Teachers Need Support

Teacher Josh Rogen writes about the support young teachers need to succeed.

While I’ve written some about teacher attrition in Nashville and noted that teachers in Nashville — and across Tennessee, for that matter – need a raise, Josh offers some perspective on the type of support new teachers need.

Here’s what he has to say:

  • Every single school needs a school-wide behavior program, created and trained in the summer, and implemented in the year. The lack of SWBS is crushing for new teachers. Doesn’t need to be the same plan, but there needs to be a plan.
  • End the idea of 1-3 time district-wide PD on behavior management and push management to school-sites. Context across the district vary too widely for district-wide PD on behavior management to matter. Plus, good grief, one day in central office is obviously not going to make a difference for a first year teacher; it’s just convenient.
  • Assign and really pay a mentor teacher to observe weekly and coach all 1st and 2nd year teachers. Maybe this teacher’s only role is to coach other teachers. I loved the MCL model for that reason, and I’m concerned when I hear schools moving away from it. Why?
  • Train coaches on TLAC techniques at the district level, using the skills sequence found in Get Better Faster.
  • Create district partnerships with Relay and similar programs with experience in training teachers in behavior management. They also really ought to reach out to the old NTF crew. I want to underscore that there are people in Nashville, and within MNPS right now, who know how to train new teachers. Pay them. Use them differently.
  • Random, unannounced, but formative district-level culture walkthroughs of all buildings with a real culture rubric.
  • Stop punishing or judging teachers for writing referrals. That’s a school problem and needs to be solved at the school level.

There’s more, and it’s worth checking out.

More on MNPS and teacher retention:

Memphis, Louisville, Cincinnati

Computers Replace Teachers

 

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


 

Holden: Trust Teachers

Former teacher and current education blogger Mary Holden offers her thoughts on how to address the teacher shortage. Of course, even if there wasn’t a teacher shortage, this is the right way to treat teachers. Here’s some of what she has to say:

Trusting teachers to do their job – BECAUSE THEY ARE TRAINED PROFESSIONALS – should be commonplace practice in every school district. But it’s not.

An article from last year in The Atlantic discussed what happened when some Finnish teachers taught here in the U.S. Guess what they noticed? The lack of autonomy. And that’s a very bad thing: “According to a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, teacher autonomy is positively associated with teachers’ job satisfaction and retention. And while most U.S. public-school teachers report a moderate amount of control in the classroom, many say they have little autonomy.”

Let me repeat that in a different way: We have a teacher shortage. Want to retain teachers and attract new ones? Then trust them to do their jobs. Ask them what they need, and then give them the support they need. (Oh, and paying them more would help, too!)

Holden also offers this suggestion:

I wish more districts would recognize what teachers have been saying for years – stop focusing on the data and the test scores and all the punitive measures that have been in place since the dawn of the accountability movement, and instead, focus on what matters: People. Relationships. Community. Developing the joy of learning. And trust our teachers to teach the subjects for which they are trained to teach.

This (and the rest of her article) offer sound advice on how to support and nurture teachers. I hear people say all the time that decisions in education should be made based on what’s good for kids instead of what’s good for adults — as if the two are mutually exclusive. Guess what? Supported teachers who are given autonomy are happy teachers. Which means they are better teachers. Which is GREAT for kids.

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


 

What Happens When Public/Private/Charter Teachers Work Together?

This is a guest post by Alecia Ford. Ms. Ford is a teacher in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

It’s so easy to demonize others: people on the other side of political issues, borders, the railroad tracks.

Each summer I choose a 1 – 2 week long professional development opportunity. This year, I applied to The Educators’ Cooperative because Greg O’Loughlin at University School of Nashville was purposefully getting us “others” together. The Cooperative is a public/private/charter educator group in its second year that exists for “creating, supporting and sharing best practices in teaching and learning”, @Ed_Cooperative #forteachersbyteachers on Twitter. Greg is the Director and founder of the Cooperative.

