TALES OF INQUIRY

“earn what you can since everything’s for sale”
Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

“The most important thing in the life of every man and every woman is not that they should never fall along the way. The important thing is always to get back up, not to stay on the ground licking your wounds.”
Pope Francis, The Name of God is Mercy

I apologize for missing my self-imposed deadline yesterday.   Thanks to the generosity and commitment to transparency of MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Battle, I was afforded an opportunity to observe the implementation of the Inquiry Cycle at Tusculum ES where I am the parent representative on the leadership team. And while I wasn’t able to write yesterday, it was a morning well spent.

In the near future, I will dive deeper into the subject, but at present, I am still processing my thoughts about the Inquiry Cycle. After participating in the process, I have a better understanding of the criticisms but I also see the value. A few things though I do want to share.

First of all, I really want to recognize the professionalism, grace, and depth of knowledge displayed by the MNPS employees yesterday. Initially, my plan was just to observe, and I stuck to that plan for about 8 minutes before opening my mouth. To their credit, the people in that room instantly made me feel like a participant rather than an observer. It would have been very understandable if I’d been dismissed because of my lack of experience or credentials. I never once felt dismissed and I’m very appreciative of that.

The one constant throughout my entire tenure covering MNPS has been the willingness of those doing the work to include me. Whether I was serving on the gifted or ELL advisory boards, meeting with my principal, sitting in the Inquiry Cycle, or calling up an educator at 10pm at night, the treatment has always been the same – an openness, respectfulness, and a willingness to help me understand. Yesterday reiterated those feelings and reminded me just how much I appreciate and respect the people that are charged with educating Nashville’s children.

Y’all are awesome. Don’t ever let anybody tell you differently.

The Inquiry Cycle is nothing new. It’s another form of a continuous improvement plan. In of its self, I believe it is great practice and of great value. Unfortunately, its value has been diminished because of the manner it has been introduced. Something not uncommon when it comes to MNPS.

The rollout is too widespread, and the “why” has not been adequately explained. There has not been enough work done in prepping for the introduction of the process. And it goes without saying, that not enough has been done to fully include teachers in the process. It’s often stated in the administrator meeting that the purpose is to support teachers but I’m not sure that get translated into the classrooms and it desperately needs to be.

In the meeting I observed, it didn’t happen, but I have heard that in other meetings there was a propensity by MNPS officials towards what I call deficit thinking. That’s where those conducting the meeting do so in a manner that gives the impression to those participating that they have not dived as deeply into the data. I would be very cautious towards deficit thinking, as my experience is that the vast majority of MNPS building administrators are well versed in existing data.

This is as deep as I want to go for now, but want to state,  if you are a parent or community member and you have questions about what happens at MNPS, ask someone. The level of access that is available upon request is pretty amazing.

It also needs to be stated – not to disparage previous administrations – that in Dr. Battle and her team we have people genuinely trying to do the right thing. It is fair to question whether they have the skill set to pull off their plans or not, but for the majority of them, you can not question their intent. That needs to be recognized.

MOURNING ANOTHER LOSS

Yesterday brought the news that one of my favorite people in the world had left the plane of existence. Kelley Looney was one of the most joyful talented musicians I have ever had the privilege to know and the world seems a little more empty without him.

As we get older friendships tend to get tougher. Time becomes a much more precious commodity as the demands of careers, families, and other responsibilities mount. Many of us struggle just to find a stray moment or two for ourselves, let alone enough time to tend to others.

As a result, the circle of friends we regularly interact with grows smaller, despite our affections never diminishing. Who we see regularly becomes rooted in who we live near. Who we work with. Whose kids participate in the same activities as our children. Others drift away.

I was talking with a fellow former drinker not too long ago and we both agreed that it wasn’t the drinking we missed, but rather the ability to slide into a bar and spend the afternoon unencumbered by responsibility. To sit and debate the various merits of shortstops, linebackers, or bass players. The later of which, Kelley’s name always ran high.

I look around and see what life, has brought to the miscreants that I regularly ran with during my 20’s. A perfunctory list of accomplishments would be quite impressive if I say so myself.

Jay Joyce is producing Grammy award-winning albums. John Goleman is an award-winning father. Doug Lancio and Will Kimbrough are highly sought after guitar players. Keith Cose continues to be the heart of Lightning 100. Loretta Harper an in-demand designer. Keith Christopher is the bass player for Lynyrd Skynyrd and Greg Frahn is a well-respected stage tech who has worked for everybody from the Replacements to the Dixie Chicks. Tim Coates is among the most respected soundmen in the business along with Jim Wakefield. Brad Pemberton is a coveted drummer. And Kelley Looney played bass for Steve Earle.

That’s just a few of the people that made my early years in Nashville extra special. Back in the day, I don’t think anybody would have predicted would the future would hold for us or how great the successes would be. But it’s like Keith Townsend said, the kids are all right.

I consider myself blessed to count these people, and more, as friends. I’ve always said, the people in my life are better than I deserve. I love everyone of you.

Unfortunately, the march of time means that many of these special souls are moving on. The “we’ll get together next week”, becomes the “we’ll never get together again” before we even realize it and that is a tragedy that we must work harder to prevent.

If I ever get the chance to slide into a bar and while away a day again, there is nobody I want more sitting next to me swapping lies and telling stories than Kelley Looney. Not only was he great at telling them, but he was equally adept at starring in them. I’ve long threatened to start a blog that would tell Nashville’s rock and roll stories from the ’90s. If I do Kelley Looney will feature prominently in many of them.

In that light, it’s only appropriate that I leave you with one of my favorites,

Back when we all wore younger men’s clothes, Kelley played with Will Rambeaux. Will was a stickler for punctuality and appearance. The band was playing an outdoor show where the stage was across a field from I guess a barn that housed the brunt of the party. At least that’s where the food was at.

Showtime was fast approaching and there was no sign of Kelley. 5 minutes before showtime still no Kelley. Will was becoming more frustrated by the minute. He led the band out on to the stage sans Looney, determined to start without or without him.

Suddenly a figure was seen dashing across the field holding a plate of burgers. It was Kelley. He sprinted on stage, placing the plate on top of his amp and proceeded to play the show, taking bites from a burger throughout, while Will seethed.

Today. I’m picturing Kelley running across the rainbow bridge with a plate of hamburgers while god impatiently taps his foot. Be patient oh lord, because Kelley Looney is fixing to bring you a warmth that will fill your insides and laughter like you’ve never known. Going to miss you, friend.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE…

Tonight Metro Council will vote to appoint an interim school board member for Will Pinkston”s recently vacated District 7 seat. Right now, the race is neck and neck between Mayoral advisor Frida Player and former MNPS ELL director Kevin Stacey.

Notice I didn’t say former mayoral advisor when referring to Player, thats because as of today she’s still employed with the mayor’s office, in a role that gives her unequal access to the council. Attend the meetings early and you’ll find Player out on the floor interacting with council members. In a race where familiarity counts for such much, I don’t see where this can be perceived as anything but more insider favoritism.

Stacey has been endorsed by MNEA, the LGBT Council Coalition, and the MNPS School Board leadership team. Player has been endorsed by SIEU through a process that was not open to all candidates. SIEU plans to pack the gallery today and is conducting an aggressive campaign on Player’s behalf. As part of that campaign, I’m sure SIEU is reminding CM’s of the financial benefits they delivered during the recently completed election season.

If you can please email council – councilmembers@nashville.gov – and ask them to support Kevin Stacey it would be much appreciated. Please put his name in the subject line. Please plan to come to tonight’s 6:30 meeting wearing red. We always talk about how the school board needs more teachers on it, now you have an opportunity to help make that happen. Don’t let it slip away.

QUICK HITS

Last night the TNDOE came to Nashville for yet another in what seems like a perpetual list of listen and learns about the Achievement School District. Kudo’s to the folks that mustered up the gumption to engage in the dance one more time, but as you can see, there weren’t many. It’s pretty clear that everything that needs to be said, has been said. Now it’s time for state legislators to start talking about shutting her down

A quick reminder, no school on Nov. 8 for Parent Conferences and no school Nov. 11 for the Veterans Day holiday. Check-in with your school to schedule meetings with your student’s teachers.

As the re-ignited Reading Wars continue to heat up, it’s important that you read all sides. Proponents of the “science of reading” are holding up Mississippi’s recent gains on NAEP testing as evidence for wholesale adoption of structured literacy, but is there more to the story? P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, who taught high school English before moving to teacher education certainly thinks so. He makes some excellent points on why you should too. Among those,

Anyone using this data to claim “grade retention works” or “systematic intensive phonics works” is simply being deeply dishonest because no one has done any of the necessary work to tease out those claims in a scientific way (random sampling, controlling for non-instructional factors, investigating fidelity to policies and programs, etc.).

In other words, those advocating for the “science of reading” are making no effort to be scientific themselves in the pursuit of proving if their claims are valid, or not.

ACT scores were released on Monday and for the first time in 6 years, they dipped in Tennessee.Public school students finished with an overall average of 20 on a scale of 36, down from 20.2 last year and mirroring a national slump on ACT results. MNPS scores dropped from 18.9 to 18.5. What does that mean? Who knows, but I thought I’d share.

Because I never really need a reason to share the fantastic pictures of the Overton Band taken by Terri Watson, here ya go.

I love the reasoning behind Nat’s reliever Sean Doolittle’s rejection of the White House invite that comes with a World Series win, “I don’t want to hang out with somebody who talks like that.” We can debate politics but decency should always prevail. Props to Dolittle.

POLL RESULTS

A quick look at this weekend’s poll results.

The first question asked about your feelings in regard to a third-grade retention policy. 46% of you felt like it was a bad idea and only 13% embraced the idea. Here are the write-in votes,

Those scores could be useful, along with other data, to make good choices. 1
No plan has worked with this idea -how about we fo 1
Why wait until third grade? 1
Mandatory summer intervention requires parents pay what they can 1
That’s a lot of kids! 1
Tests can’t determine proficiency 1
3rd grade is too late 1
TNReady shouldn’t be a reason to retain a student 1
Ugh! I just want kids to be strong readers! 1
TN Ready isn’t valid or reliable. NO WAY!! 1
No — res does not support // how long do you retain? 1
Retaining is an option but not black and white

Question 2 asked for who you thought should be appointed to District 7 school board seat. Stacey was the clear winner here by a margin of 78% to 7% for Player. That’s a pretty clear mandate. Here are the write-ins,

Honestly, will anything change? 1
someone new and un-jaded

 

Question 3 asked, how much stock do you put in NAEP results. “Meh” was the number one answer followed closely by “pure bullshit”. Only 6% of you found the results to be extremely important. Here are the write-ins,

It is but one of many evaluations. Just one piece of the puzzle. 1
Their purpose is INTERstate assessment not dist/sc

That’s a wrap. 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’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do.

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.

 

 

 

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