We Need Long Term Planning for Charters

The Tennessean has an op-ed by Harry Allen, an executive with Avenue Bank and board president of Purpose Preparatory charter school. He calls for a long-term plan for the future of our district in regards to charters. I think we sometimes get lost in the details about being pro/anti charter and forget to plan for the long term.

Charter schools are here to stay in Nashville. Thousands of students are served in charter schools throughout Nashville, and if you think that all of them are magically going to disappear, you need to rethink that notion.

Mr. Allen starts out with a great opening sentence:

The most successful organizations adapt to the changing environment around them in order to overcome challenges and remain effective.

Mr. Allen goes on to discuss findings of a study that was recently released in partnership with the Tennessee Charter School Association.

The study’s key findings include:

Charter schools in 2013-14 academically outperformed district-managed schools and are funded at similar levels, which means charters yielded a higher return on investment for taxpayers and families.

Though MNPS today is a choice-based system, the MNPS infrastructure — buildings, services and associated cost structure — reflects the past for which it was designed, one with limited parental choice.

It recommends an updated system that accounts for a future that includes a mix of district- and charter-managed public schools.

The majority of district financial expenses are variable in the long term and should be adjusted to reflect anticipated shifts in enrollment.

(Yes, commenters, how dare the Tennessee Charter School Association commission a study about charter schools. I know, it’s crazy that an organization would research a topic that they work in. While I am on the topic of studies, let’s not accept with open arms the Comptroller study on the ASD while saying the Comptroller study on MNPS was conducted by biased individuals. Hint: the same people did both studies. They are both flawed or both acceptable.)

Anyways, Mr. Allen goes on to quote Dr. Register as his conclusion.

“It is clear that shifts in student enrollment will require adjustments to our budgets that can only be made over multiple years,” he (Register) recently said. “Planning for these adjustments requires a long-term and collaborative approach that is responsive to parent demand and student enrollment decisions. We should take the time and make the effort to formulate the long-range impact.”

Dr. Register is spot-on — it’s imperative that MNPS adjust to the changing times. All organizations, whether for-profit or nonprofits, must occasionally adjust their planning to remain competitive. In this case, our city’s future depends on it.

Check out the oped, and let’s do some meaningful work in this area. We can spend hours every week in a doomsday scenario, or we can spend hours every week trying to come to a solution that will help lead our district into a prosperous future.

I would rather help lead our district into a prosperous future.

Wouldn’t you?


 

MNEA Backs Freeman

In a rather lengthy press release that features links to campaign ads and videos and touts endorsements from other labor groups, the Metro Nashville Education Association’s PAC announced its endorsement of Bill Freeman for Mayor of Nashville yesterday.

Freeman’s support for Community Schools and for expanded access to Pre-K are cited as reasons for the endorsement.

It’s worth noting that Freeman joined the majority of candidates for Mayor in saying he opposed the idea of MNPS suing the state for more BEP funds. Only Megan Barry and Charles Robert Bone have expressed support for that approach.

Here’s the release in its entirety:

Bill Freeman, candidate for Mayor of Nashville, was endorsed today by the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association as he launched a new television ad with a companion web video focused on his support of teachers, families and students in Davidson County.
“I am so happy to have received the endorsement of Nashville’s teachers, Freeman said. “These are the women and men who get up every day and dedicate themselves to teaching our children the skills and behaviors that will make them successful in the future.”
In the new television spot, Freeman said, “Nashville has the big downtown projects, but now we need to focus on the basics for our families and for all of our neighborhoods. On education, I will support Pre-K for all of our children, use incentives to keep and attract world-class teachers, innovate with community schools and better after school programs. For all our schools in all our neighborhoods we need the right strategy for Nashville to grow the right way.”

Schools Right: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAr_byDZksA

Bill Freeman on Education Companion Web Video:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4tJr–bAFE
MNEA’s endorsement caps a week where Freeman has received major endorsements from SEIU, that represents more than 3,000 Metro workers and the fire fighters that work to keep Davidson County residents safe.
MNEA President Stephen Henry said, “In spite of the fact there are seven candidates for mayor, we believe Bill Freeman is Nashville’s best choice for mayor.”

“Bill Freeman will be a champion for our public schools. He knows the challenges we face and appreciates the successes we’ve had.”

“Bill Freeman is an innovator at heart. His support of community schools indicates a deep understanding of what is needed to make Metro schools better and stronger for parents, teachers and all of our neighborhoods.“

“We’re behind Bill Freeman because we believe he will be the best advocate for students, teachers and all of us who believe every child has a right to an excellent education that prepares them for the future.  Bill Freeman will be a mayor who stands up for all children to get a great education no matter where they come from or what challenges they face.”
In the companion video that will run online at the same time as the new television commercial, Freeman goes into more depth about his belief that with more resources and the focus of the next mayor the image of Metro schools can be improved.
“Schools impact everybody. The biggest reason that families are moving outside of Davidson County into Williamson, Rutherford, Wilson County is because their school systems are deemed to be better than ours. Now, the fact is, that’s just not the case. There’s a reason the President of the United States came to Nashville and spoke at a public school. There’s a reason the First Lady came to Nashville, Tennessee and spoke at a public school. We have a fantastic public school system, we just need to do a better job selling it, make sure it has all the resources that it needs, and do everything we can to lift up and improve our public school system,” Freeman says in the web video.
Freeman Backs Community Schools
Community Schools offer wraparound services for students and families. They include before and after school programs, tutoring, mentoring, classes for students and adults who are learning English and classes for adults to earn their GED.
“I believe community schools offer an innovative solution to many of the challenges that Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) are facing,” Freeman said. “We need to move past the public school versus charter school argument, and get to real solutions that help our public schools. Currently, there are over 150 languages spoken by students in Metro schools and nearly 13,000 students are English language learners and 72 percent of our students are economically disadvantaged.”
“Community schools are not unusual around the country and the statistics speak for themselves,” explained Freeman.  “In Cincinnati they have converted 34 of their 55 public schools into community schools and the achievement gap between African American students and white students has shrunk dramatically, while graduation rates for all students have skyrocketed.”
The achievement gap between African American and white students in Cincinnati has dropped from 14.5 percent to just 4 percent, while graduation rates for all students have risen from just 51 percent to 82 percent.
Ruth Stewart, a doctor of family medicine in Nashville, as well as wife of State Representative Mike Stewart, is a huge proponent of community schools.

“I see it all the time in the kids I treat,” she said, “kids with poor health often do worse in school.  They’re out all the time because of something like asthma and their school doesn’t have a nurse that they can go to for help.
“What we need are more services that are inclusive for multi children families, that way those families don’t have to split up their kids between schools because one has services that make sense for one child and one has services that make sense for another.  We need to introduce community schools in all neighborhoods of Nashville, not just in impoverished areas.  The model has been proven to work in every area, and every child, and every neighborhood should be able to benefit,” she said.
“Nashville already has a Community Achieves program where they are slowly transitioning traditional public schools into the community school model,” said Bill Freeman.  “I plan to work with the program and monitor its progress and how it impacts student achievement and I would ultimately like to triple the number of schools participating in this process.”
“I will continue to encourage non-profit and for-profit organizations in Nashville to participate in the program as many are doing currently,” said Freeman.

Bill Freeman is the co-founder and current chairman of Freeman Webb Inc., a real estate management company.  Bill grew up in Donelson with five sisters and is a devoted husband to his wife, Babs Tinsley Freeman, father to their three sons, and grandfather to two girls. His first job was as a maintenance man and he built his company from the ground up with his partner and one employee who still works there today. His company has been voted a “Best Place to Work” three years in a row. He is a decade long board member of the Tennessee State University Foundation and has been an active supporter of the Sexual Assault Center as well as continuously working to provide housing for Nashville’s homeless along with the 10,000 Homes Campaign.
About the Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Community Achieves Program:
Currently, there are 14 MNPS schools are in the program. ●      3 elementary schools ●      6 middle schools ●      5 high schools
The participating schools serve 11,865 students. Five more schools will be added this fall. The program is built on community partnerships, and more than 80 nonprofit and for-profit organizations in Nashville are participating.
Community Achieves is overseen by 14 full-time coordinators who manage the program across the 14 schools.
The programs focus on four areas of need:
1. Family Engagement — A family resource center, “parent university,” family suppers, events for dads and male role models
2. College and Career Readiness — FAFSA Night (to help college-bound students and their parents navigate all the federal student loan documents; tutoring and mentoring; reading clinics; and ACT programs
3. Health and Wellness — Mental health counseling; nutrition classes; health checkups
4. Social Services — Food pantries; workforce development and GED classes; financial classes
Bill Freeman’s goal will be to greatly expand the program to more MNPS schools and monitor its progress, not only in how it lifts families in need, but in how it impacts student academic achievement.
About the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association:  The Metropolitan Nashville Education Association represents Nashville’s teachers and is at the forefront of education reform. Through collaborations with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and the Nashville community, MNEA helps to provide the highest level of education to ALL children and adults of MNPS.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

