“Because it strikes me there is something greater than judgment. I think it is called mercy.”
Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture

“Is there a wrong way to say “I don’t know”? Yes. When we declare ignorance, it should be a) honest and b) in the spirit of opening ourselves up to hearing, to learning, to receiving. When we say “I don’t know” under these conditions, the words can forge connection, healing, growth. But when we resist or disavow knowledge, when we profess ignorance as a way of donning armor and evading accountability, then we make a mockery of those words, and we rupture connections not only with others but within ourselves, within our souls.”
Leah Hager Cohen, I Don’t Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance


Dad Gone Wild took a little field trip this morning. We headed south to the MTSU campus for the annual Cognia – formerly AdvanceEd – conference. A conference that in the past has focused on STEM education but has since expanded its focus to one of continuous improvement.

A couple years ago I went and was inspired by Maury County’s Ryan Jackson telling his story. This year I arrived in time to hear Dr. Margaret Gilmore, Superintendent for Allendale County Schools in South Carolina. Once again I was inspired as Gilmore told the story of her district and how she and the community were leading it out of being in a state of emergency. She’s a champion for academic rigor, but one that recognizes that it takes a village.

At Allendale they celebrate staff – bus drivers, custodians, and cafeteria workers included – every single day. At the beginning of school, they walk the red carpet into school. She created a PR campaign that focuses on the graduates of Allendale that have become teachers in the district. Each teacher is the focus of an ad with the slogan. “I choose Allendale”, and a paragraph about why they chose to work in Allendale’s schools. Each teacher receives $100 for their participation.

Allendale no longer holds school board meetings, instead, they hold community meetings. At these meetings, they celebrate the successes of the district and ask for help with their shortcomings.

It was striking to hear Gilmore, a black woman, share her views on diversity. She is deeply committed to diversity, so much so that when she noticed that the traditionally black district was short on white teachers, she instructed her HR to go find some and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Her commitment to diversity led her to knock on the doors of white and Hispanic parents of students who’d left the district – letting them know she wanted them back, and she got them back.

As a result of her efforts, the district is seeing greater student academic outcomes. Discipline numbers are reducing as the district focuses on building stronger relationships with laser-like intensity. Things are definitely on the upswing for the troubled district.

What she’s doing is not some great revelation or re-inventing of the wheel. What it is, is a commitment to not just the superintendent walking the talk, but that everybody walking the same talk. It is a task that feels simple and dull but is seldom actually put in practice because of its required degree of difficulty. Thank you, Connie Smith and Dr. Margaret Gilmore, at a time where I find my self constantly grappling with pessimism, you supplied me with exactly what I needed to hear – that it is possible to do the right thing and produce positive results.


HB 2229 is slated to make its first appearance in committee tomorrow at noon. This is the “science of reading” bill. Trust me the irony of having folks who deny the science of climate change pushing a bill that promotes the so-called “science of reading” is not lost on me. But that’s what you get when you have a state superintendent of schools who self identifies as a liberal democrat, but acts in a manner that is uncharacteristic of her party and you have a governor who self identifies as a conservative Republican but acts in a manner more like a blue dog democrat. No wonder nobody wants to pursue the bathroom bill.

In preparation for tomorrow’s debut, the Governor’s office dropped some amendments today(HB2229-SB2160_AMENDMENT copy). Amendments that seem to convey a desire to make a bad bill even worse.

