Sunday, October 25, 2015

An Over Reach of a School Board with Solutions

A sick day threw off my count. I am still scrambling to catch up from the day out to care for my sick child. I am on track to have given an additional 10 hours of 'volunteer time' beyond the school day. It would have been more but I have other responsibilities that cannot wait. I will plan to be at school early tomorrow so I can start the week ready.

This week, Amy Frogge posted about the the state of Tennessee School Board overturning an MNPS School Board decision to block unneeded charters. In Metro, supply of Charter School seats far outweighs demand. These all charter seats drain a disproportional amount of money from our local schools.

When the funding model was selected to pay funds per student I understand they simply took the funding provided utilized in the district and divided it by the number of students to get an average. However, the cost to educate every child is not the same . Students struggling with poverty or with special needs are require more funding to educate. I am not sure the higher cost of educating exceptional children has been considered. Charter Schools do not serve these population. I think there could be a two fold solution.

First, it seems over reaching for a non elected board to overturn a decision by an elected board. If the state school board is going to overturn local decisions of elected representatives, then this state board does not need to be an appointed board. We need to hold elections for these positions as soon as possible. Any decisions this non-representative board has made need to be on hold until the people can weigh in, by choice of representatives.

Second, the children should be weighted by cost to educate. Since Charters choose the students who are the least expensive to educate and further cut the cost by violating copy write and refusing to provide supplies such as textbooks and computers, they should only be paid for the education they are providing. Education using public funds should not be a fiscally profitable endeavor. A formula can be created to make educating children here a truly non-profit effort. If we only pay for the seats the children are using and if we only pay for the cost of the education these students are being provided Nashville will become a less inviting market for profiteers.

If control is returned to the voters through properly held elections then local gate keeper can stem the waste of taxpayer funding. This money is flowing through these 'non-profit' front school companies to line the pocket of people out of state. Please contact your local representative to let them know what has happened here. Together we can stop the starvation of our local public schools but only IF we speak up.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

An Idea for a Request for Proposal to Evaluate Teacher Evaluations

Current Update: For the first three weeks in an inner city school I averaged 55 hours per week. This week I am down to 51 hours.

      During this month, I have met several teachers of note. They go above and beyond the expectations of a typical teacher. These women and men create posters for every standard they teach and post them in their classrooms. They study responsive classrooms and other pedagogy and share the things they learned with one another. For many teaching in this school is their profession, hobby, evening plans, and subject of study.

      Often students are seen working in small groups during class, after school and during the teachers' duty free lunch. These folks have multiple degrees and honors posted in their room and they are well loved in the community.

      Many of them are rated as a one out of a scale of five under Tennessee's rating system. Ratings are based on test scores. These ratings do not reflect the levels of professionalism, ingenuity, and sweat I observe these teachers investing in their school every day. I have a suspicion the issue could be the test, not the teachers.

      Here is my suggestion for a RFP, I propose we test whether the teachers are truly at fault for the low test scores in these poverty schools.  I propose the faculty and administrative staff for this  school switch buildings and clientèle to one of the upper level schools for one year.  I hypothesize, if the schools were swapped, the test scores for the teachers at my current school would go through the roof and the teachers who had high scores would suddenly have low scores.

    If I am correct we would know the issue is not teaching, the churn of teachers is not improving education; and we may need to step back and re-evaluate how we evaluate.

 Thank you to the teachers who are fighting this difficult fight.  You are all heroes to me.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lets talk about Play

Children use play to understand their world. They set up a scenario to work out the details of something they may not quite understand. They choose roles and then they act it out. Sometimes it's silly stuff they see on TV. Other times it is real life situations and issues. 

It makes sense that you can see what things are occurring in the children's lives by watching them play. Professionals have used children's art and play to determine if there is stress, issues or dysfunction. Play is important for children and can be diagnostic.

I notice play is changing. My son asks my daughter if she would like to take a test. He draws something on the page and asks her to tell him what it is. She will tell him what the picture is and he will tell her she is wrong. He will identify the picture by the color. 

“ No, It's blue.” 

The questions change but the outcome is always the same.

 “No your answers are not correct.” 

 The target keeps changing so there is no pattern to follow and no way to get the right answer. It's clear the answer changes after she has answered.  The answer changes to insure she will not get it right. This game is similar to the “impossible quiz” on line my students love to take. If you would like to give it a try you can find it at addicting games.

Remember children use play to grapple with difficult situations. Why are the children playing these type of games? What are they mimicking to try to understand? It's clear to me they are attempting to manage the stress of the high stakes testing  The pressure from testing is affecting children in so many ways including play. The outcome is a weaker more narrowed education and stressed kids. Could we please consider the warning signs?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Unsung Hero

In my journeys as a teacher I have been able to meet many remarkable educators.  Today I would like to highlight a teacher who goes above and beyond.  She gives up her lunch and planning to meet with parents.  She is often working with students after school and she is usually one of the last teachers to leave the building.  The 50 to 55 hour weeks is not unusual for her. She has managed this schedule for months.

The community, parents and students respect her.  She has become part of the foundation for this school in her community.  She deserves to be celebrated.  She has asked me to keep her name confidential because...

She told me this would be her last year teaching.  The workload has gotten so much heavier and she said she often feels like a failure.  Her feeling do not match reality. She has brought nearly all of her students up to passing under the new grading for learning standards.  I have seen how much effort she put into her students success. Her successes are just not being measured in appropriate ways. She works so hard but the bar has been set too high with no means to reach it.  She is being held accountable, accountable for things which limit her students success, accountable for circumstances she is unable to change. See this former blog post to understand the things we cannot change.

Sometimes people need some external appreciation or they are more likely to suffer burnout.  There is no real mechanism to acknowledge the teachers who strive to help students the way this she does. She goes far above and beyond her job description. She has so many markers of true excellence which go unnoticed as the reformers drive profit motivated changes in local education.  The people who have the greatest chance of making a change in a students life are driven over and driven off.

If we do not wake up and stop these harmful changes we are going to lose the people who make a real difference for our children.  Please oppose profit driven reform and support the teachers who are willing to fight this difficult battle for the sake of our community's children.

Enjoy your Fall break.  I'll see you in a week.

Right now I am reading/listening to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.  It's essential for anyone who wants to understand how people find success and the recipe for success. It was not at all what I expected it to be. You can find a copy at