THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

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“All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be some place else.”
John Wayne

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”
Abraham Lincoln

It’s a rainy Veteran’s Day, but I’m hoping you are finding the time to share a few thank you’s – both public and private – to those who sacrificed to keep us free. I grew up a military brat; a member of a family to whom service was a tradition. My father and uncles were Air Force, as well as my sister. Both my niece and nephew currently serve, he in the Air Force and she in the Army. Priscilla’s family is also heavily populated with those who have served. To those, and all of America’s veterans, I offer a hearty thank you.

Schools are closed and therefore things are a little quiet as we head into the holiday season. I’ve been meaning to share an ongoing conversation with my daughter and now seems an appropriate time to do. It’s a conversation that reminds me that to every action there is a reaction, and we should always be aware of unintended consequences.

“Daddy, am I Dutch?” she asked me one day as we were driving home from school.

“You come from Dutch and German heritage, but you are American”, I replied.

“I don’t want to be American daddy. American is boring.”

“Slow down. What makes you say that? American is anything but boring. You should be proud to be American.”

“I am,” she said resignedly, “It’s just that my friends are just so proud of their heritage and American just seems boring. I want to be proud of my heritage just like they are.”

This was an eye-opener of a conversation for me. As I mentioned previously, I am a military brat. The son of a Russian refugee to Germany. Diversity has been central to my life since birth and exposing my children to families from different backgrounds has been a primary tenet of mine. But what if in the pursuit of diversity, I’ve inadvertently lowered the value of being an American, something I am fiercely proud of.

In this age of Trump, nationalism, and patriotism has morphed into something ugly. Celebrating the greatness of America is viewed as the celebration of the oppression of others and as a focus on “I” as opposed to “we”. We can not let that become the prevailing narrative. It’s important that we value our shared culture every bit as much as our individual cultures. We can’t be quick to celebrate and praise other cultures while being proud of our American heritage is seen as an endorsement of the country’s worst angels.

We celebrate the movie “Black Panther” while ignoring the deep and contradictory history of Africa. We enjoy the pageantry of Hispanic culture yet never discuss the darker portions of its own history. The same holds true for Muslim and Asian cultures as well. I’m willing to bet all of us have been to some sort of multi-cultural festival in the last year, but how many have been to a festival celebrating American Culture? How many of us in celebrating those other cultures also take the time to examine their shortcomings?

I’m not downplaying the importance of recognizing and celebrating diversity, but I do believe that in the end, we have to take pride in our shared heritage as Americans. Yes, America has done some horrendous things in the past, but we have also accomplished things no other country has been able to do. We’ve created a republic, that continues to exist despite overwhelming odds against it. We’ve fought bad wars, but we also ensured that Europe survived. We settled a raw and dangerous country and turned it into a land of opportunity that is the envy of the world.

It’s important that we recognize our mistakes, but not for the purpose of permanent penance, but rather that we can avoid them in the future in order to continue to progress towards fulfilling our promise. There is no other country like America, and while we should recognize and honor other cultures, it is equally as important to honor and celebrate our own heritage and culture. This Veteran’s Day might be a good time to remember that and to make sure our children know it as well.

We need to remember that a whole bunch of people believed that what this country stood for, and what it means to the world, was worth dying for. There is nothing boring about that.

EXPERIMENT TIME

On Friday I mentioned an upcoming experiment that MNPS will be partnering with Florida State University to conduct. Over the summer I gave you a brief outline of what was coming. Here’s a little refresher of what that study is proposed to look like:

Twenty-five MNPS schools (see list of participating schools attached) will be involved in this study. Schools were selected based on interest and/or student achievement data. Because this study is an experiment, 13 schools will be randomly assigned to the Treatment condition and 12 schools will be randomly assigned to the Control condition in November 2018. The study will roll outslowly with Kindergarten teachers in the Treatment Group of schools implementing CKLA’s Knowledge Strand this school year(2018-2019); 1st grade teachers will implement the curriculum in 2019-2020, and 2nd grade teachers will implement the curriculum in 2020-2021. Kindergarten teachers in the Control Group will implement the CKLA Knowledge Strand in 2019-2020; 1st grade teachers will implement the curriculum in 2020-2021, and 2nd grade teachers will implement the curriculum in 2021-2022. On- going professional development and ALL materials will be provided to each teacher at no cost to the school or district.

As previously stated the majority of the schools come from the NE and NW quadrants. in other words, Priority Schools. This was sold with Florida State taking on the brunt of the financial burden. Yet we recently allocated half a million dollars to TNTP – a major player in CKLA implementation – and this week it’s proposed we give another half a million dollars for CKLA implementation through Amplify, a company with quite the checkered past. It is beginning to feel as if we are the ones shouldering the burden.

In looking at things from the outside it seems as if MNPS is continuing to flounder for a plan to address the needs of our priority schools. It’s like we are following in the shoes of the Tennessee Achievement Schools District and trying to solve the issues through programming. A strategy that they proved was ineffectual. A strategy that has since been altered and due to that alteration, appears to be actually showing progress under the guidance of newly appointed director Sharon Griffen.

Griffen is a long time Memphis educator whose name ironically enough was floated as a possible candidate for the MNPS Superintendent job. Six months ago she took over the long-struggling Tennessee Achievement School District. The ASD was created by Chris Barbic in 2011 with the plan to take over the bottom 5% of schools and move them into the top 25% within 5 years. Barbic soon found out that some things are easier said than done. He left and Malika Anderson took over in 2015. Both came to the job with visions of increased rigor and promises of guiding families out of the wilderness.

Both of her predecessors missed what Griffen gets. It’s the same thing that MNPS leaders miss. Making improvements is not about rigorous curriculum, high expectations, or telling people what they should value. It’s about relationships. It’s about investing the time to earn trust. It’s about listening to stakeholders tell you what it is they value, By all accounts, Griffen is doing that work. She’s meeting people where they are; not expecting them to come to her. She’s building relationships one conversation at a time.

“One of my biggest goals was getting our communities to think differently about the district,” Griffin told Chalkbeat this month. “People only interact with the superintendent or the central office when there’s an issue. We want to meet people where they are and tell them what we are going to do for them.”

There is no way to predict whether Griffen’s approach will prove successful or not, but I do believe that she is laying the groundwork for serious improvements to occur. Her’s method is one that I wish MNPS would adopt. Everybody recognizes the power of parent involvement but few are willing to do the hard work required to see it to fruition.

Some of Griffin’s solutions rely a little heavy on charter schools for my taste, but she seems to understand the role that central should play.

“My goal is to work us out of a job,” Griffin said. “When we have empowered all of our teachers and leaders to build capacity within schools, the hope is that they won’t need us anymore.”

Just the opposite of what Dr. Joseph seems to preach. Let’s see who actually makes the most progress.

THE LESSON LEARNED FROM AUBURN

Football fans are probably familiar with the predicament that the Auburn University’s Football team finds themselves in. Let me catch the rest of you up. Gus Malzahn became Auburn’s coach in 2013 and led them to the precipice of the national championship. From 2014 to 2017 the team regressed and it became apparent that Malzahn wasn’t a very good football coach. Fans wanted him replaced, but somehow his Tigers managed to beat both Alabama and Georgia, two powerhouses, in 2017. Based on those wins, and forgetting the previous 3 seasons, Auburn gave Malzahn a contract extension through 2024 and gave him a raise from $4.725 million per year to an even $7 million average.

Now it’s 2018 and the Auburn season is a mess. Everything everybody already knew about Malzahn is being proven again. Fan’s are restless and want a change at the top. Ah, but now there is a catch. Fire him this year and the university has to pay him $32.1 million. Heck, even wait until 2021 and it will cost $16 million. In other words, Malzahn ain’t going anywhere for a long time.

The lesson to be learned here? Be careful in handing out contracts lest you tie your hands in the future. What you know now, is most likely what you’ll know in 2 years. Don’t get blinded by shiny things. I wonder if Dr. Joseph has a picture of Gus Malzahn on his office wall.

QUICK HITS

The parent of any child that receives services through the exceptional education is eligible to attend the meetings of the exceptional ed department’s parent advisory committee. There is a meeting this Wednesday at Robertson Academy from 11:30 to 12:30. Its a great way to spend a lunch hour.

You’ve utilized book-mobiles, mobile groomers, and food trucks, now there is a new mobile service, mobile pre-schools. Rural school districts have experimented with the concept but now they are coming to parts of Denver. Per a new report in Chalkbeat:

The rolling preschools, which travel to apartment complexes or mobile home parks a couple of times per week, are seen as an innovative way to reach children who can’t access traditional bricks-and-mortar preschools.

I must say I am fascinated by the concept, and it seems like a good way to help bring pre-k education to families that might not be able to participate in brick and mortar preschools. The mobile classrooms are not without their own challenges though. They are expensive and…

Ensuring basic sanitation can be a stumbling block, too. Since Dutmar has one Magic Bus without a bathroom, it must be parked near a public restroom. Especially in the winter, bundling up wiggly children just for a bathroom break eats up a lot of time, she said. The good news is the foundation just finished its fund-raising campaign for a second Magic Bus motor home, which will arrive bathroom-equipped next summer.

An independent investigation has exonerated Williamson County Director of Schools Mike Looney. This is in relation to an incident that took place last February where Looney was charged with assaulting a student and a parent at Franklin High School after police were called to handle a psychological episode. A judge dismissed the two assault charges in April. The new investigation goes even further.

“This review determined that Dr. Looney was acting within the scope of his legal authority,” City Administrator Eric Stuckey said. “Moreover, the City respects the conclusion reached by Williamson County Judge Tom Taylor dismissing the charges and recognizes that all records relating to the incident were expunged by order of the court.  As a result, no formal report relating to this internal investigation will be published. The evidence suggests that all school personnel and first responders acted in good faith and were seeking to provide a student with the care she needed.” 

Hopefully, this closes the book on a rather bizarre incident.

In all the hoopla over the last week, I forgot to congratulate one of my favorite people on a big win. Gloria Johnson is heading back to the statehouse and we all are going to be better for it.

Stan Lee has left the building. He will be sorely missed. I urge you to read a piece he did for the Atlantic where he offered a powerful definition of the American idea. Thank you, Stan the Man.

And as one great one exits the building another enters. Congratulations to Katie and David Jones as they welcome the newest addition to the Oliver family.

POLL RESULTS

As always, Monday’s mean results and here the results from this week’s poll questions.

The first question asked for your feeling on how education will fare under newly elected Governor Lee. Not surprisingly most of you, 43%, are taking the wait and see approach. However, 28% of you are predicting a trainwreck. While 18% of you thought it can’t be worse than it already is. Only 3% of you think it’s going to be fantastic. Here are the write-ins.

Please share the Vocational Ed was retired in 1994. CTE is the current policy 1
I’m worried. 1
I just hope he actually cares about compensating teachers. It’s abysmal. 1
I think he won’t really fix the BEP

Question two asked you to grade the Joseph administration on its encouragement of parental involvement. The results do not present a ringing endorsement for Dr. Joseph. 56% of you responded that it was a shame that you couldn’t score him lower than a 50. 20% of you scored the doctor a “D”. That means that over 75% of respondents gave a failing mark to the district. The highest grade received was a single “B”. Clearly, work needs to be done. Here are the write-ins.

think schools try to be intentional. But there is nothing from the district 1
I know tons of parents, myself included, looking for an opportunity 1
Better late than never? 1
F 1
Only happens when it benefits Joseph & Cronies. Farce. They don’t care. 1
Schools have so much to do already.Can’t do it all 1
They don’t listen to the parents who are already involved. 1
involved patrents are empowered enough to hold MNPS accountable …

The last question asked whether the district should renew the Teach For America contract when it comes up in a few weeks. 41% of you said under absolutely no circumstances with 30% of you indicating that the money could be put to better use elsewhere. If you are a board member and you are wondering how to vote, that’s over 70% that say “no”. Only 3% felt that TFA offered great teachers. Here are the write-ins.

No 1
Absolutely not. Demeans the teaching profession 1
Maybe if HR did their job, we wouldn’t need TFA 1
No, and investigate Roderick Webb at Marshall MS 1
I don’t like TFA but I’m not convinced the HR dept can fill vacancies without it 1
Who gets a kickback for this

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

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SNEAKING SALLY THROUGH THE ALLEY

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“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.”
Stephen King

“I want to disabuse people of the idea that knowledge is power. Knowing how to get to Detroit is not the same thing as having the bus fare.”
Andrew Vachss

 

Things typically calm down around this time of year, but for whatever the reason, this week was a busy one on a lot of different fronts. Let’s see how much of it we can cover.

The first thing I want to get to is that mess of a blog post from Monday. I think I tried to do too much with limited space. Whatever the case, it became a convoluted mess that left several of my points buried and made it appear as if I undervalue SEL.

These are the points I was trying to make:

  • SEL is certainly very important, but equally important is a love of content and the art of teaching. Yes, teaching is an art.
  • SEL works best, in my opinion, when it is authentic. Bad SEL practice is every bit as harmful as a lack of SEL.
  • I’m still not clear on where the line between great teaching and SEL practices fall or if there even is a line.
  • Making it a job requirement to love everybody you are responsible for is a lot of pressure to put on someone. Imagine if I made it a job requirement for you to love everyone you work with. You can serve and respect, without love.
  • How do you differentiate between results derived from district policy and sheer determination of teachers to ensure kids succeed? Isn’t it possible that two points of growth in actually is a loss of growth, because if policy aligned with teacher practice, growth would have doubled?
  • We put too much on the plate of teachers both in expectations and in time requirements. Teachers are amazing, but we can’t expect them to be superhuman.
  • Lastly, great teaching comes in all shapes, sizes, and looks. We should foster great teaching, not try to jam it into a cookie cutter model that fits preconceived notions.

I hope that’s a little clearer.

Tuesday was parent/parent conference time in MNPS. I just have to take a moment and say how truly blessed the Weber’s as a family has been by the teachers assigned to my kids. This is Avery’s 5th year at Tusculum and Peter’s 4th and they have had great instructors every year. As I sat in conference with this year’s teachers I couldn’t help but be struck by just how good they were. Let me just say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. A million times thank you.

Speaking of SEL practices, Avery’s teacher utilizes the conversation carpet. As I’ve learned this year, 4th-grade girls have a lot of conflicts. The conversation carpet gives them a place to resolve those conflicts. But as I said, the best SEL is rooted in authenticity, and Ms. Economos has the rep of being a “chill girl”. It’s that rep that empowers the carpet and makes it effective.

PARENT VOICE

Moving on, you might have heard me mention that Dr. Joseph is getting to the twilight of his first contract and it’s my belief that he’s currently preparing to bring up the subject of his next contract with MNPS. The current contract ends June of 2020 and therefore in an effort to avoid going into the final year with lame-duck status, he’ll want to get it done between now and February when budget season begins. Who better to champion a new contract but parents, unfortunately, parent involvement over the past two years hasn’t exactly been a priority.

Previously in the district, there existed a Parent Advisory Committee. Each cluster had its own PAC which was made up of one representative from each school in the cluster. Each cluster PAC elected 2 representatives who would meet 4 times a year with other cluster representatives and the director of schools. It wasn’t always pretty but it did provide a pipeline to the director and allowed parents from across the district to come together and discuss district challenges and successes. The criterion for representation was transparent and uniform.

Despite having a president, Barry Barlow, since Dr. Joseph’s arrival the district PAC has not met once. Cluster PAC’s have also gone dormant with only 3 – Overton, Hillsboro, and Stratford – having consistently met over the last 2 and a half years. I’m very proud to say that Overton stayed active through the efforts of Abby Trotter and myself, plus the tremendous support of the school administrators in the Overton Cluster. I know y’all are partial to your own, but we really do have the best.

Last Monday, Dr.Joseph convened a group of roughly 25 parents from across the district to discuss what parent voice would look like going forth. He instructed the community superintendents to select one parent from each cluster across the district to be representative of their cluster. What were the criteria for selection? Who knows. That was left to the discretion of the superintendents who as far as I know, kept that information to themselves. Where did the other 13 parents come from you ask? Again, who knows. Everything was done in a very clandestine manner.