My First Year Teaching

I made it!

I completed my first year of teaching. It was an eye opening experience that has helped mold my views in education in a variety of areas.

I am a special education teacher at a North Nashville middle school. Our fifth graders come into fifth grade already behind. It’s our job to catch them up during the middle school years before we send them off to high school. That shows me that we have dropped the ball along the way to middle school. We have come to a point where it’s okay that students come in to middle school behind. That shouldn’t be okay.

There are bad teachers and they should not be in the classroom. There isn’t more I can say about this. Every career field has bad workers, and the teaching profession is no different.

The TEAM evaluation made me a better teacher. The rubric was really helpful in my growth as a teacher. The feedback I received from my principal and assistant principal really helped. I knew what my principal expected from me and I met those expectations. I was glad that I was being held accountable.

(Don’t get me started on teacher prep programs.)

In regards to TCAP testing, I did not see the scary testing chamber where we take the fun out of education and force the students to bubble in answer sheets for days at the time. We hit the standards that needed to be hit during the year, and we cycled back through a review when we got closer to TCAP. We still taught new concepts, read new books, started new projects, and had fun. Schools decide their climate, and my climate was not like any of the scary stories that I read online. Assessments are an important tool in the education of our students. They are needed to make sure that I am doing what I am supposed to as a teacher. I am glad that the accountability is there.

 

I did a lot this school year:

I’ve broken up fights.

I’ve had to stop students from harming themselves.

I had to use our school’s resources to get a student clothing so he didn’t have to wear the same clothes every day.

I have given a legislative update to teachers.

One of our students was shot in the head while standing in the doorway to his home.

Student’s parents have been murdered.

I have seen a mother cry tears of joy that her son was receiving a quality education.

I have seen parents beam with pride about how well their student is doing in life.

A parent has yelled at me.

I’ve read all the Common Core State Standards for 7th grade.

I have taken to twitter to get someone to donate books to my class.

I have been sick. A lot.

I have given a tour to a school board member.

I have written an op-ed in the Tennessean about our school board.

I have gotten pushback from school board members about my op-ed.

After my op-ed, people inside my school told me to watch what I say in public about my school board.

I have been mad, frustrated, sad, happy, joyful, excited, and angry.

I have seen a student do better by getting more special education services.

I have seen a student grow by reducing the amount of special education services.

I have read a loud many different types of texts.

I’ve made others cry when describing students at my school.

I’ve become frustrated when teachers tell me it’s okay that students are behind because everyone else in behind.

I got students to read and enjoy books.

I’ve heard a teacher say that you can only teach a student for so long before you need to give up and help the other kids.

I have seen teachers work mornings, nights, and weekends so that our students could succeed. One teacher would teach during the day, tutor after school multiple days, tutor on Saturday, and teach Sunday school the next day.

 

No matter where our students grow up, they can all learn and succeed in our education system. I have seen students come into our school that are so behind. We have failed that child along the way. Someone dropped the ball and that makes me really sad. But we need to accept blame for dropping the ball.

 

Everyone wants to blame someone else for a child being behind:

“They came from charter.”

“They are special ed.”

“They come from a bad part of town.”

Before that student left for a charter, they were most likely in a zoned school first. All students can learn, including students with disabilities. No matter where you come from, you are able to learn at the hands of great teachers.

We want to blame everyone but ourselves. I’ve made mistakes this year, but I know that I will come back next year and fix those mistakes. I will admit that there are problems that still need to be fixed in my teaching method, in my personality, and in the school system as a whole. Sugarcoating issues in life doesn’t make it better. I would rather be honest about education than to sugarcoat and lie about the state of our education system.

Who will lead MNPS?

With the initial round of applications coming to a close, some 50 people are expected to be candidates for the job of Director of MNPS.

But, according to a story in the Nashville Scene, those candidates don’t include many “heavy hitters.”

“There aren’t any heavy hitters — by that I mean people with real experience in large urban districts, and that’s what we’re still working on,” says Bill Attea, founder of Chicago-based superintendent search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates.

Instead, people are applying to upgrade from small or mid-sized school districts such as Bridgeport, Conn., Eugene, Ore., and Tallahassee, Fla. — places where Nashville would double or triple the size of their current student body. Candidates who do hail from the large cities Nashville strives to compete with may come from a district’s headquarters, but not necessarily as superintendents.

Andrea Zelinski does include a list of all 34 individuals who have completed applications thus far. Among them, current MNPS Chief Academic Officer Jay Steele. Another local candidate is Office of Innovation Executive Director Alan Coverstone, a former School Board Member.

Here’s our interview with Steele from 2013.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Does TN Need Annenberg?

Recently, the MNPS School Board adopted the Annenberg Institute’s standards for the operation and oversight of charter schools.

The measure passed by a 5-3 vote, with charter advocates suggesting the standards may not be necessary.

As Nashville’s education community prepares for a proposed RESET of its conversation, it’s important to understand why standards like those recommended by Annenberg could be helpful in Nashville and, in fact, in all of Tennessee.

First, charters are expensive. According to recent reports, they are becoming a key cost-driver in MNPS. That’s fine, if that’s what the community wants and what students need. But, the Annenberg Standards put into place a level of accountability and transparency designed to prevent fraud and abuse. That protects parents, kids, and taxpayers.

Next, without proper oversight, charters fraud can go unchecked. A recent report out of Louisiana suggests as much:

Louisiana understaffs its charter schools oversight offices and, instead of proactively investigating these schools, relies on charters’ own reports and whistleblowers to uncover problems, according to a report released Tuesday (May 12) by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Coalition for Community Schools. That allows theft, cheating and mismanagement to happen, such as the $26,000 stolen from Lake Area New Tech High and the years of special education violations alleged at Lagniappe Academies.

The challenges faced in Louisiana should be a cautionary tale for those who want to remake MNPS in the mold of New Orleans.

If we’re going to have a new conversation in Nashville about schools, it makes sense to do so under guidelines that foster transparency and accountability, such as the Annenberg Standards. In fact, as Leigh Dingerson from Annenberg suggests, all of Tennessee may well benefit from adopting these standards to govern the operation and oversight of charter schools.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

 

Report Card on MNPS

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce released its annual Report Card on Metro Schools yesterday. The group made 5 policy recommendations, including asking the MNPS School Board to wait until after the new Mayor is elected in August of 2015 before finalizing a Director of Schools.

Here are the recommendations from the Chamber press release:

  • The Nashville Chamber’s Education Report Card Committee should annually monitor the implementation of MNPS’ strategic plan through 2018.
  • MNPS’ pay supplement system should be reformed to financially reward teachers who assume a leadership position at their school.
  • MNPS should highlight issues which impede school-level autonomy to identify needed policy or statute changes.
  • The Metro Nashville Board of Education should take action to recommit itself to policy governance and professional development in order to establish steps toward developing consensus moving forward.
  • The school board should hire a new director of schools after the election of a new mayor in 2015.

Here’s how Report Card committee members explained the suggested delay on a Director choice until after the Mayor’s election:

“The director of schools reports to the Metro Nashville Board of Education,” said Committee Co-chair Brian Shaw. “But our committee felt it will be critically important for both the educational leadership and the political leadership of our community have strong working relationships, and the upcoming election for mayor and Metro Council is critical to that.”

