“There’s that horrible-beautiful moment, that bitter-sweet impasse where you know that somebody is bullshitting you but they’re doing it with such panache and conviction…no, it’s because they say exactly what you want to hear, at that point in time.”
“I want to cry and hit my head off the wall—and scream until I pass out, but I gave that up for Lent.”
Today marks a monumental occasion. This is blog post number 500. Over the last 6 years, I’ve managed to compose 500 blog posts discussing education policy nationally, statewide, and locally. To be honest I don’t know whether to celebrate or mourn.
There are so many hidden agendas, and dishonest players, involved in public education policy, that it’s often hard to feel like you are making a difference. Bad policy is continually recycled. Bad actors continue to get second, third, and fourth acts. The good guys don’t receive nearly enough applause. As a result, it often feels like we are often on and an endless hamster wheel.
When I get discouraged, I think of the words of my wise wife from a number of years ago. We decided to sponsor a young man in Jui Jitsu classes. She wanted to do this because she thought he would really benefit from classes, and he did, but also because she’d become overwhelmed with all that needed to be done and the creeping feeling that she wasn’t making a difference. The only way to counter that was to reduce everything down to one child and focus on what you could impact.
That’s why I continue to write this blog. Because I know through talking to educators through the years that it is impactful. Writing these posts has given me a greater appreciation of the dedication and sacrifice made by our professional educators.
Along with the errors and omissions that I’ve revealed, I’ve been privileged to tell some amazing stories as well. Stories that needed illuminating and sharing. Thank you for allowing me to share those tales.
Most of all I want to thank all of the Nashville, and beyond educators, who have fueled my writings. Y’all have been extremely generous with your time and knowledge and I appreciate it more than you will ever know. With your continued generosity and blessings, let’s see if we can’t get to 1000 posts.
Yesterday’s Tennessean carried an editorial by Corey DeAngelis who is the director of school choice at the Reason Foundation and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. In his editorial – State tests deter private schools from participating in voucher programs – DeAngelis complains that forcing voucher eligible private schools to give TNReady tests would severely limit their participation in the state’s new voucher program. In his eyes, demanding that private schools meet the same accountability metrics as public schools would limit choice options for families.
“Private schools decide whether to participate in school choice programs each year. Because additional regulations are the primary costs associated with participation, they reduce the quantity of private schools available to families. And because the lower-quality private schools are the most strapped for cash, these regulations are more likely to deter the higher-quality schools.”
I almost laughed out loud when I read this and it would be comical if it wasn’t so depressing. Since the last century, the ed-reform crowd has been pounding the drumbeat over the failure of public schools based on test scores. They have long been well aware of the shortcomings of standardized testing but were willing to overlook those shortcomings as long as testing could be used to drum up fear among parents to create a market for their privatization efforts.
It is test results that have served as the basis for the need for parents to look past public schools for alternatives. Reformers will regularly point to the latest scores to show that schools aren’t teaching a sufficient number of kids to read and as a result, alternative schools need to be sought out. Unfortunately, more and more people are coming to the realization that test scores are more a reflection of socioeconomic status than actual learning. Since the ed-reformers are now secure in the depth of fear they’ve created, they are willing to toss aside a once useful tool in order to get more public money into private hands.
Private schools are well aware of the value of test scores. They know that if students who participate in the voucher program are forced to take in TNReady tests they will produce similar results as those students enrolled in public schools, thus revealing the ineffectiveness of a voucher strategy. A strategy that comes with a $300 million price tag.
So how does DeAngelis propose we assess the quality of education that students who enroll in the state’s voucher program receive? He writes, “if you are going to have a testing mandate, at least allow private schools to choose a nationally norm-referenced test to prevent discouraging program participation.” But of course, we’d all like to be able to pick an assessment that paints us in the best light. I’m sure he’d actually prefer we just take his word that private schools offer a better education.
The opinion piece closes with a co-opting of words that many of us defenders of public education will recognize,
Proponents of the state testing requirement in Tennessee have good intentions. They want the best for students. But the evidence suggests this particular regulation could have the opposite of its intended effect by reducing the amount of meaningful education options for families.
I wholeheartedly agree that the state needs to end its over-reliance on standardized testing. But if it did, DeAngelis and his crew would have to find different means to scare parents away from their local schools. Because if we remove the testing aspect and allow for a true evaluation of the services provided by our public schools, we’d find that they are a lot better than we’ve been led to believe. If that happens, the edu-grifters would have to develop another scheme to get taxpayer dollars into their private pockets.
Some times you have to watch out for fake friends.
SO THERE IS A SCHOOL BOARD RACE GOING ON?
Will Pinkston’s failure to fulfill his obligation to his constituents by completing his full term as the school board representative for District 7 has created a void on the board. One that will be filled until the end of Pinkston’s term by an appointee of Metro Council. An appointee that is expected to be named the second week of November.
How many of you are familiar with this process? How many have had an opportunity to voice who you would like to fill this vacancy? How many of you even know who the options are? As far as I can tell, to date, the campaign for Pinkston’s seat has been conducted primarily in council chambers.
Two main candidates have emerged – Freda Player-Peters, the former SIEU Political Director, and Kevin Stacy, former Executive Director of MNPS’s ELL Department, but did you even know that a local parent, Elizabeth Hines has filed out the questionnaire – ironically to show that ordinary day to day parents want to be included – in order to be considered? How about Allison Simpson a long time parent advocate? All are potentially solid options that would represent the families of District 7 well, but shouldn’t those families get a choice?
Last week, a letter was sent from 9 metro council members endorsing Player-Peters based mainly on her work with SIEU, an organization that contributes heavily to political candidates. Last election cycle SIEU contributed just shy of $60K to candidates. Not all of the CM’s who signed the letter received money from SIEU but that kind of investment should probably warrant a disclaimer.
Furthermore, I’m puzzled why council members who don’t even represent council districts within district 7 feel the need to take point on naming a replacement. I’d love to see what O’Connel’s response would be if someone else tried to dictate who should represent them. Yet here he is out making recommendations without really understanding the needs of this district. Same goes for Sledge, Syracuse, and Pulley.
District 7 has a high number of immigrants as residents. Its probably the most diverse district in the district. The schools in the district are home to many of MNPS’s EL students, it seems to me that the experience of a former EL Executive Director would prove invaluable. I could be wrong, but shouldn’t those directly affected by the appointment get more of a say?
This whole process has been anything but transparent. In their letter to colleagues, the signed CM’s fail to cite any expression of their constituents’ views. The endorsement letter points out that 4 of the CM’s represent council districts in District 7. While they neglect to reveal how they solicited constituents’ choice, they cite Player-Peter’s long dedication to the children of Nashville. I’m puzzled how that commitment as a union rep is any greater than someone who has actually educated Nashville’s children.
CM’s cite the need for a tighter relationship between the council and the school board, yet there is no mention of the need for a tighter relationship between the school board and its constituents. The role of the district 7 school board is to represent the interests of the residents of District 7, not the interests of the Metro Coucil. Something that seems to be getting lost in this conversation.
It also needs to be pointed out that Pinkston and SIEU have long had an entwined relationship. It is not a stretch to consider Player-Peters as his hand-picked successor. Pinkston has long shown a disregard for democratic principles and has continually manipulated governing processes in the past. He’s only been able to that because he was enabled by local government officials.
The endorsement letter speaks to a new chapter in the Metro government. A sentiment I whole-heartedly support. It would be nice if that chapter included a greater commitment to transparency and inclusion of constituents’ desires. After all, that was pretty much the theme of the last election.
Looks like Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School is in the market for a new principal. Principal Marcia Northern had also served as teacher and AP at the school. No word on why she’s departing.
It looks like the TNDOE is pulling a page out of the “How to look like you are doing something without actually doing something” playbook. This week that they announced they will holding 6 listening sessions over the next couple of months in order to garner feedback on what to do about the state Achievement School District.
“The listening tour is a major step in the process as it is essential that we get feedback from the impacted stakeholders and districts to ensure that the plan sets schools and students up for success,” state spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said in an email. Really?!? Like nobody has ever offered feedback on the ASD in the past? What do they expect they are going to hear that hasn’t been said ad nauseam in the past?
I want to give a big birthday shout out to Nashville Education advocate Vesia Hawkins. It is my hope that she has a fantastic day.
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 and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is also welcome.
A huge shout out to all of you who lent your financial support this past month. I am eternally grateful for your generosity.
You can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated.