WE HAVE TO DO BETTER

“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.

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5 thoughts

  1. Hirsch already made nice profit from MNPS when then mayor Bredesen decided that we needed to create a curriculum based on core knowledge for elementary and middle grades In return, he allocated funds for one music and one art teacher in every elementary school. I wonder how much of the original MNPS core curriculum is in Dr. Hirsch’s CKLA curriculum?

  2. until the current admin is no longer in power, we won’t be able to ‘do better’. the current climate of fear and theft will continue unabated.

  3. Question: What are your thoughts about the parade of complaints on the Facebook page of Amy Frogge? I am not sure if all the authors are women but they appear to be. This only confirms the nature of pink collar jobs and of course the lack of collective bargaining. Not one mention of trying to organize, to vote out those anti union workers and certainly no resolutions or purpose to this other than to shame someone who appears to be shameless and can disregard it all as he has repeatedly demonstrated.

    The only male voice I recall was a former Teacher, a young man who moved to South Africa and wrote an eloquent piece on the subject as he walked out the door. And funny I told a Parent about it as he had been his own Daughter’s teacher and he wanted to talk to him about it.. So my response was: “So you are going to go to South Africa then?” He did not even know that he had already left before year end. That is troublesome on many accounts but the lack of engagement by others in regards to the district is another. Currently the Board are divided or not even engaged the girl whom you lost to is utterly a wall, Pupo Walker I suspect will be taking over at Conexion and then what? Someone too busy to worry about the state of the schools. If she ends up staying on. There are a lot of agendas on that Board and it seems little to do with the schools.

    The end of the year is coming. Will the district tell how many gigs are leaving. I was offered a long term sub gig til the end of the year. No thanks. There are more coming. Or just people saying they are but will take medical leave. What are the numbers there? The sub rosters are chalk full of gigs daily. I refuse to take even those as I end up having to switch to cover or cover multiple classrooms. It is absurd. There is no mention of raising our salaries which I can make more at a mall. Educated, trained, licensed and experienced and you wonder why no one wants the jobs. Teachers disrespected it trickles down. At this point I will clean toilets at Amazon for less than 150K as long as their are benefits.

  4. TC,

    There is one question in your post that I can speak to.

    “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.”

    This is called delayed treatment and it’s a pretty common practice in education research. The benefit of it is that you’re not denying treatment to any particular group in the long run while still establishing a control group so you can measure the impact. Let’s say you’re thinking about implementing an after school program across the district. Instead of just implementing the program in all schools at the start, you randomly choose half of the schools to do the program in year 1 and then the other half to start the program in year 2. You test your outcomes of the program at the end of Year 1 and see if there’s a difference between the two groups.

    So yes, both groups receive the treatment so I get your point. However, because you measured after Year 1, then the schools that haven’t yet implemented the program can effectively serve as your control group.

    Hope this is helpful.

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