“The school board has a tremendous amount of work to do to get to the point where they are ready to hire a new director, so we understand the need to go ahead and begin the search process soon,” said committee Co-chair Jackson Miller. “We believe knowing who our next mayor is before the finalists are identified eliminates a big question mark in the minds of the quality candidates we are trying to recruit.”

The Metro Nashville Education Association weighed-in on the Report Card, essentially agreeing with the core recommendations but adding that teacher input is needed going forward and that funding for teacher pay must be a priority. The MNEA agrees that a new Director should not be hired until the new mayor has been elected.

Here’s what MNEA had to say, from their press release:

  • In addition to the annual monitoring by the Chamber’s Report Card committee, the success of MNPS’ strategic plan, Education 2018, a plan to become the highest performing urban school district in the United States, will be dependent on the support of all of Nashville, especially its students, teachers, and leaders.
  • MNEA has long supported more pay for teachers who assume leadership responsibilities. However, its implementation will be contingent upon the district making it a funding priority.
  • Both nationally and internationally, highly success schools exist where there is teacher autonomy. Yet experience tells us that in the absence of an accountability structure and/or the will to create one, school-level, or principal autonomy, will lead to chaos and injustice.
  • In 2002 the MNPS Board of Education adopted policy governance. No member of the current board served during 2002, nor did any member vote to adopt this form of governance. The current elected board should either recommit to policy governance or choose a form of governance that best serves their needs, and most importantly, best serves the needs of Nashville’s students.
  • The hiring of the next MNPS Director of Schools should not occur without input from Nashville’s students, parents, teachers, and new mayor.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

The Data War

Blake Farmer of WPLN reported today on the “data war” between the state Achievement School District (ASD) and opponents of a plan to turn either Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend Middle over to the ASD.

According to Farmer’s report, ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic suggests that supporters or opponents can make data show whatever they want, quoting Barbic as saying:

“We can go back and forth with folks who want to do the data war,” Barbic tells WPLN. “For every data point they have, we’ve got one. The bottom line is that the schools that we’re talking about are in the bottom five percent.”

Essentially, Barbic is saying that the debate doesn’t matter, the ASD is going to takeover one of these schools because they can. He admitted as much in an earlier discussion of ASD takeovers in Memphis.

But, opponents of the takeover point to data suggesting that the ASD overall doesn’t outperform district schools and the ASD’s model is flawed.

Here’s some more information on the specific schools slated for takeover, the ASD as a whole, and the schools operated by LEAD, the charter operator named to takevover either Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend.

We’ll look at the number of students testing proficient/advanced in both reading and math

2013 Reading

ASD Average:  13.6

Brick Church Prep (LEAD): 12.8

MNPS Average: 40

Brick Church Middle:  20

Madison MS:  23.6

Neely’s Bend MS:  21.6

For 2013 in reading, note that both Neely’s Bend and Madison scored higher than the ASD average AND the score at Brick Church Prep, run by LEAD, which is the model for the takeover.

2013 Math

ASD Average:  19.6

Brick Church Prep: 24.2

MNPS Average:  42.5

Brick Church MS: 7.7

Madison MS: 15.2

Neely’s Bend MS: 25.4

For 2013 in math, Madison was below the ASD average and below the Brick Church Prep scores. Neely’s Bend was above the ASD average and also outscored Brick Church Prep.

2014 Reading

ASD Average:  17

Brick Church Prep:  37.2

MNPS Average:  40.7

Brick Church MS:  8.7

Madison MS:  24

Neely’s Bend MS:  24.3

For 2014 in reading, Brick Church Prep saw a significant bump in reading scores. But, the TVAAS data actually indicates a -3.7 in growth year over year. Here’s what that means. Brick Church Prep’s reading proficiency score bump is a result of new students added to the overall score. Madison Middle and Neely’s Bend both showed growth year over year and the growth in reading is roughly equivalent to the growth demonstrated by ASD schools as a whole.

2014 Math

ASD Average:  21.8

Brick Church Prep:  41.2

MNPS Average:  44.6

Brick Church MS:  8.7

Madison MS:  18.6

Neely’s Bend MS:  26.2

Of note here, the ASD’s average gains are similar to MNPS overall — that is, the ASD is getting gains no better than would be expected of a district school.  And, Neely’s Bend is right at that average in growth. Madison falls slightly behind in this catetory.

