IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG

3

“Was it all inevitable, John?” Reeve was pushing his fingers across the floor of the cell, seated on his haunches. I was lying on the mattress.

Yes,” I said. “I think it was. Certainly, it’s written that way. The end of the book is there before the beginning’s hardly started.”
Ian Rankin, Knots & Crosses

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”
Edgar Allan Poe

I am a big fan of periodically reviewing history. Our minds are adept at rewriting and even though we lived through an event, much inadvertently gets forgotten or altered. How often do we swear something happened one way, only to read accounts and realize it wasn’t that way all. Or how often have we missed things at the moment, but upon looking at them in review, with educated eyes, we see clearly why things have transpired as they have. It was in this spirit that I used the weekend to revisit MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph’s resume and articles that were written around the time of his candidacy for the job with MNPS.

In looking at his resume, the first thing that caught my eye was the demographic comparison between school districts where Dr. Joseph has worked. Prince George County was made up of 95.5% minority students. Montgomery County is 68%. closer to MNPS’s 70%, with Seaford having 57.8% minority students. However, look at poverty numbers and you’ll find Montgomery County is at 34.2%, Seaford at 58.9%, and Prince George County Schools at 61.5%. Per the 2016/2017 budget book, MNPS’s poverty rate is listed at  75.3%. When it comes to EL students MNPS is at 16.1% while Montgomery Co is at 13.5%, PGCS at 14.2, and Seaford at 11%.

If you just compare numbers in individual categories, it appears that all 4 districts have similar students. But upon closer look, you’ll see that Montgomery County, were Joseph spent the majority of his career, is home to a similar racial makeup of students as MNPS, but much closer to Williamson County Schools when it comes to poverty numbers. PGCS is a whole lot less diverse than MNPS and still less impoverished. Seaford is more diverse than the others but again home to much lower poverty numbers.

When you examine these numbers, you can see that Joseph doesn’t have experience in crafting policy for a district with the poverty levels of MNPS. Therefore it shouldn’t be surprising that the district continues to struggle with addressing the needs of our priority schools.

Of equal interest is the per-pupil spending of each of his previous employers. All 3 spend over $16k per student, with MNPS spending $11,500 per student. That’s roughly 30% less per student, and likely has a big impact on outcomes.

It also bears noting that in Seaford, despite the district spending nearly $17K a student, Joseph felt as if that wasn’t enough and pushed for a county tax increase. When the initiative to raise taxes failed, he left. Here also, it should be noted that Dr. Joseph came to the table with little experience in producing results with fewer resources.

Moving on and continuing to look at his resume, under accomplishments Dr. Joseph lists the following,

Improved ACT performance of students as measured by students achieving the College and Career Readiness Benchmark from 33.4% in 2014-2015 to 38.5% in 2014-2015

Huh?!? I’m assuming the 2014-2015 mentioned at the end is actually supposed to be 2015-2016, no big deal, but beyond that, I thought I recently heard board chair Dr. Gentry tell everyone at the last MNPS board meeting that a jump of this magnitude was statistically impossible. So how did Dr. Joseph pull this feat off at PGCS? Why are we not employing the same strategies here at MNPS?  If this growth was used as a selling point on his resume, isn’t it reasonable to hold him to the same expectations in his current role?

I’m also a little puzzled because when I look at the Maryland state report card for PGCS, I don’t see that jump reflected. In fact, the scores don’t look dissimilar to the scores in MNPS; a small trend upwards but basically flat. A trend that continued even after Joseph’s departure. So was it Joseph or the system.

I encourage you to go on the Maryland Report Card site and look at the results for individual Prince George County school performance on the ACT. The site allows you to see scores for the last decade. A review of PGCS performance probably indicates what we can expect from MNPS schools under Joseph’s tutelage.

Here’s the next item that caught my eye,

Led efforts to develop a comprehensive literacy plan focusing on improving reading, writing, and reasoning across all content areas K-12 modeled after the Brockton High School turnaround model in Massachusetts

Hmmm…what is this “Brockton High School Model” and how close does MNPS’s current literacy plan adhere to it? What I found was a fascinating story about a failing high school that made significant improvements. Interestingly enough, a key component of the Brockton model is that they,

“tapped the expertise of its teachers to develop a writing process, focusing initially on a 10-step process for writing an “open response”—an assignment that requires students to read a text and to write an essay responding to a question about the text. The benefit of the “open response” assignment was that it crossed “all disciplinary lines” and offered the opportunity for the biggest bump in improvement. No class or teacher would be exempt—not math, not science or gym.”

