YOU CAN’T LIE TO YOUR PETS, AND YOU CAN’T LIE TO YOUR TEACHERS

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

“People may or may not say what they mean… but they always say something designed to get what they want.”
David Mamet

 

Yesterday was a surreal day. Over in my neighborhood, in South Nashville, the sun was shining, kids were enjoying a day off from school, and life was progressing pretty much as it does every day. Meanwhile, just 15 miles down the road, fellow Nashvillians were grappling with what hit them in the night and trying to determine how they were going to rebuild their lives.

Shortly after midnight, on Tuesday, East Nashville, along with Putnam County and Mt Juliet was struck by a tornado. A tornado that stayed on the ground for 60 minutes. The damage done by Mother Nature was nothing short of devastating.

I was in the middle of the tornado that struck Nashville in 1998. That day I thought I was going to die in the Ace of Clubs, where I worked on 2nd ave. People talk about the freight train sound that accompanies a tornado, trust me it’s a sound you never forget. My heart goes out to those affected by the latest calamity. But, at the same moment, this city continues to make me proud.

People sprung from bed yesterday to extend a helping hand to those who no longer had a roof over their bed. While other legislators were in general assembly arguing over a woman’s right to decide what’s best for her body and whether those who choose to bear arms should require a permit, Rep Harold Love, an ordained minister, and the congregation at Lee Chapel AME Church set up a staging area in their parking lot to help with cleanup from tornado damage. With the needs being great, I suspect you’ll find them there today.

MNPS’s communication department was in top form,  communicating not only the district’s plans in a timely manner – schools were closed – but where people could go to help. PENCIL Foundation, an organization so vital to teachers, also provided a means to help.

Robert Churchwell, Meigs, and Lockland Springs all suffered damages and plans will have to be formulated about housing those students for the rest of the year.

Board Chairwoman Anna Shepherd postponed the remainder of interviews scheduled this week for the director’s search. I can’t help but wonder how long it will be until someone suggests suspending the search permanently. In the wake of Tuesday destruction is now really the time for a change in leadership or would the city be better served to remove the interim from Dr. Battle’s title and allowing her to do the required work unencumbered?

It’s going to take a while to clean up and readjust. Some lives will be altered permanently. But if any city has the ability to pull together and lend a hand to their neighbor, it’s Nashville. We did it in the aftermath of tornados in 1998, and we did it when flooding hit in 2010. Nashville is strong and only getting stronger.

SESSION IS OPEN

Yesterday HB 2229 – the Reading Bill – was scheduled to be discussed again in the House Curriculum, Testing, & Innovation Subcommittee. In the wake of Tuesday’s tornado, early indications was that committee meetings were going to be canceled because of the local state of emergency, but by mid-morning a revised schedule had been released. A decision whose propriety I would question, but will instead extend the benefit of the doubt.

I know y’all are getting a little sick of me talking about the reading bill, but its importance can not be understated. Public education advocates have become so accustomed to having attacks on public education appear in a prescribed form – vouchers, charter schools, scripted curriculum – that we some times miss the implications of legislation when it appears in an unfamiliar form. I don’t question the intentions of the legislators – they have continually asked the right questions throughout the process – but a bill that codifies curriculum, removes local control, and leaves LEAs to deal with unfunded mandates is not good for public education, nor will it produce the desired student outcomes.

Crafting legislation, not unlike learning to read, is a complex process with a lot of moving parts. It’s imperative that we recognize the dangers in this bill in the same manner that we have recognized the dangers inherent in vouchers, charter schools, and other tools of the disruption movement.

Yesterday’s committee meeting was packed with members of SCORE, and it’s affiliate LIFT, in support of the proposed legislation. In case you are unfamiliar with SCORE, they were founded by former Senator Bill Frist, a doctor. Because of Frist’s cash and connections, over the last decade, they’ve had a direct pipeline to the TNDOE.

Since inception, their initiatives have been treated as gospel and often implemented by the TNDOE, which has led to some viewing them as an extension of the DOE. Word of late is that they don’t even bother with the department of education anymore, and instead have a direct relationship with the governor. Seeing as HB 2229 is the governor’s bill, SCORE’s promotion would make sense.

