Sorry To Bother You With Data But What Gets Measured Gets Done

August came in like a lion and is still roaring at peak strength on the local and state education fronts. I’ve checked out the numbers. The state’s year-over-year school performance data and the test scores in Nashville are painting a depressing picture for our city and state. I watched the drama play out surrounding the TNReady results, participated in several coffee meetings with a variety of local education soldiers, and read many (many) stories headlining Nashville school director Dr. Shawn Joseph.

With all that pressing on my mind, I keep coming back to the fact that our kids deserve better.


In honor of the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, Imma need somebody to find out what accountability means to me. Look, you can’t disavow a test through one side of the mouth and congratulate schools who did well on the test from the other side. In my last blog, I talked about the school superintendents of the largest most diverse districts in the state of Tennessee serving up a letter to the Governor and Commissioner of Education expressing no confidence in TNReady. Yet one week later, Shelby County superintendent tweets:

That kind of elementary school duplicity is going on in our state and, specifically, in Memphis and Nashville. ‘I like you if you like me’ is not accountability. Like it or loathe it, TNReady is our test and Questar is the vendor until we get an infinitely better one – hopefully sooner rather than later.

Coffee, Tea, and Literacy

Between TNReady and regular old Life stuff, there has been coffee – lots of it with a diverse slate of people with differing views on how best to tackle education. The most productive conversations were cloaked in authenticity with a hint of sadness beginning with grave declarations such as ‘we are in trouble.’ And they ain’t lying. I mean, just look at the results from the latest test. On a 1-5 scale, our students are averaging the lowest possible score in nearly every area.

Overall Composite 1
Literacy Composite 2
Numeracy Composite 1
Literacy and Numeracy Composite 1
Science Composite 1
Social Studies Composite 1

Not even rose-colored Ray-Bans can manipulate these scores into something they are not and what they are not is a sign of progress save for literacy. As of late, the district has been as intentional about literacy as it has been about social emotional learning and maybe the “2” is an indication of the work and community investment. It’s difficult to defend a two out of five and it may be even borderline criminal to do so in a society that preys on – capitalizes on – Black, Brown and low-socioeconomic students who cannot read or do math.

And, by the way:

Congratulations to Tennessee’s Hamilton County Schools for showing dramatic increases in five out of six areas! Eleven months ago I wrote about the then-embattled district:

Recently released state test scores show the district produced the lowest possible score in all areas but one…

Incidentally, I have high hopes for the embattled district with its new superintendent Bryan Johnson who, by all accounts, was a strong leader in Clarksville/Montgomery County. Expecting a change in trajectory for our Chattanooga babies.

Hamilton County’s 2018 come-up is pretty amazing.

Overall Composite 3
Literacy Composite 5
Numeracy Composite 1
Literacy and Numeracy Composite 4
Science Composite 3
Social Studies Composite 4

Yep, that a FIVE in literacy. Kudos to Dr. Johnson and the HCS family!

What’s Really Going On?

At the present time, we’re experiencing a bit of dysfunction around testing and accountability. Several of Nashville’s traditional, magnet and charters schools are celebrating major growth across all subjects. This is a sign that such success is possible for all kids. But we must be real about where we are and accept responsibility when we fail.

Can we talk?

3 thoughts on “Sorry To Bother You With Data But What Gets Measured Gets Done

  1. When a school’s administration successfully gets students to put away their cell phones and teachers keep students on task, they’ll score at least 3s and probably better. Stop into any zoned high school and about half of the middle schools— you’ll see a lot of inactivity by students. Until the battle of the cellphone is won, and students are actually working when they are supposed to work, it does not matter what focus on literacy you put in place, what programs you buy, or anything else.


  2. You can keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. That’s the definition of insanity. Tweaking an education system that worked fine until 1950 is never going to help Tennessee’s kids, especially those who have been shortchanged for decades. K-12 education needs a revolution dragging it into the 21st century by changing the basic premises upon which it rests. Summative testing is an autopsy. It is punitive for both students and teachers. Accountability is a meaningless word if it is not coupled with authority. Hold me accountable if you free me from the shackles of Carnegie units, seat time, and the pacing guide. Hold me accountable if you stop treating our children like widgets on an assembly line, standardized into age cohorts rather than allowed to thrive through competency-based learning. How long is it going to take for us to act on this line from the 1983 report “A Nation at Risk?”: “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Tweaking an education system that worked fine until 1950 is never going to help Tennessee’s kids, especially those who have been shortchanged for decades.” YESSSSSS!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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