Equally worth noting,

Significantly, almost every facet of the literacy strategy was home grown. Just about the only thing for which the literacy committee turned for outside help was in developing an evaluation system. Szachowicz notes that Brockton High’s initiative was highly influenced by Jon Saphier’s Research for Better Teaching, which emphasizes “skillfully and relentlessly” quality monitoring and, in about 2004, hired Saphier’s organization to train administrators in how to evaluate whether the literacy initiative was being properly implemented. Szachowicz estimates that typically the school spent no more than about $35,000 per year on the literacy initiative.

Now that’s a bit different from what we are employing in Nashville. Very little of Nashville’s plan was written by teachers. I looked online for PGCS’s comprehensive literacy plan, but alas I found nothing that reflected the “Brockton Model”. So I’m not sure what Joseph’s plan ended up looking like.

In Seaford, Dr. Joseph claims he implemented the Malcolm Baldrige process for school improvement planning in all schools. I’m not familiar with the Malcolm Baldridge process so it was back to Google to do some research. It was a process that Joseph brought with him from Montgomery County. The Baldrige process allows everyone to have a stake in the education of students. Parents, teachers, students, administrators, and community members work together to build a common vision, mission, core values, and goals that address the needs of all students. It’s a pretty cool concept, but alas not one MNPS is employing.

One more interesting note, on his resume Dr. Joseph includes the following under refereed journal articles,

Joseph, S. & Davis, M. (2016). Becoming a data champion in 6 steps: How a suburban Maryland district uses its data to motivate staff and improve instruction. School Administrator. Alexandria, VA: American Association of School Administrators.

In case you are unclear, refereed or “peer-reviewed” are indicators of the highest level of scholarly writing. They are articles written by experts and are reviewed by several other experts in the field before the article is published in order to ensure the article’s quality. While it is an award-winning monthly magazine”, School Administrator is not a “refereed journal”. So while Dr. Joseph’s article with M. Davis might be a very informative article, I’m not sure it should be included here on his resume. Including it as such was probably just an honest mistake.

Reading through Dr. Joseph’s application packet and the names Dallas Dance and Kevin Maxwell appear quite frequently. In a Washington Post article Joseph is quoted as saying that Maxwell’s “tutelage, care, and support have prepared me to lead a complex, large urban school system like Metro Nashville Public Schools.” A review of Maxwell tenure could be perceived as a warning of what to expect. His administration was rife with scandals that unfortunately now seem all too familiar. 

Dallas Dance was the hotshot young Baltimore Superintendent that got tripped up for perjury. On his resume Joseph cites his work with both Dance, and former Associate Superintendent for Organizational Development in Houston Independent School District Kevin Hobbs as being exemplary. Hobbs went on to become a deputy superintendent with Baltimore Schools.

Hobbs and Dance are cited in sentencing documentation produced by the Maryland Attorney General. In my opinion, In hindsight,Joseph’s close work with either of those two individuals should have been a reason for MNPS to pass.

Looking back it becomes clear that Dr. Josephs resume is reflective of his tenure to date with MNPS; some half-truths, mixed with name dropping and spinning of data, coupled with some questionable associations. Comparing Dr. Josephs leadership over the last two and a half years with his resume gives a clear indication of what the future probably holds. Unfortunately, there aren’t any indications of great progress in that future. We can wish it was different all we want, but the reality is that the future lies within the past.

QUICK HITS

Rumors continue to swirl about whom will be the next Tennessee State Superintendent of Education. There is talk of a plan to bring somebody in from outside the state. Kentucky being the center of those rumors. I’m hoping that is not the case and that Governor-elect Lee chooses someone from the state of Tennessee instead. There are plenty of quality candidates right here at home.

Earlier today I came across this picture attached to a tweet by Dr. Joseph. He was extolling it as evidence of SEL excellence on display. But is it? I’ve read it several times and besides the grammatical errors – I know I’m one to talk – why do we have to single out SES students? What if we replaced “SES” with “Hispanic” or “Female”, would that be acceptable? Why can the white board not just read, “Let’s help our kids with memory and chunk it.” No reason to identify any demographic. It seems to me that would create a better culture. But, what do I know.