They have even gone as far as printing a nice glossy booklet on the “science of reading”. As a reader points out the booklet contains the following boxed quote,

“RESEARCH IS THE ONLY TOOL WE HAVE
THAT ALLOWS US TO DETERMINE THE
KINDS OF TEACHING MOST LIKELY TO
ADVANCE OUR STUDENTS’ LEARNING;
COMMONSENSE AND PAST EXPERIENCE
ARE USELESS BEFORE SUCH QUESTIONS.”

The passage is a quote from reading expert Timothy Shanahan, and as a reader of his, I can’t help but feel this is presented out of context. I urge you to read the whole piece, it’s a bit more nuanced then quote would lead you to believe. But think about it, and ask yourself if there’s a good reason to expect a non-biased report could possibly follow a quote that includes the phrase “commonsense and past experience are useless”. Not my words. Theirs. Unfortunately for them, the branding language of the “science of reading” has been struck from the latest amendment. (HB2229-SB2160_AMENDMENT #2 )

I’m not going to debunk individual testimony but I do think there are a few things worth noting.

First up was Trousdale Superintendent Clint Satterfield. Satterfield qualified his testimony by stating that he was neither an expert on reading nor an expert on this bill and then proceeded to testify how this was the only way to teach reading and how great the bill was. At one point he made the observation that “You can’t lie to your pets, and you can’t lie to your teachers.” Freudian slip? I’ll let you decide.

It was clear by his testimony that Satterfield was not very familiar with this bill. A key moment came when Chairwoman Moody asked him to explain the difference between a “screener” and a “diagnostic”. Satterfield “aw shucks-ed” his way through the question by saying he used the terms interchangeably. A response, that were he a contestant on Jeopardy, would have earned him a loud bzzzzttt. The two, as most educators know, are not interchangeable.

A screener is used to decide if you need an intervention, while a diagnostic is used to decide what you need. Two very different tools. This is important because of the following language in the bill.

Notwithstanding § 49-6-6002(a) or any other law to the contrary, LEAs shall administer to students in grades kindergarten through two (K-2) a reading diagnostic to benchmark literacy skills and growth. LEAs shall utilize the reading diagnostic selected and provided by the department.

All this aligns with what is already in practice through RTI, though RTI calls for a screener. Another difference is that LEAs are free to choose what screener they use. There is some financial help available if they choose one of three preferred by the department, but they are free to select the product that best meets their needs. The language in the bill puts the power of choice in the hands of the DOE while failing to address who’ll pay for it.  It’s of equal interest that the bill would use the term “diagnostic” as opposed to “screener” because based on the verbiage of the bill there is only one prescription, no matter what the diagnosis, more fundamental skills.  Would you go to a physician who only prescribes penicillin for every ailment? What if he did it with a shrug and explained, “Well even if it doesn’t help, it won’t hurt.”  That’s the argument being put forth here.

Later in the bill, you find the following,

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.

Here’s where the details matter. With the DOE choosing a tool different from the one already used by districts, how do you predict the number of students identified for additional supports? The number is not going to be identical to what the local screener is currently identifying – it may be lower or it may be higher. There is no way to accurately predict.

So if I’m a small district, and I have X amount of money budgeted for student supports based on previous numbers and the new diagnostic tool identifies 30 extra students who require supports, who’s paying? Where is that additional funding coming from? Once again our old friend unfunded mandate is grabbing a seat at the table.

Towards the end of the meeting, Representative Dunn repeatedly invited anyone in attendance who was anti-science of reading to come forth and speak. he left the invitation open for the next committee meeting as well and I intend to take him up on it though my intention is not to refute the “science of reading”. In my opinion that is not where the real question with this legislation lies.

The real debate should be about whether or not it is proper, and in students’ best interests, to codify curriculum, thus limiting the tools at the disposal of educators. Teachers across the state are already using the tools embedded in SOF to varying degrees to teach reading. Do we really believe that they need legislation to inspire them to follow best practices?

Every one of those district leaders that testified before the sub-committee was able to adopt SOF curriculum under current legislation. Nothing prevents other districts from following suit. If the success is truly there – scalable and sustainable – why do we believe that more districts would not adopt the curriculum?