The bottom line: The ASD performs no better than district schools overall. Even in the case of the model, Brick Church Prep, a statistical anomaly created by a growing student population (they are adding a grade each year) creates the perception of growth, but the reality is growth scores there are no more spectacular than typical MNPS schools. For the year before Brick Church Prep grew by adding students, Madison and Neely’s Bend were on par with its performance.

If taking schools over is also designed to result in improved performance, it seems the ASD model doesn’t meet this standard.

Data war aside, I found some other interesting notes in the existing reports about tonight’s meetings at both schools.

Chalkbeat reports:

ASD chief operating officer Elliot Smalley said that a desire to have parents dominate the discussion over which school will be taken over — rather than teachers, as has been the case in Memphis — caused ASD officials  to rebrand the meetings as “parent meetings” rather than “community meetings,” which is what they called the equivalent meetings in Memphis.

It seems the ASD isn’t interested in a broader community discussion or in hearing too much from teachers.

ASD’s Smalley went on to say that it wasn’t about how many people showed up, but about the substance of what they said, according to Chalkbeat:

it’s about the quality of feedback from parents, not the quantity. He said officials would be listening for what parents like about their current neighborhood school and want to maintain, and what they don’t like.

It’s not clear if Smalley or the ASD have crafted a rubric in order to evaluate the quality of individual and collective feedback provided at tonight’s meetings. Will points be deducted from speakers who are teachers at the schools, but not parents?

Finally, on why these two schools, instead of others in MNPS that are lower performing, the ASD’s Barbic notes:

The ASD had 15 schools to choose from in Nashville. Early on, Barbic made it clear that it would be a middle school and that LEAD would run it. He notes that the selection process is more involved than just evaluating test scores. For instance, Jere Baxter, which was an option, is only at half capacity. Barbic says LEAD didn’t think there were enough students to work with in the building.

“You just can’t run a full, robust middle school program if there aren’t enough kids in the building to be able to do that,” Barbic says. “And when a building is half empty, it’s tough to make the case to be able do that.”

Interesting that LEAD can’t run a full, robust middle school program at Jere Baxter but can run a full, robust high school program that just graduated 43 students.

Data wars and rhetoric aside, it seems clear the ASD will move forward after tonight’s meeting and take over one of these schools. Smalley admits as much:

Although Smalley said that parent feedback would be an important factor in the officials’ final decisions, he said that in the end, the fate of Madison and Neely’s Bend will be decided by ASD officials alone.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Inglewood Parents Write Dr. Register

Parents at Inglewood Elementary School have submitted an open letter to MNPS Direct of Schools Jesse Register regarding the possible conversion of that school to a charter school.

Here’s the text of the letter:

