A DOLLOP OF EVERYTHING

“The great challenge of adulthood is holding on to your idealism after you lose your innocence.”
Bruce Springsteen

“I want to disabuse people of the idea that knowledge is power. Knowing how to get to Detroit is not the same thing as having the bus fare.”
Andrew Vachss

 

 

The count down to the start of school continues, we are now under a month away. This past week was a fairly busy one and as a result, we have a lot of ground to cover today. I’m going to give you a little bit of warning here at the beginning, expect a fair amount of skipping around as I try to hit everything I think you need to know. So hold on to your hat.

First up, is a look at state-level actions. After Governor Lee was elected he was fairly ambivalent about voucher legislation. He’d promised some of his ardent supporters that he would get it done, but I didn’t get an initial sense that he was wed to the concept. Unfortunately, he surrounded himself with some people that were not as ambivalent and they went to work on him. To the point that the Governor is now proposing that Tennessee be ready to start dispersing cash next year.

In order to facilitate this inflated pace, the Tennessee Department of Education has hired a new Deputy Superintendent, Amity Schuyler, and assigned her as project manager for the state voucher program. Schuyler arrives in Tennessee via Florida. In case you hadn’t heard, vouchers in Florida have been fraught with issues.

But Schuyler wasn’t brought on board due to her having been involved with the successful implementation of vouchers. Per Tennessee State Superintendent Peggy Schwinn,

“She also believes in education savings accounts. And to take the lead on this project, I need someone who believes in it,”

That quote leads me to believe that there is a lack of belief around the validity of vouchers in the TNDOE, including with its leader.

The kick up in the timeline should be a cause of concern for anyone that actually cares about educational outcomes for kids. Getting a program of this magnitude off the ground means aligning a lot of moving parts. Families have to be notified and informed. Funding has to be secured. Oversight policies have to be crafted. Participating schools need to be vetted.

The latter is an area of particular concern to me. It’s been long established that there are not enough private institutions in Nashville and Memphis to meet the potential demand. That likely means a number of start-ups will take root over the next couple of years. Hence my concern.

Some of that concern can be mitigated by the fact that not every school in Tennessee is eligible to participate. The voucher law states:

funds will be provided for the student to be educated at a private school that meets the requirements established by the department of education and the state board of education for a Category I, II, or III private schools (referred to as a participating school).

The definition for each category is as follows,

Category 1 schools are approved by the State Department of Education

Category 1-SP (previously Category 7) schools are Special Purpose schools encompassing some pre-K programs and transient care facilities serving DCS students.

Category 2 schools are approved by a private school accrediting agency which has been approved by the Tennessee State Board of Education.  Schools holding full accreditation status with an approved agency are approved by the State Department of Education.  Currently, the following agencies have been approved by the State Board of Education:

·            Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI)

·            Catholic Diocese of Knoxville

·            Catholic Diocese of Nashville

·            Mississippi Private School Association

·            Southern Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist

·            Tennessee Association of Christian Schools (TACS)

·            Tennessee Association of Non-Public Academic Schools (TANAS)

·            Association of Classical & Christian Schools

·            National Lutheran School Accreditation

Category 3 schools are regionally accredited (by, for example, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)).

Category 4 schools are Church-Related Schools as recognized by associations mentioned in TCA 49-50-801.

Category 5 schools are Acknowledged for Operation.

Schools in Categories 1, 2, 3, and 1-SP are considered to be approved schools for pupils transferring from one school to another and transfer of credits and transcripts.

Students who transfer from Categories 4 and 5 schools back to public school must be tested to determine grade level and number of credits.

Andy Spears at TNEd Report recently wrote about the pending arrival of Thales Academy in Nashville. As the law is written today, Thales would not be eligible to participate in the voucher program as the legislation is listed today and therefore some conservatives are saying that voucher opponents are crying wolf and creating concerns where there shouldn’t be any.

But…and there is always a but…what about in a year or so when the Governor starts bemoaning the lack of eligible schools. When he starts talking up all these wonderful institutions that would love the opportunity to educate our poor kids, but can’t because of legislation that prevents kids from getting a quality education, will somebody not move to change the requirements? Will somebody not point out that here sits Thales Academy with tuition the equivalent of the value of a voucher yet can’t serve kids because of overly stringent regulations?

When you are wealthy you have the luxury of being able to wait to get the check. And while Thales may not get a check today, there is nothing guaranteeing that one with interest won’t arrive in 5 years courtesy of their friends in the GOP.