Republicans continually pay homage to the power of the market, this seems like a prime place for the market to work its magic. Why does the DOE feel that it is the duty of legislators to pick “winners” and “losers” by legislating which curriculum and materials an LEA should choose, and by defacto which private company benefits? It seems to fly in the face of established Republican ideals. But maybe it’s what you get when a blue dog democrat puts a liberal democrat in charge of their education department.

Personally, I would be against this bill even if it proposed strategies that mirrored my preferences. I will always oppose legislation that removes local control, establishes unfunded mandates, and seems to benefit private entities more than those it is designed to serve.

In closing, Representative Byrd asked the million-dollar question, did all who testified show up on their own volition or were they personally invited? After some hemming and hawing, it was established that it was the latter. An answer that would lead me to ask, who paid for the trips to Nashville to extoll the virtues of the brand? The timing is right to ask the question in light of allegations that Amplify, creator of CKLA, had access to the DOE listserve. It’s probably a lot cheaper to pay for some state educators to come to Nashville than it is to pay for educators from a small suburban district to travel to Baltimore to view their practices. Not accusing, just asking and observing.

The good news is that the bill has been rolled for another week. It gives us ample time to explore the third-grade retention portion, the district exemptions, and the implications of the higher education portions. There is a lot that still needs to be properly structured and composed.

It would probably be best if someone were to write and introduce a whole new bill that addresses the needs recognized, but not properly addressed, by this bill. But until that’s done, we’ll keep nibbling at this one.

I must admit that I’m impressed by the commitment to committee members to getting this bill right. Representative White has agreed to carry this bill for the governor but he hasn’t allowed that responsibility to supersede his responsibility to the taxpayers of Tennessee to ensure that is a bill that will actually benefit all stakeholders. It’s quite commendable.

QUICK HITS

It appears that MNPS administrator Sonia Stewart will not be joining her husband in Green Bay after all. Yesterday in a close vote the Green Bay School District decided by a vote of 5-4 to select Steve Murley as their next superintendent. Three of the board members felt that the board should start a new search. This is bittersweet news as we think Stewart will someday make a great superintendent but today she is a real asset to MNPS.

A state organization tasked with providing research on the operations of state and local government has released a report suggesting Tennessee’s school funding formula, the BEP, needs at least $1.7 billion to adequately fund public education in the state. TACIR — The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations — released “K-12 Education Funding and Services.” Andy Spears has the details over at the TNEd Report.

The West End PTSO will be collecting batteries, blankets, trash bags, granola bars, PB, jelly, bread, juice boxes & bags of apples/oranges from 1-2pm in our Bowling Ave loop near West End/440 and volunteers will drive them down to the East Magnet collection site.

North Nashville families were hit hard last night. No electricity, trees down, Power lines snapped in half… We have tubs outside of H.G. Hills. Please donate canned goods and/or packaged items. You can also Venmo @maggie-Dicks and write HG Hill Pantry as the subject. Yesterday families and teachers donated over $1500 to help. 

Lots of folks showed up at East Magnet HS this morning to lend a hand to those affected by the disaster.

North Nashville support, donations and volunteering at Schrader Lane Church of Christ starting today at 2 p.m. Location: 1234 Schrader Lane, schraderlane.org

Gideon’s Army also is sharing volunteer opportunities for support in North Nashville on their Facebook page: facebook.com/GideonsArmyUni

Can you commit to doing a little extra laundry over the next few days?  If so, you will help provide clean laundry for storm victims who are displaced or without power. School board member Amy Murrell Frogge and Lynn Hoyt are coordinating drop-offs and pick-ups between HG Hill and Riverwalk. The plan is to have people pick-up and drop off once a day with the goal of a 24-hour turnaround.  Pastors for Tennessee are throwing in their assistance as well. Donate time and a little soap. Big impact! Sign up here.

That’s a wrap, I’ll be back on Friday, if not before then. Please be safe and be kind to your neighbor.

Until then, 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 Norinrad10@yahoo.com. 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. In many ways, this week _IS_ Battle’s interview for the job. That may not satisfy some people, but I think it is true.

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