one assessment. Granted he will get a chance to retake that test and improve, but it’s still not an accurate reflection of where he is in his learning.
To complicate things even more, we as his parents are very excited because through limit libraries he has been bitten by the reading bug as of late. He loves picking his books out every week and for the first time ever he is reading while riding in the car of his own volition. This morning he read to me about the Denver Broncos. To me that is much more indicative of where he is academically than that he got 9 out of 12 on one writing assessment tied to one standard, but that is not reflected anywhere on his progress report.
If I did not understand grading to the standards, I would see that 75% and think, “Holy shit! He’s struggling.” Than I would see the district’s fear mongering stat about kids not reading on grade level by third grade and I would think, “Oh no! He’s doomed to a life of destitution and poverty. I must do something!” When the reality is he’s got a 75% on one ELA standard based on one assessment. I know I’m repeating myself, but I don’t think it can be repeated enough.
Who knows what was going on with him that one day the assessment was given? Perhaps that day he decided he was more interested in what he’d watched on TV the night before instead of writing a narrative to develop real or imagined experiences. Who knows if he would have taken it the next day and gotten 10 out of 12? Or 8 out of 12? How is that reflective of 5 weeks of work?
On Social Studies I see he got a 81.83%. I look and that score is based on one map test. A test that addressed 2 standards and he got 9-11 right on it. In this case he scores low on one test and he gets double dinged. Huh?
Again, this is no fault of our teachers. It’s the system that’s been put in place. They are doing what they can to navigate it but then parents are left to their own devices to navigate it from the other side. Individual schools may have conducted informational sessions, but there has been no district wide initiative to educate parents on what these progress reports actually mean. Remember that equity gap? Yea, another one of those phrases we like to repeat but seldom take steps to combat.
The other thing that gets me is these damn SEL standards. These are listed out in the portal and 4 or 5 random ones are picked and kids receive a score of “DR” or “DO” on the progress report, which I think means “demonstrates regularly” and “demonstrates occasionally”. Or it could mean “demonstrates often”. I don’t know, I can’t find a key, but I’m going with “demonstrates occasionally”.
Peter got a “DO” in “responsible decision-making”. WTF does that mean?!? It could probably be argued that if you followed his old man around for 5 weeks you’d give him a similar grade.
Here’s another scenario, and again I’m not putting this on his teacher. Peter has been doing back flips off of heights lately. Last week he did one-off of the play group equipment and almost got himself banned from the play ground. I think it is safe to say, that a reasonable person would describe that at as irresponsible decision-making. But…my wife and I have instilled in our kids since they were old enough to walk, that all decisions come with consequences. And as long as you understand those consequences and willingly accept them, you are making responsible decisions. As a result my kids take calculated risks. I would argue this is the definition of responsible decision-making.
This is the root of my biggest argument with SEL, what do you do when a definition at school conflicts with the definition at home? Which gives?
Now I’m sure that he didn’t earn his grade based on one incident and I’m sure at times he does make irresponsible decisions. There is also a part of me that is fine with that, some times bad decisions lead to better decisions and perhaps we’d be better served if we helped kids navigate that process as opposed to grading them and encouraging them to only make responsible decisions. After all, some may argue that our very nation was founded on a series of irresponsible decisions.
I guess I should be pleased that my kids are even getting progress reports today. Middle school parents were greeted this morning with a message from MNPS informing them that progress reports wouldn’t be coming home until the end of September, about report card time. So think about the irony here, our superintendent sends a letter to the TNDOE about the failings of TNReady while the district has repeatedly failed to deliver progress reports in a timely manner. Facepalm. You have one job.
I had an interesting conversation last night with a parent who has been doing her own digging into MAP testing. She is the mother of a dyslexic child and found out by accident that her child would not be getting the testing accommodations, that are in their IEP, on the MAP test. Keep in mind that these accommodations are built-in to the MAP testing, so there is no issue with technology here. The people who make the test clearly understand the validity of the accommodations that MNPS is saying students can’t have.
