“Some people see things that are and ask, Why?
Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?
Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.”
“We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
I hope everybody enjoyed the 4th of July. Independence Day has always signified the beginning of the end of summer for me. Experience has taught me that the time spanning from July 4th to the start of school runs at a pace much faster than that of the time spanning from Memorial Day to Independence Day. I don’t know how that is possible, but it is one of those things that just is.
Next week, MNPS principal’s time will be spent in district meetings as part of what is being called Principal Launch week. (Principal Launch Week Final Agenda) A quick perusal of the agenda reveals that much of the time will be focused on the Inquiry Cycle. It’s a concept that Doctor Joseph introduced to MNPS. All indications are that current MNPS leadership is going to double down on its commitment to the practice. Going as far as to create a non-supervisory position for former EDSSI Karen Desouza-Gallman to support the Associate Superintendents – yes, Community Supes are now called Associate Supes – in implementing and adhering to Inquiry Cycle practice.
Some of you may be familiar with the term, while others are probably wondering what exactly is the Inquiry Cycle. According to the Harvard School of Education,
A TOOL TO SUPPORT DESIGNING, DOCUMENTING, ASSESSING,AND REFLECTING ON MAKER-CENTERED LEARNING EXPERIENCES
In researching the term, I come away with the impression that it’s another one of those common-sense actions that someone is making millions off of by dressing it up and making it look far more complex than it is. You can find all kinds of articles and images that make the concept as complex as you like, but essentially it consists of 4 steps: Asking a question – researching answer through the review local data – choose a course of action – review and reflect on outcomes.
For example, we COULD ask the question do principals have enough time to prepare for the start of school?
In reviewing the data we discover those in many of the high needs schools were just hired for their positions. EDDSI’s for individual principals were just assigned on Wednesday afternoon preceding the Independence Day holiday. AP’s are scheduled to report to buildings next week and many schools have new AP’s. Many principals are still in the process of hiring teachers. The district needs to make sure that all principals are operating under the same framework. There is also essential information that legally needs to be reviewed every year. School starts in less than a month.
The action chosen is to schedule a week of full principal meetings in order to force principals to focus on district initiatives.
My reflection would be that by forcing building leaders out of their building three weeks before school starts, the district is increasing the difficulty level of preparing schools for students. A better course of action might have been to assign and notify principals in regard to their direct supervisors a month ago. This would have facilitated a discussion about district needs and what principal needs rise to the level of district needs that could have impacted time requirements for the principal launch.
Perhaps this conclave could have been held at an earlier date or the schedule could have been more condensed allowing principals an opportunity to spend time with new APs. There is little differentiation in the agenda between principals of various experience levels. Perhaps scheduling could have reflected that experience level and attendance at every session not made mandatory.
That, in a nutshell, is the Inquiry Cycle. I must admit though, I kinda like the whole inquiry concept. Used correctly, it has the ability to lead to better decisions and create authentic learning communities. It also puts more decision-making powers in the hands of those doing the work instead of employing outside entities to come in and dictate how the work should be done. As long as the right questions are asked and reflection is a true reflection.
Here’s another example of how things could unfold under the utilization of the Inquiry Cycle.
This time our question is why do MNPS educators feel so underappreciated?
In reviewing our locally generated data we discover that the issue is voiced often in district conducted survey’s. Local principal’s and teachers are seldom included in policy discussions and when they are their input is often ignored. There is a tendency to speak at those in the trenches rather than a consistent effort of collaboration. As a result, district edicts are often at least modified but often ignored on the school level. Buy-in by all remains elusive.
The action chosen by district leadership is to have only executive leaders present information to principals in attendance at the principal launch.
My reflection would be that this is an opportunity lost. Surely at least one principal in MNPS is already utilizing Inquiry Cycles in an effective manner in their school and could share what it looks like in practice. Perhaps principals could have been paired with executive leadership to co-present on several, if not all subjects.
There are 5 days of sessions and I don’t see a single one that is rooted in input from teachers and students. In all of this, is there no place for perhaps MNEA to speak with principals about the challenges teachers are facing and the general frame of mind they are in – how similar or dissimilar are individual buildings to the general mindset of teachers. This is like running a restaurant without ever talking to the cooks and waiters.
This is where administrators continually show their hand on how much they actually value teachers. It’s a month from school and the district has at minimum 200 openings – that’s being generous. Its well documented that principals have a huge impact on teacher retention. Would a session on strategies successful principals have utilized to retain staff and attract new high-quality teachers not have value?
There is a session on creating a “data culture” but I don’t see one, despite several references to a “culture of care”, that directly addresses creating a culture where teachers and students flourish. How impactful would it be to have a bevy of students address principals about experiences that impacted them, both positively and negatively?
If we actively apply the principles of the Inquiry Cycle, the result will probably be the implementation of better actions. But only if we apply the process to all decision making. Including decisions just impacting adults. Otherwise, it’ll be just like the principles of Social and Emotional learning where we solely focus on student interactions.
We preach how students should conduct themselves when interacting with other students, or how teachers should act when interacting with students, but very little focus is given to how adults in the building, or across the district, interact with each other. I can think of numerous occasions over the past few years where a restorative circle consisting of just adults might not have been such a bad idea.