Some of you have asked if the state-required assessments in the new legislation will be on top of existing assessments. The amendment makes that pretty clear,

The department shall establish three (3) administration windows each school year for the administration of the diagnostics. Except for the
dyslexia screening required by the RTI² framework, as provided in § 49-1-229, the diagnostics replace all literacy assessments administered at the LEA level. An LEA that seeks to implement additional literacy assessments to students must submit a written request to the department for approval. An LEA shall not administer literacy assessments that are not approved by the department.
Yep, I’d say that’s pretty clear.
The amendment doubles down on the state’s commitment to the “Science of Reading”,
To ensure all textbooks and instructional materials used to teach students to read are based on the science of reading, LEAs shall provide students in grades kindergarten through two (K-2), textbooks and instructional materials from the list of textbooks and instructional materials approved for adoption by the state board as outlined in § 49-6-2202, unless a waiver is granted pursuant to § 49-6-2206. Subject to available funding, the department may provide funding for the purchase and utilization of textbooks and instructional materials to assist LEAs in implementing subsection (a) and this subsection (b).
This is especially interesting in the light that not all of the materials on the adoption list adhere to the ‘Science of Reading.” Not sure how they propose to work around that. It’s also important to remember that the bill puts on a permanent path when true science is ever-evolving as new evidence comes to light.
Now for the highlight of the just-released amendments. I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so – 3rd-grade retention is on the table.
A student with a significant reading deficiency, as measured by the most recently administered reading diagnostic, must be provided with additional instructional supports that address the student’s academic needs and the student’s significant reading deficiency. A student in the third grade shall not be promoted to the next grade level unless the student has shown a basic understanding of curriculum and ability to perform the skills required in the subject of reading as demonstrated by the student’s grades or standardized test results; provided, however, that a student may be promoted if the student participates in a reading intervention program that is based on the science of reading before the beginning of the next school year.
It looks like we are intent on mimicking the mistakes of both Texas and Mississippi. Much of this bill is modeled after Texas’s HB3 and as you may know, Mississippi recently received accolades over their huge growth in 4th-grade scores on NAEP. But what you might now know, is how they did it – 3rd-grade student retention. Mississippi holds back upwards of 4k a year. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out when you give 5th graders 4th-grade reading tests they score better.
If this bill passes, trips to Wal-Mart might get a bit more precarious for the more rural representatives as their constituents demand to know why their child is being held back. I’m sure they’ll enjoy explaining how the beloved teachers at the local alma mater are failing residents’ children.
What pisses me off, even more, is that every time I argue the role of poverty in low test scores I get push back from the reform crowd with claims that wealthier kids are failing to learn to read as well. But apparently, there is no concern for those kids because HB 2229 has a clause in it that states if you are in a district scoring 15 percentage points over the state average…you don’t have to adhere to this bill. Hello…Williamson County…Maryville…Oak Ridge! But don’t you get too excited, because there is a clause in HB 2229 that gives the TNDOE the power to change exemption requirements at any time.
Let’s not stop there though. Remember those reading camps that were discontinued this year due to funding? Apparently, the plan is to replace those successful camps “science of reading” intervention camps. And who is going to be uniquely poised to offer curriculum and teachers for those camps? But of course, Amplify and Great Minds inc. To their credit, they ain’t waiting for a bill to be passed, they are already hard at work for the TNDOE. The attached picture is from training today out in Knoxville.
The craziness doesn’t stop there though. What about the fiscal note on this amendment. In other circumstances, 3rd-grade retention policies have had an upwards of a 10 million dollar note attached to them, but in this case, they are adding the amendment and not changing the fiscal note.  It’s still being maintained that legislation that touches every aspect of public education can be undertaken for less than 50 million dollars and only an additional 11.28 million dollars in reoccurring funds will be needed.  I’m beginning to think that our problems are not with literacy but rather math.
You don’t think that outside vendors will benefit from this boondoggle? The fiscal note makes the argument that a program of this magnitude will only require an additional 3 middle management positions. Positions that the state plans to pay less than $250k for, including benefits.
Can you say…unfunded mandate? I thought that Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility. There is no way that the fiscal responsibility for this legislation is not going to fall back on the shoulders of the individual LEA’s. To suggest otherwise is being disingenuous at best. In looking at this fiscal note, how many RFP’s do you think are actually already embedded in it?
Again our old friend irony is in attendance. The Governor bragged during his State of the State speech that he was making the biggest investment in public education...evah. He even had advice for legislators who faced critics back home,
“So, when you’re back home in your districts this year, if someone tells you we’re not supporting public education, they’re not telling the truth,” the governor said, alluding to Democrats who charge the state has stinted public education and demand the state put in an additional $1.5 billion annually.
That statement would be almost laughable if the financial stakes weren’t so high. Somebody is going to make a lot of money off of this bill and it’s going to come at the expense of Tennessee’s educators, students, and their families.
At least now I know why Governor Lee and Superintendent Schwinn were laying their fingers aside their nose and the sound of “the Entertainer” wafted through the air whenever they passed each other in the hall.