Needless to say this parent wasn’t satisfied with a rote answer and pushed back. Eventually they were told that MAP was being used as a screener and that’s why the accommodations couldn’t be given. She then picked up the phone and called NWEA, the people who make the MAP test. She got a nice young man on the phone who explained to her that there are two versions of MAP, one can be used as a screener, and one shows growth, but neither does both. Of course she made him repeat that a couple of times and he reaffirmed his statement. For the record, we administer the growth model.
Apparently though, MNPS has a special version that does everything. It screens for learning disabilities, it shows growth, it justifies policy, it can be used for magnet school entry criteria, and it can screen for gifted. Pretty cool huh?
No, it’s not. Not only are we using a potentially valuable tool in a manner it was never designed for, as a formative assessment meant to guide instruction, but we are shooting it up with steroids and completely bastardizing it. It’s unconscionable that we would use something that was intended to facilitate kid’s learning and hijack it to use as a tool to justify adult decisions on policy. That move may not be illegal, but it is certainly morally bankrupt.
Here’s my last rub on it. Paul Changus, director of assessments for MNPS, stood up at the last board meeting at proclaimed that nobody puts words in his mouth, yet he says nothing when we continually use an assessment tool in a manner that does not best serve kids. Inexcusable.
There is a board meeting coming up next Tuesday and the agenda is a doozy. We’ve been repeatedly told that the district has no money. Numerous trainings have been canceled and principals in schools whose enrolments were under projected are having to fight for money. Yet, we’ve got an extra $350K to give to Arbinger, “For the provision of monthly engagements with Central Office leaders and staff, and quarterly support for the Board to deepen understandings and skills related to shifting mindset and behavior of the District resulting in visible changes in practices and improved District culture as reflected in culture survey data and performance metrics.” This despite the survey taken this summer showing that only 3% of central office employees feel they work in a trusting environment.
Raise your hand if you knew that Dr. Sharon Gentry does work for the Arbinger Institute. I wonder if she’ll recuse herself from the vote on this one.
We’ve got $300k to give to Conexión Américas, “For the provision of a full-time Youth Development Specialist (YDS) at John Overton High School to provide support services to newly arrived immigrant students.” Taking nothing away from Conexion, they do fabulous work, but is this really something that needs to be outsourced? Should a hispanic focused non-profit be the vehicle used for this service when large swaths of our new comer population comes from Asia and the Middle East? On this one, new board member Gini Pupo-Walker works for Conexion, so same question as above applies.
Per board member Pupo-Walker Walker….The Conexion contract is for $60,000 for up to 5 yrs to work with 100+ unaccompanied minors who have enrolled in Overton in the last year. They are mostly teen males from Central America, and Overton has struggled to help them. Overton chose to put out an RFP to get additional help providing tiered interventions for them and we submitted a proposal. We were awarded the contract after a review process. We will provide one full time staff member to be housed at Overton to work with the students on academics, support, social adjustments, trauma, conflict mediation, staff training, and much more. It’s an honor to be awarded the contract and we are humbled to have the opportunity to help these students.
I still stand by the questioning and I’m sure it is not the last time the question will arise as Conexion works closely with MNPS. I have no doubt that Gini Pupo-Walker will answer future questions in an equally transparent manner. Thanks for the quick response.
Why stop with those two new contracts though? We have three million for Plant the Seed, “For the provision of garden-based learning curriculum and support, including but not limited to, design and construction of the program, delivery of the lessons and provision of the educational supplies, on site assistance in maintaining the program, professional development for the teachers, and availability to participate in family or MNPS engagements. Contract can be utilized by any MNPS school or charter school.”
Again, probably a wonderful organization and curriculum that provides some wonderful opportunities, but at $3 million dollars? I’ve done quite a few community gardens in the past. Everybody loves them in April. $3 million is a lot of money for an underfunded school system.
PASSAGE Committees proposed policy to end suspensions, arrests, and expulsions for Nashville’s youngest students (pre-K – 4) will be considered by the MNPS Board of Education’s Policy Governance Committee before the board meeting at 4:00 pm.