My one caveat on all of this, including SEL, is where is the line drawn between these individual initiatives and good teaching. I would argue that good teaching incorporates elements of both processes.
I suspect some of this grows out of the drive to convince people that anybody can teach if they are supplied the right processes. That’s a theory that I reject whole-heartedly. Teaching is not just a profession, it’s an art form. We do ourselves a disservice when we fail to recognize that. Let’s hope that’s not what this is.
There continue to be reverberations from last week’s announcement by Mayor Briley that he suddenly found $7.5 million dollars that could be used for teacher compensation. Many are concerned that the raise is temporary and that it will be rescinded next year. Per Mayor Briley the funding is recurring. The raise in January also is not contingent on who is Mayor. While there is always a possibility of promises not being met, every indication I’m getting is that the risk for that is low here.
Personally, I’m hoping that this is the crack that will open tourist and developer generated revenues to deeper scrutiny. I don’t believe that there was only $7.5 that could be accessed by the mayor’s office. It’s being reported that 343,000 people celebrated the 4th downtown. If each of those contributed $3 in taxes, not an unreasonable assumption, that’s over a million dollars. I continue to believe that the under closer scrutiny we’ll discover that either the deals in the past were worse than we ever realized, or there is more money somewhere.
Rumor on the street is that school board member Will Pinkston and Mayor Briley have broken up. The root of the issue seems to stem out of a belief by Pinkston that the Mayor’s Office and TNDOE are in cahoots to take over the White’s Creek cluster and charterize it. At this point, it’s impossible to tell if state action on the White’s Creek cluster is an actual threat or just a figment of Pinkston’s conspiracy addled brain. We’ll keep digging and if you hear sad country songs emanating from the Mayor’s office, at least you’ll know why.
Does anybody know if the MNPS communications department is working this summer or not? At the very least they seem to have taken a temporary leave of absence. The latest snafu is the recent rollout of EDDSI assignments to principals. The information was treated as the equivalent to Russian state secrets until principals were individually notified the afternoon before the holiday, a time commonly known as the holiday news dump.
Either the communications department wasn’t consulted on a communications plan for unveiling this essential information or they designed a terrible plan. Things being communicated in the manner as they were, did not get principals essential information in a timely fashion, nor did it reinforce a perception of transparency. MNPS has to do better.
John Ray Clemmons picked up a new endorsement for Mayor this past week. Knoxville’s staunch defender of public education State House Representative Gloria Johnson has lent her voice to that of the chorus calling for Clemmons to become Nashville’s next mayor. I interpret the move as a means to show support from fellow state representatives for Clemmons’s aspirations. Johnson is extremely well respected in education circles and as a result, should help Clemmons.
Interesting story out of Memphis. A charter school, currently under the Achievement School District, will leave the ASD and continue under the oversight of Shelby County Schools. Citing costs and differing regulations, Freedom Preparatory Academy has indicated that they will move 2.5 miles down the road to a new building and come under the SCSD umbrella. But the ASD has plans as well. Per Chalkbeat TN,
“The building is an ASD school and the ASD will continue to operate a school there next year per our commitment to the community and students,” said Jennifer Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education, in an email. “We have a plan in place regardless of what Freedom Prep elects to do.”
Not like this going to become a mess or anything. Read the whole story in Chalkbeat.
Here’s a story out of Indiana involving vouchers and recruitment incentives that you’ll want to read. Nothing good will come out of Tennessee’s new legislation.
MNPS’s continually talks about the importance of equity. Yet that definition seems to have limited scope. While it’s true that the number of black administrators has steadily grown under Joseph and now Battle, the number of Hispanic, Asian, and Muslim leaders have declined. By my count, there are 2 Hispanics in executive leadership roles, no Asians, and no Muslims that I know of.
The number of Hispanic students has grown over the last 4 years while the number of black students has dropped. If we are truly committed to equity it is essential that we put the same amount of effort into identifying Hispanic and Asian leaders and teachers as we do Black leaders and teachers. Otherwise, it’s not equity. It’s exchanging one majority for another.
John Cooper picked up an endorsement by the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund.
Anybody heard anything from the Blue Print for Childhood Early Childhood Access? In January, the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville was selected as the lead organization to manage the implementation of the “Blueprint for Early Childhood Success,” the first-of-its-kind citywide literacy plan to double the number of Nashville third-graders reading on grade level by 2025. I know that Board Member Christiane Buggs is still employed as a project manager but other than that I’ve heard nothing.
“The Blueprint is one of the most comprehensive literacy plans in the country, and I’m confident that United Way’s vision will bring it to life,” said Mayor David Briley. “I look forward to seeing how they accelerate progress on the plan in 2019.”
That’s something that Mayor Briley and I share. I can’t wait to see how they accelerate progress in 2019.
What about TNReady scores? Has anybody seen anything on them? After al,l it is the first week in July and therefore they are becoming increasingly irrelevant in the guiding of instruction. I know, I know…just saying.
If you truly care about literacy initiatives that seem to work, Andy Spears has an update on the states Read to Be Ready Camps and how they are endangered due to lack of funding. It’s just one more sad story related to recently enacted voucher legislation.
That’s it for today. Thank you for your support. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we try to accentuate the positive. If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Thanks for your support, and if you feel so inclined, please head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Thanks to this week’s newest donors. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you on Monday.