AVOIDING THE GOLDEN CALF

“THE BAD THING ABOUT FEAR
Is it requires a reaction. Some hide.
Some cry. But, like a dog condemned
to a walled yard with no hope
of escape or affection, some learn
to bite.”
Ellen Hopkins

“It’s lucky no one else knows what our most secret thoughts are. We’d all be seen for the cunning, self-aggrandizing fools we are.”
Michael Connelly, The Poet

 

With apologies to my Christian friends, I beg for your indulgence in sharing a fractured tale from the bible. This ain’t exactly how things went down, but close enough to make my point.

Several thousand years ago the Israelites landed at the foot of Mount Sinai.  After a few days and a couple of messages from God, it was determined that Moses would head on up the mountain and pick up the 10 commandments. Those left behind had received some indication of what was coming, the details were a little vague, and were expected to hang out until Moses returned with the word.

As Moses ascended they were left to speculate amongst themselves what would be delivered,

“Think murder will be on there? Surely murder will be there.”

“I’m angling for adultery, adultery has to be one.”

“I bet they don’t cover gluttony. That would be a reach.”

“What about masks? Is he going to make us wear masks? I don’t wanna wear no mask.”

(Alright, I made up that last one, but you get the gist.)

After a couple of weeks of Moses being up on the mountain and no new details coming forth, doubt began to set in. The people’s speculation began to turn negative. They began to think God had no plan for them. There were no commandments coming, they were to be left to their own devices to fend for themselves. Out of this frustration and lack of knowledge, the deity of the Golden Calf was created. People started worshipping the calf because it was here while Moses and his task faded from memory.

After 40 days Moses came down from the mountain with two beautiful tablets, each engraved with the commandments for which people were to live by in order to have God bestow prosperity on them. As excited as he was about his brand new shiny commandments, Moses quickly realized that the people had grown weary of waiting, and as a result, were now worshiping the golden calf full on. Moses was pissed.

He raged at the people and hurled down the tablets, breaking them into pieces. Eventually, everybody got on the same page. However, God still had to make another trip down to earth in order to fix the tablets. It was a Thursday afternoon and while working on those tablets, the Lord and Moses had a little chat.

“That making them wait thing didn’t work out so well”, said Moses to God.

“Yea”, the Lord replied, “But what was I supposed to do? It’s not like I can snap my fingers and…instant commands. There were a lot of things to consider. They shoulda been more patient.”

“I get that. But they are not a patient lot and they were scared, frightened. They had no idea what was going to happen and we left them in the dark for several weeks, with no indication of when I’d be back. You probably should have sent them a sign or something.”

“Yea, but I was focusing on getting these commandments. I had to get them right. A lot of people were depending on me getting them right and no matter what I did, there were going to be people that weren’t happy,”said God, growing increasingly frustrated.

Moses extended his hands out, palms down, “Whoa big guy, I get it. It’s why you get the big bucks. But maybe next time we keep em a little more in the loop. Give them a little more of the picture that they can hang their hat on. Maybe aa few things to work on while we are gone. K?”

“Okay”

What transpired at the foot of Mount Sinai all those centuries ago, ain’t that different from what’s playing out in Nashville in regard to MNPS. Director of Schools Adrienne Battle is locked away with her staff busy crafting a reentry plan for Fall, while the rest of us huddle at the foot of the mountain waiting for the word. If you think about it, it’s been pretty close to 40 days since the end of school, so the tablets are getting a little overdue.

Some word trickled down from the mountain last week, but little that reassured parents or teachers. Parents learned that they would soon be forced to decide whether their child would be attending school remotely or live and in person. It was communicated that whichever means was chosen, that was where the student had to remain for the entire semester. Before we go any further, let’s get rid of that myth.

It is highly desirable by the district that students maintain their decision throughout the first semester, but do not think that changing your mind is completely out of the equation. If in 6 weeks you decide that the virtual schtick ain’t working and you want your child in a classroom setting or vice versa, that can happen. First of all, education is a right and you have the right to a choice in the delivery mode. Secondly, I don’t believe for one minute that the district will not let a student switch when faced with the potential of that child – and their BEP money – leaving the district because they tried to force them to remain in an untenable situation.

Again the district, really, really, really, wants you to stay in whatever mode you choose for the duration of a semester, but don’t let that add to your stress. Accommodations can and will be made, the current situation is too fluid to expect anything less. Can you imagine a family on the evening news talking about how the district wouldn’t let them switch from live school to virtual, despite their growing concerns about proper precautions being taken in order to adequately protect their child? True or not, nobody wins in that scenario. Better just to facilitate the change and move on.