The picture to the left comes from Chalkbeat and shows Governor Lee addressing the TNDOE. These are the people charged with improving educational outcomes for the urban children of Memphis and Nashville. In looking at it does anything strike you as funny? Not “haha” funny, but rather “hold your head and cry” funny.

A closing note on the voucher legislation. Mayor Briley has been telling people out on the campaign trail that his administration stayed out of the voucher fight because they felt it was an unwinnable fight based on Republicans holding a supermajority in the state. Somebody needs to remind Briley that vouchers were defeated repeatedly over the last 5 years with a smaller Democrat caucus than the one that currently exists. This year’s legislation only passed by one vote. Think about that the next time you read one of his education advisor Indira Dammu’s tweets about the dangers of vouchers.

MAYORS RACE

This week financial disclosures were due for candidates running for office in the upcoming election. I urge you to head on over to the Davidson County Election Commission website and peruse them for yourself, but here are a few tidbits.

When it comes to finances, two candidates, Mayor Briley, and John Cooper have a decided edge. Per the Nashville Scene’s Steve Cavendish,

  • Briley raised $443K, has $440K on hand
  • Cooper raised $820K ($550K in loans)$142K on hand *
  • Swain raised $111K ($49K on hand) *
  • Clemmons raised $168K ($120K on hand)

That kind of money advantage would indicate that the mayor’s race, in reality, is a two-person race. Now people will point to a certain school board member and how she overcame a larger disadvantage than the one facing Clemmons to win her seat. She didn’t just do it once either, but twice. Clemmons is certainly earning the sweat equity it’ll take to win and if he can get into the run-off, everything changes. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

Diving deeper into the numbers raise a few eyebrows. Not surprisingly, Briley raised a lot of money from the business community and the minority community. So if anyone is buying the rhetoric that he’ll be a champion for the average Nashvillian, I still have that bridge in Arizona for sale.

Cooper, much to my dismay is getting a lot of cash from the ed reform crowd. Joe Scarlett, founder of the Scarlett Foundation and vice-chair of the Beacon Center of Tennessee board; Townes Duncan, Tennessee Charter School Center founder; Natasha Kamrani, Democrats for Education Reform; and Lee Barfield, a board member on pro-voucher group American Federation for Children all donated to Cooper’s campaign. While I’m troubled by these disclosures, but I also understand they were going to donate somewhere and Cooper is the logical choice. Their contribution does not necessarily indicate an alignment on education issues.

Ironically enough, Unchained Joseph contributed to the John Ray Clemmons campaign. There is an argument that could be made that without Mayor Briley publically coming to his defense, Joseph would have been dumped with a much smaller payout than the one he received. He rewards Briley by taking some of the money that Briley helped secure and giving it to his opponent. Gotta love it. Joseph also donated to former school board member Cheryl Mayes campaign to be the council representative for district 32.

Amazon is already making their presence felt prior to their imminent arrival. Several council candidates received $1000 donations from the business giant. One of those candidates being council -at-large candidate and tax increase proponent Bob Mendes. Fellow at-large candidate Fabian Bedne got a grand from the Johnny Cash Museum. Interestingly enough, staunch Democrat Bill Freeman gave $1600 to the campaign of Steve Glover. Anyone who questions the inclusivity of Nashville needs to look at the financial disclosure of at-large candidate Zulfat Suara. Suara raised $51,503 last quarter and has $47,920 currently on hand.

There are a lot of stories in those financial disclosures.

QUICK HITS

It was with great sadness but understanding that I read the facebook post of Knoxville’s teacher/advocate Lauren Sorenson announcing her stepping back from advocacy efforts.

Sorenson was a classroom teacher in 2013 when she took to the podium to address the Knoxville School Board on how teachers really felt about the states new evaluation system. Her words were powerful and almost single-handedly united advocacy groups across the state. To say she was inspirational is an understatement.

Unfortunately, she is not the only advocate that is leaving the fight. I hear from more and education champions that they’ve grown weary and will be soon be withdrawing as well. Make no mistake, they will be missed. Hopefully, there will be new voices to take their place.

Teachers opening up their bank accounts today expecting their paychecks to reflect the recently passed 3% raise were in for a bit of surprise. Per MNPS, that pay raise won’t show up on checks until the July 26 check. Any increases in district pay have always been done on the second pay period in July.

Congratulations go out to Nashville’s interim-superintendent Dr. Adrienne Battle as she announced to principals this week that her family is getting a new edition. She is expected to give birth to her second child in October. Currently Dr. Battle is only planning to be out for a couple of weeks. Very exciting news for everybody involved and we couldn’t be more excited for her.