You can worry about the Coronavirus all you want, me, I’m going to worry more about the Schwinnvirus. It seems to be spreading at a much more rapid pace.

Friday night provided another one of those all too common of late, WTF moments. As you are aware the state of Tennessee is in the midst of an ELA materials and textbooks adoption process. The way the process is supposed to work is that the TNDOE solicits materials from publishers, those materials are reviewed by a neutral group of educators drawn from throughout the state. The materials that pass the committee’s review, are then placed on a list from which LEA’s are supposed to choose and adopt for usage.

In the past local districts could submit an appeal if a curriculum they wanted to use wasn’t on the list and it stood a chance of being granted. That process is still available, but the success rate promises to be lower. TNDOE has sent the message – borne out by the results of early appeals – that appeals will, for the most part, be denied. The expectation is that districts will adhere to the list.

The role of the DOE has always been that of a neutral administrator. They compiled the list but showed no favoritism towards one vendor or the other. Administrators were expected to review and adopt materials based on the needs and finances of there individual districts. All materials on the approved list were viewed as being of equal merit.

Unless my eyes deceive me, somebody forgot to send the memo on neutrality to Superintendent Schwinn and her posse. I don’t see how Friday night’s tweet extolling the virtues of Wit and Wisdom could be viewed as anything but an endorsement.

Interestingly enough Wit and Wisdom is the product of a company that is now called Great MInds, but up until about 5 years ago was called Common Core Inc. Yea I know.

Keeping in our Wit and Wisdom vein, Sumner County Schools recently adopted the materials and are now promoting it with an evangelical fever. Leading the call for converts is Scott Langford. Landford serves in the unique role of assistant director of instruction and chairman of the county commission. I would think this makes budget time in Sumner County a lot easier. Hmmm…I also wonder if SCORE has any open board seats…but I digress.

Scott and I of late, have had an ongoing in-depth conversation via Twitter on the power of Wit and Wisdom. Conversations that have led to Langford calling me a troll, a conspiracy theorist and someone who is incapable of recognizing the inherent joy of children. Something my own kids may confirm or deny based on the day.

He repeatedly told me that everything was on the up and up with the county’s curriculums adoption and I have no reason to doubt him, and still don’t, though I was little intrigued by a post he made earlier Saturday morning.

Hmmm…Sumner Schools is going to Baltimore to study Wit and Wisdom. Now I’m going to put a loud disclaimer here, I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but a trip to a school district that bears no resemblance to yours with a publishing company in the middle of an adoption year, doesn’t exactly present the best optics. I’ll let you fill in your own questions, perhaps you have none. But if I discover that MNPS is heading west to Fort Collins to study their curriculum, I’m probably going to have a question or two. Just saying.


If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a 100 times, the purpose of MAPP is to measure student growth in order to guide instruction. It’s not meant to be used to measure teacher performance. It’s not designed to measure policy effectiveness. It is not designed to be utilized as a screener for EL, SWD, or Advanced Academics. It’s not meant to be a high stakes test.

The minute you use it for one of the prementioned, it becomes a high stakes test. The minute you offer rewards for performance or advice for alterations in nighttime routines, you are making it a high stakes test. And thus misusing it.