Why do I say clandestine? Because the very day before the district meeting community superintendents sat in meetings with cluster parents and never once mentioned that such a meeting was even pending. That to me is the very definition of clandestine. If parent voice was truly the goal, why was notice of the meeting not given along with notice of who the representation was and the criteria of why they were selected? Would an existing parent meeting not be a prime place to garner information on what actually involved parents would like to see from the district. Instead, nobody said anything and I wonder how many parents even know such a meeting took place. Furthermore, in a follow-up tweet Dr. Joseph referred to the meeting as a PAC meeting despite many elected PAC leaders being excluded.

Apparently, the meeting was such a success that another one is scheduled for the near future. In this meeting, further steps will be taken to shape how parent voice is expressed in the future. Twenty-five people hand selected by district leaders will now dictate the model for parent voice going forward. District leaders love saying words like “transparency” and “equity”, but seldom do they live those words.

Joseph also tweeted a bizarre tweet reassuring parents that they didn’t have to have a college degree in order to advocate for their child. Ok…glad that was cleared up.

WHAT ACCOMMODATIONS

Don’t think for one minute that we are done with the sneakiness. As many of you know, upon Dr. Joseph’s arrival MNPS instituted MAP testing 3 times a year. What you may, or may not know, is that when administrating these tests, special needs students and EL students are supposed to receive the same accommodations – text-speech, read aloud – that they would receive on TNReady testing. Students did not receive those accommodations on the tests administered at the start of the school year. Parents were not officially notified that their children would not receive the expected accommodations at that time. In fact, many didn’t find out until the day of testing.

MNPS’s reasoning?

Previously schools were directed not to administer the Reading portion of MAP with Read Aloud or Text-to-Speech accommodations due to concerns that administering with this accommodation could result in failure to identify students at risk. However, students eligible for accommodations have previously been identified as being academically at risk.

That statement makes absolutely no sense because, first of all, MAP IS NOT A SCREENER. Let me say that again because, despite the “Dr” in front of their name many in MNPS can’t seem to accept it,  MAP IS NOT A SCREENER. Per NWEA, the test creator, there is a screener version but the district utilizes the growth model. I know you’ve been led to believe that we have the Super Duper Magical MAP test that does all things for all people, but that is not true. Using the growth model for a screener is like using a hammer for a screwdriver. Both are useful tools but perform very different functions.

After several parents drew district leaders attention to the fact that by not allowing accommodations, the district was not in compliance with federal regulations, the accommodations were miraculously restored. This is important information for parents to know. Many of you will have parent/teacher conferences that include MAP data. Now that the accommodations have been restored, some special needs and EL students will show miraculous growth. Based on this growth, a parent may be presented with the theory that their child’s MAP scores suggest that they don’t require special services. Please don’t be fooled.

In a couple of weeks, we will begin a districtwide discussion about MAP scores. With at least 8000k students now receiving accommodations who didn’t receive them on the initial test, I don’t know how you have an authentic conversation about results. Are the scores of all those kids going to be factored out? And if so, how accurate a picture does that paint?

One last thought on data, which I unsuccessfully tried to address earlier in the week, how do we draw a cause and effect line when it comes to the data we have? All schools across the district are not implementing district policy with the same fidelity, so how can success, or failure, be attributed to policy. By Dr. Joseph’s own admission, all schools do not have access to the same resources required in order to fully implement district policy. How much impact does that have? How much impact do individual teachers have? It may just be me, but I see way too many variables to be able to discern whether it’s causation or correlation at work.

ENHANCED SCHOOLS 

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a lot of whispers around funding next year for enhanced option schools. These are schools that were empowered with special provisions through past desegregation acts. One of the big provisions being the extended school day. The talk has been that the district put pressure on these schools to end the extended school days. The district says that’s not true. Their only desire is that schools be a lot more intentional with their funding.

2018-19 student enrollment at the Enhanced Option Schools runs between 242 to 385 students at each school. The funds provided to each school for the extra 45 minutes of school/day ranged from $200,000 – $280,000/school based on enrollment. Most of these schools also receive a baseline supplement because the small student enrollment does not generate adequate money to fully staff a building in the student based budgeting model; these baseline supplemental amounts ranged from $237,140- $423,682 per building for 2018-19. The schools will not lose that money, either. The only precaution given in the meeting with school leaders and in response to individual questions was that any request for an “exception hire” may not be honored. (An exception hire request is to cover a unique situation that was not included in budgeting.) Enhanced Option Schools receive Title I funds that can cover those unique types of requests. Only two Enhanced Option Schools received “exception hire” funding for the 2018-19 school year.

The district’s position appears to be a reasonable one. But, this is where the establishment of trust is so essential. District leaders have failed to build up the level of trust needed in order to be effective. As a result, reasonable initiatives are looked at with nefarious intentions, as in this case.

The other thing is timing. This administration loves to present things up against a deadline. That doesn’t work well with most people. You have to implement things on a proper timeline. Rush people and they’ll feel like you are trying to bully them into a position, even if that’s not your intention. Again, a factor in play here.

RANDOM STUFF

Tennessee has a new governor in Bill Lee and when it comes to education he’s already making missteps by referring to Tennessee’s education system as being at the bottom of the nation. He quickly walked that one back. Many public education advocates are already wringing their hands over what policy Lee, an avowed fan of vouchers, might push. Let’s take a deep breath and see what steps he takes first. I would remind you of the unpopularity of education reform policies – vouchers, wholesale charter school growth, Teach for America – across the country. Whether its Newark, Indianapolis, Denver, New Orleans, or Memphis, nowhere in the country do those policies hold widespread appeal. Hopefully, Governor Lee will surround himself with people who will advise him on much sounder practices.

The arguments only get tougher for the ED reform crowd as more data is now available as opposed to as recently as two years ago. There are some charter schools that perform at a high level, and some that do not. Just like traditional schools. In light of the fact that neither is a magic bullet, why dismantle a system that has served the country well for years? It doesn’t make sense. Let’s invest in our existing schools before peeling off resources for a new unproven system.

Speaking of Teach for America, they have now arrived in Chattanooga; 15 teachers, 4 years, one million dollars. But that’s not the whole of it.

Those in favor of the agreement — which will actually cost about $3.3 million over five years — emphasized that the board’s $250,000 a year commitment is coming out of state grant money for the district’s priority schools.

The district received $670,383.30 for the 2017-18 school year, and another $921,886.11 for the 2018-19 school year for its nine priority schools, but further priority school funding is not a guarantee with a new governor taking office soon.

But don’t fret Nashville, you’ll get an opportunity to spend more of your hard-earned priority school cash as well. The Nashville TFA contract is up for renewal soon. But perhaps, Nashville will have spent all its extra money bt then.

If you’ll remember, last month we gaven TNTP a half million dollars to provide professional development for teachers employed at priority schools. The school board approved this expenditure despite being told over the summer that not a single school was utilizing TNTP for PD. This month we’ve got another cash prize for TNTP.

VENDOR: Amplify Education, Inc.

SERVICE/GOODS (SOW): Amendment #2 to increase the total compensation by $434,601.72 to reach a new not-to-exceed amount of $595,326.52. Amplify Education, Inc. will provide Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) Classroom Kits and associated materials to MNPS Priority Schools.

Don’t be fooled by the name Amplify attached to this ask, TNTP is the vehicle being used to implement CKLA in metro schools. I plan to write more about this in the upcoming weeks, but the short version of the story is that we are investing this money in CKLA at the same time we are partnering with Florida State University and utilizing various MNPS schools to conduct an experiment on the effectiveness of CKLA. Which schools do you think are participating in this experiment? Have parents been fully briefed on the pending experiment? You would think such a high profile undertaking would be all over the MNPS website, but if you thought that you’d be wrong.

Education historian David Labaree has written an excellent piece on public education and its transition from a “public good” to a “private benefit”. The point that drives things home for me is the following:

All but gone is the assumption that the purpose of schooling is to benefit the community at large. Less and less often do Americans conceive of education as a cooperative effort in nation-building or a collective investment in workforce development. Increasingly, rather, school comes to be viewed as an intense competition among individuals to get ahead in society and avoid being left behind. It has begun to look, to a great extent, like a means of creating winners and losers in the pursuit of academic merit, with the results determining who becomes winners and losers in life.

Do you know what MNPS school board member is heading up what committee? I know it’s only November but I’ve yet to see an announcement.

Overton Model UN Delegate Conference is this weekend! We want to wish this great group much success!!! 5 teams and 3 officers!!

Dr. Kellie Hargis, Principal of Hume-Fogg HS and Mrs. Cathy Parsons, English Teacher, accepted the National Blue Ribbon Award from the US Department of Education this week. Congratulations to the entire Hume-Fogg community for your commitment to excellence!

Here’s some good news to share. MNPS, as a direct result of the decision to pay for tests, has increased the number of students taking advanced AP classes.

“Prior to last year, we didn’t ask students to take advanced academic tests because we couldn’t ask them to pay. Or they would opt out due to the cost,” said Laura-Lee Morin, Metro Nashville Public Schools advanced academics director.

“When we removed the cost barrier … we had some minor attrition from those classes at the beginning of the year, but the ones that stayed throughout the year participated and that resulted in a huge increase.”

This is a huge deal. Even though the number of students earning college credits didn’t increase – students earn credits by scoring a 3 or above – the number of students did not fall back. Some people may choose to focus on the results of those taking the test, but granting access is an important first step. This one deserves to be bragged on.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.

TEACHER IMPACT COMES IN MANY FORMS

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“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”
Theodore Roosevelt

“Everybody gets a tag. If you listen to a Velvet Underground record, you don’t think, ‘Godfathers of Punk.’ You just think, ‘This sounds great.’ The tags are there in order to help try to sell something by giving it a name that’s going to stick in somebody’s memory. But it doesn’t describe it. So ‘depressing’ isn’t a word I would use to describe my music. But there is some sadness in it — there has to be so that the happiness in it will matter.”
Elliott Smith

As of late, I’ve spent a fair amount of time ruminating on the teachers I had growing up. I was fortunate enough as a kid to attend a number of very different schools. My father was military and so I attended an urban school in Texas, schools on bases in Colorado and Germany, and a rural school in Pennsylvania. At all those schools there were teachers that left a mark, and some not so much.

There was Mr. VonHendy in third grade. He was in his early thirties and the epitome of cool in that 70’s beard and turtleneck manner. He was fun to cut up with, dated the attractive social studies teacher, and we all wanted to be like him. In 5th grade, it was Mr. Anthony, a large man who was the opposite of Mr. VonHendy, but he knew all kinds of cool stuff and would show you how to use the encyclopedia to find out even more cool stuff if you asked.

In Junior High school I had an English teacher, whose name escapes me at the moment, that brought the classics to life for me. Since I was in trouble so much in her class, she’d probably be shocked to learn that I credit her with my appreciation of those said tomes. She taught me not to get hung on the language of Shakespeare, Hawthorne, or Dickens, and to instead focus on the themes which have proven universal. She might have scared me a bit, but thanks to her the fear of heavy reading left me. She also inspired my love of the Romantic poets by drawing the parallels between Byron and Doors vocalist Jim Morrison, Shelly and deceased Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones.

There was Herr Paultz my German teacher I loved to spar with. “Weber, you are good at walking on the fence”, he was fond of saying, “But someday you will fall off.” Oh, if he only knew. We might not have bonded but I certainly learned a lot from him.

Ms. Whitock was my drama teacher who pushed me to realize my potential, taught me the value of hard work, and scared the living bejebees out of me. Not to mention that I thought she might be a little crazy.

Mr. Denis, as I’ve mentioned in the past, was sarcastic and biting, but taught me lessons about environmental science that are still relevant today.

Mr. Melinkoff was a diminutive teacher of social studies who brought Russia to life for a bunch of High Schoolers. Mr. Below taught high school English and was a member of our church, maybe the nicest teacher I ever had. Both approached their subject with a difference in temperament, but a shared passion.

There were some bad ones as well. My high school soccer coach for three years, who spent the majority of that time telling me how the kid at a neighboring school was so much better than me because of his work ethic. He got so mad at me one time for letting a goal go through, that he kicked a medicine cabinet all the way down the sideline berating me the whole time. Truth is, he’s been a major influence on my coaching style. He showed me the wrong way to do things, and I avoid making those mistakes with my son’s teams.

These days, I read social media posts and articles where so much is said about the need for teachers to love their students. I find myself wondering, did any of those aforementioned teachers love me? To be honest, I don’t think so. I’m not even sure all of them liked me, and I am sure I was a source of major frustration to many of them. But loving me wasn’t their job. They had something more important than love for me, they had a love of teaching and a love of their subject matter that they wanted to pass on.

In the 90’s I found myself in need of legal representation. I hired an attorney with a flawless reputation. After telling him my tale over the phone, I asked him if I needed to come by the office.

“Will it make you feel better?” was his reply.

I got the message. Was I looking for a friend or was I looking for a lawyer? I chose the latter and never regretted it.

My teachers in school were cut from that cloth. They had a job to do and they were passionate about it. No matter what the subject was, I could feel those teachers excitement in exposing me to it. To this day I don’t pay attention to news about Russia because Mr. Melinkoff asked about my feelings but rather because of the feelings I got when he described being in the streets of Moscow to me. It all about the passion for learning as opposed to the passion for me.

That’s the lens that I look at the recent Social and Emotional Learning movement through. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the importance of sensitivity, empathy, and treating all with respect. But I think that’s all part of just being a decent person. Do we really need to invest millions of dollars and hundreds of hours in professional development to ensure that teachers are dealing with kids by being decent people? Shouldn’t we assume that the vast majority already are?

Think about this for a moment. Why do most teachers go into teaching? Financial reward? Looking for a low-stress job? Fame? Summers off? It’s none of those. By and large, it is a desire to be of service in preparing young people for adulthood. Odds are, if you are not sensitive, empathetic, or compassionate, you won’t be drawn towards the teaching profession. Odds are you wouldn’t take on gobs of student loan debt in order to pursue a degree that would enable you to practice a profession in which you’ll earn one-third of what your peers do if you didn’t already have the basic SEL tenets down.  It’s like taking a student right out of the seminary, hiring them at your church, and then enrolling them in classes proving the existence of God.

The building of relationships is huge, and obviously, I formed strong ones with some of my teachers, but authenticity is so important in forging lasting relationships. I see all the memes about teachers being positive, and charged up, and always energetic. That’s exhausting and just unsustainable. That’s also not a realistic mindset to model for kids that are just trying to get through life under some horrible circumstances.

Kids get it. Some days suck and seeing your teacher react to a tough day and persevere can be powerful. Especially if they are doing it in a manner that appears authentic and not some manufactured public display. It’s empowering to know that you can have days where you are just not feeling it, and tomorrow will be better.

Not every teacher practices SEL in a manner that looks identical, nor should they. There are a lot of kids to reach and a lot of different means to reach them. Let’s empower teachers innate abilities as opposed to creating some cookie cutter model that in the long run is not going to prove any more effective.

I just can’t buy into the narrative that there is a large number of teacher lollygagging around the teachers’ lounge talking about how dumb their charges are and how much they can’t stand them. Those people tend to get naturally weeded out and discover that there are a lot of easier ways to make 43K a year.

I’m not saying every teacher is spectacular but before we go devaluing them, let’s try paying them a solid salary, provide adequate resources, and allow them to utilize the inherent skills they have worked hard to develop. We used to kind of do that. I acknowledge that my generation has made a lot of mistakes, but we’ve done alright at keeping this country afloat and moving forward through some turbulent times. The last 30 years have seen some transformative social change and huge growth in technology. It would seem that our primary education has served us well.

One quick side note. I do find it amusing that there is a STEAM initiative due to the supposed need for people in related industries. But who’s getting the big money? Why those with Liberal Arts degrees of course. But are we rushing off to increase Liberal Arts programming?

Getting back on track, we think we understand the real impact of teachers but I question whether we really do or not. If we did would we be continually overloading them with initiatives that make it harder for them to fulfill their true mission? If we understood their true value would we continue to ignore their input?

District administrators like to take marginal results, be it test results, survey answers or otherwise, and offer them as signs that district policy is working. But how do we know that? How much of those results are the by-product of a teacher using their god given talents and skills to make damn sure that as many kids as possible make progress? How do you differentiate between growth that transpires due to policy and that which transpires due to teachers being willing to climb over glass shards to serve their kids? Have you ever met a teacher that says, “yea, that policy doesn’t work so we are just going to let it fail?” I haven’t. It is because most care that deeply.