At the last board meeting, Jill Speering brought forth a resolution to name the Transportation Building The Carlisle Beasley, Jr Building. Beasly was a career employee of the Metro Nashville Public School Transportation Department, serving 33 years as Director of Pupil Transportation. He passed away on Memorial Day, May 27, 2019, at the age of 83.

During his tenure as Director, the Transportation department was a model of efficiency and his successful execution of the transportation component of the 1971 court-ordered desegregation plan enabled Metro Nashville Public Schools to become nationally recognized as a model for successful pupil integration. Throughout the transition stages of the desegregation plan, Mr. Beasley routinely broke down barriers by meeting arriving school buses in areas of stiff resistance, regularly escorting anxious children to the comfort of awaiting teachers and principals and intervening on their behalf in threatening situations.

Seems to me that the naming of the Transportation Building in his honor is quite appropriate.

Also at the last board meeting, Chief Academic Officer David Williams presented on the upcoming year’s academic plan, specifically the literacy component. The presentation had a lot of nice generalizations but lacked, in my opinion, a significant explanation of how these goals were going to be reached.

There was an expressed commitment to focusing on Foundational Skills for k-4 but there was never a clear explanation of what that really looked like. To my ears, it sounded like an increased focus on phonetics despite everybody making a concentrated effort not to say phonetics. Jill Speering did her best to try and draw out a deeper explanation but was unsuccessful.

Board member Gini Pupo-Walker also tried to draw out further details around the use of literacy coaches and their effectiveness, as well as the quality of texts being utilized. I’ll let you decide if the explanation was satisfactory.

The biggest issue for me was that in reviewing the Key Performance Indicators for last year it was revealed that we felt short on all three indicators. Our response is to keep the same indicators as last year, but I heard nothing that would indicate a change in strategy to counter why we fell short. In other words, we were going to do the same thing as last year and hope for a different outcome.

One final note about those KPI’s, the very first one is to increase the number of students in every sub-group who meet or exceed their academic growth projections in Literacy from 55.4% to 60% by 2020. In other words, we will consider the year successful if 60% of students meet their growth projections, But what about the other 40% of students. I heard nothing that expressed any plans for them. That’s problematic for me.

If you watching nothing else in that video of the school board meeting, you have to watch the end of William’s presentation where he admits that the Florida State study on CKLA wasn’t properly vetted and that principals were coerced into participating. If you’ll remember the presentation of this study is where Amy Frogge was blasted for calling it a dog and pony show and Rachael Elrod cried over the indignity of how presenters were treated. Hmmm…seems some people owe others an apology because the characterization was accurate. I doubt I’ll get mine but maybe Ms Frogge will get hers.

If you are the parent of a child athlete you need to read this article from ESPN, ‘These kids are ticking time bombs’: The threat of youth basketball. In it, author Baxter Holmes discusses the alarming number of injuries in the NBA that many attributes to players focusing on one sport at too young an age. Many parents feel that without specializing at a young age players will be unable to compete for scholarships at a later age. The case of Kobe Bryant is cited as a counter-argument,

Think of Bryant, and you likely envision a man devoting countless hours honing his game from an early age, a living exemplar of specialization made good.

In truth, it wasn’t until Bryant was about 15 or 16 — a few years after having moved back to the U.S. from Italy, where his father had played professionally — that the Lakers icon says he started playing AAU. Bryant estimates he played in maybe five tournaments in all, plus a handful of high school all-star games. “That was it,” he says.

Bryant looks back on what he did at that age (13). “It wasn’t like I was playing 10 games every week or some s— like that,” he says. “I didn’t play any games. You shoot a little bit every day, and then, by the time you’re 15 or something like that, you start kicking it up a little bit and that’s when you start training harder. But before that, it’s just skill s—. Can you dribble with your left? Can you shoot properly?”

The rate of injury among college and young pro players is alarming and only growing. Many attribute it to focusing too early on one sport. Experts offer these recommendations. Delaying specialization for young players in basketball until they’re 14 or older; limiting high-density scheduling based on age-appropriate guidelines through high school, and ensuring rest from organized basketball at least one day a week and extended time away each year. For example: that 7- to 8-year-olds play only one game a week (length: 20-28 minutes), one practice per week (30-60 minutes), and no more than three hours per week of organized basketball. For grades 9 through 12, the recommendations are two to three games per week; 90-120 minutes per practice; and three to four practices per week.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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