If score-segregating our kids is best for them, then we should open more Hume-Fogg and MLK type schools. And, we need to open those schools near affluent neighborhoods that tend to have high densities of higher-scoring kids. That is ultimately what the parents of 30,000 kids who flee to private want for their children.
If score-segregating kids at the building level achieves little, which is my current observation, then we need to focus on IB/AP/etc programs at our zoned schools - and start to wind down our emphasis on choosing 1/6 of our children, in 4th grade, to attend over-hyped academic magnet high schools.
If scores-not-required choice schemes are good for kids - then we need look no further than Rose Park to note that MNPS schools that screen by requiring choice have score bumps, just as charters do.
Whichever of the above three happens to be your favorite:
We should all be able to agree that spending 6.6million to rip out the soccer field at MLK is stupid.
We should halt authorization of any more charter schools, funded with tax dollars.
Yet, we continue to muddle along... a few charters here and there, a $6.6 million magnet expansion, a new strategic plan for the zoned schools. The moratorium on charters is a very posibvite - even bold - move forward - but we need to get some clarity of vision to sell the rest of our trajectory to the Mayor's office.
The bill for bringing 30,000 students into MNPS, who are now at private schools, will be $300,000,000 a year - plus capital to build many new school buildings. I hope that is mentioned in the chat. We've still got a long, and exciting, road ahead when we are honest around funding issues.
The great thing about the reform movement, is that we can point to test scores and saying something meaningful about the education our kids are receiving - take the emotion out of it. Moreover, we can compare our kids scores to kids in Massachusetts or Kentucky (states that seem to be "beating" us a little bit).
We have a decades old culture of lifetime guaranteed employment, and benefits-to-the-grave, in all our government-funded departments, services, agencies. As that is realigned with economic realities, and we focus on educating every child with an intensity that we lacked 15 years ago, there are going to be sour grapes as folks are let go, or even asked to change practices that they believe "works for me",
Leaders are leaders precisely because they stand up, listen to input, work with others to determine next best steps, and let folks go who cannot get on board with the team. When "next best steps" don't bear desired fruit, leaders will quickly alter course.
We need more leaders who bring urgency to the positive trends at MNPS - not quotes from anonymous folks who resist change in the trenches.
Jay Steele believes that the average ACT score at MNPS can be brought up to 21 over the course of 5 years or so. That is an astounding and unprecedented goal for an urban district. The entire city needs to get behind that.
It's worth a LOT. Thanks much!
AnglRdr: Waiting till 9th might thave worked 10 years ago. That is how the lottery was originally conceived. Last year a whopping total of 3 kids were accepted into MLK from around the zone. We have a system where parents apply and apply and apply - and finally get into HF or MLK. The stories at the MLK parent meetings were astounding - families split up waiting for the dice, 10 mile drives to Head year after year waiting for "the proomise" of MLK. So, as soon as the dice come up with the lucky number, they _have_ to leave zoned schools because the odds of "winning" again are quite low.
We need families to feel secure with high school paths. That's why I'm suggesting we should call the lottery into Meigs exactly what it is in point of fact, "a lottery into Hume Fogg out of 4th grade"... and honor families' desire for a clear route to college, without the hassle, and resulting destabilization of local zoned middle school communities.
At some point we are going to have to make all our schools across town more magnetic to families - like Williamson County. But, to get there, we have to start by telling our affluent families that it is OK to set foot in them :)
keepingMyHeadLow: I have to believe it. We are firing teachers based on these scores. We screen kids out of MLK and Hume Fogg with these scores. We open Charter schools in neighborhoods based on these scores. They correlate well with high school success (downstream ACT scores).
Restated, if "Advanced" at my zoned schools does not equal an "Advanced" at Meigs, then I would be filing a lawsuit instead of wasting breath with a debate. Contrary to your claim, "proficient and advanced" may not a low bar in the national sense. As our standards move to the rigor of common core, we are seeing 35% of Nashville's kids at Proficient or Advanced, compared with 45% in Boston - perhaps the "best" urban model for us.
If the scores are fundamentally unbelievable, then you need to speak up now. Because, the rest of Nashville, indeed the entire country, is radically transforming our schools, the teaching profession, the very essence of the school experience.... to make these scores inch up by tenths of a point. We have to believe them if we are to stay on a path of "reform... at all cost" that we are on now.
Bubbadog: I think that we are attacking a 1980s mindset problem with a 2010s approach to segregation, so in the end, not much is changing. If we think of all our diversity hopes in terms of just "race, race, race" we overlook the fact that the new wave of magnetic segregation is simply just "scores scores scores"... and poverty.
Academic performance closely correlates to economic circumstances. And thus, it is no surprise that MLK and Hume Fogg have lower concentrations of _free_ (distinct from _reduced_) lunch students than our zoned high schools.
Lots of MLK and Hume Fogg parents argue "Our schools are diverse," But, when we look at diversity from standpoint of poverty, or from the standpoint of "students whose parents care enough (or have resources) to flee via choice", we see pretty quickly that these schools are NOT giving us the diversity promised by their original 1980s setup. Though, I applaud Dr. Register's attempts to not let it get worse - by standing firm behind the 30% cutoff, and the Head GPZ.