Right now you are probably thinking, “All right TC, this is all mildly interesting, but what’s your point? What are you trying to say.”

I guess my point in all of this is, that if are going to have really great teachers we have to quit adding to their plate and start trusting that they are the experts in their field. We have to quit tightening the definition of quality teacher and start realizing that quality teachers come in all shapes and sizes. We have to recognize that some need more professional development and managing more than others. Differentiated management is every bit as important as differentiated learning. In other words, we need to free the inherent passion in education instead of continually trying to condense it into a prescribed look.

Maybe what I’m trying to say, is let’s try a little more substance and a lot less style.

QUICK HITS

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, H.G. Hill Middle School teachers and students will be participating in the Rise Against Hunger project. Volunteers are needed to help package meals. You can sign up to volunteer or learn more about the project here.

Tomorrow Metro Council meets at 5 to discuss and then vote on the funding for a new building for the Nashville School of the Arts. The old building has become completely inadequate, thus the importance of this initiative. It was 10 years ago that a new building was initially proposed, the time is now to get things moving. Please call your councilman and tell them this needs to get done.

Some new interesting artwork has begun to pop up around the district. I’m curious to see just how far it spreads. Thinking of making up and selling t-shirts.

The MAP testing window opens up this week for kids in grades 2-9. Parents were not officially notified, but accommodations have been returned to all EL and Special Needs kids. These accommodations – read-a-loud text – though outlined in individual IEPs and available through the MAP platform were not provided during testing at the beginning of the year. Please keep in mind this will have an impact on scores this go around and any future conversations on growth should recognize this variant.

Election day is tomorrow. If you haven’t voted yet, please make plans to do so. I’d like to go ahead and put one more unabashed plugin for Bob Freeman if I may. He’s run a fantastic campaign. One that illustrates exactly what he’ll bring to the job.

In some ways though,  I’m kind of disappointed that the election is coming to an end because that means no more comically unhinged attack fliers directed at Bob. He must have scared somebody because I’ve gotten at least a flier a day for the last 10 days, and I’ve already voted. Rest assured that none of the attacks are rooted in fact. Bob will make a great state representative, but only if you do your part and vote for him.

“He’s a very charismatic, very forceful person,” says at-large Metro Council member David Briley, “We’ve invested a lot of money in our schools over the last few years, and none of us wants to see that money wasted because we were afraid to make some changes.” Who was he referring to when he made that statement and I wonder if he remembers making it?

We talk a lot about the importance of having a person that looks like the majority of the children in MNPS as a director, but there is one glass ceiling that has yet to be broken. MNPS has had two men of color in the last 20 years but never a woman. Carol Johnson was the school boards initial choice before Pedro Garcia was hired. The official story is that Johnson was offered the job, negotiated a $30k raise, and then turned it down; electing to stay in Minneapolis. The unofficial story has always been that she was pressured to decline by board members who at the time would have preferred a man. It’s a bit shameful that an organization predominately made up of women has never had a woman at its head. Oh well, one glass ceiling at a time.

Croft Middle School is planning to do some tree planting in two weeks and they’d appreciate your help.

As part of their Veterans Day activism, J.T. Moore Middle School students are collecting items for care packages to send to troops overseas. Deadline for donations is Nov. 15. Packages will be mailed on Nov. 16. Please help by dropping items in the front office. – at J. T. Moore Middle School

POLL RESULTS

Let’s take a look at the results from the weekend polls.

The first question asked for your opinion on the new charter collaborative. 39% of you answered, “here we go again”. 25% of you were unclear on the need it was addressing. 3% of you felt that the collaborative would provide a fresh voice in the conversation. Here are the write-in answers:

Negative 1
Worried 1
Does it really matter? We little people have no control. 1
Power in numbers 1
Why are they not collaborating with MNPS teachers it’s well? 1
When can we focus on retaining the quality teachers still left? 1
More money wasted!! Why can not the office of charter schools handle it? 1
organizing the opposition 1
Can’t believe it’s even a thing. 1
Joseph is luring Gini Walker to his side and sadly it appears to be working

The second question asked for your thoughts on the recent action taken by TSSAA over an altercation that transpired at an Antioch/Overton football game. 30% of you felt that it was appropriate, with 22% of you recognizing the need to take decisive action.

This incident is the root for some of my recent thoughts on SEL. As an athlete in High Schools, such an altercation would have never been tolerated. It was drilled in us right from the start that as an athlete I represented first myself, then my team, and lastly my school. That tenet was every bit as important as winning. The incident between Overton/Antioch was not an outlier. Over the last several years there have been more on-field fights than anyone would like to admit. It makes me question what guidance is being provided to these athletes. Here are the write-in votes:

Consequences are needed but these may punish more students that are not involved 1
they are not trying to keep suspensions down, good! 1
Why only “unfairly punishes Overton”? 1
Probably an adult issue that’s impacting students

The last question asked about the climate surveys that were just recently completed by teachers. The district has increased the importance of those surveys and as a result, there have been rumblings of administrators attempting to influence results. 42% of you responded that principals had merely pushed the completion of results at a greater frequency. 15% of you responded that it was business as usual. Here are the write-ins:

They know of it? 1
None. The results will be made public, and what bad principal wants that? 1
Email everyday 1
Lots but no suggested answers 1
Hmmmm 1
principals pressured to get teachers to complete 1
They are watching as we fill them out 1
We were directed to do it. So we did it. 1
Tons. Culture is horrid. If things stay status quo, most vets will leave soon. 1
Afraid of Dr Coverson.Someone help us! get him out 1

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

 

WELCOME BACK TO THE THUNDER DOME

4

“We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Make your interactions with people transformational, not just transactional.”
Patti Smith

 

I just finished the latest book by Bernard Cornwell. If you have never read Cornwell, you are doing your self a disservice. He writes well researched, keep-you-on-the-edge of your seat historical fiction. The book I just finished, War of the Wolf, is set in England at a time when Christian kings were trying to unite the country against the Danes, and the so-called pagans.

Uthred is the unofficial king of Northumbria, which is officially ruled by his son-in-law King Sigtryggr. As a sub-plot of the book King Edward is forcing Sigtryggr to swear fealty to him and become a Christian. This despite the fact that in Northumbria citizens are allowed to worship as they see fit. Sigtryggr does not want to swear allegiance, but he recognizes the disadvantage he finds himself with.

Uthred and he are discussing the pending swearing of allegiance which leads Sigtryggr to make the following statement about why he is agreeing to sign the proposed allegiance.

“I have the Scots to the north, my fellow Norseman to the west. And Saxons to the south, and fewer than two thousand men to fight them all. And that is why I am here.”

I stopped for a minute and thought, that is not unlike the situation that Metro Nashville Public Schools often seems to find themselves in. Truth is, I’d wager that it’s the circumstances that the very institution of public schools finds itself in. Public Education as we know it is under the constant threat of attack. This week and old force raised a new banner.

Per an article in the Tennessean, several local charter school leaders have been meeting informally over the last several months to address common challenges. That’s a good thing because through collaboration solutions are often more readily found then through the lens of one individual. The problem comes with the move to formalize the collaboration under the umbrella of an organization that has been politically active, the Tennessee Charter School Center.

According to the Tennessean, the goal is, “forming a collective in an effort to learn from one another and leverage resources”. And according to that press release “Talent Recruitment” is one of those resources. Furthermore, they claim that the formation of this formal collaboration will allow them to better communicate with MNPS. Huh?

Does MNPS not already have an office of charter schools? Does Dennis Queen not already have the reputation as the man who walks central office with nothing ever in his hands? Why are we paying him $155k a year if the charter schools need to form a collaboration in order to better communicate with MNPS? Of course, that begs the question, what are we paying him for the period?

But we all know that none of the previous reasons is why formal collaboration is being established. The reason for the formation of this collaboration is for the reason it’s always been, to grow the brand. If it was about educating kids, then the charters would take the relative anonymity that they’ve been given over the last two years and use that space to improve student outcomes. Outcomes for some members that are in definite need of improvement. I dare anyone of those involved in the new collaboration to argue that every one of those schools involved is a “high performing” charter schools. Because guess what, that not what has been said privately over the last year.

Let’s take a deeper look at the “success stories”. Something I’ve held off on doing this for the last year because my focus has been elsewhere and I’ve got no problem with schools that are serving their families and focusing on educating kids. I have repeatedly stated that I have no desire whatsoever to continue with the endless debate over charter schools, however, I will defend something that I believe in when it’s under attack and this creation of a collaboration is a sign of a pending attack.

Valor Flagship Academy. Doing an awesome job right? Setting records. Blowing the doors off MNPS schools. Let’s peel the onion back a minute. How many kids do you think are enrolled? Try 270. Of that 270, 14% are black and 15% are Hispanic. Yet Hispanic and Black kids make up 50% of suspensions. 49% of their students are considered impoverished. Vallor Collegiate SE is 230 kids. 19% black, 23% Hispanic and 50% white. 42% of out of school suspensions are by black students with 11% being Hispanic. 56% get free and reduced lunch.

Compare those numbers with nearby Croft and McMurray Middle Schools which serve 712 and 800 students respectively.  The percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunches are 70 and 94 percent. The percentage of non-white students is 63% at Croft and 82% at McMurray. Yet these 3 schools are all within 5 miles of each other. How can that be since its an equal playing field, right? Unless, like we’ve always known, it’s not a level playing field. But charter folks never seem satisfied, even with the rules tilted in their favor.

If the true intent of this new organization was just to create collaborations, why the need to make a PR push and create a hashtag? Is that hashtag suddenly going to ease communication between MNPS and the charter community or is it going to spur interest from families that weren’t previously considering a charter school? Is Randi Dowell suddenly going to want to talk more with Todd Dickson because it’s now a formalized collaboration, or will the increased communication come between them and those who write the checks?

The cynic in me believes it’s a lot harder to collect checks when it’s just Dickson and Dowell sitting around having coffee. It’s probably just coincidence that this announcement comes the week before the race for governor ends and Bill Lee, an avowed choice proponent takes office. Between Trump, Lee, and the culture they will collectively create, I suspect there will be no shortage to the cash heading towards charter schools operators and you got to have a formal organization to rake that in.

Local blogger Vesia Hawkins gets credit for saying what others try to talk around,

Charter leaders from the city’s highest performing schools representing more than 12,000 students have solidified a coalition under the umbrella of the Tennessee Charter School Center on the choice battleground that is Nashville, TN.

And it will become a battleground. Expect the school board race of 2020 to more closely resemble 2016 then the just recently passed election. I expect that zealots from both sides will quickly ramp up the rhetoric while our district continues to suffer. After all, this is a fight you can engage in with little fear of being called a racist and offers up straw men to attack for both sides and no shortage of candidates for villanhood.

Over the last year, I heard several people voice the belief that organization like the Scarlet Foundation, Nashville Public Education Foundation, and other traditional supporters of privatization efforts supported Dr. Joseph because his leadership weakened the district thereby providing fuel for increased charter school demand. I never really bought into it, but in reading the tea leaves over the last several months, it becomes a theory that is hard to dispute.

Meanwhile, who suffers? Teachers and kids. Instead of everybody focusing on their charges and growing things organically for the betterment of kids, we are going to dictate winners and losers and use kids learning to propel adult arguments. Instead of bragging in their press release about how this will benefit charter schools talent recruitment, tell me how this collaboration will benefit that kid at Joelton ES, a high poverty school that suffers from constant teacher attrition. Tell me how any of this benefits the majority of kids in MNPS and not just the select few that have resources to take advantage of the coming growth in charter schools.

We look at the schools on the priority school list and we scratch our head, “Why are things not improving?”, completely ignoring the fact that we continually do the same things over and over. We continually hire superintendents that try to use the same failed strategies and we remain forever locked in the same battle of charter versus traditional schools. As a result, nothing ever changes, And I mean nothing.

So welcome back to the Thunderdome. I hope you haven’t let your Twitter skills get ready or forgotten the old talking points. No need to learn new ones, the old ones will suffice just fine.

I’m just sad because I really have enjoyed my newly forged relationships with local reformers and I have felt that the conversations had matured. That’s what I get for being an optimist and believing that it really is about teachers and kids.

If you think I’m being hyperbolic, then you are ignoring the fundamental fallacy of charter schools; you can’t run two school districts side by side while drawing resources from a single pool.

ACT SPIN

Hopefully, you’ve had the opportunity to read the recent article on ACT scores from McNeely, Pigott, and Fox – I mean the Tennessean. The article praises MNPS scores for raising from 18.8 to 18.9. In the article, Dr. Joseph accepts the accolades but offers some caution.

Right now, you might be scratching your head and thinking, “18.8? But Dr. Joseph has been accepting accolades for the last 6 months on scores of 19. I heard him on the radio saying we scored a 19. What’s the story?”

The story is that it was initially reported that MNPS scored a 19, but district officials have been appealing that score based on the belief that 150 students scores had been left out. The state recently revised the score to 18.8 and that means we grew .1 this year. There you have it.

QUICK HITS

The reading wars are once again heating up. I know, everything that is old is now new. Emily Hanford wrote an article making the accusation that teachers were ignoring science in the teaching of reading, and battle lines were quickly drawn. This week Erin Hinrichs has a thoughtful piece in the MinnPost that attempts to look even deeper into the use of phonetics in the teaching of reading. I find it curious that the same science warns of the dangers of teaching kids to read too early as well. Wonder if anyone will heed that advice?

Dr. Joseph once told a roomful of principals that there ain’t no crazy, like Nashville crazy. I’m not sure that is true. Seems to me that things are pretty crazy in Prince George County. There’s a school board race coming to a head and it’s drawn some bitter lines.

Those challenging the establishment-backed picks are touting their outsider status, saying it makes them more likely to provide strong oversight of a school system plagued by controversies including large pay raises to top aides, inflated graduation rates, a sex abuse scandal and the loss of a multimillion-dollar Head Start grant.

“I know there are problems in the schools, and I’m going to tell it all,” said Belinda Queen, who is challenging incumbent Carolyn Boston (District 6), the current board vice-chair. “I’m going to speak up for the people.”

Critics of the minority bloc accuse them of seeking the media spotlight and failing to work constructively with their fellow board members — problems they say would be exacerbated if the group adds new members Nov 6.

“It would be a disaster,” Boston said. “We need to work together and to speak with one voice.”

Good thing none of those issues are happening here in Nashville.

Blogger and educator Zac Barnes has his take on the recently created Charter Coalition. Obviously, it’s a bit different from mine, but I urge you to read it and make up your own mind. Congratulations to him as well for recently earning his doctorate.

On Friday passed a melee broke out at the Antioch/Overton High School Football game. As a result, Overton has been disqualified from this year’s playoffs and both teams have been banned from the playoffs for 2 years. A bit heavy-handed but this kind of stuff can’t happen.

This is what happens when you have an HR department that comes from a medical background instead of an education background. Here are some questions from the recently administered climate survey.

#33 How easy do you find interacting with students at your school who are from a different cultural background than your own?
#37 How easy would it be for you to teach a class with groups of students from very different religions from each other?
#39 How easily do you think you could make a particularly overweight student feel like a part of class? 

Let’s be clear here, there ain’t nothing “easy” about teaching. To insinuate such shows a lack of cultural sensitivity.

The former head of MNPS STEAM education, Kris Elliot, continues to do great things out west. Sure wish we had a program like this in Tennessee. It shows what can happen if you stop doing the same things over and over.

Some new principal announcements for you. Jessica Hardin will be the new principal at Inglewood. She was previously at Ivanetta H Davis Early Learning Center. Dana Eckman the current Director of Early Learning will replace Ms. Hardin. At Warner ES Ricky Gibbs will be returning to MNPS as their new principal. He’d previously rocked it at Glengarry ES before heading to Memphis. We are glad to have him back.

Only a few days left to cast your vote for Bob Freeman in District 56. Come on y’all.

My conservative friends may not like it, but check out the latest from my good friend Will Hoge.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.

 

 

 

LESSONS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM

2

“Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.”
Bob Dylan 

“The Guide says there is an art to flying”, said Ford, “or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”
Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

I recently saw a quote on Twitter that said, if you are a teacher who says you learn as much from your kids as they do from you, then you are in the wrong profession. It was worded a little more eloquently, but that was its general gist.

