“grammar in learning is like tyranny in government – confound the bitch I’ll never be her slave.”
John Clare


I’ve been doing advocacy work for a minute or two now. Unfortunately, it’s made me a little jaded.

When I first started this work, it was imparted to me to always follow the money.

Want to understand the reasoning behind a politician’s actions? Follow the money.

Want to know why a seeming ineffectual policy is being implemented? Follow the money.

Want to understand why an unproven curriculum is experiencing widespread adoption? Follow the money.

By most accounts, House Education Committee Chairman Representative Mark White is a fine gentleman. Talk to people on both sides of the aisle and they’ll tell you tales of his decency. These tales are so widespread, that it makes it very difficult for an outside observer to align his reputation with his actions as chair over the last year.

If tales are to be believed, you have an ethical, caring, intellectual who has no qualms carrying water for a governor and his education commissioner who personally, and whose policies, possess none of the aforementioned traits. At every turn over the past 6 months, White has given cover and prevented questioning of a commissioner of education who’s policies have been poorly thought out, poorly concocted, and poorly enacted. A commissioner that regularly treats people in a manner that one would think stands opposed to his personal code.

Every time that I would raise criticisms of Mark White over his fawning over Commissioner Schwinn and his willingness to support Governor Lee’s horrible initiatives, someone would tell me what a decent and honorable man he really was. “Oh I don’t Mark likes Penny,” they would say, “He just feels a sense of loyalty to the office of the governor.”

Or they’d say, “I think White is ready for her to be gone. He just feels this deep sense of duty.”

As I said, myth and reality never seemed to align. As a result, Schwinn has continually skated every time legislators have tried to pin her down. Through all the turmoil of the last two years, the Governor, and by extension White, have given Commissioner Schwinn a seemingly Teflon coating. Their actions may seem incomprehensible till you apply the “follow the money” rule, then things begin to become a whole lot less fuzzy.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the appointment of five distinguished leaders to the National Assessment Governing Board. In case you are unfamiliar with this board, they are responsible for defining and objectively measuring student performance in nearly a dozen academic subjects by setting policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. NAEP provides objective information on student performance in various subjects and for different student groups and reports on student achievement across the nation, in states, and large urban districts.

In the past, this has been a non-partisan board. But these are not past times and this has turned into another way for Secretary DeVos to leave her stamp on the nation’s education system.

Joining White as an appointee this year is Chiefs for Change head honcho, Julia Rafal-Baer, and the executive director of the California Association of Private School Organizations Ron Reynolds. Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was reappointed as chair for the 2020-2021 session because nothing quite says quality education like Mississippi and Haley Barbour. It is worth noting that last year Mississippi was the NAEP darling, seizing a role once enjoyed by Tennessee. I wonder if White will wear his “fastest Improving state in the nation” t-shirt to his first board meeting.

Over the last decade, Tennessee has been represented on the 26-member board by the now-former chairman of the state board of education, B Fielding Rolston. As the board chair of a state that was posting solid growth numbers on NAEP testing, it’s understandable that Rolston would be offered a seat at the table. But, exactly what does Representative White bring to the table.

Tennessee has ridden the glory of the 2012 NAEP scores for nearly a decade now despite increasingly flat scores in the years since. As chair of the house education committee, how has White responded?

Well, he supported an unconstitutional voucher bill in spite of purportedly, “not liking it”. He failed to increase funding for Tennessee school districts despite the state sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus money. He supported a literacy bill that robbed LEA’s of power to choose materials and curriculum, increased testing, and called for the retention of third-graders – luckily despite his support, the bill failed to pass. He failed to substantially raise teacher salaries. Salaries have been stagnating for years.

In looking at Tennessee’s education policy over the last 2 years, there are not a lot of success stories at the state level. Certainly,, nothing that screams, “We got to get that guy on our board because he’s got valuable insight.”

Keep in mind though, over the last 2 years, Governor Lee and Ms. Schwinn have done a lot of buttering up to President Trump and by extension Secretary DeVos. While the leaders of other states have sought to put distance between themselves and the controversial Secretary of Education, Schwinn and Lee have only tightened their relationship. It’s not a stretch to see Lee asking DeVos to throw the chairman a bone as a thank you for his diligent support this past year.

The appointment may not come with a salary, but it certainly puts the former principal from Memphis in a more select company. Who knows what other doors will open up as a result of serving on the Nation’s Report Card steering committee.

Unfortunately for Lee and posse, there is an election coming up next month. One that may not produce the results that they are betting on. Should Biden triumph in November, at a bare minimum we will see a new Secretary of Education. It’s also likely that those who enjoyed the favor of the outgoing  President will not be seen in a very favorable light. This might not exactly be the best time to cozy up to Trump and company. Of course, if Trump secures re-election…

As a side note, should Trump lose, I fully expect that Schwinn will play Peter to Lee’s Jesus, and quickly renounce her insistence of late that she’s a died in the wool Republican. She’ll point to her internship with Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, friendship with Obama confident and former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, and long support of Democrat ideals like whole child education as evidence of her true leanings. Should be fun to watch that leopard change spots in the blink of an eye.

In some ways though, White’s appointment to the NAEP governing body seems appropriate. Last November, DeVos made 6 other appointments of questionable quality and notable fidelity. Educator turned scribe Peter Greene gave us a rundown of that groups bona fides, and unfortunately, Representative Mark White fits right in,

Hanushek is an economist specializing in linking children’s earnings to teacher effectiveness (I mean, what else could it be, right?) and who just recently mused that teacher pay should be linked to measures of teacher effectiveness, even though we don’t have any.

Whitehurst is, for me, a mixed bag. A Brookings guy (boo) who once did a pretty good job of trying to get DeVos to say non-dumb things about choice (yay), but whose name is also on a “report” that argues we should test more (boo) and that when it comes to teacher evaluation, administrator observations should be more like VAM (booooo).

West is a professor at Harvard’s uber-reformy GSE and editor-in-chief of Education Next, the Harvard GSE publication that carries work from the Fordham-AEI-Bellwether axis of reformsterdom. He’s a Massachusetts state ed board member, too.

Wright is the chief state school officer for Mississippi, a state that is pretty awful when it comes to education, but they got their NAEP scores to go up, so she’s an expert now. She’s a Broadie, too.

McGregor is a “business representative” whose day job is the manager of engineering employee development and STEM outreach in the Research & Technology Strategy Group at Rolls-Royce Corporation in Indianapolis and he serves on a school board.

Edelblut is the real clunker here. Businessman, venture capitalist, and one-term state representative, then he ran for governor, lost in the primary and threw his weght behind Chris Sununu, who rewarded him with the education commissioner job. Edelblut has no actual education background; he didn’t even serve on an education committee during his single term, and his kids are homeschooled. As commissioner, he has backed all manner of choice and vouchers and has happily signed up for as many DeVosian Freedom Bucks as he can get.

Oh, and Carvalho is the superintendent in Miami-Dade. You know DeVos isn’t going to let a Florida guy go.

It further worth noting, that Hanushek is the author of the economic study cited in Lee’s recent announcement of pending educational doom for Tennessee and just happens to be married to the head of the organization, CREDO, cited for supporting the carrion call. All of which is probably just coincidence, right?


If you are like me, you may be checking in semi-regularly with the TNDOE COVID-19 District Dashboard to get a sense of how the virus is affecting school districts. If so, maybe like me, you are wondering why it rarely gets updated. I count at least a week since new numbers have been posted. That makes it hard to make an accurate threat assessment and kinda defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

Vice-President Mike Pence may be careful about being in a room with a woman who is not his wife, but it’s safe to say Governor Bill Lee doesn’t share his reticence. Friday was Lee’s birthday and Commissioner Schwinn took to social media to very publicly wish him a happy birthday in her own inimitable, if not eyebrow-raising, style.

Congratulations to Alora Young, a senior at Hillsboro HS and Nashville’s 2020 Youth Poet Laureate, for being featured in a NY Times story on talented young Black poets and writers. Make sure you hit the link to watch Alora speak her poem “To Have a Name.” Well done.

Damn, but God is putting together a hell of a baseball team. His latest recruit is Joe Morgan, another one of my all-time favorite players and arguably the greatest second baseman ever. RIP Joe. 

Chalkbeat reports on an ongoing national effort to increase racial and economical integration in more school districts. The effort, known as the Bridges Collaborative, spans 20 states and includes the New York City, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, Dallas, Fort Worth, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Oakland school districts, as well as charter school networks and housing organizations.  A recommended read and effort.

As some MNPS prepare for a return to school over the next couple of weeks, the Atlantic features an article by Emily Oster that argues against children being super-spreaders. Oster declares,

It’s now October. We are starting to get an evidence-based picture of how school reopenings and remote learning are going (those photos of hallways don’t count), and the evidence is pointing in one direction. Schools do not, in fact, appear to be major spreaders of COVID-19.

She goes on to make a case for students to return to in-person schooling. Some of what she says has merit. The only problem is that Oster is an economist, not a medical scientist. Angela Rasmussen is a medical scientist and hers is a slightly different view,

Well, teachers and parents should definitely not think that children are immune or more resistant to the virus. Just because they don’t develop a severe of disease [sic], that doesn’t mean that they can’t be infected and it doesn’t mean that they can’t bring the virus home with them to transmit to other people in their household. It also doesn’t mean that they would be incapable of transmitting it to faculty and staff in schools.

Which is correct? I don’t know. But if you are one of those folks who are belittling those have a heightened concern, I hope you are prepared to face the infected in case you are wrong.

One last note, raise your hand if you think there will be any real instruction taking place in MNPS between now and the second week of November, as schools transition into offering both remote and in-person instruction simultaneously. Too much time will be spent on elementary kids becoming familiar with new teachers as well as new classroom procedures. What’s the point in offering instruction to the middle school groups when everything changes in two weeks? Time to break out the SEL again, that should fill time until Thanksgiving. Then there are just two weeks to fill until Christmas. Anybody else sensing a lost semester? Probably just me.


Three questions this past weekend. One for the sole purpose of my amusement. Let’s take a look at the results.

The first question asked for your opinion on whether you thought the pandemic was over since a lot of people were acting like it was. 68% of you found the idea funny, but not in the “Ha Ha” way. The second leading answer at 12% was, “Does it matter?” Unfortunately, that’s probably the truest answer as despite rising numbers people continue to act as if the threat is over. Here are the write-in votes,

  • What I “feel” doesn’t matter; science does
  • Did TN ever acknowledge it was a pandemic?
  • 100% no.
  • They throwing us back in schools
  • Nope. Cases are increasing.
  • Based on State and local data, no.
  • With cold weather, people inside, and the flu, the worse is yet to come.
  • Yes, in Nashville
  • Reserving judgment until we see what happens when schools reopen
  • nope

The second question asked for your prediction on the upcoming resumption of in-person instruction. You were not an optimistic lot. 44% of you thought schools will be closed within 2 weeks of reopening. While 31% of you felt it would be a roller coaster ride for the next two months. None of you predicted smooth sailing. Here re those write-ins,

  • A few cases at come schools, but overall fine
  • “Learning Loss”?
  • It’s a game of smoke and mirrors, we won’t ever know the actual numbers.
  • How many severe illnesses and deaths will it take?

The last question was for my own amusement. In the wake of Eddie Van Halen’s untimely death, there has been an effort to change the narrative on their 5th album Diver Down. 29% of you thought, “Meh”. While 20% of you felt it was an under-rated gem. Here are those write-ins,

  • Sucks as much as our HR dept
  • Van Halen -best guitar player ever!
  • not remotely interested; how do you rate Bette Midler? (For the record, DGW is a fan of the Divine Ms. M)
  • My first VH purchase was 1984. Idk much abt before that one.
  • No idea 😂

That’s it for today.

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.

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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

1 reply

  1. Mark White, in my opinion, is a bought and paid for shill and should have been voted out of office years ago. He also should be removed from the Education Committee as should many others that sit on that powerful committee. Penny Schwinn is a Democrat who despises Trump and mocks Lee. She is buddies with DeVos and rumor has it she was offered a job under DeVos and refused because she hates Trump. In my opinion and based on my research Schwinn is part of the privatization for profit school (anti-education) cabal. DeVos’s motivation is questionable as well. Donations over $250 million to the Republican Party buys you any job you want and she got the job she wanted but had absolutely NO qualifications. DeVos actively fought against efforts to end Common Core in her state.

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