Local blogger Vesia Hawkins has woken up to the fact that 2018 is looking a whole lot like 2007. In her latest blog post, she gives a quick review of history minus a few important points. If she wanted to go deeper, all she had to do was read Dad Gone Wild 2 years ago when I first brought to light the similarities.

Hawkins interestingly enough fails to point out that the district went into near state takeover due to a lack of progress under Garcia. Nor that, even though the district was under corrective action by the state, some board members still felt Garcia was doing an adequate job, another repeat of history. She also goes on to repeat the canard that Nashville is more difficult a district to navigate than any other district in the country.

Still all in all, I’m happy to see Hawkins coming to the party late, rather than not at all. Her observations and predictions, save for the trouble finding a viable candidate, concur with mine. I do urge her, and everyone else, to do that Google search and find out about other districts across country and the challenges they face before we turn into Chicken Little. There’s a reason the superintendent job commands a $300k salary and it’s not just to be a spokes model. Nashville is not alone in demanding that a superintendent be all things to all people, nor is it an outlier in the level of passion its citizens bring to the table. And rightfully so, education is too important a subject in which to bring anything less.

Speaking of superintendents and other districts, Denver was supposed to announce their finalists today, instead they announced that the announcement has been postponed until Friday. Curious to see who is on the list.

Andy Spears is looking to tell your story. If you are a Tennessee educator drop him a line and let him share your narrative.

Don’t forget Steve Glover also wants to hear your story. He is holding a community meeting this week and he would love to see you there.

Taking a look at ACT composite results and the number of students that scored over 21. District wide 1404 students scored over 21. Of that 1404, 443 of the scores came from Hume-Fogge or MLK. All but 2 students from Hume-Fogge hit the 21, with only 6 failing to do so at MLK. The next two with the highest number of students over 21 were McGavock and Overton with 133 and 120 respectively.

From board member Anna Shepherd’s Facebook page…

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 27th at 6 p.m. at McGavock HS will be the inaugural PTO/PTA meeting! In all my years at McGavock HS, we have never had this support organization for our students. McGavock parent, Kevin Walker, is organizing this meeting. If you are a MHS parents, know of one, or are a community partner who wants to support our students, please make plans to attend. I will do my best to be there but we have a SB meeting with a packed agenda. Bummer!

If you can make it, please do so.

POLL RESULTS

As we do every Monday, it’s time to look at poll results from the weekend.

The first question asked for your opinion on the new discipline policy. Apparently y’all aren’t fans. 34% of you indicated you thought it was going to make teachers and students less safe. 23% of you pointed out that it was another example of people not in the classroom dictating policy to those who were. Only 1 person said they were optimistic and nobody indicated they fully supported the plan.

The goals of the plan are certainly desirable, but the focus should still be on getting students the services they need. There was nothing in Dr. Joseph’s decree that indicated how student needs would be met, just that they would remain in school.

One thing I have to repeatedly point out is that, intentionally or not, the language surrounding the discussion points to a minority student being suspended from a classroom of white students. That is not an accurate portrayal. The truth is those classrooms are most often populated by other minority students. As a result we are asking our neediest students to sacrifice desperately needed instructional time without a clear-cut plan to provide services to the students demanding their sacrifice.

Without a plan to ensure those children causing disturbances receive services, we also run the risk of exposing children to even more trauma. Many of these children’s home lives are already trauma filled, we should not expect them to come to school and navigate those waters as well. All children deserve to come to a school that feels safe and inviting. This is one airplane that shouldn’t be built while flying.

Let’s take a look at the polls write-ins.

Unfunded mandate. Unlike what was spoken on a radio program, help was cut, not 1
Would be great if the people to make it successful were included in the decree. 1
Show me the policies that govern central office performance and behavior 1
A distraction from root issues. Other districts paying the same lip service too 1
a bit concerning and typically ignoring staff input 1
APs should make the policies 1
why Are these behaviors happening in elementary sc 1
It’s great in theory, but leaves schools at great risk 1
This is how he will claim he lowered suspensions 1
I learned of it through your blog – never was communicated to teachers from admi

 

Question 2 asked about how important you felt it was that the board get along in public. Overwhelmingly, to the tune of 55%, you replied that you were more concerned with the quality of policy. Only 4% of you thought it was important because it affects funding. Here are the write-in votes.