I think the person who posted it was under the impression that the teachers who say that meant they literally taught kids algorithms while the kids taught them diagramming sentences or something like that. My interpretation was that while teaching kids, and interacting with them, you’ll find yourself being exposed to all kinds of unexpected and unpredictable experiences, and since the goal is to create lifelong learners, it lays to reason that one would learn from these experiences. hence the basis for the quote.

As we get older and become adults, we change the rules. It seems that we learn things as a child, and then discard them because they don’t suit our needs as adults. We preach literacy but never pick up a book. We talk about the importance of critical thinking and then we regurgitate things we read on the internet without doing the simplest of fact checks. We limit our kids’ screen time out of fear for what it could be doing their brains and then we spend a day bingeing on Housewives of Rutherford County. If you are not careful, working with kids will expose the inherent hypocrisy of adulthood. How you deal with that exposure is up to you.

This weekend we were at my 8-year-old son Peter’s Jiu-Jitsu tournament. He’s been rolling for about 3 years now and he’s passionate about it. At the tournament, competitors fight in a gi and a non-gi division. He fights at the advanced level and as a result, on Saturday morning he pulled a tough opponent. Fights are 3 minutes long and after starting out with a strong double-leg takedown, Peter found himself locked in a  triangle leg chokehold. He was able to break the hold several times but was unable to get traction in order to score points. He lost the match 3-2.

After the match, he was appropriately dejected. “What are your thoughts?”, I asked.

Thoughtfully he replied, “Tougher match then I thought it was going to be. I’m going to have to fight him from the bottom next match. Sucks. But otherwise he’ll get me in a headlock again, so it’s what I have to do.”

To be honest, I was a little taken back by such succinct analysis. I expected to hear some excuses, maybe some tears, perhaps some accusations of cheating. Peter offered none of that. After his analysis, he picked up his medal and then scampered off to his friends. They proceeded to cheer on other teammates, swap stories, wrestle a bit, and climb a few things. You know, all the things that young men – truth be told, old men as well – like to do when they are in the company of other like-minded young men. The loss was put in proper perspective and he’d moved on, refusing to allow it to color the remainder of a glorious day.

I was nervous as the second match approached. Peter lined up against his previous opponent. Right from the beginning, it was clear that he’d followed his analysis and made adjustments. Not only did he win this match, but he dominated from start to finish despite the relatively close score of 5-0. After the match, Peter congratulated his opponent on a hard-fought battle and two of them amicably strolled over to the podium to collect their respective medals.

I couldn’t have been prouder. My pride was not derived from the win, though I certainly was elated by it. My source of pride was in the process employed to achieve victory. He’d created a plan. The plan didn’t work. He honestly evaluated the plan. He’d made an adjustment to the plan based on honest self-examination and then employed a new plan that proved to be successful. If he learns nothing else growing up, this process alone will serve to make him college and career ready.

I started thinking, how many adults do we know that routinely employ this process? I can say that few of our leaders on a national, state, or local level have shown this ability. Excuses come quickly to their lips. Or it is somebody else’s fault. Recent history is rife with tales of leaders employing the same strategies over and over, never adjusting, but always expecting different results and then shocked when outcomes don’t change.

Peter’s behavior that day was a subtle reminder to me to be vigilant with my actions. Rigorous honest self-inventory is regularly preached at AA meetings, but it’s not sound advice for the addict alone. It’s a strategy that we all need to practice. I needed a refresher on that lesson and Peter was just the kid to deliver it, by the same token by voicing my recognition of that lesson and taking it to heart, I was also teaching a lesson; one is never too old or too wise to learn and sometimes the most obvious lessons come from the most unobvious places. In my humble opinion, schools need more teachers that are willing to learn from kids, not less.

ADDRESSING THE TROOPS

Yesterday Dr. Joseph trekked down the street to MNEA headquarters to address members. I watched the video and I bet you are not surprised that I have some observations.

On the positive front, I do give Dr. Joseph credit for stepping to the front of the room and taking questions head-on. Unlike other district listen and learns, this one started with no prescribed expectations nor the establishment of norms. Instead, Dr. Joseph just stood in the room and answered questions. Many of the answers may have been questionable, and we’ll look at those,  but the manner in which he interacted with educators was quite refreshing and clearly appreciated.

Obviously, the first issue raised was teacher salaries. The short answer from Dr. Joseph was basically, I’d like to give y’all a raise but I’m broke. So y’all need to come up with a plan and then get out there and advocate for it. Let me know when you come up with it and I’ll be sure to tell people I love teachers. Have I mentioned I’m broke?” Joseph’s words were more eloquent and included a few jokes, but that’s what I got out of it.

In some ways, he’s not wrong. That’s why I argued on Friday that the work of the compensation committee is way behind schedule. By now there should be a specific ask identified and an elevator speech built around it. All through the holidays, at every gathering and cocktail party, that elevator speech should be shared, establishing the narrative that this is not something we want to happen, but rather something that is going to happen. Get the raise and then build out the rest of the compensation package after you’ve hooked people into believing.

The problem with presenting the ask in January is that budget season has already started and now you are competing with all the other asks. How do you make teacher raises stand out from more money for SEL? Or more money for EL? Or more money for special needs kids? What happens is that since you haven’t established teacher raises as the number one priority in the pre-season, you are now competing with everybody else in the open season.

Joseph repeatedly makes the assertion that we are an underfunded school district. He compared MNPS funding per student of around 9k to the 16k per student that his previous district provided. A question and an observation here.

I’m curious whether that difference in funding is a choice or a necessity. What is the average cost to educate a student in each district? Other than the basic difference in the cost of goods, what’s the difference in demographics? It’s long been established that middle-class White and African-American families do not send their kids to PGCS and I’ve warned about the danger of reducing MNPS schools to only those who have no other options. It’s entirely possible that the difference in funding per pupil stems out of necessity and not desire.

Dr. Joseph talks extensively about a tax increase for Nashville property owners. It should be noted that a tax increase was part of the package at every one of his previous stops as well. So all those schools were underfunded as well. I found it a little disconcerting that Joseph talks in very expansive terms about the pending tax increase. I get the sense that a little 50 cent tax increase is just the appetizer and I’m really curious about just how much of a tax increase would be enough to satisfy his hunger. The average Nashvillian is already struggling to live in Davidson County, a large tax increase could prove extremely detrimental to many.

Things got interesting when teachers started asking about scripted curriculum and the lack of books to support that curriculum. That criticism was again met by cries of austerity. Joseph makes the claim that when he got here, there was some good work going on in some schools but some schools were suffering from serious low expectations, so they had to implement the scripted curriculum. We can argue the merits of that assumption at a later date but note that he goes on to admit that currently, certain schools have more resources than other schools and that leadership is in the process of trying to ascertain what schools have what. In other words, 2 and a half years in, we have no idea who is actually using what and doing what. Some schools are doing well and others…are struggling. It doesn’t sound like much has changed to me.

Some teachers politely pushed back against the scripted lessons, saying it hindered teacher autonomy and made them feel disrespected. Joseph said by all means if you can develop a curriculum that is on par with the IFL units, go for it. Of course first, we will have to establish a review board that is capable of reviewing those lesson plans and certifying them as comparable to the IFL units. Furthermore, he doesn’t expect teachers to be curriculum experts or assessments experts and…well you get the picture. The lips are saying one thing but the message delivered is another.

I do need to point out that he regularly refers to the budget for textbooks as being 2 million dollars. This years budget is $2,167,000. Last year it was $2,167,00. The year before it was $3,303.000. And the year before that it was $5,723,100. We’ve known for at least 5 years that we would have to purchase new science textbooks this year. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. So perhaps the budget should have been set at that previous mark of 5.7 million this year? It still would have been short but by not nearly as much.

My last observation is more of an impression then fact based. In Joseph’s speech to teachers, I didn’t a big sense of support for principals. In fact, he was often critical of principals and quick to blame them for culture problems. He proudly cited the steps that he’d taken to reduce principal autonomy. It may have just been him pandering to the audience he was talking to, but if I was a principal watching this, I wouldn’t get a strong sense of anyone watching my back. Just the opposite, if problems arise, I’ll probably be the first one under the bus. Again though, that is just my impression and I could be wrong.

The rest of the Q and A was basically Joseph beating the same drums he regularly beats – he’s a reading specialist, underfunded district, things were horrible when he got here, teacher voice, equity. If you’ve heard any of his previous speeches you know the songs. He has added one weird one though, we are now growing faster than the state in literacy.

That’s like being at track practice and saying the coaches son and I are the two slowest kids on the team but I am improving my times faster than the coaches son. Neither one of us is competitive but we’re growing faster than the other slow poke, so gimme an attaboy. I don’t think that would fly and I’m not sure most of Dr. Joseph’s speech did either.

QUICK HITS

An email went out this week informing principals that the accommodations for special needs kids and EL students that were not provided during Fall MAP testing would be provided for MAP testing that starts next week. I’d like to say I’m pleasantly surprised but if you’ll remember I predicted this back in August. What would make me pleasantly surprised is a big red disclaimer noting the discrepancy when results are discussed after the latest round concludes. Let’s see if that happens.

Congrats to the awesome John Overton High School Marching Band for receiving a Superior Rating and placing 1st in class at Contest of Champions this past Saturday at MTSU. Although they did not make finals, they were chosen to perform for the crowd as the Exhibition Band and also marched with the Finalists in Pass and Review at the end of the night!

Still keeping an eye on the Denver School District’s search for a new director. I think there are a lot of lessons for us in their search. The biggest lesson for me is this one from the Chalkbeat article,

Several board members emphasized that while collecting the community feedback was valuable, they want to show how the feedback plays into the new superintendent’s selection, and continue to connect with community members after the search is over.

“This is a beginning. This is not a project that is done. We’re trying to learn a new way to engage our community,” board President Anne Rowe said.

That’s the ticket.

Back in February, the San Diego Free Press wrote an article about DPS that I think raises some serious alarms. The Bennet referred to in the quote below is the at the time superintendent Michael Bennet.

“DPS was so dysfunctional, Bennet concluded, that he could not fix it without significant outside pressure. So he asked several foundation leaders to create an organization of civic leaders, chaired by two former mayors, to push for change and support the board when it promoted reform. They called the initiative A+ Denver, and it has championed the portfolio strategy, along with the Piton, Donnell-Kay, and Gates Family foundations.”

Hmmmm…and…

To retrain all those bad teachers in Denver, Bennet turned to the high priestess of the bad teacher movement, Michelle Rhee and her The New Teacher’s Project (TNTP). He also started importing Wendy Kopp’s Teach For America (TFA) candidates.

I’d read the whole article. Some of it is a little too familiar for comfort.

POLL QUESTIONS

We had a good response to last weeks questions. Let’s review.

The first question asked for your opinion on the MNPS fall break being aligned with TSU’s homecoming festivities. Traditionally that has been the highest day of teacher absenteeism for the year.  Out of 155 responses, 68 of you, 44%, responded that you thought it was more important that fall break occurred at the completion of the 1st quarter. 36, 23%, of you indicated that the alignment bothered you a great deal. Only 7 of you felt that it was a necessary compromise.

One of the write-in comments questions why I always have issues with black events or black board members. That’s a valid question, but I’m not sure it’s legitimate. While I have been critical of African-American board members Sharon Gentry, Tyese Hunter, and JoAnn Brannon, I feel it’s always been for legitimate reasons. I’ve also been critical of Anna Shepherd, Mary Pierce, and Will Pinkston and nobody has accused me of being biased toward white woman and schoolyard bullies. At times I’ve even criticized Jill Speering and Amy Frogge. Going forth I’ll try to be more cognizant of any percieved biases but if I feel criticism is warranted, I’m going to say it.

1 above good idea; not enough teachers OR subs as it is 1
Honestly sad. 1
it’s interesting that you always seem to have issues with AA events and board me 1
Start in Late Sept and end late May. Cut all the breaks 1
Is the message that it’s ok to miss professional development? 1
Ridiculous board can’t get ANYTHING done well. Do your job. Get it done. 1
Low tea. attend. on Fridays+TSU HC attend. = chaos. 1
Another weapon of Mass distraction 1
If PD is important, how are the absent TSU-goers benefiting? What a farce! 1
Having a PD/planning day before break instead of after was ROUGH 1
Shows what our admin values-race over kids 1
Bull squat 1
How many board members skipped the meeting? How many teachers skip? #trend 1
MTSU? or did you mean TSU?

The second question asked for teacher confidence in getting a raise next year. Results indicate some work needs to be done to secure that confidence. Out of 145 responses, 54 of you, 37%, felt as confident that the Titans were going to win the Super Bowl this year. Closely behind with 50 votes was, ‘I think it will be talked about until Dr. Joseph’s contract is renewed and then disappear in a wave of excuses.” None of you indicated that you were 100% confident. Here are the write-ins:

Please don’t renew Joseph’s contract 1
It needs to be a significant raise. Teacher’s can’t afford normal life in Nash. 1
If no, expect a mass exodus in some schools 1
We are not receiving our raise that the state already gives 1
This 15 year vet will be leaving the district if I don’t get a raise. 1
I need my step raise at least!!! 1
I only feel disdain from superintendent and his folllowers. Zero faith. 1
If not, I am forced to actively look to leave the district. 18-year veteran. 1
Why are we adding another Executive Officer?
The last question asked for your opinion of Board Chair Sharon Gentry’s propensity to sermonize during meetings. Out of 133 responses, the majority of you, 55 %, indicated that it made you crazy. The number two answer indicated that you felt it was the least of your concerns. Here are the write-ins:
What has she accomplished? In no position to preach. 1
Better than a Fran Bush’s Inappropriate scoldings and lectures 1
White members have given “sermons” and you praise them 1
She is encouraging diviseness. 1
She loves to listen to herself even if no one else does. 1
She actually mocked teachers wanting/fighting for a real wage.wow. 1
I still can’t get past her being selected as chair. 1
She needs to stop all of the talking. 1
Wasting her breath & tax-payer dollars 1
Boring at best 1
Why is Dr. Joseph sleeping with employees?!? 1
She is the reason there are so many failing schools 1
Big turn off

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

 

 

IT RESTS WITH THE NINE

2

“This is where we are at right now, as a whole. No one is left out of the loop. We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.”
Bill Hicks

“What is the quality you most like in a man?
The ability to return books.”
David Bowie

Somebody needs to break it to MNPS School Board Chair Sharon Gentry that her title is “Doctor” and not “Reverend”. Twice a month she leads a meeting of individuals of equal status charged with overseeing our schools, she does not command a pulpit. Her vision is representative of but one of nine visions shaped by the voters of Davidson County. The last board meeting lasted 48 minutes, and without her postulating, it would have probably lasted eight.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s take a look at what actually happened at that meeting.

The first order of business was next years school calendar. At the last meeting, the board was set to approve the calendar, but it was tabled in order to make a few more revisions. The elephant in the room here is the role that the Tennessee State University Homecoming Celebration plays in the decision making. This year Fall Break was moved back a week in order to concede with homecoming festivities. A move that put an unfair burden on teachers and students who were not set to participate in homecoming festivities.

It’s long been a thorn in my side that we base district policy on a social event. I get that the Friday before Homecoming has the highest rate of teacher absenteeism of the year, but why is that okay? And why should the district condone that by altering its plans? Why should the majority of stakeholders sacrifice so that some may participate in a college ritual?

I’m not downplaying the role of Homecoming as a community event. Yes, it is a day of celebration and plays a significant role in the social life for a portion of the African-American community. But let’s not forget, that portion is not the entire African-American community, nor the majority of MNPS teachers and students.

I take no issue with educators wanting to take the day off to enjoy the festivities of their alma mater. But they need to take ownership of that decision and make sure that their responsibilities are covered. The date is known a year ahead of time if you are planning to take the day off, secure a sub. There is no other job in the city that would allow someone to just take off work for a social function without having their work responsibilities covered.

Gentry defends the action by saying that you can’t control the behavior of 6000 teachers. You just have to set the calendar and then they’ll decide their behavior. Huh? We can set high expectations every day for 80k plus kids, but we can’t for teachers? Imagine if I said, “Yea,I expected those kids to get that homework done. But I can’t control what they are going to do. I’ll just assign it and they’ll decide what’s important.” It wouldn’t fly.

It’s always about the kids until it’s not. The calendar should be set based on what’s best for kids and teachers, period. Making allowances because someone decided to attend their college social function instead of filling their commitment to the kids in their charge, shouldn’t be an option. That’s called an expectation, and we always talk about the importance of high expectations for kids; what’s good for kids should be good for adults.