Ideally, 30 teachers are selected from the applicants: 10 each from public, charter and private/independent schools according to the website. While our cohort didn’t hit that mark exactly, we had educators representing grades K through 12, a variety of content areas and years of experience, from magnet, zoned, charter, private and religious schools in Nashville. I have taught 12 years in Metro zoned and magnet schools, my last 7 years at J. T. Moore Middle.

Nashville has struggled to have civil dialogue about charters, public education and ed policy. The whole country is struggling with civil dialogue. In all honesty, I didn’t just want to learn more about my craft. I also wanted to get in there and meet these teachers from the “other” schools (not zoned public schools) and understand where they were coming from – no loaded words or posturing, no middlemen/women between us. I guess I was wondering… how could they?

Here’s what I learned:

  • I still and always love being a student and learning from and with others.
  • All of us are interested in professional growth and improving our craft.
  • All of us are interested in providing excellent educational opportunities for our students, in both academics and in social/emotional growth.
  • All of us chose teaching. Some of us came from non-traditional pathways, some as second career teachers, some always knew they wanted to be teachers. WE BELIEVE IN THIS MISSION.

We practiced a Critical Friends Protocol that uses small groups to generate ideas and solve problems. We explored design thinking with stoke.d one afternoon. We had a panel of mindfulness coaches answering questions. In between, we got to know each other and liked each other. We built trust all week. No time was wasted. And I wondered, what would it be like to talk about equity with this cross-section of inspired, talented, open-minded educators from across the city?

Toward the end of the week, Greg orchestrated an Ed Camp. Edcamp is a structure where participants suggest topics which are then organized into common themes and scheduled into time slots. Also called un-conference, it’s a way to catch anything you didn’t get to talk about yet and network around common interests. There is no leader in each session, just interested participants who can discuss and share ideas.

I put up post-its with EQUITY, Systemic Racism, Vouchers and Ed Policy written on them, assuring myself I wasn’t being divisive or political just for the sake of it. I reminded myself of a Brittany Packnett tweet, ‘Calling out racism isn’t divisive – racism is divisive.’ We need to be able to talk about tough topics.

Ten minutes later I was in a room with like-minded educators from all types of schools who are also interested in equity and systemic injustices. We all know some schools simply have greater needs while other schools have greater resources, financially and socially. We worry about public tax money going to private, religious and for-profit schools. We wonder why and how schools with such high concentrations of poverty still exist in Nashville. We worry vouchers will only subsidize middle class and affluent families already attending private schools, and accessibility will keep out families without transportation. We wonder whether these ideas will help or harm our most vulnerable students. We want there to be excellent choices for every family, no matter your zip code.

I saw a dedicated teacher at a new charter school working to create opportunities for her students. I heard zoned school teachers wondering if a single pot of money split by a larger number of schools would automatically mean less resources for their students and schools. I saw a private and public school teacher start talking about a shared garden space. But I didn’t see “other” anymore, not in that classroom.

We all want what’s best for OUR kids. What if we (Nashville) valued ALL kids as OUR kids? What if every student could get what they needed to thrive? We need to keep this conversation going, keep practicing civil discourse, keep reaching across the lines of other. Thank you, Greg, for bringing us together. We have work to do.

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


 

Stein vs. Slatery

Educator and blogger Mike Stein takes on Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery over Slatery’s opposition to the federal DACA program.

Interestingly, Stein cites a study from the conservative Cato Institute to support his case:

The Cato Institute describes itself as “a public policy research organization–a think tank–dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.” On January of this year, they released a report on their website titled “The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Repealing DACA.” Cato Institute’s research indicates that “working and earning a higher level of income in the formal sector means that the DACA workers pay more taxes, both through payroll, income, and sales as a result of greater consumption associated with higher incomes.” Additionally, “59 percent of DACA recipients reported getting their first job, 45 percent received a pay increase, 49 percent opened their first bank account, and 33 percent got their first credit card due to their participating in DACA. All of these factors contribute positively to the economy.” This report draws the strong conclusion that the “total cost estimate of immediately eliminating the DACA program and deporting its participants of $283 billion over 10 years. In other words, the United States economy would be poorer by more than a quarter of a trillion dollars if President Trump were to make good on his threat to repeal it.”