RE: Inglewood Elementary Families Resoundingly Reject Charter as Future Pathway
Dr. Register:
On Septemember 5, 2014 Inglewood Elementary PTO started a letter writing campaign, an online petition (http://goo.gl/HceEvM) and a paper petition to persuade you and the MNPS School Board to allocate appropriate resources and allow the current administration/faculty the time to utilize those resources in an effort to improve the test scores of our students and to make sure that they are as prepared for the next stage of education as any other child in the city. To date our combined petitions have more signatures than families in the school. Our letters numbered so many that they created confusion in your office.
As the “3rd Way” was announced our message became more refined and our voices grew stronger. On September 24, 2014, you heard the same message from Inglewood PTO, the faculty and the caretakers of our community, in three separate meetings. The message was two-fold: 1. we do not want a charter school to convert Inglewood and 2. we want the appropriate resources and the time to use them. At the end of your day at Inglewood you stated very clearly that you believed a charter was the wrong direction for Inglewood:
“It sounds like this community does not want this school to convert to a charter school. So, we need to hear that,” said Register. “I would be very hesitant to recommend a conversion here. There are some other places where a conversion might work, but I don’t think so in this community. Nashville Scene SEP 25, 2014
One month later on October 27, 2014 Andrea Zelenski reported that you had changed his mind: “Register Flips, Hasn’t Ruled Out Giving Inglewood Elementary to KIPP” Nashville Scene. What was more striking to the 200 people who attended our meeting with you, and
the 200 who signed our paper petition and wrote letters to you, was another comment in the same article:
So we take that (community voice) into consideration and I acknowledge that feedback from the meeting. That was faculty and community members, very few parents there.  
The PTO’s response to that was to show any obviously confused naysayer that the overwhelming opinion of our parents is NO CHARTER CONVERSION.
We, the stakeholders in Nashville public education, are at a critical moment in the discussion. The East Nashville Advisory Board has been seated and Achievement School District has made an announcement regarding the school they will choose to convert. Inglewood PTO is still collecting data but below are preliminary results that make our case loud and clear. Answering the question: If you (the parents of Inglewood students) could choose what type of school Inglewood Elementary becomes which of the following would it be?
School wide prelim results:
STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) Litton-> Stratford 20.2%
STEaM (science, tech, engineering, arts, math) Litton->Stratford 52.6%
Charter (Publicly financed, privately run with emphasis on discipline, school as team, longer days, and high test results) KIPP Middle-> KIPP High 7.9%
Paideia (active learning method featuring presentation, practice and discussion, most similar to a college liberal arts education) East Middle-> East High 13.2%
STEM or STEaM 3.5%
STEM or Paideia 1.8%
leave as is .9%
Grade level breakdown of the 4 primary choices:
Pre-K   K         1         2           3         4
STEM 26.1% 29.2% 28.6% 14.3% 16.7% 7.1%
STEaM 39.1% 66.7% 57.1% 47.6% 50% 64.3%
Charter 4.3% 0%       7.1%    14.3%  16.7%   7.1%
Paideia 13% 4.2%      7.1%    19%    11.1%      21.4%

Results are preliminary findings from a survey sent home to all Inglewood Elementary parents via daily folder.
Again, the parents of Inglewood Elementary are telling you, Dr. Register, Dr. Coverstone, Randy Dowell, and others who might have questioned our understanding of the situation and resolve to have our voice heard that we do NOT want a conversion to KIPP or any other charter. As we have said since early September, we DO want the appropriate resources, which MNPS has begun to supply, we do want the time to use them, and we do want the support to make sure our wants align with our needs. Lastly, we want to remain a part of AND become a vital player in the rising Litton-> Stratford pathway.
Sincerely,  Inglewood Elementary School PTO

This is not the first time Inglewood parents have expressed displeasure at the proposed direction of their school.

They earlier expressed concern about being handed over to the ASD.

Additionally, Jai Sanders, of the Inglewood PTO is involved with East Nashville United’s efforts to slow down or stop conversion of East Nashville schools into an “all-choice” zone.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

East Nashville United Plans Town Hall Meeting

East Nashville United is holding a Town Hall Meeting on schools on November 9th at 3:45 PM at East Park Community Center.

From their media advisory:

After weeks of contradictory and confusing statements from Metro Schools about its proposed “Third Way” proposal, East Nashville United (ENU) will host a town hall meeting to raise concerns about the future of the Stratford-Maplewood cluster. This open meeting will be held on Sunday, November 9 at 3:45 p.m. at the East Park Community Center, 600 Woodland Street, 37206.

ENU, a parent-led coalition formed after the announcement of sweeping changes to the Stratford-Maplewood clusters, invites all members of the community to join this discussion around the lack of community input into the school plan. The group has also invited MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register, Executive Director of the Office of Innovation Dr. Alan Coverstone, and School Board Member Elissa Kim to share their thoughts on the district’s proposed changes and to take questions from the community.

“The district’s plan will affect every public school parent in East Nashville,” says John Haubenreich, ENU’s chair. “We’d like to invite parents and all stakeholders to our town hall meeting to learn more about the district’s actions and what it all means to them.”

ENU would like to particularly discuss the district’s plans for Inglewood Elementary and Kirkpatrick Elementary, particularly in light of the apparent agreement to turn Inglewood over to KIPP that surfaced last week. This news broke after the Nashville Scene published emails from Coverstone revealing that the district engaged in detailed negotiations to hand over Inglewood to KIPP weeks before Register’s announcement of his “Third-Way” proposal. The plan for Inglewood is in direct contradiction to comments made by both Coverstone and Register to Inglewood parents. Both had said no plan is set for the school, with Register telling Inglewood parents he would recommend against a charter conversion.

