Its been awhile since I’ve written anything. Partially because work has been overwhelming and partially because the education policy landscape in Tennessee and specifically Nashville has been overwhelming. These are some surreal times we are living in. You have the superintendent of Nashville schools retiring in June but acting like he’s going to be here for 10 more years. There’s a plan to turnaround the priority schools by employing a mythical band of turnaround specialists. The superintendent is planning to turn over a priority school to KIPP despite the overwhelming protests of local parents and community members. Last, but certainly not least, you’ve got the traveling comedy troop known as the ASD circling two Nashville schools that have better scores then theirs. Hey, thats one way to raise scores. Let’s see if I can break these down.
Dr Register is coming to the end of his tenure as superintendent of MNPS. I believe his contract expires in June. Now normally that would mean some house cleaning and getting things ready for the next guy or girl. However, even though they’ve ignored these schools for years we have a moral imperative to enact a plan now. I’ve actually heard him use those words. The best though is when he stated “I’m implementing this plan now so that when the next superintendent starts he can hit the ground running. He won’t have to waste time getting up to speed.” That sound you hear is a collective sigh of relief from all the potential candidates for the job.
I imagine that a few were wavering on the job because they might have to come up with a plan of their own, but now that Dr. Register has created one, I’m sure they’re just relishing to enter a job where their hands are tied for the first several years. It’s going to be hard enough as it is this year to find a rock star superintendent. Nashville joins Los Angeles, Austin, Boston, Seattle, Fort Worth, andAlbuquerque in looking for a new director. I may be wrong but I suspect that the highest qualified candidates are not looking at districts where they are going to start off with their hands tied. Nashville is currently known as one of the “it” cities in the country. That should be a huge recruiting benefit but not if whomever accepts has to disengage themselves from a number of short term plans. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to focus on just gathering data, housecleaning and focusing on truly attracting the best candidate here.
Instead we get short sighted plans like the current recruiting pitch to hire 100 teachers in 100 days to focus on the priority schools. They’ve given the teachers a fancy moniker like the “turnaround squad” or something. (http://mnpschildrenfirst.com/2014/10/27/metro-schools-launches-campaign-to-recruit-100-turnaround-teachers/) Now the one thing that this plan gets right is the importance of teachers. Numerous studies show that the most important factor in the quality of a childs education is the quality of the teacher. What they leave out is the sentence “of in school factors”. That changes things a bit.
The whole turnaround concept baffles me. It gives the impression that these schools just happened to take a wrong turn somewhere and now we are going to get them on the right path with out acknowledging any of the challenges that got them there. Which begs the question, when is a school turned around? Is it after 2 years or 5 years or is it when the state takes it off the list and the administrator writes turn around specialist on their resume. I have a novel idea. Why don’t we just make all Dad Gone Wild | Coco for Cocoa Puffs: