FUDGE, FAKE, OR MAKE UP DATA

1

“Asked about the board’s level of talent, Bredesen says the school board is no more a collection of education experts than the Metro Council is a chamber full of scholars on Metro Government. That may or may not be a healthy state of affairs; it all depends upon whom you ask.” Liz Garrigan quoting Mayor Phil Bredesen, Nashville Scene May 20th, 1997

“I think it’s fair to say that, as of today, we have had no conversation on changing standards, curriculum, or anything else,” he says. “I’m not alarmed by that because it’s still early in the process. But if it continues like this, it will not be successful.” Harry McMackin, president of the Metro Nashville Education Association speaking on Common Knowledge Curriculum, Nashville Scene, SEP 13, 2001

I think sometimes it’s important to take a moment, or two, and collect your thoughts before commenting on events. Taking a moment to breathe, and reflect, allows one to develop a perspective that is divorced from the emotional baggage of the moment. Some things that seem crystal clear at first, can be viewed differently after review and conversation.

So while the Tennessean and Fox News raced off to offer their perspective, I pulled back a bit. I dug into the subject and looked at the history of MNPS and the school board. As a PSA, let me offer that the Nashville Scene has a tremendous archive in case you want to familiarize yourself with the history of the district. At this time, I’d like to share some of the conclusions that I’ve come to, based on my research and conversations.

First and foremost, I’m just amazed at our collective lack of historical knowledge. There ain’t one thing happening today, that’s new. We’ve been down every single one of these roads over the past 25 years, yet we wander around making proclamations like we are bridesmaids on pedal taverns just in town to have a good time.

If you are a board member and you uncomfortable with confrontation, that’s on you for not doing your homework. Being a board member is a contact sport. Always has been, always will be. It’s not a job for the meek.

There has never been a time in this city where the school board has not been confrontational and viewed as dysfunctional. There is a good reason for that, it’s an extremely important job that produces extremely important outcomes with no clear path of how to produce results and lots of ways not to. It is also a governing body that hasn’t always acted in the best interests of stakeholders. So if anyone who thought that they were going to get on this board and just attend choral recitals and spread cheer, you were being naive at best.

Working in our schools is hard, hard, work. Teacher’s fight tooth and nail every day for their students. They have to because sometimes nobody else will. Why would somebody think that as a board member you wouldn’t have to fight just as hard and be just as tough? Education ain’t a job for the thin-skinned, the consequences are too important to worry about bruised egos.

You want to see toughness on display? Watch how new board member Fran Bush verbally punches fellow board member Will Pinkston in the mouth when he continually refuses to extend professional courtesy to Amy Frogge while pushing a memorandum on placing a portion the Hope Garden property on the surplus property list (around 1:49). His actions were clearly intended as a vehicle to punish Frogge for her missing a retreat and a meeting. I suspect, it was also due to her not following his lead in supporting the director at all costs as well. It was petty, it was vindictive, it was all the things that Pinkston has shown himself to be. The difference was that this time Frogge didn’t just have Speering by her side, she had newly elected Fran Bush and Bush wasn’t having any of it.

In a tone that dripped with honey, Bush laid into Pinkston, letting him know that retreats were not mandatory, that family came first, and if you are going to talk professional courtesy and respect…you need to walk it. Her delivery had me rubbing my jaw, and I was sitting on the other side of the video screen.

Pinkston’s only retort was, “Is there a use for this property that I am unaware of?”

We weren’t discussing uses of the property Will, we were talking respect of fellow board members. A subject you seem to know little about, but Bush seems willing to help you understand it.

Pinkston’s memorandum failed and Hope Gardens was excluded from the list. That’s got to put a dent in the narrative that he’s been telling associates about him being the one running the district. First Bredesen, now this, this losing thing is starting to become a habit.

I suspect that Pinkston has now placed a target on Bush’s back. Hopefully Bush is aware of Pinkston’s propensity to use surrogates to do his dirty work. He probably won’t come at her directly and I wouldn’t be shocked if he used another board member to exact his revenge.

Now to the second part of the story. There seems to be a narrative being spread about. In this narrative board member Amy Frogge disrespected the teachers giving the presentation on Common Knowledge Language Arts by referring to it as a “dog and pony show”. First of all, Frogge repeatedly stated that she wasn’t intending to be disrespectful to the teachers and secondly, Frogge has been nothing but a champion for teachers over the last 6 years and I’m pretty sure teachers are aware of that.

Christiane Buggs comments to the teachers after they spoke was to say that they looked angry and that some looked they were going to cry. I take some exception to that comment. Over the past several years I’ve interacted with quite a few of our elementary school teachers and let me tell you, they are pretty damn tough. The extra hours that those presenting put into the PowerPoint that was shown is but a drop in the bucket of the extra hours that they put in daily. To do what they do, year after year after year requires the developing of a pretty thick skin. So to insinuate that they are so fragile that an offhand remark by a board member is going to put them in a state of fury or despair, I would argue is kinda insulting.

It’s like a man feeling like he has to the rush of the aid of a woman who is incapable of defending her honor. Pretty sure every one of those teachers was capable of expressing their displeasure and defending themselves if required. The rending of the garments is more about the defenders need to feel good, then it is about protecting anyone.

I’m sure that some of the presenters took exception to Frogge’s remark, but I liken it to when I’m discussing things with my good friend Jason Egly whom I often disagree with. In the course of our discussion not infrequently do we say things to each other that makes the other go, “Whoa, what the hell was that.” But then we give ground and like adults talk it through and as evidenced by watching the board meeting, that is exactly what happened at the board meeting. The difference is that we have established trust between us, in MNPS there is no trust.

If the taking offense is truly in defense of teachers, why are they so quick to rend their garments over some remarks directed at 10 teachers at a board meeting, yet bat nary an eye when 6k teachers across the district are treated with disrespect every day. Let me say that again, across the district, day in and day out, teachers feel disrespected. The fact that you don’t know that is a testimony to their strength and to people not listening, but those days are winding down. As demonstrated by the teachers at Tuesday’s board meeting, teachers are starting to speak out. This week it was 15, let’s see how many there are next month, and the month after if things don’t change.

When you choose to invest in programs over people, you disrespect teachers. When you hold teacher councils and ask for their recommendations on discipline policy, then turn around and enact policy that ignores their recommendations…you disrespect them. When you continually refuse to answer emails and ignore phone calls that cry out for help…you disrespect them. When you ignore the advanced degrees they’ve earned and instead force them to use canned curriculum…you disrespect them. When you talk about them as a bloodthirsty crowd and talk about your income in front of their principals…you disrespect them.

(Recording of speech at recent principals meeting)

 

These things and more happen on a daily basis and yet not a single tear get’s shed. Not a single shout of outrage comes from the boardThat’s the bigger story to me. Until we stop worrying about respecting teachers in the board room and stop disrespecting them in the classroom, things are never going to get better.

Dr. Joseph continues to suffer under the illusion that teachers know he supports them despite the mounting evidence that counters that belief. He praises the gains made by the schools citing data that, despite his claims, is fudged, faked, or made up.

That’s not a criticism of the work teachers are doing, but rather an indictment against how district leadership missappropriates their hard work. There are great stories and exemplary working taking place, but it is only due to the self-sacrifice and hard work that teachers are doing. That’s what I shed tears over, the miracles that could be happening if only we had leadership that knew how to lead. The miracles that would happen if leadership knew how to foster trust.

On a national level, we seem to have become a nation addicted to taking offense. Taking offense is a choice. We can either choose to take offense or we can work on solving the problem. Myself, I’m over being in a constant state of offense. I want to focus on solutions. But without a change in leadership, that can’t happen. If that offends you…well…you’ve made your choice.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CKLA

Looking at the CKLA presentation, there were a number of things missing from that presentation. The first is a historical context. Yep, we’ve played with Core Knowledge creator E.L Hirsch before. Hop with me into the way back machine.

Back in 1997, then-Mayor Phil Bredesen didn’t care too much for the school board. The relationship was so bad that the Nashville Scene felt compelled to write,

Given the ongoing antagonism between the mayor and the school board, it would be advisable for them to begin to settle their differences. After all, the fractious nature of the relationship between the mayor and the nine members of the school board may not just be a result of what’s going on—or not going on—in Metro schools. It may be a cause of the problem as well.

I know you are shocked. You thought that this board was the most dysfunctional of all time. Sorry to break your bubble. But I digress, When it came to education policy, Bredesen figured he knew better than those sitting on the board and insisted that the curriculum Core Knowledge being implemented. Then-Superintendent of Schools Dr. Benjamin was not keen on the idea and some believe his refusal to implement the curriculum was part of the reason he resigned. Interim Superintendent Bill Wise implemented Core Knowledge in exchange for Bredesen increasing the district’s funding in order to include an art and music teacher in every building.

Fast forward to 2001 and the glitter had faded. Social studies scores had increased but everything else was tanking. Bill Wise was retiring and new director of schools Pedro Garcia was not enamored with Core Knowledge.

The reason for such turbulence is that Garcia and Johnson want to develop entirely new standards that are both “clear and rigorous.” More importantly, they say that they want the new standards “to ensure student success in the 21st century.” While Johnson would not comment specifically on Metro’s curriculum as it now stands, she did say that most districts often fail to make it clear what they expect students to learn and when they expect them to learn it. She also said that most districts don’t prepare their students to work in a marketplace where critical thinking skills are required in nearly all jobs.

It would have been nice, as part of this week’s presentation, to hear how Dr. Felder and her team plan to correct issues that occurred in the past. The Nashville Scene illustrates some of those issues,

Besides, few teachers agree on how they are supposed to teach core, according to Harry McMackin, president of the Metro Nashville Education Association, the local teachers’ union. That alone might be reason to reevaluate the program. “Teachers have differing philosophies. The major concept of core curriculum is to expose kids to basic historical facts and a core set of principles from the full-range of western civilization. Yet this exposure is not in-depth because they could never have the time to do in-depth work,” he says. “That leads to confusion—do we teach to in-depth understanding and mastery or do we teach to mastery? Teachers have differing ideas on this.”

As near I can tell, those problems still exist.

Much of Tuesday’s presentation centered around the proposed Florida State study. What wasn’t made clear was exactly what kids would be included in the study? In looking at the PowerPoint presentation it appeared as if the control group was going to morph into a second treatment group. Well according to Chief Investigator Dr. Sonia Cabell,

We randomly selected approximately 30 children per school from whom we had voluntary parental consent across all kindergarten classrooms. In some schools, the total number was fewer. Across all 24 schools, we have 651 children participating, 333 in the treatment schools and 318 in control schools. We will follow these children as they move to first and second grades. From these 24 schools we will not add additional students from next year’s kindergarten classes.

In other words, just the first cohort is part of the study. All of those grades getting Core Knowledge in the upcoming years, are part of the implementation and not study of CKLA. It appears that Dr. Joseph and his team are using the cover of the study to implement a new curriculum in 24 schools.  Those schools will utilize the Core Knowledge curriculum even though only the first group will be in the study. To me that reeks of dishonesty.

It also concerns me that all of these schools are in the NE and NW quadrant. In other words, starting next year, and going forward, kids on the north side will be taught with a different curriculum than kids on the south side. And I don’t need to tell you the demographics of those two areas. How does the principle of equity apply here? How will the difference in curriculum impact teacher retention and recruitment? Those questions, along with an explanation of how results will be different this go around, remain unanswered.

There was also little comment around how this FSU study would align with the states new, fraught with problems, portfolio evaluation system. News flash! it doesn’t. Remember earlier when we talked about disrespecting teachers? Yea…ignoring potential damage to their professional reputation would fall into that category.

One last side note. The last time Core Knowledge was utilized in the district, teachers wrote the curriculum based on Hirsch’s direction. It was a huge undertaking. I have to wonder how much our own work is being brought back and eventually sold to us? That’s another question that needs answering.

QUICK HITS

Congratulations to Joya Burrell, a senior at Nashville Big Picture High School, who was accepted into the National Society of High School Scholars. She participated in the induction ceremony held Dec. 1 in Atlanta as part of the 2018 Scholars Day. Burrell was the only MNPS student to receive this academic achievement. way to go!

Congratulations to MNPS Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson who was selected as the recipient of the Bill Wise Award from the Council of the Great City Schools. The award is presented to someone who exemplifies professionalism, commitment, integrity, and leadership.

You might have heard that longtime Director Renata Soto is stepping down from her position at Conexion. As a result of her leaving there has been some speculation on what that means for school board member Gini Pupo-Walker. Walker should be considered a leading candidate to replace Soto, but how would that impact her role on the school board? Bears watching.

Memphis has themselves a new interim superintendent in a long time Memphis educator Joris Ray. It seems that more and more urban school districts are looking inward to find leaders. An emphasis has been placed upon people who have come up through this system and know both the culture, history and the players. Seems kind of wise to me.

Rumors are swirling that middle school and high school principals will be getting a Christmas present upon their return from break. They will be included in the district’s recently declared elementary school policy of not suspending, expelling, or arresting students without community superintendent permission.. Needless to say, principals are equating this with a lump of coal and therefore have grave concerns. Let’s see if rumors are true.

I’d like to close with a blog post by Wayne Gersen over at Network Schools. In his post, he points out that teaching isn’t the same job he took 30 years ago.

Teaching is much harder now than ever, and yet we continue to celebrate billionaires who fund charter schools and lionize tyrants like Michelle Rhee who promise to sweep “dead wood” out of schools…. and we then wonder why it is increasingly difficult to find college graduates who want to enter teaching.

I urge you to read the whole piece, it’s short, and then do more than shed tears.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon. To those of you who pledged money this past week, thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

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WE HAVE TO DO BETTER

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“Anybody can be unhappy. We can all be hurt. You don’t have to be poor to need something or somebody. Rednecks, hippies, misfits – we’re all the same. Gay or straight? So what? It doesn’t matter to me. We have to be concerned about other people, regardless.”
Willie Nelson

“Oprah, for instance, still can’t get past the n-word issue (or the nigga issue, with all apologies to Ms. Winfrey). I can respect her position. To her, it’s a matter of acknowledging the deep and painful history of the word. To me, it’s just a word, a word whose power is owned by the user and his or her intention. People give words power, so banning a word is futile, really. “Nigga” becomes “porch monkey” becomes “coon” and so on if that’s what in a person’s heart. The key is to change the person. And we change people through conversation, not through censorship.”
Jay-Z, Decoded

Last week I received a text from my wife, “Student who went to school here last year committed suicide yesterday.”

Within those 11 words, a world of pain was released.

Suicide is always painful for those left behind, but when it is a child, it becomes particularly tragic. Those left behind find themselves playing scenes of interactions over in their head, trying to find the clues that could have altered the outcome. Unfortunately, those clues can be found everywhere and nowhere. Depression is a chemical process inside a person that goes past the realm of sadness and deeper to the core. Loved ones can see all of the signs and still not be able to change the outcome. At the same time, they can miss all the signs because the person suffering wears their mask a little tighter and in the end, do any of us really know what goes on inside of others?

I didn’t know Jaden Bynum. Nor did my wife, as this is her first year at HG Hill. By all accounts, he was a wonderful young man full of promise. Promise that has now tragically been extinguished. There are no words that will adequately comfort his family and those who love him. But there are actions that can bring some meaning to a life that ended way too soon.

We can start by making sure that our children receive the services they need. There should be a trauma specialist in every school. We need to realize the importance of forming strong relationships, ones that extend beyond the strong bonds of parent and child. Every success has at its core, strong relationships. None of us can do this alone. In order to foster those relationships, we can focus on nurturing versus demanding.

We talk about the importance of social-emotional learning for students, but we spend precious little time developing those behaviors among adults.

My heart goes out to the family of Jaden Bynum and I pray that at some point they are able to find some peace. I pray for all the children, and adults, that are hurting, to whatever degree. I pray they find the courage, the strength, the weakness, or the combination of all three, to share how they are feeling. Depression is not a determiner of who we are as people. I pray that all of us have the capacity to recognize the pain of those around us and we take the time to actually hear them. I pray that we all choose to love each other just a little harder.

STUDENTS AS GUINEA PIGS

On the agenda for today’s MNPS School Board Meeting is a presentation on Metro School’s participation in a study by Florida State University involving the curriculum CKLA. CKLA stands for Core Knowledge Language Arts. It is a curriculum developed by E.D. Hirsch Jr. Hirsch did not have a hand in developing the Common Core Standards but it is easy to see the connection between the two. If you take a look at studies, you’ll see that its results are mixed.

I don’t doubt that a strong argument for its implementation can be built, or that one equally strong against its implementation is unfeasible. My questions though are around its implementation and usage in MNPS. The district’s participation in this study was outlined over the summer in one of Dr. Joseph’s weekly memos. Shawn Joseph Weekly Memo 07.27.18-ilovepdf-compressed

In that memo, is an explanation of the study, an FAQ, and a list of schools who are participating. I urge you to read it for yourselves. There are several questions that I hope get asked tonight.

  • How can you have a control when that group is implementing the subject being tested, just on a different timeline? I would argue that creates 2 treatment groups.
  • Why are all of the participating schools in the NE and NW quadrants? Many of the schools participating are on the States’s Priority School list? Don’t they deserve proven solutions as opposed to participating in a study?
  • There has been a lot of talk about the implications for children who grow up in book deserts. How does a program that focuses on read-a-loud combat those effects?
  • Last year the state rolled out a new portfolio system as an evaluation system for kindergarten teachers. To say it was a disaster gives disasters a bad name. Now we are going to force Kindergarten teachers to participate in a study at the same time that they try to navigate a flawed evaluation system. How is the district going to safeguard against having a negative impact upon these teacher’s professional record? I know there is a paragraph in the FAQ but let’s be honest, that’s all hypothetical and you are asking teachers to take a big leap of faith at a time where nothing has been done to build that faith.
  • Have all the parent waivers been turned in and what accommodations have been made for parents who don’t want their kids participating?
  • I’ve heard talk that teachers in the chosen schools who don’t want to participate in the study are being strong-armed into participation. If those teachers leave, what impact will this study have on hiring replacement teachers? I can’t help but wonder if TNTP is standing by waiting to supplement teachers if needed. Afterall, we approved a contract earlier this yeart for nearly half a million to TNTP in order to help implement CKLA.

Those are just a few of my questions. My biggest one though, is why bring this to the board now? The project is already far enough along, that board questions and concerns will have limited impact, so why bother presenting? Nothing quite conveys we don’t give 2 fucks – sorry for the language, but it’s the only word that fits – about your opinion like asking for it after the fact. Let’s be honest, this administration is using some of our neediest kids as guinea pigs whether we like it or not, so just sit back and enjoy the show.

VOUCHERS, REALLY VOUCHERS

Few policy ideas have been rejected like the idea of vouchers have been rejected. Even people who are fierce choice supporters recognize the failings of vouchers. Yet somehow it’s an idea that fails to go away.

Governor-elect Bill Lee has painted himself as a pragmatic everyman, so there was some hope that despite his surrounding himself with voucher supporters as advisors, he would study the data and make pragmatic decisions. Yesterday he shot holes in that theory and confirmed his openness to supporting voucher legislation. At the best of times this is a terrible idea, but at a time when our schools are chronically underfunded, its a potentially devastating idea.

The problems with voucher programs are multiple. Lee talks about a young man he mentors and how school choice made a difference in his life. Let’s be clear, what he is talking about is offering a lifeboat to some students while condemning those without the means to take advantage of a school voucher plan, to a school even less resourced. It’s a way of picking winners and losers and fails to account for all kids.

Any discussion on the merits of a voucher program has to include the fact that the idea sprung from racist intents. As blogger and educator Mercedes Schneider points out,

In an effort to bypass the 1955 Supreme Court mandate that state courts require school districts to “make a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance with the [1954] ruling,” [Virginia’s] Gray Commission devised what became known as the Gray Plan. In short, the Gray Plan involved the repeal of compulsory education laws in order to allow for school closure as a last resort to prevent desegregation. It also allowed for state-supervised student assignment to schools and tuition grants to allow public school students to attend private schools. …

Under the advisement of the Gray Commission that he appointed, Governor Stanley called the state legislature into a special session in August 1956, as author Douglas Reed notes, “to devise a legislative response to the prospect of court-ordered desegregation.” The resulting legislation based on the Gray Plan ( …called the Stanley Plan once passed) included both school closure and vouchers to private schools as options. …

[In North Carolina,] Governor Luther Hodges… created a seven-member, all-White Pearsall Committee. In what was known as the Pearsall Plan [1956], the committee advised the North Carolina General Assembly to alter compulsory school attendance as a means of excusing students from attending desegregated public schools. The committee also recommended that the state fund tuition grants for students to choose to attend private schools so as to avoid attending integrated public schools. The Pearsall Plan was not declared unconstitutional until 1969.

There is no getting around that history. Since there is plenty of proof that vouchers do not have a positive impact on student outcomes, we can only assume that some are trying to repeat the sins of the past. As Stanford Education, Professor Martin Carnoy points out,

“There are many policy changes that are likely to have much higher payoffs than privatization,” said Carnoy, including teacher training, early childhood education, after-school and summer programs, student health programs and heightened standards in math, reading and science curricula.

Come on Bill, let’s bring some of that pragmaticism to the table.

QUICK HITS

There continues to be a big push to focus on STEAM education and teach kids coding at an early age. Even though he’s a coder himself, Joe Morgan makes an argument for not teaching kids coding. He argues that it’s more important to expose them to life’s experiences and instill curiosity instead. Teaching them to explore how things are put together allows them to develop a thought process that will inspire their own creativity when it comes to problem-solving.

When we force kids to learn syntax, we reinforce the idea that if something is not a blatantly employable skill, it’s not valuable. Adults can learn syntax. Only kids can learn to embrace curiosity.

How to identify more gifted children from diverse backgrounds is a challenge for every school district in the country. MNPS has been extremely active in this area over the last couple of years. Last year they employed a multiple screener to successfully identify more kids for gifted programs. Unfortunately, this years district budget didn’t include funding to continue its usage. Out in Colorado, Aurora County is employing a new strategy that just may open the door for more kids.

“We had a system that was giving us the results that it was designed to give,” said Carol Dallas, the district’s gifted education coordinator. “That needed to be changed.”

So three years ago, the district paid an outside group to audit its gifted program. Based on those results, the district started testing more students, looking at new ways to identify gifted students, and developing ways to screen for non-academic talents. Aurora Public Schools is also taking a closer look at what teachers offer students in a typical classroom once they’ve been identified as gifted.

Per Chalkbeat, Colorado, using federal definitions, lists various talent areas where a student could be designated as gifted and talented, including in leadership, creativity, dance, performing arts, and visual arts. Aurora has slowly rolled out rubrics for those talents in the last two years, often working with experts from the city or the local college to determine what to look for. In the area of performing arts, for instance, the district holds a performance festival where teachers, as well as actors and producers, critique students demonstrating their talents. Students are getting excited and when students get excited, we should all get excited.

A tip of the Christmas hat to Stratford’s amazing freshman academy team.

Congratulations to the Bobcat Players! Their musical Bonnie & Clyde competed with other high school musicals across the state of Tennessee and won!! The Tennessee State Thespian Society chose Overton’s production of Bonnie & Clyde as the winning submission to perform at this year’s Thespian conference at MTSU in January! Well done!””

Want to REACH teens in Nashville Community? Advertise with the Hillsboro Globe! Job Ads are as little as 10$ Or partner with their Marketing Dept. to drive TRAFFIC to your business. Please consider investing in HS Journalism.

A lot of educators are still mad at JC Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, over his role in the ending of collective bargaining for Tennessee Teachers, but I’ve always found him to be a champion for educators. His latest guest post at TNEd Report makes some solid suggestions on how to improve teacher morale.

POLL RESULTS

Apparently, this week’s poll questions struck a note with Y’all. Responses were way up. Let’s take a look.

The first question asked how you felt about Dr. Joseph’s recent comments at a recent MNPS principal meeting. 187 of you responded with 109 of you saying, “He continually demonstrates his lack of respect for teachers.” the number two answer was “nothing surprises me anymore.” only one person responded that they didn’t have a problem with it.

One person wrote in that “my reporting was out of context”. I must admit, I’m not sure in what context Dr. Joseph’s words would be deemed appropriate. It has also been pointed out that Dr. Joseph was referencing a book when he said made the comment about feeding teachers. Two points here, one he’s referenced that book previously and received criticism. That should have made him extra careful that his comments were taken in the intended context. Secondly, I don’t believe there is a chapter in the referenced book called, “We’ve got some folks snacking.”

Dr. Joseph, like my kids,  has proven very adroit in saying things and then when he’s called out on them acting like he never intended that message, “What?!? What?!? That’s not what I meant.”

He needs to remember, once is an accident, Twice is a possible coincidence. Three times is the establishment of a pattern. Here are the write-ins:

He needs to step down. 1
People don’t support this policy 1
He’s a narcissistic blow-hard with an over-inflated ego and he needs to go. 1
Your reporting is out of context. 1
It’s no wonder the general public doesn’t show us respect when our DS constantly 1
As a teacher, defeated 1
I’m not bloodthirsty. I’m dedicated to my kids. Thx a lot, SJ. Clueless. 1
It’s true and mostly rooted in implicit bias 1
Sounds like something trump would say 1
He is despicable; he needs to go; Dr Gentry needs to step up, show him the door 1
How can a teacher still work in that system 1
He has got to go. No contract extention. 1
Please tell me that he did not say that? 1
He’s lost his mind. Who does he believe is doing the important work on MNPS? 1
His obvious lack of knowledge is sickening and infuriating. 1
Disgusting. The tact of a dictator 1
It’s not the student’s blood teachers are howling for…. 1
This is no way for a leader to talk or act. 1
He is an ass like Trump. 1
Toxic Culture. Treats those who actually work with children like feeble peasants 1
That’s the last straw. I can’t stand this district. I’m out.

The second question asked for your opinion on the feel-good story of the year. The number one vote-getter, 39%, was the Hunters Bend Band appearing on Pickler and Ben and picking up a check. Number 2 was SW Quadrant Community Superintendent Dottie Critchlow winning an award for her leadership. Here are the write-ins:

Sad there isn’t one. 1
Hume Fogg – Blue Ribbon School 1
Jill Speering inspiring us all working through health concerns to fight for us 1
Dr Joseph resignation 1
Joseph resigning…nvm 1
Wait…. there were positive stories this year? 1
Positive things are still happening with disasterious leaders? 1
I can’t say one good thing 1
The teachers working so hard daily 1
Nothing has seemed to be positive enough 1
Infrastructure improvements 1
Nothing. 1
that teachers still show up every day and do their damn-level best 1
There isn’t one. 1
Positive news? Surely you jest. 1
Nothing 1
Any recognition that our students receive is positive. 1
No one taking Will Pinkston seriously anymore. 1
Jill, Amy, and France continuing to fight for kids and teachers 1
Where are the good stories? 1
Amazing SEL Conference 1
Jill Speering and Amy Frogge 1
Tiny stories of success that happen in classrooms thru teacher care and attn 1
That so many employees have had the strength and courage to finally leave. 1
Teachers are beginning to stand up for themselves 1
the negatives far outweight any potential positives

The last question asks who you would consider to be the first half MVP of MNPS. Congratulations go to the EL Departments Molly Hedgewood. She continues to lead a department doing great work.  Head of teaching and curriculum David Williams comes in second, barely beating out Dr. Sonia Stewart. However, all nominations are grossly overshadowed by the write-ins. Here they are, all 62 of them:

Amy Frogge 8
Teachers 8
None of the above 2
There are no MVP(s) now 1
None of the above. They are all pitiful! 1
The Teachers 1
The students 1
Julie Travis 1
likely a highly performing teacher that those in power ignore 1
I got nothing 1
you! 1
Amy Frogge and Jill Speering 1
vacated 1
Amy Frogge – the Series of Facebook posts are spot on. 1
Dottie Critchlow 1
teacher ignoring all the bransford bullshit and performing great work 1
The Baby Jesus 1
Teachers. Working in spite of ridiculous “leadership” 1
Frogge and Speering 1
Amy Frogge & Jill Speering fighting for students & teachers 1
Phil Williams 1
None of the above. 1
Phil williams 1
Jill Spearing and Amy Frogge 1
The teachers who remain and work tirelessly 1
TEACHERS 1
No one 1
Teachers. Counselors. Social Workers.Principals. Those who do the WORK 1
Amy Frogge speaking for teachers and students 1
Every teacher working to disrupt status quo and change students’ lives 1
Jill Speering and AMy Frogge 1
Where have all the good people gone? 1
Dr. Morrin 1
All teachers and staff who continue to do what is best for students as they are 1
MNPS Teachers 1
Any teacher not planning to walk away. 1
The teachers that put up with the B’S from the higher ups 1
Jared Amato 1
AMY FROGGE 1
I must have missed where the students name was place. That should be the MVP 1
The MVPs have all left the district 1
I miss Nola Jones!!! 1
Teachers are the heroes 1
The teachers who put up with all the crap 1
Battle 1
Amy Frogge Jill Speering 1
Anyone not associated with Dr J & his crew who are still here….pls help!

And that is a wrap. Keep your eyes on today’s board meeting. Indications are that it’s going to be memorable.

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.

IS A LEADERSHIP INTERVENTION NEEDED?

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“As a leader your job is to do everything in your power to create the perfect conditions for success by benching your ego and inspiring your team to play the game the right way. But at some point, you need to let go and turn yourself over to the basketball gods. The soul of success is surrendering to what is.”
Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
Colin Powell

Once again the MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph finds himself in hot water. As I wrote yesterday, his utilization the pulpit at yesterday’s meeting of district principals to paint a disparaging picture of district teachers when it comes to school suspensions was not well received. In the narrative he shared, he is Maximus, the gladiator in the ring fighting the noble battle while teachers personify the role of the arena crowd, calling for more blood. He went on to talk further about his decline in pay since coming to MNPS from Prince George County Schools and to paint Nashville police as less than partners and more as part of the challenge. It wasn’t exactly motivational genius.

As should be expected at this point, last night, there was a tape floating around and people could hear his remarks for themselves. they were remarks that didn’t sit well with the city’s educators.

Some Nashville School Board members will likely continue to defend Joseph’s words and instead decry how he is under constant attack. My response would be that those attacks are directly caused by the director’s own words and deeds. Over the last two and a half years, he has failed to demonstrate the ability to self-analyze and correct, two very important leadership traits.

I don’t agree with the assertion, but maybe Dr. Joseph is more scrutinized than previous directors. At some point, he has to accept that as a reality and modify his approach. He has to look at everything he says and everything he does through the lens of his critics. Are his actions and words, giving those critics ammunition and if so change the manner in which he delivers his message. Bill Belichick isn’t considered a Hall of Fame coach because he writes up a game plan and sticks to it. He writes up a game plan that allows his team to obtain his goals by countering the strengths of his opposition. In other words, he is a student of the game as much as he is a teacher. Dr. Joseph appears to have abdicated the first role.

Teachers self-evaluate and adjust every day. They head into class with a plan of how they are going to teach. At the end of the day, they analyze how the lesson plan was received and the results it produced. They then think of ways it could be made better. Imagine if a teacher just showed up in front of a classroom and taught in a manner that they thought best, results be damned. They would not be very successful.

Let’s flip the script. If a student has shown the lack of progress in learning that Dr. Joseph has demonstrated, there would be a required intervention. If the intervention did not take place, teachers would be held accountable and accused of doing a disservice to the student. Yet, incident after incident transpires, and nobody intervenes. What will it take?

And I realize that some of what I’m saying flies in the face of yesterday’s plea to broaden the scope of our evaluation. I still maintain that you must have some proof that you are making short-term gains and that people are buying into your vision; some evidence that you are on the right path. Devoid of anything but internally produced data, Joseph’s narrative lacks that evidence.

The counter-evidence, on the other hand, continues to mount.  I looked at a report yesterday that shows the district has lost 143 certified staff members since 8/1. Some will pull out statistics to defend this exodus, but in my mind, that is a lot of people. A lot of people we can not afford to lose. It’s a number that has been consistent with the rate of exit for the last two years, yet nothing is done to stem the flow. It’s like looking at a leaky water heater and saying, “Eh…it’s not that bad, I’ll deal with it next week.”

I’m not afraid to admit that my readership numbers are down a bit and that does concern me because I fear maybe I’m missing something. Maybe my message is no longer resonating. But in talking to people, I have come to the realization that many have just resigned themselves to the current situation. They’ve waited patiently for board members to take action, any action, and when they fail to see it, resignation sets in.  When Dr. Joseph continually exhibits behavior that would be unacceptable in their role with the district and no response is evoked from the school board, or city leaders, a feeling that he is beyond rebuke takes root.

This is not a good place to be. It’s not a culture that inspires great work. It’s not a culture that inspires investment. It’s not a culture that inspires innovation. In the past, Dr. Joseph has referred to MNPS as a sick district. Currently, I think that is probably a pretty accurate diagnosis.

Last night an email went out instructing district employees how they could sign up to speak in front of the board and tell happy stories. After all, that’s the problem right? Morale is low not because of what teachers experience on a daily basis, but rather because they just haven’t heard enough happy stories.

Let me be clear here, there are some incredibly amazing things happening in MNPS. But they are happening solely because administrators and teachers are making them happen in spite of leadership. I would offer this comparison. It’s like celebrating a gifted athlete for his natural accomplishments and never considering how much more they would be capable of achieving if they had great coaching, great nutrition, and a great conditioning plan. I would consider that to be a disservice to the individual athlete and as such, consider failing to supply leadership and proper resources a disservice to our dedicated teachers. They deserve better.

Joseph shouldn’t be referring to them as calling out for blood, but rather acknowledging that they are calling out for support, for resources, for guidance. All of which Dr. Joseph is failing to provide.

THEY ARE BACK

One last side note from yesterday’s principal meeting. Standing by Joseph’s side was Scarlett Foundation head, Joe Scarlett. During his address, Joseph referred to Scarlet as a mentor. I find his presence of note for a number of reasons. Scarlett was a big-time backer of the challengers to the incumbents in the 2016 school board election. Candidates that many described as being pro-charter and pro-choice. Out of respect for those candidates, I’m not going to open that can of worms, other than to point out that Scarlett spent several hundred thousand dollars in an unsuccessful effort to influence Nashville’s school system.

The Scarlett foundation also gives a quarter of million dollars to Conexion Americas, an organization that school board member Gini Pupo-Walker serves in a leadership role. The Nashville Public Education Foundation is also a recipient of Scarlett’s generosity and recently employed school board member Christiane Buggs as a project manager for their Blueprint for Early Childhood Success program. It should be noted as well that NPEF under the leadership of Shannon Hunt, played an extensive role in the search that resulted in Dr. Joseph coming to Nashville. Being a private entity allowed them to shield the search from prying eyes as they weren’t obligated to adhere to Sunshine Laws.

Adding to the intrigue is the revelation that the choice movement is back up to its old tricks. ChalkbeatTN has a new article about a national organization that is looking to unite school boards across the country,

School Board Partners says it wants to create a “national community” of board members and will offer coaching and consulting services. Emails obtained by Chalkbeat indicate the group is targeting board members in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Stockton.

I chuckle that Nashville is not on the list, but chalk that up to the results of the organizer’s last foray into trying to influence school board elections. That attempt resulted in a lot of money spent and very little to show for it. In case you are wondering, the new organization’s resources are drawn from the normal cast of characters, so far it has come from money raised by Education Cities, which had been funded by the Arnold, Dell, Gates, Kauffman, and Walton Family foundations, among others. Laura Chapman digs a little deeper into the players and provides us with a program.

Let’s just say I’m watching all of this with a raised eyebrow and a little bit of concern about the extent of influence Scarlett may exert in the upcoming contract extension talks for Dr. Joseph, and going forth.

QUICK HITS

With apologies to the fine folks that are employed by the Prince George County Schools, I have to point out that they continue to supply evidence of where MNPS is heading. Read the latest, where apparently the district double paid 18000 employees.

There are those that would paint MNPS and it’s school board as a dysfunctional entity. At least we haven’t spent $160k and countless hours on a director search that only returns one finalist, an internal candidate at that. Such is what happened last week in Denver. If that wasn’t enough, questions are arising around the finalists’ spouse and their role as a financier of charter schools.

Book’em Nashville is holding a used book giveaway on Dec. 10 from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Give the gift of reading to your student!

Over at Croft Middle School, yesterday was Project Lit time. Students discussed Rebound for their  book club! The trivia was heated with a 3-way tie, necessitating a number of tie breakers. Students are ready for next semester and want to thank all of the donors for making the book club possible!

Congratulations are in order to Southwest Quadrant Community Superintendent Dr. Dottie Critchlow, who was named “Tennessee Principal Association Supervisor of the Year” for Middle Tennessee.

Calling all student poets! As part of the 2019 Nashville Poetry in Motion®, ten youth writers will have their poetry featured on MTA bus shelters beginning in April. Submissions by high school and middle school writers will be welcomed with a final submission deadline of Friday, December 21. From this pool of submissions, ten finalists will be selected and will have their poems featured on MTA shelters. Poems are limited to 25 words and 10 lines maximum. I can’t wait to see the results.

The Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program recognizes high school seniors with $2,500 scholarships for their community service, academic performance, and leadership skills. Deadline to apply is Dec. 7. Apply here

POLLS

 

 

 

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR OR EDUCATOR IN CHIEF?

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“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not be measured by how pretty they are. Instead, they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.”
Sam Cooke

Ever since their arrival from Prince George County Schools, MNPS Director Shawn Joesph and his team have attempted to paint themselves as social justice warriors. They have tried to create a narrative of Nashville as a place where inequities flourish and that they have been sent by a higher power to slay that dragon. Chief Instructional Officer Monique Felder has often told people that she was sent here “to right the sins of the past.”

At today’s principal’s meeting, Dr. Joseph continued that narrative as he addressed concerns about his new discipline policy by referring to teachers as gladiators who just want blood. That blood being kid’s suspended for no reason. This is nothing new, Joseph continually paints teachers as just willy-nilly heading through the halls plucking up black and brown kids and demanding that they are suspended. Per his own words, he once suspended a bunch of kids because that’s what teachers wanted, he has since learned his purpose.

He touts Cigna’s plan to train 90 people to provide mental health supports to stressed out teachers, and then remarks, “If you don’t feed teachers they eat children and some folks have been snacking.” At no point does he acknowledge the role his policies and leadership failings play into teacher stress. Instead, he continually portrays teachers as fearful, racist, and not living up to their potential. It is a narrative that, to say the least, is extremely insulting to the teachers that continually try to make lemonade out of his lemons.

I can only surmise that this reasoning his why his recent discipline policy is focused on stopping something – suspensions, expulsions, and arrests – as opposed to providing something – counselors, trauma-related services. It also lacks any focus on ensuring that 92% of kids who are not suspended, get the benefit of the full and undivided attention of a quality teacher. During school board discussions on the proposed policy, board member Amy Frogge suggested that every school have a dedicated trauma-counselor that could help navigate the outside forces that were influencing student behavior. The idea was rejected, as other board members argued that implicit bias played a much larger role in suspension rates and that is where the focus should lie.

I don’t argue that implicit bias exists. It’s well documented and certainly impacts student outcomes. There are teachers who are quick to employ harsh measures on black and brown students due to their biases. But I would also argue that if there is a deficiency in classroom management with these teachers, then there are probably deficiencies in other areas. I would also argue that this is a minority number of teachers and not representative of the profession. Dedicated supports should be applied as needed and to those who most need it. Whether it’s through additional trainings, mentoring, or restorative practices.

I would also caution against the downplaying of the role poverty plays in behavior issues. Unfortunately, our high poverty schools are populated primarily by children of color. Due to poverty, these are children that are exposed to high levels of trauma – drug abuse, sexual abuse, parental incarceration, physical abuse – at a much higher frequency. Without trained adults equipped to help them process that exposure, their behavior is often impacted in a negative manner.

Converse at a school made up of students from higher socio-economic backgrounds, children have less exposure to trauma. Many of those schools are made up of white students, which is one of the reasons that addressing income inequality on a state and national level is so important. Based on this diminished level of exposure to trauma, there are fewer instances where suspensions become a necessity. This is where poverty impacts the data and if you are not careful, you will get a perception of a greater discrepancy in suspension rates based on race.

There has been very little conversation about how the new discipline policy potentially impacts the teaching profession going forward. Instead, we like to try to consider each individual issue as its own brick, independent of all other bricks. Much like his decision on Reading Recovery, Joseph removes a brick without ever identifying the brick he’s going to put in its place.

The result is that in these high poverty schools there is a perception that there is little a teacher can do to address behavior issues. This perception impacts who is going to teach in these high poverty schools. I’d argue that it will be either young inexperienced teachers, or if you introduce merit pay, older teachers just trying to make some extra cash for a couple of years. As a result, we are not only failing to supply needed supports to our neediest students but as an unintended consequence, we are depriving them of the very teachers who could make a difference in their lives.

What of the teachers who do choose to teach in these high need schools? We judge them based on academic outcomes. I’ll ask you this question, both you and I are hired to sell insurance, you are allowed to focus on selling insurance all day while I am tasked with cleaning the office 2 hours every day, who is going to sell more insurance?

This past week I had a conversation with a fellow parent about how well her child is doing in 8th-grade math this year. This success can be directly traced back to a teacher that her child had 4 years ago that nobody liked; not the parent and not the child. What they have since discovered is that the manner in which the teacher taught the principles of math has allowed their daughter a greater understanding of the concepts she is now facing. But had that parent and the child had their way several years earlier, they probably would have not recommended this teacher.

The point of the story is that we have to stop focusing on just the immediate results and start thinking more about long-term results and the impact on the teaching profession. Dr. Joseph has made the rate of suspension for black students a key performance indicator(KPI). But how does that translate into getting more students the services they need? How does that directly correlate to academic outcomes? What are the other policy areas that are impacted by this focus? Those are all questions that need to be asked, and in my opinion aren’t getting nearly the attention they deserve. Nobody is arguing for suspending, expelling, or arresting kids, what we are arguing for is being deliberate in getting kids the services they need in a manner that keeps everybody safe and doesn’t take instructional time away from other students,

ABOUT THOSE OUTCOMES

I suspect that the reason that Dr. Joseph focuses more on social issues as opposed to academic outcomes is because those outcomes, quite frankly, are not very good. Now Dr. Joseph regularly produces internal data to try counter that evaluation, but luckily the state provides us with independent data.

This week the TNDOE released it’s report card on schools. A quick look at that data shows MNPS trending in the wrong direction. Look at these scores through the eyes of a parent new to the district, do they fill you with confidence? Look at these scores through the eyes of a parent that receives a recruitment flyer from a charter school, do they fill you with confidence that MNPS is the right choice? Look at these scores through the eyes of an Amazon employee moving to Middle Tennessee with the means to live anywhere in the surrounding areas, do these numbers inspire you to purchase a home in Davidson County?

Equity is extremely important. But equity without excellence should not be acceptable when it comes to our schools, neither should be sacrificed for the other. Over the last several years I’ve pointed out numerous ways that Dr. Joseph’s policies have actually increased inequities and harmed the very students he claimed to be championing. Now the state data is showing that his policies are also impacting excellence. Nobody should find that acceptable.

Yesterday ChalkbeatTN printed an article in which outgoing State Superintendent of Education Candice McQueen was quoted in regard to more schools in Nashville and Memphis being taken over by the state’s Achievement School District.

“Our recommendation will be: As we go into next school year, unless we see some dramatic changes in certain schools, we will move some schools into the Achievement School District,” McQueen told Chalkbeat this week.

Initially when I read this I took it as a sign of McQueen trying to assert a last burst of power by threatening to condemn kids to a failed educational experiment. However, as I read it today, I interpret it as a shot across the  bow for MNPS and their plans concerning priority schools. McQueen has met extensively with the district over the last several months and as such, is well versed in the district’s priority school plan.