Now that said, if the district wants to be proactive and survey teachers ahead of time to find out who’s going to be out and then build a sub-pool around that, I’m good with it. Maybe require all teachers planning a day off to file a form so accommodations can be made. If you are off and no accommodations were made, then it counts against your professionalism score on your evaluation.

This might also be an area that the Nashville Public Education Foundation gets involved. What if a teacher for a day program was created where local businesses could supply employees to serve as substitutes for a day? The Nashville Public Education Foundation could coordinate and business would have an opportunity to learn more about what goes on in the classroom and how they can make an impact. Could be a win/win for everyone.

Getting back to next years calendar, approval was shelved after board member Christiane Buggs pulled it from the consent agenda. The new proposed calendar puts Fall Break a week earlier, to coincide with the end of the quarter, and makes the Friday that coincides with TSU Homecoming a professional development day – the irony isn’t lost on me. Buggs wanted to make an attempt to shelve the new proposal and revert back to this year’s schedule which lined Fall Break up with homecoming.

Buggs proposal was met with little enthusiasm, but because of her raised questions, board member Fran Bush decided she needed more information in order to cast her vote. As a result, Bush abstained and the calendar was tabled till next week.

There was some hand-wringing from the chair and vice-chair that a terrible disservice was being done by the delaying of the approval of the calendar. If that hand-wringing has actual merit, my question would be, why, once again, is a crucial proposal being brought at the last-minute? If a student perpetually brought their assignments in at the last-minute or late, would a teacher not attempt to alter the behavior? Again, one set of expectations for kids; one set of expectations for adults.

THE BOARD’S ROLE

Next, on the boards, agenda was committee meeting updates. Earlier in the day, the board held a Director Evaluation Committee meeting. Gentry used this committee report to not only give a brief update on what transpired but also to lecture on her interpretation of the board’s responsibility and how they should behave. She makes some cryptic statements about “hiding behind being elected officials” and having managers at work without ever really connecting that voters are the boards de facto managers. There continues to be at play a weird hierarchy that places the director of schools at the pinnacle. That’s not quite correct.

Gentry then goes on to outline the 3 areas – hire a director, pass a budget, set policy – that she believes the board is responsible for, which interestingly enough mirrors a recent blog series by Ganey Arsement in Educate Louisiana. In his piece, Arsement lays out the thinking behind this interpretation of the board’s responsibility,

Education reform groups, which are largely comprised of subsets of business and industry, believe that local school boards are too political and get in the way of policies that support the wants and needs of business and industry. Their belief is that school districts should be run like corporations, or nonprofits that have a hands-off board of directors that hires an executive to run the organization, and that executive should be a business leader who can run the district like a business.

Educate Louisianna also lays out the fallacy in this line of reasoning,

The problem with this approach is that board members of corporations and nonprofits represent only themselves, and their purpose for serving is either financial gain, or to benefit a cause that is special to them. In contrast, locally elected school boards represent people. The efficacy of a corporate board can be measured by concrete results. The efficacy of a nonprofit board is measured by the satisfaction of its beneficiaries. The efficacy of a school board has been reduced to a letter grade, and the board is left with little ability to respond to the wants, needs, and desires of the people who elected them.

Gentry takes things a step forward when she defines “setting policy” as “ensuring that we do not have a policy that hinders the ability of the district to achieve the goals that they have set.”  In the context it was presented, I took “they” to mean the director of schools. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Arment counters that argument as well and gives a warning,

Though each of these responsibilities carries equal weight, the responsibility to set policy is what defines the boundaries in which a superintendent can operate while implementing a vision that reaches the goals of the board. While it is ideal that regulation is minimal in order to allow a superintendent to lead the district, it is utterly important that the board set boundaries to define what is acceptable, and what is unacceptable, in every aspect of the operation. They must set policy that stays within the laws, rules, and policies of the State. What a board must keep in mind is that policies should be implemented with what is best for all students in mind, and the judge of a policy’s effectiveness is rarely the district leadership; but instead, the people who elected them to serve.

When you look at several issues – educator licensure, reporting of disciplinary issues, reporting of students receiving services for dyslexia – it’s clear that Joseph’s administration is not staying within the laws, rules, and policies of the state. That alone should supersede any perceived need for hyper decorum. Once again we have adults who worship at the altar of “the kids are first”, while indulging in behavior that allows the detrimental behavior to continue? Who pays while adults practice diplomacy? It’s kids, and it’s teachers – more on that in a minute. Neglecting the grass can be just as detrimental to the grass as elephants fighting.

Gentry makes a statement, that basically says, “You can comment and try to exert as much influence as you want, and we sorta appreciate it, but in the end, it is in the hands of the nine.” The nine is the elected school board. There is some truth to that but a couple of things to remember, parents, don’t have to participate. They can leave the system, and Gentry may shrug at that prospect and say, “Let them.” But if you think MNPS is a chronically underfunded district now, just see what happens when it’s only serving families with no other options.

Secondly, the nine can change. I hope Gentry remembers the part of her sermon about having a manager. The last election pitted a sitting school board member who was one of the directors biggest supporters against 3 challengers. The voters selected the most critical of the 3. I would think you ignore that message at your own peril.

Voters sent Fran Bush to the school board for a reason and I don’t remember seeing anywhere that it was to worship at the altar of Shawn Joseph, nor Sharon Gentry. They elected her to make things right for kids and teachers, and she seems to be taking that to heart. Democracy can be messy. Maybe Gentry should spend a little less time talking, and a little more listening. After all, it seems politicians are starting to listen, not to mention local philanthropists.

TEACHER COMPENSATION

The last committee report of the night was on teacher compensation. This is going to be one of those areas where I’m going to be critical of people I have infinite respect for. There are people on the compensation committee that I feel are the best of the best. Look up model teacher/leader in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Michele Sheriff and Dr. Paula Pendergrass. That said,  WTF?

The presentation starts with MNEA president Eric Huth doing an impersonation of Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. Lot’s of jocularity going on and then a 5-minute presentation that consists of a goal to make MNPS teacher among the highest compensated 5% of the state. There is no date attached to the goal, in all fairness, that is mentioned later. The slide also contains some platitudes about the approach of the district to compensation. The second lays out a timeline that designates November/December as being utilized for more discussion and research and a promise to report in January. That’s it. End of presentation.

Couple things to point out. It’s October, budget talks begin at the latest in February. We’ve known since last year that teachers are pissed about salaries. All research and discussion should be wrapped up by now. The reality is, once the second week of November hits, nothing is getting done until the second week in January. And then once again, district leadership will be presenting a crucial proposal at the last-minute. But hey, have you seen the cover of Time Magazine. Dr. Joseph and his team have read it, so you know they care. Unfortunately pointing to that article isn’t enough.

We owe it to teachers to present concrete steps that reassure that increased compensation is on the way. At this point, what do you hope to learn through further research and conversation? This has got to be a priority and as such should be treated with a whole lot more seriousness. While the committee is researching teachers are driving for Uber. While the committee discusses teacher are being priced out of the district. This process needs a whole lot more urgency.

I suspect what’s going to happen is that the process will be dragged out while negotiations on Dr. Joseph’s contract renewal begin. An argument will be raised that the compensation process is so far along that if we replace Dr. Joseph, increased teacher compensation would be jeopardized. I’d love to see a board member bring a resolution forward that commits the board to the process of raising teacher pay independently of who is the superintendent.

Again, no disrespect to the incredible educators who are volunteering their time to work on this issue, but that presentation shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone, nor should our current place in the process. And Dr. Gentry’s mocking of people at the TSU parade who were pressuring her to raise teacher salaries is way out of line. Remember that lecture about thinking purposely about what you are adding to the conversation?

QUICK HITS

If you ever have doubts about how petty this MNPS administration is, all you have to do is gaze at the latest issue of Dr. Joseph’s Forward Focus. Another edition of, “If it wasn’t so serious it would be comical”. I hope Fran Bush has learned her lesson and received her warning. Fortunately for us this kind of pettiness appears to have no impact on Bush at all.

Board Member Amy Frogge does a better job of illustrating the point, so I’ll defer to her,

Here’s a page from MNPS’s Forward Focus publication, which is sent out to all employees. Take a wild guess who is the least favored new board member by the Director of Schools and the new board Chair. Only one of the new board members was not interviewed for this publication.

While there are four newly elected board members and conveniently four columns to highlight each of them, the largest amount of space is actually devoted to Sharon Gentry, who happens to be our longest-serving member.

With such petty behavior, it’s no wonder things aren’t functioning well right now in MNPS. Our employees are being treated in the very same manner, which is causing a major culture problem.

Whether or not Dr. Joseph and Dr. Gentry like it, Fran Bush was fairly elected by the public to serve one ninth of our school district. She deserves the same treatment as other board members. To treat her otherwise is to demean the voting public.

This is but a small example, but professionalism and fairness have been thrown completely out the window. Time for change.

Chalkbeat has an article out today about how changes in teacher evaluations have changed the job of principals.

As policy makers overhauled teacher rating systems in the last decade, principals began spending much more of their time watching teachers in action and talking to them about how to improve. But the shift also overwhelmed them with work, stopped them from fulfilling other responsibilities in their schools, and weakened their relationships with teachers.

I urge you to read the whole article.

Recently the second class of Mosaic Fellows by the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition in conjunction with Conexión Américas, a nonprofit Latino advocacy group, was named. They are being charged with spotlighting issues of equity and coming together to design solutions to better serve all students, but especially students of color. Middle Tennessee is represented by the following group of educators:

  • Indira Dammu, education policy advisor, Office of Mayor David Briley
  • Laura Delgado, program director, College of Education, Lipscomb University
  • Chris Echegaray, community achieves site manager, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Karla Coleman García, director for adult learner initiatives, Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • Keilani Goggins, director, Hope Street Group
  • Joseph Gutierrez, program associate, Dan and Margaret Maddox Charitable Fund
  • LaKishia Harris, director of equity and access, STEM Preparatory Academy
  • Tomás Yan, STEAM teacher, Metro Nashville Public Schools

I’d like to offer congratulations.

It’s often said that it doesn’t cost a cent extra to increase expectations for kids, but are high expectations really free? That the question that columnist Peter Greene recently asked.

No, expectations always travel hand in hand with the tools and conditions needed to make those expectations manifest in the actual world. High expectations don’t mean a teacher who tosses a math book to her students on Day One and says, “There’s your book. I expect you to learn what’s in it. See you in 180 days.” High expectations mean a teacher who says, “I expect great things from you, and I am going to help you achieve those things with every tool at my disposal.”

Expectations are just a form of faith, and even the Bible tells us that faith without works is dead. Expectations matter, but expectations are only a foundation and no, you can’t build the house for free. “Teachers should just expect harder,” is just an excuse for politicians and policy wonks to avoid the issue of giving underserved, underfunded schools the resources they need, the kind of resources and funding that politicians and policy wonks would give them if those guys really, truly believed in the success of those students.

Again, I urge you to read the whole piece.

Local blogger Vesia Hawkins also has a new piece out. Give it a read, I’m still sifting through my thoughts on it. I’ve got more to add to this subject based on observations with my own kids. Maybe Monday I’ll hit that subject.

Congratulations are in order! Shelly Gaughan, a kindergarten teacher at East End Prep, was awarded the prestigious Milken Educator Award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize. She is one of 40 teachers across the country to receive this award.

Just in case you think that our observations are completely out of whack…go back and read my May 21st post. There’s actually a few gems in that one, but I’ll let you find them.

As long as this update is, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Andy Spears latest update on Tennessee Teacher Evaluations.

I want to leave you on a positive note, so here is a story from Channel 5 about students at West End Middle School learning sign language to improve communication with their hearing-impaired peers. Hit the link and enjoy.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.

WELCOME BACK

4

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”
T.S. Eliot

Have you ever seen the movie A Bronx Tale? Robert DeNiro plays a gangster in the Bronx who befriends a young man against the wishes of his father. The friendship leads the young man to be torn between the glamour of the Mafia life and the hard-working honest life of his fathers. It’s a good flick.

There is one scene that always resonates with me. In it, the DeNiro, Sonny, is offering the young man dating advice.

Sonny:
Alright, listen to me. You pull up right where she lives, right? Before you get outta the car, you lock both doors. Then, get outta the car, you walk over to her. You bring her over to the car. Dig out the key, put it in the lock and open the door for her. Then you let her get in. Then you close the door. Then you walk around the back of the car and look through the rear window. If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in: dump her.

Calogero ‘C’ Anello:
Just like that?

Sonny:
Listen to me, kid. If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in, that means she’s a selfish broad and all you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg. You dump her and you dump her fast

A recent blog post by Vesia Hawkins over at Volume and Light has caused me to revisit this scene. Defender’s of Dr. Joseph will try to write off his behavior, including the use of a personal driver at taxpayer expense, as inconsequential. They’ll act as if the issue with the driver was the actual use of the driver. Which is not it at all. The issue is Joseph’s refusal to give up the driver at a time when programs all across the district are being cut. It is a refusal that is indicative of who he is. It speaks to self-interest over student interest, an unwillingness to compromise, and an unresponsiveness to concerns of stakeholders. It’s about allocating resources to the wrong places.

Like it or not, people use our actions as opportunities to evaluate who we are. I’ve given the dating advice that you shouldn’t evaluate a person on how they treat you, but rather watch how they treat servers and counter people. That’s indicative of who they are and eventually, they’ll get around to treating you in a similar fashion.

So those of you who insist upon defending Joseph’s use of a driver, please recognize that’s it about more than him actually having a driver. It’s indicative of what type of leader he is and if that’s the type of leadership our kids and teachers deserve.

Here’s an idea, if having a driver is so vital to his executing the job, why doesn’t he pay for it out of his pocket? Athletes pay hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their pocket annually for nutritionists and trainers because they recognize the necessity of their services in order to perform at a high level. Joseph makes $300k a year, I think its safe to say he could afford to pay his driver. By doing so he would also strengthen his argument that the district is underfunded by acknowledging that he too must make sacrifices, not just demand it from others. I suspect that if Joseph was paying for the driver out of his pocket, the number of times a driver was needed would drop.

I also find it very disconcerting that district leaders speak one way in private about Joseph and a completely different way in public. This isn’t directed at Hawkins per se, but it is a behavior that occurs all across the district. The majority of stakeholders recognize that he is not doing a good job and in private conversations, they will admit to such. Yet, publicly they are unwilling to take a stand and instead take a position of just letting things play out.

Ironically, these are the very same leaders that often profess to put kids first. Who do they think is being hurt by a lack of competent district leadership? If you clearly saw someone was not a competent driver, would you put your kids in the car with them? Would you wave goodbye to your kids as they drove off, telling neighbors, “When elephants fight, the grass suffers”? I fail to see the difference between these two circumstances, yet here we are, no one wanting to lead. Thank god some of the board members are rising to the challenge.

A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN

Yesterday things got real interesting real fast in the Nashville education world. A couple of months ago current Nashville Public Education Foundation chair Shannon Hunt announced that she would be stepping down in November. We now know who her replacement will be; former MNPS Executive Director of Talent Strategy Katie Cour.

Cour’s selection is a very interesting choice. She is a highly competent administrator who during her tenure was not embraced by teachers.

One of her initiatives was the “turnaround squad” – teachers who agreed to teach in a priority school received an extra stipend – an initiative I vehemently opposed as it potentially cost schools just outside the priority school list talented teachers. To her credit, when presented with a sound argument, Cour expanded the program and created teacher development resources for schools in the bottom 10%. In other words, she listened and responded, something that’s been lacking throughout the district of late.

Ms. Cour was also one of the first administrators to leave after the arrival of Dr. Joseph. Despite swirling rumors at the time, she remained nothing but the consummate professional. In the past, she has also been in the crosshairs of part-time board member Will Pinkston. The two purportedly reached a truce last year but I still doubt she’ll be a willing participant in the Pinkston follies as Hunt often was.

Though all would bristle at the description, there appears to be a resurrection of the reformer movement in Nashville as of late. You have Gini Pupo-Walker winning the school board seat in district 8, Indira Damu appointed as education policy advisor for Mayor Briley, The New Teacher Project up for a nearly half million contract, and now Cour’s hiring as Executive Director at NPEF. It may not be 2014, but it’s certainly starting to feel like it.

Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. I like to say that the conversation between reformers and ….others – non-reformers is a disingenuous title – has matured. But I see some of the sneakiness involved with TNTP and my guard goes back up. I guess time will tell.

Overall, I’m excited about the hiring of Katie Cour. She’s always shown a willingness to engage and I think she’ll bring more transparency to the position and integrity to NPEF as an organization.

Now, where did I put those boxing gloves?

QUICK HITS

In the 2016 Tennessee State General Assembly legislation was passed requiring districts to screen for characteristics of dyslexia through their existing Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI²) procedures and to provide “dyslexia-specific tiered interventions” for students that demonstrate a need. An advisory council was also formed that would meet during the school year and would enable districts to report their progress and statistics. Those results would be shared across the state.

This week the council convened and districts reported the percentage of students receiving services for Dyslexia. MNPS was one of 9 districts across the state that reported a percentage of “0”. That’s right, according to MNPS, no kids are currently receiving services for Dyslexia. I’ll leave it to you to decipher that one.

In all fairness though, every district needs some work. Statistic says 1 in 10 people are dyslexic. Few districts on this list are reflective of those numbers.

Let’s review MNPS though, educator licensing, reporting of discipline issues, and now the reporting of students receiving Dyslexia services, is it just me or does the Joseph team have a hard time being in compliance with state requirements? Wonder if any of that will come up in today’s’ School Board director evaluation committee meeting, which is scheduled at 3pm today.

Per ChalkbeatTN, roughly 45K Tennessee students, from 1/3 of the state’s districts, will log in and take a 40-minute simulation test in order to check the TNReady platform. Obviously, the state is doing everything it can to not have a repeat of last years, and the year before, and well, the year before that, fiasco.

That’s all well and good, but to me, the meat of the article is in this paragraph that discusses where the problems with last years testing arose from:

The two primary culprits were functions that Questar added after a successful administration of TNReady last fall but before spring testing began in April: 1) a text-to-speech tool that enabled students with special needs to receive audible instructions; and 2) coupling the test’s login system with a new system for teachers to build practice tests.

Ok, when it comes to text-to-speech, were those accommodations just removed? What’s the alternate plan to provide them? That’s a pretty big deal for our special needs and ELL families.

Over at the TNED Report, Andy Spears takes a look at a recent assertion by State Education Superintendent Candice McQueen. McQueen has claimed that new teacher evaluations have been a “key driver” in the improvements Tennessee has made when it comes to education. Spears points out a number of gaping holes in that claim:

To summarize, Tennessee is claiming success off of one particularly positive year on NAEP and on TNReady scores that are consistently unreliable. Then, Tennessee’s Education Commissioner is suggesting the “key driver” to all this success is a highly flawed evaluation system a significant portion of which is based on junk science.

The entire basis of this spurious claim is that two things happened around the same time. Also happened since Tennessee implemented new teacher evaluation and TNReady? Really successful seasons for the Nashville Predators.

Correlation does NOT equal causation. Claiming teacher evaluations are a “key driver” of some fairly limited success story is highly problematic, though typical of this Administration.

Have you checked out Nashville Scoop? Rarely about education issues but always entertaining and informative.

Blogger Peter Greene offers some real insight into the “teacher shortage”. In his words:

There is a shortage of states and districts willing to make it worth someone’s while to take a teaching job. There’s a shortage of states and districts willing to improve the conditions of the job enough to make that job attractive to people. There’s a shortage of pay, a shortage of respect, a shortage of support. But there is no teacher shortage, just as there was no actual truck driver shortage. The employers didn’t have to wait for an entire generation of fresh drivers to be born and to grow up; they just had to make the job attractive enough to recruit the people that were already there.

Ah now if someone would listen and act, instead of just holding up a copy of the Time Magazine cover and proceeding with business as usual.

Per a tweet by MNPS: The Urban Educator recently highlighted our literacy efforts in its Oct. 2018 issue. We’re making progress toward our goal of doubling the number of 3rd-grade students reading on grade level by 2025, & recently fared slightly better than the state average in ELA.

In reading the article, I have a couple of thoughts. First of all I think it should be noted that the Urban Educator Journal is part of Great City Schools. An organization that does business with MNPS. Secondly, I’d love for Dr, Emily Pendergrass to show me what she is seeing that I, and others,  are missing, that leads her to conclude that MNPS’s literacy plan is one of the “strongest and most modern” that she’s ever seen. I’d also like a little supporting data, please.

Furthermore, at the last board meeting Director of Assessment admitted that there is no universal definition for “performing at grade level”. So how are you going to know when you are there in 2025. The marketing department really needs to get with the teaching department.

Report cards are going home today. This year middle school report cards will look a little different. For translation and information about the new report card go to the District Website:

Early voting is still going on. Please remember that if you live in District 56, a vote for Bob Freeman is a well placed one.

POLL RESULTS

Speaking of polls, here at Dad Gone Wild we had a pretty good turn out this weekend. Let’s look at the results.

It may seem premature to talk about contract extensions for Director of Schools Shawn Joseph. The board has until January 2020 to make a move. However, I contend that the conversation will begin over the next 4 months. The desire being to get it done before the start of the budget season and avoid going into the last year of his contract as a lame duck. Based on his performance over the last two years, I think that a contract extension is not something that should be entered into lightly and should have as much public input as possible.

In that light, I took the question to you and the results are not hard to decipher.  With 144 respondents, 88% of you indicated that an extension was not warranted. Only 1 of you indicated that we have to lock up this talented man as soon as possible. Lock up as in, extend the contract. Hope the board is listening. Here are the write-ins:

I will leave the district if Joseph stays 1
Never again. He’s done enough damage. 1
HELL, NO! Our kids & teachers deserve better. 1
Hard no 1
Not enough ways to say No. Absolutely Not. Ethically Challenged Train Wreck. 1
Been in MNPS 11 years. A new contract for Dr J would coincide w/my resignation. 1
Per contract the board has ‘til Jan. 1, 2020 to decide. 1
If we value public education at all, he has to go. Teacher Morale is nonexistent

Question two asked how you felt about the district proposing to award TNTP a contract worth approximately half a million dollars. Once again the results weren’t hard to decipher. 80% of you were opposed to the idea. 1 person answered that they think they offer a valuable service. Once again I wonder if the board will listen or it will just proceed with business as usual.

Here are the write-ins:

n example of our admin being paid too much not to get the job done 1
Teachers lose again. 1
We should not be doing this. 1
The lack of transparency = lack of credibility. How MNPS rolls. NoNoNoNoNoNoNo. 1
Where’s my Cost of Oiving and (yet another) missing step increase first! 1
TNTP is a hot mess. No way! 1
Crazy. All the money goes everywhere but teacher salary. pathetic!

The Nashville Scene recently awarded former board member Mary Pierce the award for the best board member. I thought I’d solicit your vote. Amy Frogge won in a landslide with 65% of the vote, and Jill Speering receiving 25%. Ironically, these are the two board members whom Joseph continually tries to dismiss. Will Pinkston received one vote. I’d like to thank Pinkston for his continued readership. Here are write-in votes:

Tie between Jill and Amy 1
Amy Frogge | Jill Speering Hands Down 1
Not relevan when that whole body is in shambles right now. 1
None. They aren’t doing their jobs and serving our students. I’m disgusted.

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

NOTES FROM THE END OF FALL BREAK

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“I never met anybody who said when they were a kid, “I wanna grow up and be a critic.”
Richard Pryor

“You can’t believe people when they look you in the eyes. You gotta’ look behind them. See what they’re standing in front of. What they’re hiding. Everyone’s hiding, Wes. Everybody. Nobody looks like what they are.”
Sam Shepard, Curse of the Starving Class

There was a time when Nashville was the greatest city in the world. I know, some of you newbies think Nashville is the greatest city in the world right now. And I concede, it is a pretty great place to live. But there was a time when it was someplace truly unique. A place populated by true characters. People unlike those you could find anywhere else. They were everywhere.

It wasn’t uncommon to find the attorney and perennial gadfly John Jay Hooker having a cocktail in the middle of the day at the Goldrush. Perhaps planning his next run for Governor. Regularly seen around town was cab driver by day, cable access channel TV star Joey Bowker aka the Bat Poet. Over in mid-town, you might find songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt playing a game of imaginary poker or the legendary musician Cowboy Jack Clement spinning yarns. Arguably the world’s greatest songwriter Harlan Howard could be found on a bar stool at the Longhorn most days. Walk through Printer’s Alley and you might find David “Skull” Shulman sitting outside with his miniature poodle wearing her diamond-encrusted dog collar. And let’s not forget Nashville’s very own, via California, P.T. Barnum Billy Block, a tireless advocate for Nashville and it’s music. The town had a lot of character.

These weren’t the only folks either, the town was ate up with creatives. On all levels and walks of life. Today we celebrate people for being successful entrepreneurs and businessmen. We court tastemakers and make celebrities out of people with half the talent of the aforementioned. Nashville is still a wonderful place, but it’s changed and in doing so, lost a lot of its uniqueness. This week we lost another one of those people who really made the city special.

If you’ve spent any time at the Bluebird, or around Nashville’s music scene, in the last 25 years odds are you’ve interacted with Bob Biles or his alter ego Roberto Bianco, the self-proclaimed “romantic voice of our time”. As Roberto, Biles took on the persona of a classic lounge singer, a persona that extended beyond the stage. As a denizen of such late-night hangouts like the Iguana, South Street, and Faisons, I was often provided an opportunity to enjoy the company of Roberto. Those memories never fail to bring a smile forth, something he was seldom without. It’s kind of cliché to describe the recently departed as constantly possessing a smile and treating everyone like a long time friend. In this case, it’s simply true. The city couldn’t have asked for a better emissary, and his presence made the city a little better.

You might have moved here because of people like Eddie George, Garth Brooks, and Phil Bredesen; you fell in love with the city because of people like Bob Biles. You’ll be missed my friend, but so long and thanks for the fish.

OF BASKETBALL CARDS AND READING

I’m noticing a strange phenomenon around our house these days. My 8-year-old son has never been one for reading a book on his own, though he loves books and is a fine reader. The thought of sitting down with a book on his own just doesn’t hold much appeal for him. I’ll admit that the part of my brain that has been sufficiently scared by the reading fear mongers observes him with a touch of concern.  As of late though, I’m less concerned and that reassurance comes from the oddest place – sports cards.

You see Peter has discovered the power of Topps, Upper Deck, and Score. About a month ago he discovered the NBA and the NFL, and these cards serve as a gateway to that world. A naturally gifted athlete, it should be no surprise that he wants to know more about sports. He spends hours collecting his cards, examining them over and over and then researching the players further on his Ipad. And what’s the key that unlocks all these doors?

Why it is reading of course. He has to read the names on the card in order to know more and trust me, he wants to know more. On the back of the cards are short biographies about the individual players. He reads through the stats and compares players to each other. You phonetics fans should be thrilled because in order to read the names of players I often hear him sounding them out using the phonetic practices he’s learned. On his Ipad, he searches out results from recent games, past exploits, opinions on the players, and the value of individual cards. Yesterday, as we headed toward the bookstore he said to me, “Maybe we can look for a basketball book we can read together.” I call that a hook with line and sinker not far behind.

I don’t think there is an expert out there that would consider sporting cards rigorous instruction, but perhaps we should widen the description a bit. As a child falling in love with reading I was blessed to have a 2nd-grade teacher who pushed reading over content. To this day I can hear his voice telling me, “I don’t care what you read as long as you are reading. If you have nothing else to read, read the cereal boxes. Reading is what’s important.” That’s a message we can’t lose sight of in the age of constant noise over rigor.

THE RISE OF TNTP

Per Wikipedia,

TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project, is an organization in the United States with a mission of ensuring that poor and minority students get equal access to effective teachers. It helps urban school districts and states recruit and train new teachers, staff challenged schools, design evaluation systems, and retain teachers who have demonstrated the ability to raise student achievement. TNTP is a non-profit organization and was founded by Michelle Rhee in 1997.

It should be pointed out as an organization TNTP has been pretty ineffectual and as result, over the last several years they’ve been reduced to clinging on in few places and writing papers decrying the decaying state of public education. Papers whose research is suspect and provide little solutions. Who could forget the insight of The Widget Effect? Despite their lack of success, the billionaires continue to lavish love on them. And now, so is MNPS.

This weeks agenda for the MNPS board meeting shows a line item on the consent agenda as follows,

(6) VENDOR: TNTP, Inc. (formerly known as The New Teacher Project)

SERVICE/GOODS (SOW): To accelerate MNPS School of Innovation school-based support to improve literacy practices and support literacy content knowledge forLiteracy Teacher Development Specialists (LTDS), principals, and teachers. TNTP’sapproach consists of direct customized support at a range of levels (High Touch Support and Medium Touch Support) and indirect support (Light Touch Support). The overall goal will be to improve literacy instruction and increase student growth and achievement.

SOURCING METHOD: Sole Source
TERM: October 24, 2018 through September 30, 2019

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FOR WHOM:

Alex Green Elementary School
Amqui Elementary School
Buena Vista Enhanced Option Elementary School Cumberland Elementary School
Gra-Mar Middle School
Inglewood STEAM Magnet Elementary
Jere Baxter Middle School
Joelton Middle School
Madison Middle School
McKissack Middle School
McMurray Middle School
Napier Elementary School
Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary The Cohn Learning Center

COMPENSATION:
Touch Support for 2 schools, and Low Touch Support for up to 7 schools. The initial breakdown as to which schools are receiving which type of support is presented below:

  •   High Touch Support: Buena Vista, Cumberland, Gra-Mar, Napier, and Robert Churchwell
  •   Medium Touch Support: Cohn Learning Center and McKissack
  •   Low Touch Support: Alex Green, Amqui, Inglewood, Jere Baxter,Joelton, McMurray, and Madison
    Total compensation under this contract is not to exceed $479,887.

    OVERSIGHT: Federal Programs

Nothing follows up a lack of a plan like giving money to an organization with a lack of a track record. MNPS’s whole reaction to the recently released state priority school list reeks of taking action to just to check a box and to be able to tell State Education Director Candice McQueen, and others, that they did something. It also feels like Joseph and cronies can’t put any money in their pockets without feeling like its burning a hole in the said pocket.

The state say’s, “Here’s 6.1 million to help with priority schools.”

The district responds by promoting one administrator, hiring another, and promising to hire more. Then they turn around and offer another half million to another organization with no track record. That’s a solution?

But look at the schools slated to be impacted. All are priority schools except for Inglewood and Napier, but where are Tom Joy, Warner, Bellshire, Wright Middle, Whites Creek, Robert E Lilliard, and Haynes? So exactly how was this list created?

Let’s look deeper at TNTP. In July they were part of a cohort of vendor contracts up for renewal that could be utilized by individual schools. Board member Amy Frogge pulled their contract for discussion. During the discussion, it was claimed that the contract wasn’t that big a deal because no individual schools were utilizing TNTP for professional development. The renewal of this contract was to just provide schools with options. Even the ones they didn’t want. The testimony made it sound as if TNTP wasn’t doing any work in the district, which was incorrect, and in my opinion intentional.

TNTP is working all through the district under several different contracts. In fact, TNTP wrote the majority of the beginning of the year training sessions for LTDSs. They are also playing a large role in the implementation of CKLA throughout the district and doing so in a very clandestine manner. You see the best kept non-secret in MNPS is that district leadership is using CKLA to replace Reading Recovery.

On its face, I don’t take issue with that move. A director should have the right to select the curriculum that they feel best about. Research on CKLA is a mixed bag at this point, but…ok. It’s a solid plan, but not a spectacular plan. My problem stems from a familiar source, a lack of transparency.

Dr. Joseph has been roundly criticized for ending Reading Recovery without a plan in place. If CKLA is to be that plan, why not share it? Why not allow an open conversation about its merits. Why approve a contract just to keep TNTP working in the district in order that they can help you quietly implement your substitute plan? The lack of transparency just creates suspicion.

Look through the other items on the consent agenda. All of them have either a MBPE number or an RFP number. This line item has neither. Want to make me a bet that is because they are piggybacking it off of the contract that was renewed this summer?

I sure hope somebody pulls this off of the consent agenda and dives a bit deeper into it. I’d really like an explanation of why TNTP is worth a half million taxpayer dollars. Think about TNTP has been available to individual schools as a PD vendor for a number of years and nobody was taking advantage of their services, why now?