The point: Slatery is on the wrong side of this issue. DACA is good for Tennessee and it is the right thing to do for kids living in Tennessee. Slatery’s support for the Texas letter lacks a basis in reality. As Stein points out, suing the federal government over DACA would waste Tennessee tax dollars to stop a program that’s actually helping boost Tennessee’s economy. Plus, it’s good for kids. It’s not clear why Slatery wants to be on the wrong side of this issue. What is clear is that Stein makes a strong argument against Slatery’s position.

The entire piece is worth a read.

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


 

The Value of Teachers

Blogger and former educator Mary Holden writes about the value of teachers. More specifically, she notes that we just don’t seem to value teaching very much.

The entire post is worth a read.

Here, she publishes her prepared remarks to the MNPS School Board relative to teacher salaries:

Good evening! My name is Mary Holden, and I am a MNPS parent and a former teacher. Thank you all for coming out to support our teachers. They are our most treasured resource, and we need to treat them accordingly.

But I am not here to argue for to thank you for a 3% raise. 3% is next to nothing. I’m here to argue for a much bigger increase.

One way to determine what a society values is to look at how and what we spend money on.

Our school board believed it was important to attract the best Director of Schools here to Nashville, so they set a salary of $285,000, a 7% increase from the previous Director’s salary. So teachers deserve at least the same: a 7% increase. But wait. The new Director believed it was important to bring in the “best” people to lead the district in our executive positions, and to do so meant they needed to be paid more. So all our executives were given an initial salary that was 25% more than what those previous positions were paid. Were questions raised by the board about this salary increase? No, because this is what was valued by our Director of Schools – that the people in these positions are the “best” and therefore deserve to be paid more money.

Well you know who is the “best,” in my opinion? Our teachers!

So I ask you all, who do we really value? Our executives – who do work hard, I’m sure, OR our teachers? You know, the people who we, as parents, send our precious children to every single day. The people who work their butts off to create engaging lessons, spend extra time with students making sure they learned a new concept, spend hours assessing student work and looking at data, spend money from their own pockets for supplies, and spend countless hours making themselves into better teachers through planning and professional development. THEY are the best. They are the people I value. And I know you all feel the same way. And so, we need to treat them like we value them. They are more than worthy of a sizable increase in their pitiful salaries. I know this from experience.

When I first moved to Nashville, I had been teaching in California for 12 years. I left California making $85,000, and when I got hired in MNPS, I was making $55,000. That’s a decrease of $30,000. Now, I know it costs less to live here than it does in San Diego; however, the price of housing here in Nashville has risen – the cost of living here has increased, and teacher salaries have NOT risen along with it. In fact, one thing I found troubling the year I taught in MNPS was the number of teachers I met who had to work a second job! Here were teachers, working so incredibly hard for their students, who could not live on their teacher salaries and had to seek additional employment in their free time. Free time, ha! We stress out our teachers to the point where they have no time for themselves. And it does not need to be this way. Not if we truly value them and the work they do.

I’m here to say that if we truly value our teachers – which we should – then that needs to show in their pay. They deserve a 25% increase. In fact, I suggest we help pay for that increase by giving our executives a salary cut. The bottom line is this: yes, it’s great that teachers are getting a 3% raise. Any raise is a good thing, generally speaking. But if you are asking me to celebrate that 3%, I say no way. 3% is nowhere near good enough. And if we value teachers, and we want them to be able to live a decent life and be able to buy a home in the city in which they teach, we need to put our money where our mouth is. Otherwise, they’re going to keep on quitting. Our teachers deserve much more than you are giving them.

Teachers, the only reason you are getting this raise is because of you and MNEA’s organizing efforts! iIf you haven’t already done so, join MNEA and fight for what you are worth!

I noted last week that the Tennessee State Board of Education finally did the right thing and adjusted the state minimum pay scale by four percent.

Still, this isn’t enough. With the adjustment, the most a Tennessee district is required to pay a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and more than 10 years of experience is $40,595.

Take a moment and read all Mary has to say about teacher pay. Ask yourself: Do we value our teachers?

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


 

A Teacher Takes on TNReady

Educator Mike Stein offers his take on the latest trouble with TNReady.

Here’s some of what he has to say:

TNReady is supposed to count for 10% of the students’ second semester grade and of the teachers’ evaluation scores. I had multiple students ask me before the test if it was really going to count this year. I told them it was going to count, and that the state was confident that they would return the results in time. Unlike last year, the Tennessee Department of Education had not announced anything to the contrary, so the students actually seemed to try. Sadly, the state has has once again let them down. They have also let down all of the teachers who worked so diligently trying to ensure that their students demonstrate growth on this ridiculously long, tedious, and inaccurate measure of content knowledge.

And he offers this insight:

Meanwhile, teachers’ performance bonuses and even their jobs are on the line. Though they wouldn’t assert themselves into the discussion, principals and directors of schools also rely heavily upon the state to administer a test that measures what it says it will measure and to provide timely results that can be acted upon. As long as both of these things remain in question, I must question both the importance of TNReady and the competence of those who insist upon any standardized test as a means of determining whether or not educators are doing their jobs.

Check out the entire post and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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


 

#MakeEducationGreat

Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow Amanda Arnold penned this letter to President Donald Trump. The letter was originally published on TNTeacherTalk.com

Dear Mr.  President:

As you begin this journey, please take to heart that education is critical to the success and future of this great nation. “Making America Great Again” is a goal rooted in the future, and that future lies within the students of this nation. Education is one of the most versatile and powerful tools that government possesses. History has relentlessly proven that nations can be built and destroyed by how a government educates its people. Appropriate and effective education empowers the people, but education without clearly defined purposes, ethics, and goals can destroy the same people. Please act upon a vision of education that recognizes the following:

  1. Education can break the cycle of poverty.
  2. Impoverished communities need equal access to quality education, resources, and opportunities.  
  3. Students deserve safe, clean, and well maintained schools. Many of our impoverished communities have schools in a state of crisis.  
  4. Educational policy should be a problem-solving model based on demonstrated needs and research based results.  
  5. Every student is capable of growth, but all students do not academically grow at the same pace.
  6. All students do not reach proficiency at the same rate. Some students need more than four years to achieve high school proficiency. Some students need more challenges within that four years. Schools should not be punished for meeting a student’s needs.
  7. College and career readiness has two parts. Students need career and technical training. Educational policy has abandoned training and educating students for blue collar jobs. Our country needs blue and white collar jobs.
  8. College is not appropriate for every student, but every student who has a desire and the academic ability to pursue that route should have equitable preparedness and the opportunity to do so.
  9. Equitable does not mean equal education. Different students have different needs.  Different school districts have different needs. Want to make them great? Meet their demonstrated needs.
  10. Parents want success for students. No parent wants to see his or her student struggle or fail. Strengthen the parents to empower the students.  
  11. Hold educators accountable, but give educators the proper support, resources, guidelines, and tools to meet the needs of the students.  

Education must prepare a  diverse group of talented, well-educated students. The nation needs electricians, business professionals, mechanics, blue and white collar workers. Diversity in talent and developing the skills to meet the needs of those talents can make students successful contributors to society. Successful contributors make a successful society.

Making any country great begins with expectations: the expectation that every student can be successful, the expectation that poverty does not have to be a cycle, the expectation that the right tools in the right hands can change lives. Greatness does not manifest itself the same in every person; it is unique—just like our students. If you want to make America great, make educational opportunity great.

Amanda has taught English at Dobyns­ Bennett High School for the past five years. In that time, Amanda has served as the English 9 Co­Taught Team Leader, English 10 Co­Taught Team Leader, Co­President of the Alpha Zeta Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa International Honor Society for Women Educators and on the Tennessee Digital Learning Team. Throughout her career she has served as a school­-wide Title I coordinator, school-­level testing coordinator and 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant coordinator. She holds a Bachelors and Masters degree from East Tennessee State University. In 2010, she earned an Educational Specialist degree in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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


 

Teaching Protests in the Classroom

The following piece was submitted by Casie Jones.

As an educator, I always want to bring what we call the “real world” into the classroom to build student awareness of self and knowledge beyond just the local community. This was especially true in the context of my classroom at an alternative high school in which many students did not even know the world beyond their own neighborhood. I taught from the desire to help my marginalized students see the greater opportunities that they had and not to be bound by the limitations they assumed society placed on the them—sort of that “rise above” concept. As a white woman, this felt like a genuine way for me to contribute to the betterment of their lives as minorities. But in light of the recent surge in protests, self-reflection revealed that this pedagogical philosophy requires an immediate revision. A scroll through my newsfeed on a popular social media site shows several posts regarding teaching students about protests, yet I feel compelled to add another perspective despite how controversial it may seem.

Even 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King is hailed as a hero for his non-violent approach to protesting racial segregation and inequality, but, though credit is given for his significant impact, Malcolm X is still known as the lesser of the duo because of his militant perspective and methods. However, Dr. King would not have seen that success without the counterbalance of Malcolm X’s work. We teach time and time again how heroic the pacifist Dr. King was in the face of aggression and encourage students to embody these principles for society to truly heal. And yet, Dr. King knew that taking risks such as crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge would yield a violent response. In essence, both Malcolm X and Dr. King knew the same underlying truth that violence was the result of ignorance and implicit bias.

Despite the differences in approach, fundamentally both civil rights leaders knew that violence also exposed socially overlooked injustices. Now we are once again engaged in a civil rights movement. With the remaining essence of Dr. King and Malcom X, we celebrate the young man who gives free hugs, hold our breath as we watch protesters block bridges and face SWAT teams, and breathe sighs of relief when nights of protest pass with no carnage. However, when protestors damage property or engage with police or speak of a war against authority, we cringe. We rally behind hash tags of “ALLlivesmatter” or #peace but are unwilling to support “BLACKlivesmatter” or ignore #NODAPL because they are inciting riotous behavior and require us to face those implicit biases that STILL exist. Our pervasive message is that violence is just not the way we reconcile race and equality; this is not how we preserve our freedom—this is not how we make America great again.

Or is it? I firmly believe that what we need to be willing to teach in our classrooms is that successful protesting has historically NOT been peaceful. It comes with a cost especially if freedom (whether religious, political, or social) is truly at stake. Many would argue that those moments are historical and should remain historical because today’s society is different. But I vehemently beg to differ because at each of those moments in history, it was considered “today’s society.” We are living in a civil rights movement and more than just a black and white issue. Our current civil war consists of police brutality against black males, Native American protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, LGBQT discrimination, Islamophobia, the right to carry, and many other issues plaguing Americans. What we must be willing to recognize is that in each of these battles, the war is not person vs person, but is person vs a systemic mindset. And as a nation we have been here before. But true change may not come peacefully. And we must be willing to teach that. Here are a few examples to support this risqué teaching philosophy:

1. As the news reports vandalism and looting during protests, critics discuss how disrespectful this is and that some have referred to rioters as “animals” that should be locked up for violating the law. However, our history books sensationalize the colonist for dressing like Natives and throwing an entire shipment of tea into the Boston Harbor in rebellion against the oppressive British regime and heavy taxes. In a justified fight against oppression, property will suffer.