On other hand, it could be that score-segregation is OK - or even "best". Michelle Obama herself praised the idea at the MLK graduation last spring, essentially saying that a school like MLK saved her life on the South Side of Chicago. If we are going to get behind Michelle Obama's vision for segregation, and screen out the bottom 70% of scores from our "award winning high schools", then we ought to start by applying these screens at schools near our welathiest citizens.... if nothing else but to declog the streets.
If on the other hand, attempting to educate all students is a loftier goal than even Mrs. Obama's vision, then we would be better served to put MLK-like and Hume-Fogg-like pathways inside more score-integrated schools (like Hillsboro High school - and others around town),... schools which allow all to enter, but restrict certain classes based on choice or screening techniques....
I keep thinking that a tiny step forward for all of Nashville would be to let our 4th grade lottery winners attend zoned schools enroute to Hume-Fogg and MLK, _if_ those families so choose. I believe that "Advanced" on TCAP means "Advanced"... in whatever middle school a child earns it. Alas, the School Board seems to disagree.
So, let's see. We have 30,000 kids in Nashville fleeing to private schools. 10Ks more fleeing to Williamson County. We are at 81,000 in MNPS after a 50,000 following court-ordered racial desegregation.... In the 1970s MNPS had 90,000 kids - prior to the federal mandate.
I am surprised that our Board find that adding 300 seats at MLK is remotely connected to solving the challenges of our good, and quickly improving, school system. It's just another traffic-clogging step, telling affluent parents that in Nashville, the only way to a child's education is to drive across town, and enjoy the comfort of score-segregation at a school with no soccer field.
If we were ever to get serious about educating all children in Nashville, we'd be putting our energies in a very different direction. We do that - some of the time - thankfully. But, we never seem able to loosen our infatuation with score-segregation at the building level, for 1 in 5 of our "lucky" kids.
The Middle School strategic plan, in stark contrast to the MLK expansion discussion, is much more aligned with what MNPS must do to accommodate a doubling of student population in the next 25 years.
So, I ask our Board again, why we are not putting our energies behind that plan? Why can't we pass on MLK expansion and recommit to education of all children across town? Why can't we take a small more rational step, and allow our MLK and Hume-Fogg bound kids, selected in 4th grade, the option of staying in zoned middle schools if they so choose?
Below I've copied in my comments to the Board from 2 weeks ago. I've not heard any good rebuttals to this line of reasoning yet... Hope someone out there can help me understand why fretting about 300 kids at MLK, and not 80,700, is the best use of the energies of our School Board. I do love to learn!
From Tuesday, October 8th:
Good evening. I’m Chris Moth – My son is an 8th grader at a neighborhood middle school. I thank you, and Nashville’s taxpayers, for making our journey possible.
The new middle school strategic plan is exactly the right next step for Nashville. Your plan sets academic achievement as a primary goal, with high school courses again offered to our 7th and 8th graders across town. More importantly, the plan acknowledges the needs of the whole child. Every child needs stable relationships with adult mentors, extra-curricular activities, the arts, and music. Your plan delivers.
While I’m sold on the plan, I worry about the rest of Nashville. Your plan describes cohesive learning communities; families and mentors integrated into the fabric of our middle schools.
But how can we truly have cohesive learning communities when we demand that our bright lottery winners leave our zoned middle schools?
I accept your wisdom that picking high schools for our children is best done in 4th grade, from 3rd grade TCAP scores and a roll of the dice. I accept that. But, what I don’t grasp is why our college-bound 4th graders must leave our zoned middle schools to stay on a high school pathway. I once heard that the Meigs pathway helps us combat flight. But, through our phone survey of every family at JT Moore, we learned that families are not leaving us much out of academic concerns. Nor do families flee because we have more free lunch, ESL, and special needs students than at Meigs. Rather, many families leave simply because your pathway policies mandate their departure.
So this evening, my little idea is that we should allow lottery winners to attend zoned middle schools, if they so choose. It’s a tiny tweak – you might not even have 100 takers. It won’t impact our high school populations, and might improve middle school diversity. More importantly, allowing winners to attend our zoned schools will tell Nashville that you believe in the quality of your zoned middle schools – and that you believe in that quality without reservation.
Too many folks tell us to fix our schools by closing them. When we proclaim, instead, that an Advanced score at Litton or Oliver is just as good as an Advanced from Head or Meigs, we take a giant leap out of the 1990s, and we shatter some deeply held misconceptions around this town.
I’ll close with a quick word on MLK. It is 2013. We must not make decisions based on vague appeals to tradition. Rather, we must ground our decisions in data. Your score data tell you clearly that 8th grade Advanced students from Rose Park do JUST AS WELL as 6th/7th/8th graders who come in to MLK through Head.
Your data tell us to spare the soccer field at MLK, and that no child will suffer academically when you recast MLK as a high school. Dr. Register’s initial proposal adds 400 more seats in 9th to 12th for all kids across town, at zero cost. It’s the best path forward.
However this Board expands MLK, I urge you to simultaneously create a committee to consider letting our winning kids attend zoned middle schools. I have a hunch Emily Evans might want to chair that committee.
Thanks for listening. I’m leaving 20 copies of the JT Moore phone survey results at the podium, and I direct your attention to question #10.
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