I am very embarrassed about how the board members are treating MNPS staff i 1
Concerned. SRO and plenty of help in middle, NOTHING in ES. 1
Abusers make subjects smile in public so that they may abuse in private. 1
since united seems to be destroying mnps I’m all in on causing a disturbance 1
what new Supt can we get w constant drama? 1
The current situation w/ our board is embarassing 1
Behave AND do their jobs. It’s entirely doable. 1
Being united doesn’t equate to effective-being candid, well informed, trusted, s 1
It only matters to the whimpering Zack Barnes 1
Who cares? Get it right for the kids and staff!

The last question asked how often you are on social media. Let’s just say…y’all got a habit. But it just reiterates the importance of social media as a communication tool.

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. I ain’t going to lie, we could use the support. Thanks and peace out.

 

 

 

 

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3 comments on “IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG

  1. Well speaking of history and a narrative that fits what suits and who is wearing said suit often reflects the message, this missive was in all municipal city employees in boxes. I am not sure what to make of this version of history and neglecting to mention the “alternative facts” that less than six months ago the city was in arrears to the tune of 35K and that would mean no promised raises and other improvements to the city. The failed transit referendum with nothing to replace or improve the matter. The debate over the Cumberland and that too being removed from the table. Then of course the demand for a School audit, the City Hospital debacle and in turn its controversies. Did I miss anything as this Thanksgiving buffet was overflowing so I had much to choose from. Seriously some of the comments were laughable and my personal favorite was the citing of personal income growth the highest in any county in the US. Where did that come from? Anyone familiar with testing knows to cite your source and provide three facts to support that. I learn good! And I do vote and I know what or who I am voting no.

    Dear Metro employees,

    In recent weeks we’ve launched a major initiative to plant 500,000 trees before 2050; enacted a new Metro workplace policy to support survivors of domestic violence; and announced that Amazon and EY are bringing 5,600 high-paying jobs to Nashville and that the SEC will hold basketball tournaments at Bridgestone Arena every year through 2035.

    We’ve also marched down Broadway with our city’s veterans; hosted the CMA Awards, which honor the best of country music; launched a major food-saver challenge to area restaurants and hotels; and learned that Davidson County’s growth in both total personal income and per-capita income in 2017 ranked in the top 10 among the nation’s 100 largest counties.

    What do these announcements, events and data have in common? The answer is you.

    Without you and your dedication to public service, Nashville wouldn’t be the fast-growing and widely admired city it is. Businesses, new residents and visitors wouldn’t be flocking here, and we wouldn’t be able to pull off the special events that we routinely present without a hitch.

    You make it all possible. You keep us safe. You educate our children. You keep our streets, our public spaces and our water clean, from downtown to every corner of Davidson County. You do all the tasks that are necessary, if not always well-known, to keep a city moving every day.

    And many of you have been doing it for a long, long time. I had the privilege of honoring 170 employees who have now served the city for 30 years, 35 years, 40 years and even longer at the Mayor’s Service Awards ceremony last week.

    So as I get ready for my first Thanksgiving as mayor, let me express how thankful I am for your hard work and your commitment to Nashville and its citizens. Your selflessness, sacrifice and work ethic inspire me.

    Thank you for everything you do. I hope you have a joyous Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

    Warm wishes,
    Mayor David Briley

  2. LisaM says:

    Dr. Joseph is a Broadie. He wasn’t trained at the Broad Academy, but he was trained by Lillian Lowery who was trained at the Broad Academy (she is now in Ohio working in education….likely a Charter) . If you don’t know what the Broad Academy is, they take Superintendents and train them to lead education departments more like big business…..free market/big business doesn’t work well in the with the education of children. Connect your dots and you will see how this all converged in MD and the arrival of Lillian Lowery from DE. MD is a politically corrupt state and education is part of it.

    • Ouch says:

      This helps explain the hr dept made up of medical recruiters.

      On another topic see this mornings tennessean for a story on how the chamber of commerce has promoted Williamson county schools in their materials for Amazon.

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