MNPS is currently in the aftermath of Winter MAP testing. Some teachers are feeling validated because their kids met their growth projections. Some are discouraged because theirs didn’t. Some are elated because they received praise for their scores. Some are pissed because they don’t feel adequately recognized for their students’ tremendous growth. Some kids are elated because they have a donut or pizza party coming. Some are disappointed because they didn’t meet goals and therefore are not getting a pizza party. Some students are confused because they didn’t meet their growth but are still getting a reward.

None of that aligns with MAP’s purpose – to measure student achievement in order to guide instruction. Why is Metro Nashville Schools incapable of using a tool for its intended purpose. I’m not taking anything away from teacher’s, I’m just confused about who’s achievements we are measuring – teachers or students.


It’s Fees LEAP OFF week at Limitless LibrariesAny MNPS student or teacher who reads 5 or more hours will get all fees waived from their account. Be sure to fill out the form from your school librarian to get credit. Happy Reading!

The Metro Schools Board of Education Budget and Finance committee meeting is at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow & will be followed by a public hearing regarding the proposed 2020-2021 schools budget. The full board meeting is at 5 p.m. Here’s the agenda


Let’s take a quick look at the weekend poll numbers.

The first question asked your opinion of the candidates for the job of superintendent of MNPS. 49% of you are taking a wait and see position, wanting to see a finalist list before offering an opinion. 28% of you are wondering why we are even going through this process. None of you were willing to say it exceeds your expectations. Here are the write-ins

Why is Dr. Underwood not on the list? 1
I would not vote for ANY of the metro principals. We need a fresh perspective. 1
Who cares? Mayor Cooper, let’s get a real raise done. 1
Impressive list. I hope Dr. Battle wins the competition. She’s stabilized us 1
Brenda Elliott – no. 1
On paper, many seem more qualified than Battle. Wonder how transparent this be?! 1
Keep Battle, remove all other chiefs 1
I’m satisfied with the one we have. 1
We’ve had too mNy directors from all the country. We need more MNPS candidates. 1
Confused about how some people made the cut.

Questions 2 asked your opinion on HB 2229. 35% of you found it to be a massive overreach while an additional 23% of you recognized that it could potentially do more damage than vouchers. Only 4 of you indicated that you support the bill. That’s a complete headscratcher and hopefully now that 3rd grade retention has entered the picture that number will shrink. Here are the write-ins,

Seriously? 1
Can we get an update on firing Tony Majors? He stole from kids. 1
It’s frightening! 1
Why???? 1
What the H_LL? More Ts will leave. Poor kids 1
All about $$$ 1
Stunningly horrific!

The last question asked you to gauge the difficulty of the last year, school wise. 30% of you indicated that the year has been significantly more difficult, while 22% said it’s gotten a little easier. In other words, I think the jury is still out. Here are the write-in replies,

Worst year of my career, it coming back next year 1
Siificuktmprincipal makes all the difference 1
Rough. Hoping to get a real raise or I’m finally out. 1
Joseph and the principal he placed at my school both gone – so better! 1
More difficult-More teachers slated to leave 1
It will be better when we move away from interim folks making decisions. 1
Same old shit 1
If I could quit – I would. I’m a babysitter dressed as a teacher.

That’s it for today. Thank you, teachers and administrators, for everything you do.

If you’ve got time and are looking for a smile, check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we work to accentuate the positive.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always 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 and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy.

If you so desire to join the rank of donors, 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, especially this time of year when my contracted work is a little slow. Not begging, just saying.

Don’t forget, if you have student-written blog posts you’d like to see reach a wider audience…send them on. I’d love the opportunity to share them.


Categories: Education

2 replies

  1. Do you think these nimrods will ever catch on that money and every damn shiney new money making program that comes down the pike is not the answer to our education problems? Or do they know and they are part of the agenda?? There is a reason why home school students far out perform public school students and they do it for almost no money. There is a solution but it will never come from government.

    • they know. 100% they know. it is just part of the game. plus they can all say ‘we’re doing something’ when they keep implementing different B S programs.

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