2. During the Protestant Reformation, many protestors (hence Protestant) where slaughtered as martyrs for the sake of religious freedom from the Catholic Church. They violated laws against translating the Bible and speaking publicly against the church because the law and the church were synonymous. In a justified fight against oppression, lives will be lost.

3. The bloody French Revolution greatly impacted the Western world’s structure of government. As one of the last remaining monarchies, the French aristocracy was a very small percentage of the country’s population but controlled all aspects of life and law. After long-term suffering of starvation and abuse of power, the French peasants held a massive rebellion dethroning the French monarchy and ushering in a republic and later a democracy. Lady Guillotine crafted a powerful voice. In a justified fight against oppression, governments will fall.
We are living in a nation that was founded because a group of determined white people sought to throw off chains of oppression. Now that same group has created a nation in which others have sought to demolish the same oppressive chains. Our nation champions an internationally lethal war on terror and yet requires a permit to protest on areas that block traffic and sidewalks or require audio support. In other words, we have forgotten our own struggle and no longer want to be bothered in our own homeland. Peaceful protests are praised on our own soil but we should also look at the broader perspective of history and understand the bloody sacrifice that it took to bring us to the present, a present that will someday be our nation’s past. I wonder if those who have gone before us would find our methods of protesting effective.

We once stood united against an oppressor and, that which we fought against, is now that which oppresses us once more. I am not advocating teaching students that rebellion is our greatest move. But what I AM advocating for is that we teach students the passion that it has taken to move society this far and that we are currently living in yet another cycle of human history in which the oppressed must challenge the oppressor. We cannot allow students to think that the struggle is behind us and glorify the greats such as Dr. King or Martin Luther. We must show them that we also need those like Malcolm X who challenged the status quo to open our blind eyes to injustice. We must still cultivate future “greats” that will challenge closed mindsets, make us socially uncomfortable, and protect freedom for all.

Casie Jones has been an educator for over 15 years as a teacher, instructional coach, school support director, and educational consultant.  She has served as a Teach Plus Fellow, an advocate for SCORE and SAP, and a TN Common Core Coach.  Casie has also been featured in The Huffington Post, Bluff City Ed, The Commercial Appeal, and EdWeek.

If you’re an educator with a story idea, send an email to andy AT spearsstrategy DOT com

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


 

 

A Fond Farewell

Our friends over at Bluff City Ed announced this week they are saying goodbye.

Jon even had a brief stint with us as his blog was transitioning. He’ll be keeping the content up – and there’s lots of good content.

BCE started about 6 months after we started TNEdReport. Jon, Ezra, and the other writers were often my source for information on what was happening in Memphis.

As Jon points out, Chalkbeat is here now, and they provide very solid coverage of the education landscape. But the insider perspective and the in-depth analysis from BCE will be missed.

To that end, I’d like to extend an invitation to teachers and education activists in Memphis seeking an outlet to publish about what’s happening in the education landscape there. If you have story ideas or an article to pitch, get in touch. Just email me at andy AT spearsstrategy DOT com

In the meantime, I want to wish Jon and friends well. A great blog that provided a great service — and one that will remain a great source of information and historical context.

 

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


 

Leaving Teaching After 18 Years

Educator turned blogger Mary Holden talks about why she left teaching after 18 years of service.

Here’s a small excerpt:

I knew being a teacher here would be rough. But we moved here anyway. And we love it here. It’s a great place to raise a family. We love the schools in Nashville. Great things are happening here in spite of all the BS. However, as a teacher, I tried to do my best while biting my tongue. But ultimately, I couldn’t do it.

I saw my colleagues, unlike me, seemingly more able to not worry about these issues so much. Maybe they were used to it? Or maybe they felt like I did but didn’t dare speak up. But I hated it. I hated that 50% of my evaluation was based on my students’ test scores. I hated that we talked about the damn tests almost more than anything else. This was definitely not the reason I became a teacher. I didn’t want to be a part of that culture. It really weighed on me.

READ MORE about Mary’s journey in (and ultimately out of) the classroom.

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