“Dr. Register appears to be making this stuff up as he goes along. That’s not exactly comforting to those of us who raise our kids here,” Haubenreich says. “From everything we can tell, his plan will close down some schools, convert others to charters, and affect pathways for students throughout both clusters. So far, there has been no real community input whatsoever.  Any plan like that is simply going to destabilize our schools instead of improving them.”

Dr. Register has pledged to put his sweeping plan before the school board in December. As of publication, Metro has yet to announce the members of the task force it agreed to create last month.

For more on this issue:

East Nashville Parents Call on Register to “Start Over”

East Nashville United Asks for More Time

MNPS and East Nashville United Debate the Meaning of Some Emails

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

What Can Nashville Learn from New Orleans?

That was the theme of an event last night sponsored by Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence (TREE) and Gideon’s Army for Children and held at the East Park Community Center.

The event featured parent activist Karran Harper Royal of New Orleans and Dr. Kristen Buras, a professor at Georgia State University who has studied the Recovery School District in New Orleans.

Between 60 and 70 people were in attendance for the event, including MNPS School Board members Will Pinkston, Amy Frogge, Jill Speering, and Anna Shepherd.

The event coincides with a discussion happening in East Nashville regarding MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register’s proposal to create an “all choice” zone for schools there. Parent advocacy group East Nashville United has been critical of the plan and continues to ask for more information. For their part, MNPS says it wants to continue dialogue on the issue.

Royal spoke first and outlined the systematic takeover of schools in New Orleans by the Recovery School District. The Recovery School District is the nation’s first charter-only district. The takeover began with a state law that allowed for the takeover of low-performing schools, similar to a Tennessee law that allows the Achievement School District to takeover low-performing schools.

As schools were taken over, they were handed over to charter operators or reconstituted with charter management. Entire staffs were fired and replaced and students were moved to different locations.

Royal said some of the successes claimed by the RSD are deceptive because the district would close schools, move out the students, and bus in new students. Then, the RSD would claim they had improved the school when achievement numbers were released even though those numbers were not from the students who had been attending when the school was taken over.

Royal also claimed that the choice of a neighborhood school was foreclosed for many families, but that in two majority-white ZIP codes, families are still able to choose a school close to their home.

Buras used her time to expand on an op-ed she wrote earlier this year about the parallels between New Orleans and Nashville. She pointed to data suggesting that the RSD has done no better than the previous district in terms of overall student achievement. This point is especially important because the RSD has had 9 years to show results. Tennessee’s ASD has also shown disappointing results, though it is only now in its third year of operation.

Among the statistics presented by Buras:

  • In 2011-12, 100% of the 15 state-run RSD schools assigned a letter grade for student achievement received a D or F
  • 79% of the 42 charter RSD schools assigned a letter grade recieved a D or F
  • RSD schools open less than three years are not assigned a letter grade
  • Studies of student achievement data have shown no impact on overall student achievement and some even show a widening of the achievement gap

Buras also noted that the RSD was used as a tool to bust the teachers’ union. The district fired some 7500 teachers and new teachers in the RSD report to charter operators. The resulting turnover means nearly 40% of the city’s teachers have been teaching for 3 years or less.

Both Royal (who was at one time on the RSD Advisory Board) and Buras noted that the RSD started with the mission of improving existing schools in New Orleans. However, like the ASD in Tennessee, the RSD began gradually acquiring new schools before data was available to indicate success.

The presentations served as a warning to parents in Nashville that while reform and innovation can be exciting, it is also important to closely monitor school takeovers and choice options to ensure they meet the community’s needs.

It’s also worth noting that the experiment in New Orleans and the ASD’s experience in Memphis on a smaller scale both indicate that just offering more choice does not solve education problems or improve student achievement. Any plan or innovation must take into account community input and feedback. Additionally, while choice plans are often sold on the perceived benefits, it is important to be mindful of potential drawbacks, including disruption and instability in communities that badlyneed stability and support.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport