“Lady you crave trouble. You just don’t want resistance. If you don’t want resistance around here, then mind your own business.” – Beth Dutton
The ongoing battle over mask mandates in schools has been yet again extended. This time through a judge’s order.
Since schools reopened for in-person instruction back in the late summer, many of Tennessee’s public and private schools have mandated that while inside the building, or on school buses, students must be masked. The mandates have resulted in further lines being drawn between parents and school districts. To the point where Tennessee legislators felt compelled to hold a special session this October to address the subject and other COVID policies. ,
Out of that special session, legislation passed that prohibited mask mandates in schools and other public buildings, along with rolling back other COVID protections. The new laws were slated to go into effect upon the Governor’s signature, or within 10 days after passage, if he chose not to sign.
The expectation for many was that kids returning to school on Monday morning would do so under the direction of masks suggested but not required policies. But not so fast, on Thursday a federal judge agreed to hear the case Monday morning with an emergency hearing. As part of that order, all parties were to maintain the status quo.
Since Governor Lee didn’t sign the new legislation until Friday, the status quo was mask mandates until a ruling was delivered.
Yesterday the status quo order was extended out until at least Thanksgiving. Go ahead and write down another loss in court for the Governor. This guy makes the New York Jets look like world-beaters.
So here we are once again, in a holding pattern over an issue that has become as much about politics as it is about health safety. The argument has spilled over to the point where if you question the necessity of requiring masks at this juncture then you are likely also anti-CRT, which apparently now does exist in schools, are looking to ban books, voted for Donald Trump, and hate your cat.
Support for the mask mandates identifies you as a believer in science and a defender of truth, a champion of equity, and a lover of cats and puppies.
A little hyperbolic, but rooted in truth.
People who don’t wear masks anywhere but schools are fighting tooth and nail to keep mask mandates in place, while others refuse to show common decency to their fellow man by demanding nobody wear a mask anywhere under any circumstances. It’s all become ludicrous and beyond reason. Policy decisions should not become the property of either the reckless, or the paranoid, yet here we are with the two loudest voices in the room controlling the narrative.
The facts are, that it’s probably a prudent move to keep mask mandates in place until after the holidays. Numbers nationwide are showing a slight increase, thus offering evidence to proceed with caution. A target of the first of the year would provide ample time in which to get children between 5 – 11 vaccinated, now that those vaccines are readily available.
But a target has to be eventually drawn. One that is openly and publicly discussed. Repeatedly saying, as MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle has, “Our strong desire is to get to a point where masks are no longer necessary, and our classroom environment looks like it did back before the start of the pandemic, Unfortunately, there is still COVID transmission throughout our community, and we are still seeing dozens of cases a week of students testing positive for the virus.”, shouldn’t be considered painting a target.
But unfortunately, that seems to be all will get, as battle lines get even deeper entrenched.
VACATION IN THE SUN
The biggest problem in public education is all presented in a nutshell this week. A nutshell that few actual educators, parents, and students are likely aware even exists.
This week teachers and principals will continue to scramble to make schools work despite crippling challenges resulting from shortages in staffing and transportation. They will work extra hours under hyper-stressful conditions in order to meet the needs of students and satisfy new signature initiatives from district leadership.
Doctors’ appointments will be canceled so as not to put further stress on teammates. Family time will be sacrificed to exhaustion and the needs of tomorrow’s classroom.
The bottom line is teachers are running on fumes, and still delivering with little help from those on high. And what exactly are those “education experts” up to while teachers are consistently churning out the magic.
Today and tomorrow they’ll be picking out their best outfits and making sure they pack their swimsuits because it’s time to head to Florida for the 2021 National Summit on Education, produced by ExcelinEd,
ExcelinEd’s annual National Summit on Education is the nation’s premier gathering of education policymakers, practitioners and advocates. Each year, more than a thousand state and national leaders convene for the annual event, providing an unparalleled forum for exchanging results-based solutions and strategies that can shape public policy so critical to transforming education. This unique conference serves as a catalyst for energizing and accelerating education improvements across the nation.
This year’s conference is being held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. A beautiful luxury resort sure to provide relief to attendees.
While teachers are dragging themselves to school for yet another curriculum meeting, experts will be discussing, Education Unbundled: A New Education System for All Learners
While teachers stay late to monitor buses due to bus driver shortages, leaders will be talking about, Skills for Success in Learning, Work, and Life: How Durable Skills Transform A Student’s Experience
While principals serve as substitute teachers, because no one else is available, attendees will discuss, School Accountability: Answers. Not Excuses, For Enhanced Student Outcomes.
While Tennessee stakeholders drive all over the state under the illusion that they are part of some kind of conversation about school funding reform, conference-goers can get the real skinny from Tennessee Education Commissioner Schwinn who is part of a panel on Innovations in School Finance: Bold Strategies in Three States.
The promo on the later session describes in such,
State education funding flows along fixed, long-established channels—or does it? Join these state leaders for an inside look at bold actions in school finance that are better serving students. From improved formulas to support high-needs students and strategic use of federal stimulus dollars to school incentives aimed at postsecondary readiness, you’ll want to hear how these innovations came about and what new, student-centered ideas lie ahead.
Hmmm…do you think Ms. Schwinn will hit the stage and describe how Tennessee is in the process of holding a state-wide conversation on how best to fund schools, one they are undertaking sans any preconceived ideas? Not likely.
Raise your hand if you think that it’s a coincidence that Janet Ayers sits on the board for ExcelinEd and also is leading one of the 18 committees created by Governor Lee to discuss school finance reform?
Raise your hand if you believe that 20% of conference attendees have even seen the inside of a classroom in the last three years?
This is the central challenge in education. While teachers and principals do 90% of the work, the chattering class talks. Yet, the chattering class wields 90% of the power in setting education policy. That is an unbalanced formula that fails our students and their families.
How is it that while teachers can barely find time for a bathroom break, the chattering class has time to depart for a sunny local at the end of the week, which I’m sure will be extended through the weekend?
I’m sure you’ll hear lots about the need for discussions on research and innovation around schools to continue, But I ask you, if I’m drowning in a lake is it protocol to have one person try and save me while two people discuss innovations in serving drowning victims?
I’m sure you’ll hear lots of talk about the love of children, and how they are always first.
If they care so much, why not hold the conference on Saturday and Sunday and have leaders sacrifice their weekend? Because I guarantee you, almost every teacher in America is sacrificing theirs.
Instead of the lofty titles of the proposed sessions, here are some sessions that would probably be more honest,
- How to get more of that ESSER money out of public accounts and into your personal pocket?
- What to do if you are forced to have a conversation with a teacher or principal without a camera around.
- How to use your network to ensure you are never out of work, no matter how incompetent you are.
- Making the transition from Common Core to Science of Reading to High-Quality Materials in a way that keeps the money flowing and the public unsuspecting.
Those are meant a bit tongue in cheek, but I can promise you this, each of them will be discussed at this week’s ExcellinEd conversation. Maybe not in those exact terms, but trust me, that’s what they are really talking about.
Earlier in the year, Nashville Classical, a local charter school, applied to MNPS to have a second campus. The application was denied and an appeal was made to the state charter commission, who approved their application and thus green-lighted the expansion.
The only question left was who would oversee the new school, MNPS, or the state charter commission?
Last week, in a move that defies logic, the decision was made to have the new school remain under the MNPS umbrella.
Take away the politics of charter vs traditional and look at it this way.
I come to your home and say, “I’d like to be a member of your household.”
You respond, “That would be fine but you have to meet these criteria and follow these rules to live in my house.”
“I don’t want to do that.”
“Well, then you can’t live in my household.”
So as a result I go to the neighborhood HOA and say, I want to live in your neighborhood, but I don’t think I should have to do XYZ. The HOA thinks you’d be a great addition to the neighborhood and extends you an invitation.
Now you have to decide if I should live in your house and be responsible for ensuring that I am a good neighbor, or if the HOA should find a suitable home for me and take on the responsibility of monitoring my behavior.
How many of you would say, send him over to my house, under those circumstances? But that’s what the MNPS school board chose to do this week.
In the case of Nashville Classical, an argument was put forth that these were MNPS families, and therefore should remain under MNPS guidance. But with all due respect, maybe by geographical location, but in reality, they are not.
The families that decide to attend Nashville Classical are not doing so out of a celebration of MNPS policies and practices. In essence, they are breaking up with the district, often with the old “it is not you, it’s me” line.
That’s not a bad or good thing, it just is what it is. There are numerous organizations that I don’t belong to because I don’t want to follow their rules. They don’t change their rules for me, they just say so long, best of luck and we all move on.
Yet here MNPS is, clinging to people that don’t want to be with them anymore. It’s like doing midnight drive-bys after being broken up with. You are not together and no amount of driving by late at night to check on them is going to change that. It’s just cringy and desperate.
Sometimes relationships end, and when they do, it’s best just to let them go. Sure there can be sadness and regret, but clinging to them isn’t healthy for anybody.
If they think they can do better elsewhere, so be it and have at it. Wish them luck and start working on making yourself more attractive to future suitors. Stop hanging on to the past.
It’s suitable advice for dating and managing charter school growth.
Sad news for the Nashville public education community this week. Long time advocate and former school board member, Kay Louise Snyder Simmons, died Friday.after a lengthy battle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a brain disorder. She will be greatly missed by both those who knew her and those whose lives she positively impacted through her work.
Diane Ravitch has an extremely relevant to Tennessee piece about how foundations influence education policy. I strongly urge you to read it, and when you do, keep in mind that Tennessee’s SCore takes millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation to advocate for policy.
MNPS recently purchased math material from publisher Kendal Hunt purportedly because the math adoption process has been pushed back 2 years. The cost is about 3 million dollars and is a bit of a headscratcher. The laws around materials are pretty clear, you have to adopt off of the list and any piloted or supplemental materials used two years before an adoption can’t be adopted during the adoption year.
I’ve been trying to get clarification from MNPS on whether this new material is considered an adoption, pilot, or supplemental. Here’s the response from MNPS Sean Braisted that offers little clarity,
This is neither a pilot nor a curriculum adoption, but rather supplemental materials provided to bridge the two-year gap until the next adoption. All middle schools received these supplemental materials this year, along with some of the elementary schools that have added 5th grade and requested them. All elementary schools will receive them next year.
Hmmm…if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….never mind.
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