The next big question is, what will remote learning look like? Around this, there is some discussion. Some schools, mostly on the high school level, have engaged in blended instruction for years, and feel confident that they could generate and supply locally created content that would meet kids’ needs through Schoology. In this scenario kids would receive the same instruction that they would if they were in a classroom, it would just be delivered virtually. They would be assigned to the same teacher under either circumstance. This would provide flexibility in going back and forth between the classroom and virtual instruction.

While I recognize the quality work that has been done by many schools, I’m not sure that I’m convinced that all schools could equitably deliver the same experience to all kids. How do you decide which teachers teach remotely or in the classroom? Both methods fall under the heading of teachers, but each requires a very different skill set. What kind of accommodations will be extended to teachers when it comes to their evaluations? A teacher stuck delivering instruction in a format they are not comfortable with is not going to produce an accurate picture.

While there are a lot of plus sides to this method, I so see some drawbacks as well. Mostly related to the time remaining before school starts. If this is how we were going to go, it should have been communicated 40 some days ago in order to allow for proper planning.

A secondary plan for virtual school would be to utilize a secondary platform provided through an outside vendor like the Florida Virtual School. FVS has been around for nearly a decade and has had a modicum of success. Considered part of Florida’s public school system, they also have a global component that allows for the delivery of instruction to students outside the state. MNPS has had a small contract, under 25K, since 2015 and utilizes the organization to provide content for the district’s virtual school.

In April, the Florida Board of Education invested 4.3 million dollars in order to expand the school’s capacity. Per an article in RefinED,

The board, acting as the Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees, approved the request during a meeting held via conference call. The approval allows the public nonprofit organization to increase the value of existing technology contracts to upgrade its technology and expand capacity to serve 470,000 students in grades K-12 by April 17. Full expansion should be in place by May 4.

Current license subscriptions of $2.5 million will be expanded to $6.3 million, while funds available for servers and equipment will grow from $170,538 to $340,000. Money earmarked for data storage hardware will increase from $72,000 to $340,000, and the allotment for data collection services will grow from $341,760 to $495,000.

Florida Virtual School CEO Louis Algaze said 147 K-12 teachers already have completed training through the organization and an additional 3,417 are signed up for training. Additional resources are housed on a web page that serves as a “one-stop” shop for online education resources.

Utilizing seats in an organization like FVS, would enable MNPS to take advantage of the systems the school already has in place. That becomes important because, by July 24th, the district will be required to submit a continuous learning plan(CLP) to the Tennessee Department of Education and have it approved before they’ll receive any BEP money. Through that CPL, the district will be required to demonstrate how they plan to supply 6.5 hours of daily instruction to students, as well as take attendance, assess progress, and record grades among other requirements. That’s a heavy lift that could be eased by utilizing a system where the work has already been done for you.

Through this method, students would still be tied to their school of record. Some would just show up in person, while others would learn remotely. As crass as it may sound, keeping BEP money in schools and in the district should be considered paramount. Losing too many students would lead to insurmountable financial hardship. This method allows that to happen and could serve reassure parents based on their record and status.

Using someone like FVS isn’t without its challenges. You still have to figure out how you are going to address the needs of exceptional education students, as well as those of English Learners.

Whichever direction the district goes, the biggest issue still remains – providing guidance to those that will be charged with implementing the plans in schools. In order for any strategy to be effective, educators need time to plan and prepare, I promise you for every issue that gets publicly debated, there are at least 10 more that nobody is even considering. For example, what do you do if a bus driver is diagnosed with COVID? What do you do in the event that a parent refuses to come to pick up a diagnosed student out of economic concerns?

Parent and educator Elizabeth Self took to Twitter this weekend to raise questions she felt needed addressing.

1/ Will the virtual option include synchronous or only asynchronous instruction? If asynchronous only, can kids work through at their own pace and continuously keep going, or no?

2/ Will the virtual option mirror the f2f option, such that if virtual options end in January, all students have been provided the same curriculum?

3/ Will students who go f2f have the option of moving to virtual if needed?

4/ Will f2f be a lot of online learning but in a classroom setting, or will it still have a lot of interactive learning? Are there classes that will not run, like the band in MS and HS or music in ES?

5/ How limited, if at all, will kids be in their ability to still move around and engage with classmates in f2f? If I have a kid who really needs breaks and recess time and talking with others, am I better off keeping them home if I can?