AND SO IT BEGINS

It appears that October 30th will be the beginning of the drive for a new contract for Dr. Joseph. Well I lie, the whole last month has been the laying of the groundwork, now things get real. His contract is set to expire in June of 2020. I know, the contract says the board has until January 1, 2020, to decide, but nobody wants to go into the last year without a contract, let alone the last 6 months. The opportune time would be between the end of November and February. Otherwise, you run into budget season. So the spin has to start now.

If Dr. Joseph’s recent letter to the board outlining his perceived successes is any indication of what to expect, it’s safe to say Donald Trump will be proud. I believe a great deal of effort will go into selling those spins at this weeks director’s evaluation committee meeting. Pay attention, if it wasn’t so serious, it’d be amusing.

Over at Channel 5 News, they’ve been kind enough to put together a timeline, going back to Pedro Garcia and Jesse Register, so that you can keep track of the MNPS investigations. Thank you for the public service.

Congratulations are in order for former board member Mary Pierce. This week the Nashville Scene announced her as the year’s best school board member. I figure that should be good for at least 7 tweets from Eastside public school advocate and Nashville Scene critic Matt Pulle.

Personally, I’m fine with it. Mary always ran near the top in Dad Gone Wild polls, and I’ve always enjoyed our talks, though we seldom agree. There was that one time back in February….but I digress. Congratulations to the lady from Green Hills.

Also racking up votes as best Middle School and Best High School, were West End Middle and Hillsboro High. Christ the King and J.T. Moore were runners-up for middle schools and Father Ryan and Hume-Fogg for high schools. Best teacher awards went to Mandy Mann, Stephanie Wyatt, and Sara Osborne. Kudos to all.

The Network for Public Education holds their National Conference this weekend in Indianapolis. Once again, due to funding issues, I will not be physically in attendance, but my spirit will be there. If you are physically there, feel free to throw my name around liberally. If you want to follow the live stream, you can do so on the NPE Action Facebook page.

In its continued effort to keep the attorney’s of Nashville employed. MNPS announced this week that they’ve engaged the law firm, Baker Donelson, to represent them in the lawsuit brought forth by former MNPS executive Vanessa Garcia. Fun fact: the Baker, in Baker Donelson, stands for former US Secretary of State Howard Baker.

I find it interesting that MNPS feels the need to engage such a high-powered firm, but I’m assuming it’s because of the “substantial” discount. The lead attorney is only charging the district $400 an hour instead of the customary $460. Go ahead, do the math, how many hours does it take to make a teacher’s annual salary? MNPS did volunteer that they had to engage outside representation because of a potential conflict of interest, but they didn’t identify the conflict.

Condolences go out to Metro School Board member Anna Shepherd, as her mother passed away today. I know she’d appreciate some kind words, so if you get the opportunity please take advantage of it and do so. Losing a parent is always painful, no matter how expectant or at what age it happens. Prayers to Ms. Shepherd.

Fellow board member Jill Speering continues to show why she is not a woman to be trifled with. After a procedure on her heart last Friday, she’s already out of the hospital and making calls. Unbelievable.

Self-proclaimed financial guru.  recently visited , where he spoke to the Financial Literacy Club and AVID 8th grade students. The financial guru surprised the students with copies of three different books he’s written about financial health.

Early voting has started in Tennessee. If you are heading to the polls, keep the names Jim Cooper, Gloria Johnson, Larry Proffitt, and Bob Freeman at the front of your brain and if you can, vote for them. They deserve it and you’ll be better off if you do.

Those of you in Clarksville need to pull the lever for Joe Pitts as mayor. He’s been a tireless advocate for education.

Some of my dearest friends also believe Karl Dean would make a great governor. Seeing as I trust their opinion, and the alternative fills me with dread, you probably ought to cast a vote for him as well. I will, sans excitement, but I’ll be better for it and so will you.

Look who went and won themselves an award this week. Congratulations to West End Middle School PTO Prez Anna Thoreson for winning the Massey-Sexton Dyslexia Advocacy Award from the International Dyslexia Association today. You know who’s probably not celebrating though? The MNPS assessment department. Sorry, sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I’m going to try to get into this a little more next week, but I wanted to give you something to play with this weekend. ProPublica has put out an interactive website that allows you to compare race and discipline issues for individual schools across the country. I’ve spent a bit of time exploring Davidson County and discovered quite a few things I didn’t know, both good and bad. I urge you to check it out.

New(er) teachers: There are some spots open for TEA’s New Teacher Retreat! TEA pays for a 1/2 day sub on Friday, Nov. 2nd. Your $75 registration fee covers everything. After you attend the conference, you can submit your certificate to us and we will reimburse you for your $75! Win-Win! The conference this year will be at Alex Hailey’s Farm in Clinton, TN (a little north of Knoxville).

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much of it as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.

 

 

 

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT RANDOM THINGS

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“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
Lester Bangs

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why?
Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?
Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.”
― George Carlin

When I first started writing this blog, I fretted that I would find enough to write about. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that there was more than enough to cover and in fact, there was no way that I could do the necessary research in order to do it all justice. As a result, some things fall by the wayside. That doesn’t mean that they are not important, just that I can’t gather enough information and understanding to do them justice, so I put them on the back-burner.

I figured the start of Fall break was as good a time as any to clear some of those items off the plate. As always, if anybody has more information and knowledge please feel free to comment, I’m always looking for more clarity. So without further adieu, here are the things on my mind these days.

 

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING NOTES

Last week’s MNPS school board meeting raised a lot of interesting questions. It was a meeting that probably had more presentations then should fit comfortably in a meeting, but that’s what you do when you are trying to hide the trees in the forest.

The first presentation was on MNPS’s pre-k programming. Whenever you talk about pre-K things get tricky. Nobody wants to be perceived as being against pre-K. Oh no, that’s like being against puppies and rainbows. I believe in pre-K, but as always the devil is in the details.

I do not believe in sacrificing play for “rigorous” instruction when it comes to pre-K. More and more play is being sacrificed in order to focus on instruction. This is in spite of research that shows the value of play in child development. What I’d like you to do is watch the presentation, it starts at approximately the 1:01 mark, and count the number of times you hear the word “play” versus the number of times you hear the words “test scores” or “data points.”

A lot of people tell me that we are doing really good work in our pre-k centers, but I continually see signs that we are moving further and further away from play centric-curriculum. That concerns me. The dedication to increased parental involvement though is very encouraging.

The head-shaking part for comes when they talk about aligning all pre-k’s across the district, public and private, in a curriculum. I just don’t see that happening. Why would a private pre-k modify what it does to fit with Metro’s strategy? As a family, we chose to send our kids to Tusculum Presbyterian for very specific reasons; exposure to religion at an early age is one. We worked with them to tailor instruction for my son based on a very specific goal set through working in tandem. Maybe I’m missing something but I just don’t see an alignment of all pre-k’s across the district being a realistic initiative, nor one that parents would really want.

Now fast forward the board meeting to the 1:36 mark. This is where the presentation on MAP testing begins. There is a lot of interesting information in here but the really important part begins at the 2:01 mark when board member Fran Bush asks Director of Assessment Paul Changus how many kids are reading on grade level. Changus responds that “there is not a common definition about what it means to be on grade level.”

Think about all the messages you’ve heard recently about how only one in three kids is reading on grade level, yet here we have the districts data guru telling us that there is not a common definition. It makes my head swim.

Changus goes on to explain how national norming actually works when it comes to MAP testing. This is something that is extremely important for parents to get their head around. That achievement score of 54 %, means MNPS kids are outperforming 53% percent of kids nationally. The natural assumption is that the majority of those kids that make up the 53% are passing the test, that would not be a correct assumption. There is nothing in that number that tells you how many kids are passing the test, or even where they are scoring.

In order to get a better idea of what a student’s achievement level is, you need what is called the RIT score. The RIT score is the actual achievement score. In order to get the true value of the growth numbers, you would have to have the average RIT score for each grade. If the RIT score is low, obviously outpacing 53% of the kids is not going to translate into meaningful progress. The lower the RIT score the higher the rate of growth needed to get caught up. Unless I’m missing something, I didn’t see any meaningful discussion of RIT scores in the presentation.

Another thing to remember is that not everybody takes MAP. The MAP test is a test created by a private company, NWEA. Look at their web page, scroll to the bottom and you’ll see the number for the sales department. That’s right, MAP testing is a program sold to individual school districts. So when they say, “nationally normed” that doesn’t mean every kid in the country like TNready says every kid in the state. What MNPS students are being normed with are students from other districts, nationally, who bought the MAP testing program. I think that is a pretty important caveat to keep in mind as well.

I can not say it enough, MAP is a very valuable tool, but only if it is used as intended; a formative assessment used to guide instruction. It’s not a screener, nor should it be used to justify policy. It should not be used to screen for disabilities, gifted students, EL services, nor as part of an entry qualification for magnet school admission either. Yet we are. If you have questions, I urge you to call NWEA at 877-469-3287. They’ve been extremely helpful every time I’ve called them.

The last presentation comes at around the 2:15 mark and is on teacher recruitment and retention. I could spend all day on this one, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll only hit a few points.

To the left, you’ll see the outcomes that presenter HR Director Pertiller thought were worthy of highlighting. I don’t know the significance of any of them, or if they even have significance. Without context, they are just meaningless numbers. Why highlight 3-5 years? What were percentage rates for other experience bands? Last year we celebrated the 1-3 year band, what were those numbers this year? Both bullet points one and two are hard to evaluate without the total number of teachers employed each year.

The sub fill rate number compares a year worth of data to 2 months of data. Really?!? I don’t think there is a high school statistics class out there that would allow students to make that comparison. It only stands to reason that as the year goes on, and people get worn down, sub fills become more difficult. Celebrating the 17/18 numbers right now is like chalking up a Titan’s win based on a first-quarter score. Got to play the whole game.

Pertiller is so proud of the number of vacancies on the first day of school that she gave it its own slide. One that you are supposed to look at and say, “Yep, 92.4 is less than 124. Great job!”

Nowhere does she mention the number of positions for both years, are we supposed to assume that both years the same number of teachers were employed by the district? There is no mention of the use of long-term subs to fill positions. What about classes that kids are taking through an online platform because a teacher couldn’t be hired? Are those positions counted as filled?

One more point, Pertiller goes on to list vacancies at the priority schools and then downplays those vacancies. After all, Joelton MS only has 2. That’s pretty low huh? Except when you consider that they are only budgeted for 13 positions. In other words, 13.3% of their positions are unfilled. Would you consider that acceptable?

Whites Creek HS was projected at 623 students. How many teaching positions do you think that equates to? Five is a number that should be very concerning. Instead, it’s just brushed aside.

Talk moves to retention. The presentation looks at data derived from exit surveys. This year even fewer exit surveys were collected as compared to last year; 105 vs 109. Of those 105, 56 cited personal reasons as the cause of leaving. Hmmm…does “I’ve had enough of this shit and I’m losing my mind” count as a personal reason?  Under the subject of what’s your next move, 31 said teaching in another district. In other words roughly 1/3. Yea…no problems here.

As part of the recruitment strategy, the district revealed their plans to recruit by quadrant. Am I the only one that sees this as a means to throw gasoline on the inequity fire? The likelihood of getting 4 equally qualified recruiters is slim, this means that naturally one quadrant is going to have a better recruiter then the others which will lead to…wait for it…increased inequity.

Once again board member Fran Bush gets the party kicked into high gear by asking why the numbers on teacher retention changed from when the board received the numbers to tonight’s presentation. Apparently, a business rule was enacted measuring numbers from September to September as opposed to previous August to May. I’m baffled by why you wouldn’t want to match up with the fiscal year and go July to July unless you are parameter shopping to put numbers in the best light.

Bush also brought up the subject of teacher morale, which apparently falls under the purview of Sito Narcisse. Good news, more surveys, and more focus groups. Last year’s focus groups started off with stated outcomes and rules of engagement. Those rules of engagement served to limit conversation and obviously failed to positively impact morale. Are there any teachers out there clamoring for more teacher voice sessions?

Interestingly enough, the surveys are considered so important that Narcisse had to defer to Changus, with others chiming in, to answer Bush’s question about how often surveys are administered. No one could answer the question with real confidence. Very indicative of the priority attached to securing input from teachers.

The most frustrating exchange for me comes when board member Walker asks Pertiller about whether they collect data on mid-year turnover. Pertiller, predictably, doesn’t have the numbers available and downplays it – “I don’t have that but we can get that for you” seems to have become the go-to move for district presenters. Pupo-Walker says that was her sense as well because teachers don’t like to “leave their kids mid-year”.

First of all, I suspect the numbers are much high than either is willing to concede. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about teachers preparing to leave over break or just plain walking out. So yes, there is a high level of mid-term attrition.

Secondly, we need to stop playing on the benevolence of teachers. They may not like leaving their kids mid-year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do it if we push them to their limit and we are pushing them to their limit.

I’d also like to know the number of teachers who took early retirement and since none of the answers on the slide showing reasons for leaving included retirement, what’s the story there. The number of transfers would be useful information as well. Transferring is often a precursor to leaving the district, and as such should be closely monitored. Yet, it’s not even mentioned in Pertiller’s presentation.

Pupo-Walker goes on to raise the specter of Teach for America. I was shocked to find that TFA has raised their finder fee from 6500K to 10k annually per teacher. Yikes. In addition to philosophical differences I have with them, TFA is not a viable solution because they can’t supply the numbers needed. During the recession when top-flight students couldn’t find jobs, going into teaching for a couple of years was intriguing. Now that we have a robust economy…not so much. So let’s not run too far down that rabbit hole.

Besides, the goal is to make teachers feel more valued not to devalue their skills by saying anybody with 5 weeks of training can do their job. It never ceases to amaze me, we are in the business of education, which means we should all be active learners, but we never seem to learn anything. We just keep running around in the same circles.

In that light, the conversation on recruitment wraps up with talk about a teacher licensure process that would be run through the district. Participants would save money and time but would be required to stay with the district for a number of years. During this discussion, nobody brings up the current MNPS cohort currently having half of their tuition paid to earn their doctorate at Trevecca. None of whom were required to make an extended commitment to the district. SSShhhhh…we don’t talk about that.

Board chairman Gentry closes the presentation by praising the work of the HR department. Apparently, it is a big deal to ask teachers their opinion twice a year. Gentry is also of the opinion that the HR staff has been very creative, I concur, they have been very creative in the manner in which they present the data. Now if they could only apply some of that creativity to recruiting and retaining teachers we might get somewhere.

QUICK SHOTS

Word is starting to trickle out to me about changes coming to the MNPS enhanced schools. The “enhanced schools” grew out of an agreement in 1998 that allowed a Federal judge to declare MNPS unitary – a legal term meaning free of any vestiges of segregation. As part of the agreement, MNPS would provide certain elementary schools with primarily African-American and impoverished populations additional supports. Chief among those supports were extended school days. Enhanced option schools operate on a day that goes from 7:45 to 3:45, providing an extra hour of instruction.

The money to fund these additional supports comes from central office. According to reports, principals have been informed that the district would like them to strongly reconsider that option and perhaps utilize a more effective strategy. The cost is approximately $200k. This week, schools are in the process of deciding whether to change school schedules or to explore other options. The changing away from the extended hours has could prove quite detrimental to a school and it’s families. Some teachers may leave due to the loss of extra pay, or families will have to scramble to change work schedules.

In pushing for the change district leaders have pointed to data that shows the lack of impact the increased hours have actually had. I would caution here though, because this is one of those tales were data doesn’t tell the whole story. To further compound things, there is some concern that the district is forcing this decision on individual schools in order to retain plausible deniability with the feds if schools choose to change hours. This bears watching.

Rumors are also swirling that there is a new communications chief in town. This makes what, 3, or 4, in the last 2 years? Word is MNPS is recruiting from the ranks of the Department of Child Services.  Because nothing says quality like the level of communication over the last few years from that government entity.

I often talk about the importance of knowing our history and how much we have forgotten in regard to the Nashville school system. Here is a fascinating read from the Nashville Scene circa 1998: How Separate, How Equal. It’s amazing how little progress we’ve made in 20 years.

Last week Mayor Briley attended the monthly meeting of ProjectLit. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this picture. The Mayor is clearly engaged and not just using ProjectLit as a photo-op. Way to go!