If she was confident in that plan, why would she even raise the specter of a state take over of schools? Why would she not instead praise the work being done and express confidence that the districts in question were headed in the right direction in regard to their neediest kids? It is my interpretation that she has seen the plans and feels that for whatever reason they are lacking. They are lacking to such a level that she feels compelled to warn that state takeover is still an option.

Asked why people in Memphis and Nashville should have any faith in the ASD given its abysmal track record, McQueen said any decision to move a school into the state’s district will be because of a lack of confidence that the local district has a good plan “to get students ready for college and career.”

I don’t know that it can get much clearer than that.

I’m going to close today with the an anecdote that Dr. Joseph chose to share today with principals at today’s meeting. According to Dr. Joseph his son said to him, “Since we came to Nashville, you make a whole lot less money,” His reply was, ” Yes son, but I make a difference.”

This is an anecdote that raises many questions for me. Was Joseph not making a difference in Prince George? Joseph makes roughly $327K a year in Nashville without factoring in payments to his retirement fund. The former district head in Prince George County made $280K. Joseph was the number 3 in the district. What was he doing to make such a dramatic difference in his income between PGCS and MNPS? Given his close relationship with Dallas Dance, I have to ask, how much work was he doing for Dance?

Leadership experts consider empathy as one of the 5 core traits of a leader. As it relates to leadership, empathy is described as follows,

Empathy is the capacity that allows a leader to understand the perspectives and feelings of others and foresee the impact of his actions and events on them. Effective communication depends on empathy. Without leader empathy, team morale is fragile.  The leader lacking in empathy is driven by his own needs and blind to or indifferent to the needs of others.   Empathy is not the same as compassion, or caring about others’ needs and experience.  Manipulative and authoritarian leaders can be adept at intuiting other peoples’ vulnerabilities and exploiting them.  Adding the capacity to care about—not just perceive—the experience of others creates a beloved leader.

In that light, I would ask, what would be the purpose of relating a story about money to a group of people who oversee people who’s chief complaint is earned income? How could that story about earning less money have a positive impact on culture? In my opinion, it’s a key indicator of just how wrong Dr. Joseph is for the position he holds and that he lacks the basic traits to effectively lead this districts schools.

Nashville needs an educational leader, not a social warrior. The right person knows the difference between the two and where the roles overlap. Unfortunately, the evidence continues to mount that Dr. Joseph is not that person. I would challenge board members who continually defend him to outline evidence to the contrary using data not created by Dr. Joseph himself.

In his speech to principals today, Dr. Joseph castigated those who would come to board meetings and criticize, “I’m aware of calls to come to board meetings and say what’s wrong. Sign up to come and tell what’s going right.” I would counter that by saying, when I take my car to the garage because of engine trouble, I don’t tell the mechanics how well the brakes are working. You can’t solve a problem until you recognize a problem.

I do agree with Dr. Joseph on one thing, “Our children deserve better.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RIGHT TOOL

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“You know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies – which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world – what I want to forget.”
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“Feelings are much stronger than thoughts. We are all led by instinct, and our intellect catches up later.”
Bono

Imagine for a minute, a conversation where I stood in front of you holding a hammer and proclaimed it a screwdriver. You’d probably look at me a little askew and say, “No, that’s a hammer.”

“But I just used it to drive that screw into the drywall,” I would reply, “Took me a couple tries and not all the screws went in, but I used this tool and therefore it is a screwdriver.”

At this point, you’d probably start to ease away from me, and wonder how come I can’t tell the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer.

Now imagine, that you turn to the person next to you and ask in an aside, “Good lord, doesn’t he realize that’s a hammer and not a screwdriver?”

“Well, that’s what he’s using it for, so technically….”

I believe that at this point, you would try to exit the conversation as quick as quickly as possible, wondering if we all weren’t little nuts. Yet, this is the very same type of conversation we continue to have about MAP testing, accommodations for special education and English Learner students, and what is a universal screener.

MNPS began MAP testing a couple of years ago under the guise of giving parents a greater understanding of their children’s learning progress. In case you are not familiar, MAP is a high-quality formative assessment that is used to guide instruction. When used as designed it gives teachers insight into exactly what students need and the growth they have made. If you buy the whole suite, which MNPS does not do, NWEA will desegregate the data in a manner that will allow teachers to target areas of need for individual students and drive small group instruction.

Unfortunately, that’s not what MNPS uses MAP for. District leadership uses it to justify policy, and as a universal screener for special education, magnet programs, and additional advanced academic programs. We do this despite the fact that the MAP version we utilize is not a universal screener. MNPS has used the ruse of using MAP as a screener to deny special education and English Learners accommodations – read-aloud, text-speech – that federal law says they are entitled to. Even though it doesn’t meet the guidelines for a universal screener as defined by the state.

Per the Tennessee Department of Education:

In grades K– 8, districts should administer a nationally normed, skills-based universal screener as part of the universal screening process. Universal screeners are not assessments in the traditional sense. They are brief, informative tools used to measure academic skills in six general areas (i.e., basic reading skills, reading fluency, reading comprehension, math calculation, math problem solving, and written expression).

If a standards-based assessment is used to screen all students instead of a skills-based universal screener, a skills-based screener is still necessary to identify more specific skill area(s) of focus and to determine alignment of interventions for students identified as “atrisk.”

I think that’s pretty clear, no? Furthermore, the department goes on to give a list of preferred vendors. A list that does not include MAP.

So why is MNPS using MAP testing as a universal screener? I honestly don’t know, I admit parts of it lend themselves to the potential of utilizing it as such but it is clearly not the right tool. An email received as part of an open record request sheds a little light into the districts decision-making process.

In reading through the ‘timeline,” I find it interesting how little guidance from the state is mentioned despite administrator recent testimony at board meetings. It is also clear that everybody involved is aware of the problems involved with using MAP as a universal screener. Yet, it took weeks before accommodations were restored.

The question now becomes how does the district utilize data where, by the district’s own admission, 13% of those taking the test did so previously without accommodations and now have accommodations restored? Obviously, results are going to be considerably higher for those now receiving accommodations, giving a false sense of growth. To what extent has the database been corrupted?

If MAP was being used as intended – a formative assessment to guide instruction – this would be a minor issue. But, MAP has been designated by Dr. Joseph as the tool for measurement of one of the district KPIs. That makes it a high-stakes test. Based on the way it has been administered over the last two years can it really be treated as such?

Here’s another wrinkle to throw into the mix. If you go over to the NWEA website and search “Guidance for Administering MAP Growth Assessments When Results Are Used for High-Stakes Purposes“, you will see that they stress the importance of keeping weeks of instruction consistent:

For example, assume both the fall and spring test windows are five weeks long. The week selected for growth comparisons is the middle week in both windows (Week 4 and 32, which results in 28 weeks of instruction). If this student tests during the first week of each window or the last week of each window, the interpretation of the student’s growth will not be affected, assuming he or she gets 28 weeks of instruction between test events. However, if the student has 24 weeks of instruction because the student tested during the last week of the fall window (Week 6) and the first week of the spring window (Week 30), the interpretation of this student’s growth may be significantly impacted if the student’s growth is still being compared to the 28-week standard. Therefore, it is recommended that once a testing schedule is established within a school for a testing term, a similar schedule should be used consistently at all subsequent terms. If students will receive more or less than 28 weeks of instruction between their fall and spring test events, the school or district should update their reports to reflect the actual number of instructional weeks that the students will receive between tests.

MNPS is testing every 12 weeks and the testing window is roughly 3 weeks. Furthermore, our August test is in the NWEA window for Fall. Our November and February testing dates fall into the Winter category. The Spring test is optional.

Here in lies my problem when I am told that criticism of Dr. Joseph should be limited to performance. When he controls the data, both its construct and its method of dissemination, that becomes a difficult task. In constructing his evaluation there needs to be more of a conversation about the validity of the measurement tools that are going to be used to produce the data that will be considered and if they are indeed the right ones to use. If I showed up to a track meet with a watch that ran fast, I don’t think I would be allowed to use it to measure my race pace. The same needs to hold true when measuring KPI’s for the district.

We also need to recognize that by utilizing a tool for something other then what’s it is intended for, we run the risk of identifying all students who need help. No different than when we try to drive screws in with a hammer. It may work for some, but others are going to get bent and lost. That should be unacceptable to anyone.

ENROLLMENT

If you’ll remember, last spring the district found out that they were going to receive $7.5 million dollars less in funding from the state due to lower than predicted student numbers. There was quite a bit of conversation around this shortage and when the district knew. Based on the 20-day counts that the district compiles, I was of the opinion that the district should have been aware pretty early in the year.

Last week I began to wonder what those number might be looking like this year and so, I requested them from the district. They provided me with the 40-day count.

The numbers paint an interesting trend. MNPS continues to move in a downward trend in terms of enrollment. This year it looks like in K-12, the district is down by roughly 200 students, though that number is a bit offset by pre-school and pre-k enrolments. There could be a number of reasons for this decline – more single people then families relocating to Nashville, cost of living forcing families to live in surrounding counties. However, charter school enrolments continue to grow.

It should be noted 200 students may seem like a miniscule number, but that could result in a lost $1.8 to the district budget. For an example of what that looks like in real-world dollars here’s a look at adjustments made to individual schools’ budgets after the 20-day count.

Individual school budgets are adjusted based on these counts. Remember school budgets receive per student allotments. The rule is if after the 20-day count if your enrollment is under projected, you receive funds equalling half of the allotted per student amount multiplied by the number of students difference. If you are over projected the formula works the same, but schools forfeit funds instead of receiving them.

For some schools, the result is more money. Some lose some of their money. Some, lose a lot of their individual school money. Hillwood HS received an extra $327k while Cane Ridge lost $246K. Those are substantial numbers. It is easy to see just how important it is to get those attendance predictions right.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because a school gets another $250k they are suddenly flush with cash. That money is already spent. Hopefully this year we are better prepared as we head into budget season.

SPEAKING FOR THE VOICELESS

Spend any time talking to MNPS teachers and administrators and you’ll find that morale is extremely low. District leadership tries to downplay it, focusing on feedback that they receive at listen and learns. But I’ll use a recent listen and learn at Antioch HS as an example of how the district isn’t going deep enough.

After introductions, the was meeting was opened to discussion. However, the discussion was only open on one subject, “What was working in the district?” After a lengthy silence, the moderator informed those in attendance that they could be very patient. The silence continued until uncomfortable teachers began to slowly fill the void. Eventually, the conversation improved, but many never received an opportunity to voice their real concerns. They were left to leave their questions with school board member Fran Bush. The good news here is that she will get answers to those questions. It still remains though that important voices are not getting heard.

Over the past 2 years, I can’t tell you the number of emails and private messages that I’ve received from teachers reaching out because they either felt no one else was listening, or they feared retribution if they publicly voiced their concerns. School board members and district leadership can downplay the fear and dissatisfaction all they want, it doesn’t change the fact that it is very real.

It is in this light that board member Amy Frogge has begun sharing via social media, 5 comments a day that she has received. Some people may be critical of the initiative, but the truth is, she has tried to hold this conversation away from the spotlight and fellow board members have turned a deaf ear. Director Joseph himself has done little to assuage the situation. He has re-enforced the perception of retribution by striking out at those who are critical, both board members and employees at Central Office. He may deny that charge with his words, but his actions and the lawsuits that have resulted because of those actions convey a different story. Word on the street is that another one is coming next week.

QUICK HITS

The TNDOE has released the new School Report Cards today. They have some interesting information, but as always I would recommend that the report card is taken with a grain of salt considering the number of testing issues the state has experienced over the last several years. Per Chalkbeat TN:

“The information and ratings on the report card are intended to be a catalyst for conversation, not a defining characteristic,” according to an information sheet explaining how the ratings work. “Ultimately, a quality education is more than a score, and these ratings provide one perspective on how a school is performing.”

Five educators will receive one of public education’s highest honors, the NEA Foundation’s prestigious Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, recognition as one of the nation’s top educators, and $10,000. One of those Educators will be former MNPS Teacher Cicely Woodard. Mrs. Woodard’s husband, Ron, is a high ranking administrator in Maury County and wanted me to let you know that in honor of his wife winning this incredible award, drinks are on him.

Congratulations to running back Devon Starling who was named the 2018 Mr. Football for Class 6A. Starling is the first Metro Schools’ football player to receive this award. Whoo Hoo!

, , and were each awarded a portion of an $8.25 million priority schools grant from the U.S. Department of Education. These grants will fund strategies for school improvement. Way to go guys! I’m sure those funds will be put to good use.

POLL RESULTS

Time to once again review the answers to this week’s poll questions. The first question asked whether you thought Mayor Briley should boycott last weekends Christmas Parade based on Kid Rock being the Grand Marshal. Most of you, 35 percent, felt that he should keep politics aside and just attend. 19% of you pointed out that his attendance wouldn’t make a difference one way or another. Only 8 percent of you supported his boycott. As a side note, View host Joy Behar appreciated the Mayor’s posturing, though I’m not clear on how much that’ll help him get elected.

Here are the write-ins:

Our mayor is an embarrassment. 1
He should give away less money to corporations 1
I think he should start giving a crap about public employees instead of rich ppl

Question number two asked, what does district number 2 Sito Narcisse do all day? It was meant in a light-hearted manner and many of you responded accordingly. The number one answer, 27 percent of the vote, was, “Plays hide and seek with community superintendents.” The number two answer at 18% was, “scours the want ads.” Four percent of you responded, “meets with and provides leadership to high school principals.”

I’m going to reserve comment and just provide the write-in answers:

A tie just depending on the dust between #2,#3, & #7. 1
applies for Superintendent jobs in other districts 1
Who’s Sito Narcisse 1
Clearly more than you do! 1
Who? 1
Out of state interiews and chit chat with his wife in the same office 20 ft away 1
Like all MNPS employees he’s busy looking for another job on Monster.com! 1
Finds new ways to rebrand policy that existed prior to Dr. Joseph.? 1
Rarely are Dr J & chiefs around except photo ops 1
Counts his money with Maritza while looking for other jobs.

The last question asked for your selection to be grand marshal of the holiday parade. The surprise choice… with 27% of the vote… News 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams. Gets my thumbs up. Here are the write-ins:

Jill Speering 2
I don’t spend any time thinking about this. 1
James Shaw, The Nashville Hero 1
Reading Recovery Teachers 1
It’s an embarrassment that we need a referendum on all social decisions 1
Somebody with a raincoat 1
Our city doesn’t have a leader. We are too busy attracting new folks. 1
Rinne 1
Joseph Shaw Jr 1
Waffle House hero James Shaw Jr 1
Keith Urban 1
Kid Rock. 1
Don’t care. 1
The Bang Bang Twins 1
Richard Fulton

 

 

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.