I would urge caution with this one. Why are we taking a tool out of principals tool box with out replacing it with another tool? According to the graphic, there were only 4 expulsions last year, which I would argue is pretty good. What were the infractions that led to those expulsions? Were they level 500 violations?What’s the plan of action for those kids left in the classroom? Are we going to bring back in-school suspension?
Obviously no one supports suspending or arresting small kids. But again the devil is in the details. why were these kids arrested? What’s the plan to get them the supports they need. How are we going to ensure the safety of all kids and teachers?
On the good news front, MNPS has chosen to opt out of the portfolio process for Fine Arts teachers. The process was fraught with problems and so MNPS elected not to proceed 2018-2019. Now if only the same could be said about the kindergarten and first grade portfolios.
The Tennessee Board of Education will be reviewing the cases of teacher misconduct that Director Shawn Joseph failed to report to the state. This will be new territory for them to get into, as seldom have they had cause to discipline a superintendent. New legislation passed this summer give them the tools to do so. If the state board does find cause to punish Joseph, they could choose to reprimand, suspend, revoke or refuse to issue Joseph’s teaching license. So it’s kinda a big deal. One that should probably be discussed at a board meeting.
The district is continuing to try to place the blame for the failure to report on a former HR specialist, as spokeswoman Dawn Rutledge claims, “The responsibility to generate the paperwork necessary for the director to report any such final actions to the state lay with an individual who is no longer employed” by the district.
The problem with this defense is two-fold. First of all only Dr. Joseph knows what the final punishment is and only Dr. Joseph can sign the paperwork. So the process begins and ends with Dr. Joseph. That is the HR portion of the issue, and the state has no interest in that part. The issue that the state is concerned with is the licensure portion and in that area the law is clear, the superintendent must report the infractions to the state. Period. This one could stretch out to the beginning of 2019 before resolved. Maybe the board will send Joseph’s discipline letter to Chalkbeat instead of directly to him. Sorry couldn’t resist.
On Tuesday board chair Anna Shepherd tweeted the following in response to a tweet by Joey Garrison referencing a comment made by CM Russ Pulley during a council meeting on the pending legislation over a proposed soccer stadium.
Two days ago an email campaign began asking board members to consider terminating Dr. Joseph’s contract. The emails are coming from MNPS parents and community members that are concerned about the issues facing our schools. I think it’s safe to say they are versed in those issues.
Here’s Christiane Buggs response to one of those parents. Hmmm…do you notice any commonality?
Apparently we are shocked that CM’s don’t think community members are smart enough to understand council issues, but parents need to be empowered to begin to understand school issues. Which I don’t even understand what that word means in this context, so I’m going to chalk it up to the early morning hour in which the response was made.
Here’s another one that baffles me. We are so concerned that criticizing the director of schools could be construed as racism that we are willing to engage in racist behavior. How else would classify the belief that the black community is incapable in participating in a conversation about the superintendent’s performance without turning it into a racial issue? That’s a little offensive isn’t it? I’ve engaged with quite a few member’s of the black community about Dr. Joseph’s performance and while their opinions are somewhat varied, all can separate performance from the color of his skin. May be we should all stop being so afraid and step up to the plate.
Things are getting interesting with the priority school list. According to Chalkbeat, there will be 3 lists this year. One list — Tennessee’s highly anticipated roster of “priority schools,” which perform in the bottom 5 percent — will exclude scores from last school year’s beleaguered TNReady assessment. Issued every three years, this roster will serve as the basis for determining state interventions and supports for at least the next year.
To satisfy federal law, a new CSI list, which stands for Comprehensive Support and Improvement, will identify the state’s bottom 5 percent of schools based on test results from all three years. This roster will determine opportunities for additional federal funding through several school improvement grants.
The other new accountability list, called ATSI for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement, will be based solely on last school year’s TNReady data. This list will identify schools with the lowest performance across student groups such as black, Hispanic, or Native Americans, or those who are economically disadvantaged, English learners, or have disabilities. ATSI replaces, for now, the state’s previously planned “focus school” list under its original ESSA plan.
Complex enough for you? Make sure you read the whole article.
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