The Handle with Care Partnership between Metro Schools and Metro Nashville Police Department was recently named Innovative Domestic Violence Program of the Year. MNPS and MNPD received the award at the Meet the Bridge event hosted by the Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Kudos to those involved.

It’s just about time for Tennesseans to head to the polls and cast their vote for Governor. Chalkbeat TN outlines the differences on education policy between the two candidates, Bill Lee and Karl Dean.

Speaking of elections. Please remember to vote for Bob Freeman for State Representative. He’s a keeper.

Our ear to the ground tells us that everything went well with school board member Jill Speering’s medical work. She came through it with flying colors and is now busy recuperating. I’m sure she’ll be back in the fray before you know it.

Volunteers are still needed for the JTM Carnival on Saturday, October 27th! Parents and students, sign up here:

POLL RESULTS

We got a few replies to this past weekend. Let’s take a look at what you had to say.

The first question asked for your thoughts about MNPS’s current approach to charter schools. 38% of you indicated that charter schools were the least of your current worries. The number 2 answer was “I wish we were closing more” with 25% of the vote. Only 7% of you gave an indication that we needed to be opening more. I hope people will keep those numbers in mind as there seems to be a push to get us talking charter schools again. Here are the write-in votes.

Close Rocketship. They dump EE kids w/o proper IEPs after the Sept count. 1
Some excellent, some appalling. Unequal use of $$. 1
Likely the game plan for diviividng the district ; priority to charter!!! 1
priority concern is the sJoseph leadership vacuum 1
I don’t want anymore. 1
We don’t need more. 1
Let’s convert them to magnets and take control of their funding without closing 1
Charter schools will suck the life out of public schools – then what? 1
Charters & vouchers…the same…the difference is who makes decision… 1
Sick of resources being diverted from neighborhood schools. No $ for programs

Question two asked for your opinion on plans to increase the use of Teach for America. You weren’t shy about your opinions on this subject. Forty percent of you said, “Absolutely not!”. Eighteen percent of you admitted that we might need to use them, though you wished we didn’t. The number 2 answer to this one was actually the write-ins:

The T stands for “Trainwrecks”. Please, no more in our classrooms!!! 1
Just say NO! Underprepared and don’t last. 1
Hell to the no! 1
No, just absolutely no. 1
Use that $ to raise salary instead of give away…. 1
Compare that to university programs… let’s talk capacity…equal? 1
Hard no 1
I’ve worked with some incredible teachers From TFA. Just be careful. 1
Nope! Discredits the teaching profession. 1
Bad idea. TFA are rarely successful 1
Highest ranked prep program in TN again. More pls 1
Low quality, high energy, working loan forgiveness on the backs of kids. 1
Yes! They produce quality, hard working teachers 1
The teaching profession is dying – get some minimum wage factory workers 1
Raise salaries and it won’t be necessary 1
Why? TFA touts diversity applicants for hard to fill areas. It doesn’t do that 1
as long as the district is not sabotaging and demoralizing current teachers 1
Only if assigned seasoned mentor teachers 1
They won’t. Too costly and the return on investment in terms of retention is NIL 1
It’s a waste of time if they aren’t mentored well. 1
The devaluation of veteran teachers is astounding. Teaching as a career is dying

Question number 3 asked how much teachers were using MAP to guide instruction. Based on your answers, I think it’s safe to say, “Not as much as the board has been led to believe.” Fifty-one percent of you answered in a manner that indicated results were not being widely used. Eleven percent of you answered, “Not as often as you should, but you found them useful.” Only 6% of you indicated that they had become essential to instruction, which was ironically 2 percentage points behind “What’s MAP.” Here are the write-ins:

When it’s used properly, I’ll use info properly. Smh! 1
will use growth data, get immediate feedback 1
when I taught, did not use benchmark test results as they were useless 1
It’s a good tool for differentiation . 1
Worrying more about the second job I need to pay for my bills in Nashville. 1

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cha… chaaa… chaaaannnnggggges

7

“I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper than of a sword or pistol.”
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

“Almost nobody made it out of the game in one piece, and almost everybody thought they would be the exception.”
Richard Price, Clockers

Over the last 5 years, in writing this blog, there have been times where I’ve felt the necessity to write about things that ran the risk of putting me at cross purposes with people of whom I held in high esteem. It’s never been a comfortable position, nor one that I took lightly,  but despite the fact that I don’t get paid, or reap any rewards, nor am I held accountable by any but those who read my ramblings, I’ve always felt compelled to pursue these narratives with a journalistic integrity.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with other’s agendas and concerns, I just try to cover all issues with the same focus: is it good for all kids? Sounds clichéd, but it is what it is. Have I always hit the mark? No, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that at times I give in to my emotions and at others, I place too high a value on my personal experiences. I adjust when I can, and continually strive to be better, always leading with the chin.

PRIORITY SCHOOLS

Yesterday, word began to leak out that a couple of MNPS schools would be getting new leadership in the near future. Warner ES principal Denise Jacano and Inglewood ES principal Tracy McPherson were leaving their respective positions. Jacano was brought in from Seaford County, Delaware, with Director of Schools Shawn Joseph. Word on the street is that she has struggled with the transition for the last couple of years.

Inglewood, and by de facto McPherson, is a rising jewel for the district. Three years ago, Inglewood found themselves on the state’s priority list and was faced with either state takeover or closure. Through incredible community involvement and the acumen of McPherson, Inglewood exited priority status this year. It is an amazing story, one that shows what is possible when the district, parents, and educators all jump in together.

The district is now attempting to recapture some of that magic by promoting McPherson to the role of MNPS Executive Director of School Support and Improvement for the School of Innovation (EDSSI). As an EDSSI, she will serve as essentially an executive principal to the priority schools. A role she is easily qualified for. But just because she is qualified doesn’t mean it is the right move.

One of the hallmarks of a successful school is stable leadership. It’s impossible to establish a winning culture without continuity. Sports offers ample examples to support that assertion. Who are the most successful NFL teams? Is it teams like the Steelers, who carefully select their head coach and then leave him in place for decades? Or teams like the Titans, who just kind of select whoever is available and then switch every three or four years?

As a major pillar of its recently-released “Priority School Plan,” MNPS cites teacher recruitment and retention as important. Hmmm… how does either happen without long-term stability in the leadership positions? This summer, MNPS moved the principal at Pearl-Cohn HS, another recent priority school list graduate, to the central office and reassigned the principal at Jere Baxter MS, currently on the priority school list, to another school. Those moves don’t help stabilize the schools those leaders are leaving.

To compound things for Inglewood, over the summer, their AP, Eric Hartfelder, was moved, over Eakin parents’ objections, to be principal of Eakin ES. Eakin parents had another candidate that they really wanted, but the district wasn’t having it.

This is where things get problematic. The district knew for several months which schools were going to end up on the priority list and which were going to exit. It should have been no surprise when the list was officially released in mid-September. If the district argues otherwise, they are either being disingenuous or it points to a serious lack of cohesion and communication with the state. The TNDOE isn’t playing gotcha with these lists.

Over the summer, MNPS should have realized that they wanted to increase the use of McPherson and pursued talks with Hartfelder to remain at Inglewood, as opposed to forcing him into the very difficult position of having to overcome parental objections in a high-profile school like Eakin. District leadership should have been prepping him for a successful continuation of the progress being made at Inglewood.

Furthermore, before making personnel moves, there should have been a close examination of the supports who are present at Inglewood, but not at other similarly sized soon-to-be priority schools. For example, Inglewood has an AP. Not every priority school of their size has that position. I believe at Inglewood the position is funded through a grant, so how do we get other small, high-needs schools access to grant money?

The district should have been looking at social supports at Inglewood as compared to other soon-to-be priority schools. Inglewood has one of the strongest Community Achieves programs in the city. Perhaps we should make sure that model is replicated in other at-risk schools.

Tusculum ES, previously in the bottom 10%, improved their student outcomes by improving teaching practices. Two years ago, Tusculum ES utilized a company called American Alliance for Innovative Systems. AAIS focuses on making teachers better, specializing in teachers in high-risk schools. Interestingly enough, both Whitsitt ES, another priority list graduate, and Inglewood ES have utilized the services of AAIS. Upon arrival, MNPS Chief of Instruction Monique Felder, before ever conducting an evaluation of their services, canceled the district’s endorsement of AAIS as a supported vendor.

Tusculum did not have the money in their school budget to continuing utilizing AAIS’s services but incorporated many of their prescribed practices. Whitsitt and Inglewood had grant money available and continued to utilize their services. Both schools exited the priority list this year… causation or correlation? I don’t know, but if I was MNPS, I’d sure want to find out. Remember that pillar about teacher recruitment and retention… yeah… it’s gotta be more than just words.

Those are just three quick looks at strategies that should have been explored first before making a leadership change. If it was decided that more central office support was indeed needed, why not shift current EDSSI David Kovach to priority schools? After all, he’s done this work before, and based on evidence, seems to be pretty good at it.

What about moving Community Superintendent Adrienne Battle to the head of Priority Schools? Sure, she’s been effective as a community superintendent, but overseeing priority schools takes a very unique skill set. A skill set that she’s proven to possess. Don’t Nashville’s most neediest kids deserve to benefit from those skills?

Instead of moving AP’s and principals from high need schools, why not look at our reward schools for talent? Maybe there is an AP or two who knows what a successful culture looks like, and you could get them to import that vision to a struggling school. The culture at a reward school is much more ingrained, and the leadership bench much deeper, and could probably more easily sustain the hit.

I get that you can’t dictate to people where they work, but you can negotiate and you can create a culture of being part of a team. Being a part of a team means being willing to play flex when you’d really prefer to be a QB. We all have to work together.

Moving AP’s from successful schools could also help with the equity issue. Replace those quality administrators that you move from successful schools with strong candidates of Hispanic, Asian, Middle-Eastern, and African-American backgrounds – yes, equity includes those of Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern backgrounds as well. Let those minority candidates learn from successful programs instead of throwing them to the wolves at a high-needs school right out of the box. The way we train our potential principals now is like teaching kids to swim by just throwing them into the pool after some basic instruction.

(I should interject a quick shout out to Sonia Stewart here. I’ve been hearing very good things about her work with APs.)

If it was me, and many are glad that it is not, I would pay attention to principal trees like the NFL pays attention to coaching trees. Look around the district and count the number of successful administrators that served under Kessler, Woodard, Pelham, Battle, and Shrader. That’s sellable and replicable. But I doubt that there is anyone on the executive leadership team that is fluent in that history, much to the detriment of the district.

In the long run, I think Inglewood is going to be fine; that community has shown that they are too committed to letting that school be anything but successful. They’ve set a bar, and if expectations are as important as many ascribe them to be, the next leader better be bringing their “A” game. I happen to know one that would be a great fit, would increase the number of Hispanic principals, and has a track record of leading a school to reward status, but I’ll be quiet.

McPherson may or may not be successful in her new role of impacting all priority schools. By all accounts, she is wicked smart and dedicated. But there is a huge difference between managing a school with 260 students and managing multiple high-needs schools, some with much larger populations. Nick Saban trying to make the jump from the NCAA to the NFL or Rick Pitino trying to go from the NCAA to NBA come to mind. You can’t treat the players the same way when you make the jump. I do wish her luck though. She’s earned the opportunity.

Dr. Joseph recently bristled when newly-elected board member Fran Bush challenged him to become more proactive instead of reactive. This switch of school leadership during the year is a prime example of being reactive and illustrates what she is talking about. We can debate all day whether these moves are the right moves or not, but what is undebatable is the timing and lack of foresight.

These changes should have been made over the summer, when they would have been less disruptive. There is no information that is available today that wasn’t available 4 months ago. That’s what Bush means by being proactive, Dr. J. Make the move in a timely manner; don’t let the time be dictated to you. Dr. Gentry, you and the board need to pay attention as well.

QUICK HITS

At the last board meeting, Dr. Gentry used the closing minutes of the chair report – at about the 54:51 minute mark – to reference a work by conflict resolution trainer Judy Ringer about considering your purpose when engaging in communication. I’m not going into detail here, but the basic premise is that before engaging in conversation, think about what you are going to say and what it is adding to the conversation.

Good advice, but my response to Gentry is, “Physician, heal thyself.”

My challenge to her is to watch the whole board meeting and listen to the snide comments and innuendos she makes throughout, and then ask herself, “For what purpose are you making those comments? Are you truly adding to the conversation by making them?” I’m pretty sure that based on Ringer’s template, she’ll find that she has some work to do. But then again, Gentry has always been a “do as I say and not as I do” kinda gal.

MNPS finally put out their interpretation on recent WIDA scores. In their eyes, the results are pretty good:

The percent of English Learner students meeting or exceeding growth standard results increased with 47 percent of MNPS students meeting or exceeding their expected growth. This was an improvement from 42.5 percent in 2017. The district also surpassed the 2018 Annual Measurable Objective, or target, of 46.1 percent that was established by the state for MNPS. This improvement of 4.5 percentage points is equivalent to the statewide progress for English proficiency. Further, MNPS saw 14.7 percent of EL students exit service, which is a slight change over 2017 when 14.5 percent exited.

I concur for the most part, with some caveats. It should be noted that this is the third year we’ve surpassed the Annual Measurable Objective. The exit number is a little low and growth in that area needs improvement. We should be around 16-18%. Our elementary schools are doing exceptional work, but more work is needed in the higher grades. That said, all in all, it’s pretty good news.

Last week, I mentioned the improvement of surrounding counties’ performance on WIDA. It was pointed out to me that much of that could be attributed to the number of former MNPS EL teachers who have relocated to those surrounding communities. Teachers who have benefited from our world-class PD. Like district HR Executive Sharon Pertiller said at this week’s board meeting, MNPS is proving to be a great recruiter for outside districts. That’s got to stop.

Speaking of surrounding counties benefiting from former MNPS employees, the one thing that is missing from MNPS’s statement on WIDA scores is an acknowledgement of the contributions of former Executive Director of EL, Kevin Stacy. I don’t really expect them to acknowledge his stellar leadership, but I certainly want to offer one last thank you. Stacy now plies his trade in Clarksville.

According to an article in the Tennessean, Williamson County Schools is considering a new lead testing policy for their water. Per the policy:

With the testing performed every two years, school officials will look for lead levels below 15 parts per billion. 

If the levels sit between 15 parts per billion and 20 parts per billion, the district will conduct testing on an annual basis until the issue is fixed, according to the policy. 

As written, district policy further stated that if lead levels were found above 20 parts per billion, the school would have to remove the water source from service.

I hope every parent in WCS read that statement and immediately started dialing school board members. 20 ppb is way too high and is 5 ppb over the EPA’s recommended action level. That’s an action level, not a safety level.

As much as I hate the Red Sox, I hope y’all are enjoying the Mookie Betts Story. Just remember he’s a product of Overton High School via Oliver MS who retains close ties with the community. Great things have come from our schools.

Over at Volume and Light, Vesia Hawkins has an exceptional read. One that reiterates many of my points from above.

Here’s a question for you, why do so many want to give me advice, yet few are willing to heed mine?

Word on the street is that Dr. Joseph’s driver has amassed roughly the equivalent of a starting teacher’s salary in overtime over the last two years. The problem with substantiating that comes from a purported lack of documentation on said overtime. I’ll keep you posted.

Word out of MNPS schools, after yesterday’s professional development day, is that quarter 2 is going to be heavily scripted. Oh boy!

Yesterday, School board member Jill Speering had heart surgery. The surgery was scheduled for 8:30 AM. At 6:30 AM, a message came across my computer screen, “You up?”

Speering wanted to talk MNPS for a minute before her surgery. That how dedicated this woman is. She never stops putting the teachers and kids of MNPS ahead of herself. Some like to paint her recent battles with Dr. Joseph as being purely a battle over her support of Reading Recovery and his lack of support.

That’s not an argument rooted in fact. Dr. Joseph canceled Reading Recovery on the eve of the board presenting the 2018/2019 budget to the mayor. An action that came shortly after Jill Speering, along with board member Amy Frogge, called for an audit of MNPS finances.

Speering has worked too hard for MNPS teachers and families to allow her opponents to paint her as beholden to one program. The reality is Dr. Joseph made a miscalculation in thinking that he could control Speering by denying something important to her. That was a serious miscalculation.

Get well soon, Jill, but we got this till you are back.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s the good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.