6/ Will differentiation happen in either or more/less in a f2f or virtual classroom? If I have a child well ahead of or behind “grade level,” should that inform my decision? If they have an IEP? Will honors or AP/IB courses be offered only in one format? ESL? Encore?

7/ Will MAP testing happen in both formats or neither? If neither, how will admissions to selective MSs and HSs happen if kids aren’t able to become eligible who previously weren’t? (Or could we just go to open lottery for those schools?!

8/ Do families have the option of homeschooling their kids this fall & returning to schools in Jan where they are “opted in”? That is, if I want to provide my own schooling for kids this fall rather than used the virtual option provided, is my seat at an option school secure?

9/ Will teachers be asked to do both f2f and virtual, or will one or the other so they can focus on that format? Would my choice as a parent make things easier for teachers if I chose one way or another (for those families for whom this is truly a choice)?

All good questions. All needing answers sooner rather than later.

There is a lot to consider going forth and a lot of folks whose skills need to be utilized in the event any of this stands a chance of working. At the risk of sounding cliched, this requires more of a bottom-up design as opposed to top-down. Yet, here we go.

At some point there needs to be a sense of urgency applied to the process as well. I understand that Dr. Battle moves at her own pace, but we got 4 weeks before it’s game on and that’s not nearly enough time based on current indications.

District leadership really needs to start supplying some details, because across the district educators and parents are starting to look at golden objects with considerations of melting them down.

QUICK HITS

Anybody who’s been on social media of late is familiar with how toxic it has become. Eric Nelson addresses that in a new piece called, Are Americans as stupid as we seem on Twitter? It may be my favorite read of the year.

Fear for the financial future of public education is growing. Per a new article in Forbes by writer Richard Barth,

There will be steep declines in state tax revenue available to schools this fall, and likely even deeper cuts heading into the fall of 2021. In some states, it is possible to imagine cuts to state funding great as 20%. A recent study projects “these shortfalls will total $615 billion over the next three state fiscal years.” States like Ohio have already announced large education cuts, $300 million in K-12 funding and $100 million in college and university funding for the current year. Georgia’s budget officials have warned that cuts are coming in July which will force districts to lay off teachers and staff.

In this light, it’s imperative that everyone petition congress to increase aid to public schools.

I don’t normally do this kind of thing – my feelings on TOY awards are well documented – but hey, we could all use some good news. So with that said, big and hearty congratulations to Lauryn England of Fall-Hamilton Elementary, who is a finalist for 2020-21 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Nine teachers across the state are in the running and the final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition. Tennessee Department of Education. Well done and big props.

POLL RESULTS

This week’s poll questions got a near-record response. Thanks for that. Let’s take a look at the results.

The first question asked whether you thought MNPS should formally support Memphis Superintendent Joris Ray’s calling for TNReady testing to be canceled this spring. Y’all overwhelming thought that we should – 73% answered, “Oh hell yeah”. 13% asked that we wait for school to start before thinking about the Spring. Only 2% opposed supporting Ray. Hopefully, MNPS school board members will see the results of this poll and bring forth a resolution. Here are the write-in votes,

Solidarity is key-this is NOT a normal school year, why test it as one? 1
Is it ever necessary! 1
DEFINITELY!!! 1
Pupo-Walker is a $nake

Question 2 asked if you were planning to send your children to school in person or virtual. 47% favor the virtual option. That was a little surprising to me. 29% indicated that they plan to send their kids in person. While 19% said they preferred to grab a whiskey and pray. Here are the write-ins,

Hybrid 2
Blended 1
The disparity will be awful. So sad 1
Not sure, honestly. 1
Blended approach 1
Home school cooperative

The last question aimed to gauge your level of anxiety as the school year approached. 58% of you indicated that as the COVID numbers went up, so did your anxiety. 21% said that with every district communication your anxiety went up, while 8% indicated that you were about the same as ever. 10% of you gave the district a vote of confidence. Here are the write-in votes,

Need a solid well thought out plan before I know 1
I’m not apprehensive about school…I’m apprehensive about the leadership! 1
What teacher will want to go to school 1
Nervous but feel we have to try something 1
It’s going to be a hot mess no matter how it goes!

That’s it for today 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.

 



Categories: Education

2 replies

  1. Your “Dad Gone Wild” offerings just get better and better, TC. Thank you! Your writings/opinions restore my hope. However short-lived the hope may be, it is always welcomed!

    >>

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