As Summer Fades, Education Stories in Tennessee Heat Up and Urban Districts Are on the Hot Seat

And all at once summer collapsed into fall. – Oscar Wilde

I seriously cannot keep up with all the stuff going on in edu-world today – like Wednesday today, not the universal today. I’ve scrolled through a number of articles that forced a pause only to be preempted by the next pause-worthy story. It seems a perfect storm of good-to-great and bad-to-worse is converging upon us as the school year settles in and long-awaited test scores make an appearance. Let’s dig in, shall we?

A bit of good news…

Nashville’s crack edu-watcher and writer Zack Barnes recently went on a data bender and tweeted out the amazing growth outcomes for many of our schools – traditional and charter. The most fascinating chart shows a list of schools achieving the greatest growth (level 5) for the 2016-2017 school year.

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Great for these schools!

Note to ponder: every level 5 performing school on this list is a magnet or charter except for the dual-enrollment Middle College.

Follow @zbarnes for more chart love!

Not so good news…

Did you see the story “Regular Public School Teachers Miss More School Than Charter School Teachers?” 

A study performed by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that on average traditional public school teachers miss 10 more of school than charter school teachers. The EdWeek article explores two possible reasons for this gap in teachers showing up to work — collective bargaining and school culture.

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Teachers in traditional public schools are protected by unions that negotiate sick leave while the majority of charters are not unionized. For instance, Tennessee’s teachers are greatly protected by the Tennessee Education Association (MNEA in Nashville) while not one of Tennessee’s charter schools has union influence. Could that be the reason our traditional public school teachers miss 25.3% of school while charter teachers miss 7.6%?

Of the 6,900 charter schools nationally, about 1 in 10 have teachers’ unions. According to the report, 18 percent of teachers in unionized charter schools are chronically absent. It’s about half that in charter schools without unions.

Culture is the other possible explanation. Charter schools pride themselves on creating a culture of exceedingly high expectations for students, parents, and faculty.

Teachers who work in charters “agree to go there as an at-will employee in most cases,” said Miller, who once served as a president of his local teachers’ union in Palo Alto, Calif. “This means you’re buying into a school culture and a way of doing business. That doesn’t include the elaborate leave policies you can often find in a collective bargaining agreement.”

But the million dollar question is “does teacher chronic absenteeism affect student achievement?” The article briefly touches on a study by Raegan Miller, a Georgetown University researcher quoted in the article, that concludes math students fall behind and are less engaged when their teacher is chronically absent. I’m no researcher, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest the “less engaged” part of his conclusion is pretty important.

For the past two years, Tennessee (and Nashville, specifically) has been plotting and planning to triage the chronic absenteeism problem within our schools — for students. Maybe they are following the examples set before them? Don’t misunderstand me, parents need to be sure their child is in her seat, but if we have a problem with teachers showing up, then let’s make it, too, a prominently acknowledged and measured indicator for student success.

Downright ugly…

But most students in three of the state’s four largest districts — in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga — aren’t growing academically as they should, and neither are those in most of their “priority schools” in the state’s bottom 5 percent.

Tragically, the districts with the greatest number of vulnerable students are not growing. Hamilton County has gotten unwanted attention after scoring ones across-the-board except in one area. There is no shortage of articles about Memphis and their academic struggles, but Nashville has avoided the spotlight – until now.

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An overall score of one is a sure-fire way to regain exposure – whether you want it or not.

Admittedly, I’ve been generous to the district that educated my entire family and helped me provide a nice life for us. Additionally, working hard every day are Metro School staffers I care for deeply making it more difficult for me to call foul when foul clearly needs to be screamed.

But where I’ve failed to acknowledge weaknesses in our district, fellow blogger Thomas Weber of Dad Gone Wild (norinad10) has been on the case- for years. While we tend to see things differently, I understand the importance of respecting different points of view

You never know, there might come a time when the two points of view converge.

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1,012 Nashville Public Charter School Parents Resolve to Stand Up, Speak Up, and Lift Up

At tonight’s school board meeting, a letter signed by 1,012 charter school parents was distributed to each school board member and the director of schools demanding a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T – again.

You may remember last Spring’s letter to the editor signed by 374 charter school parents respectfully requesting to be held in the same regard as other public school parents. The heartfelt plea for basic respect ultimately became mocking material for a school board member.

Well, this is the “hold my beer” version. And they are not playing… PowerUP!

September 12, 2017

To the Metro Nashville Public School Board and Dr. Shawn Joseph:

We are signing this letter as 1,012 representatives of the thousands of parents across
Davidson County who have chosen to send their children to Nashville’s public charter
schools. Our children attend every public charter school in Nashville: East End Prep,
Explore!, Intrepid College Prep, KIPP Academy Nashville, Knowledge Academies, LEAD
Public Schools, Nashville Classical, New Vision Academy, Purpose Prep, RePublic
Schools, Rocketship, Smithson-Craighead Academy, STEM Prep, Strive Collegiate
Academy and Valor Collegiate Academies.

Some of us signed a letter last spring asking for the public charter-focused attacks from
some of your members to stop and for you, our elected school board, to come together and focus on making all Nashville schools excellent.

Since that time we, along with many of our fellow public charter school parents, have been dismayed to see that on June 27, 2017, you were unable (or unwilling) to pass a resolution committing to treat us, our children and our public schools with the same respect as the rest of Nashville’s schools.

And so, as we begin another school year with our children enrolled in MNPS Public Charter Schools, we have come together to proudly support our public charter schools and to send to you a resolution of our own.

Here are OUR commitments related to the education of our children:
We resolve to stand up. We will continue to stand up for our children and for our right to choose the education that best fits their needs. Across our city, families exercise choice every time they buy a home, complete an application, or look at magnet schools. Choice schools that partner with families, offer transportation, and engage communities deserve recognition rather than scorn.
We resolve to speak up. Parents in Nashville deserve to know about the great work happening in our schools and to know that they, too, have choices. Leaders in Nashville deserve to know about our system’s bright spots. We will continue to ask this Board to recognize that our children and families are part of this district and, in many cases, our schools are among the district’s strongest.
We resolve to lift up. Our children deserve to know that their socioeconomic status DOES NOT and WILL NOT define their ability to learn. Our elected officials should use their bully pulpit to highlight what is possible for our city’s most vulnerable children and families. Likewise, we believe that the conversation about schools needs to change. We will model civility by respecting diverse viewpoints, using facts to support our beliefs, and operating with humble spirits. We resolve to never resort to name calling, partial-truths, or libelous attacks.

We hope that our commitments set forth here will inspire you to make a similar commitment to do the job you were each elected to do. We look forward to seeing you commit to a focus on ensuring that ALL Nashville children have the ability to attend great public schools. We look forward to the day when a public school family knows that they can make the best choice for their children without receiving the worst treatment from our elected officials.

Thank you.

1,012 Proud Nashville Public Charter School Parents

Martha Abarca
Salwa Abbas
Abay Abdalla
Nadia Abdalla
Adan Abdi Kokani
Lamees Abdul Shaheed
Bieri Abdulah
Daisy Aboagye
Ebalo Abonga
Dirie Abshir
Muhubo Adan
Edna Adana
Mohamed Aden
Stephani Adkins
Lilian Adqui
Guadalupe Aguilar
Sergio Aguilar
Eman Ahmed
Claudia Ahuet
Kauther Ajaj
Nnodi Ajoku
Gabrielle Akins
Zainar Alaqqad
Delmira Albanez
Ericka Alexander
Saadia Ali
Hibo Ali
Shamso Ali
Whitney Allen
Takiesha Allen
Alisha Allen

Zeinab AlQadree
Ashwak Alrazak
Jassim Alsarhan
Faris Altamimi
Erika Alvarado
Angela Alvarado
Maria Alvarez
Edna Alvarez
Patty Alvarez
Samer Amer
Melissa Amrhein
Hawa Amuri
Natashia Andrews
Lisa Andrews-Young
Marcia Anthony
Dominique Appleton
Sandra Aquilar
Isabel Aranda
Elsa Arevalo
Maria Argentina Calderon
Amron Ari
Hayde Arias
Alene Arnold
Leticia Arredondo
Maria Asela Sanchez
Kathy Ashworth
Kelly Astolos
Francisca Avila
Hany Ayad

Maricruz Ayala
Manel Azer
Heba Aziz
Kalvin Baker
Kathy Baker
Neyvi Balderas
Kara Baldwin
Alexandra Ball
Tomorrow Ballard
Mustefa Bame
Hassan Bangura
Brittany Barbe
Jessica Barefield
Nichelle Barksdale
Laura Barnes
Brittany Barnes
Laura Barnes
Cira Barranco
Veronica Barrera
Carla Barrios Benitez
Barsoum Barsoum
Hanan Basaly
Gopi Basnet
Kenya Bass
Hanaa Basta
Gwendolyn Battiste
Lara Bauchiero
Ashley Baxter
Brenda Bean
Jasmine Bean
Leslie Becker

Tawharrah Behar
Doneisha Bell
Rashad Bell
LaVonda Bell
Jennifer Bender
Yolanda Bernal
Maria Bernale
Veronda Berry
LeQuesha Berry
Claria Bertran
Simon Besada
Aileen Biete
Katashia Bigsby
Miranda Bills
Rebekah Bitzer
Ryan Bitzer
Jeremiah Bivins
Jessica Bivins
Marquita Black
Robyn Blake
Erika Blanco
Ebonie Bluing
Brittani Boleyjack
Jacqueline Booker
Phillip Booker
Faustine Borranco
Samia Botan
Chasity Boyd
Jomekia Braden
Kameron Brainard
Jaronda Braithwaite
Kimberly Branch
Evelia Bravo
Christopher Brenner
Jacqueline Brewster
Lee Broadwell
Melissa Broadwell
Ebony Brodie
Angel Brooks
Courtland Brooks-James
Ashaunda Brown
Sada Brown

Chenera Brown
Jennifer Brown
Amanda Brown
Tangia Bryant
William Bryant
LaToya Bryant
Paige L. Buchanon
DeAngelo Buford
Shiwshia Buford
Cornelia Buntin
Melanie Burnett
Jadia Burns
Lesly Buruca Garcia
Samera Busally
Terri Bush
LeKiecia Butler
Angela Butler
Blanca Calderon
Golding Calix
Eastern Campbell
Kendra Campbell
Trudy Campbell
Tonya Campbell
Sonia Campos
Berneice Cansino
Claudia Cardenas
Dane Carder
Danielle Carder
Jennifer Carlisle
Sandy Carrillo Santos
Morecca Carter
Lemeka Caruthers
Bany Castillo
Gyovanna Castillo
Ana Castillo
Ana Rosa Castro
Maria Chacon
Rose Chamber
Brittany Chapman
Taneshia Chase
Liliana Chavarria
Oralia Chaverria Lopez

Maria Guadalupe Chavez
Teresa Chavez
Teddy Chuquimia
Lillian Cisneros
Erwin Citavez
Andrea Clark
Takarra Clark
Patricia Clark
Shalisa Clayd
Maria Coceros
Tosha Colas
Leslii Congden
Erica Conn
Antonio Contreras
Franklin Corea
Maria Cornejo
Krista Correnti
Brittany Cosby
Gennyfer D. Coss
Jessica Couch
Robert Covington
LaWanda J. Crawford
Andre Crenshaw
LaCrisha Crooms
Christina Crump
Tandrea Crump
Hector Cruz
Pablo Cruz
Ismael Cruz
Virginia Cruz
Maria Cruz Gomez
Margarita Cruz Rodriguez
Silvia Cuellar
Martha Cuellar
Latoya Curly
Antonio Damian
Kellie Dandridge
Roashanda Daniels
Rashonda Daniels
Monica Davidson
Natasha Davidson
Cherielle Davis

Tamekia Davis
Tysheka Davis
Ebony Davis
Kanitha Davis
Esteban De Jesus
Juan Luis de la Cruz
Nancy de Leon
Udom Deu
Mulu Deyo
Maria Diaz
Patricia Diaz
Kim Dickens
Veronika Dickerson
Hamima Dida
Frank Dirr
Twilia Dixon
Breonna Dockins
Devonte Dockins
Cornelio Domingo
Ema Dominguez
Robert Donaldson, Jr
Sherreese Dones
Josephine Donkor
Cheryl Donnell
Natasha Dorsey
Mike Douglas
Sherry Douglas
Shani Dowell
Shannon Dowell
Kristen Downs
Nataleigh Drew
Latoya Dudley
Brittany Duke
Tara Dulin
Heather Dunn
Michelle Durham
Areej Dwikat
Ashley Eades
Kareem Ebied
Philopos Ebrahim
Jason Egly
Kelley Eguakun

Kareen Eleied
Dora Elias
Nevy Ellis
Bernadette Ellsworth
Josh Elrod
Daysi Elvir
Myra Emerton
Tabitha Emerton
Mwangabwoba Jean
Nakia Esaw
Maribel Espinoza
Denia Espinoza
Gladys Estrada
Crystal Evans
Jennifer Evans
Angel Ewing
Farag Fahim
Anna Fahrenholz
John Fahrenholz
Aida Faltus
Rahma Farah
Neven Fares
Tony Farr
Dan Favors
Veda Favors
Andrea Fenderson
Jateka Ferguson
Irma Fernandez
Sara Fernandez
Ethan Fesperman
Dakini Fields
Curtis Fields
Alexandria Figueroa
Jamie Fischer
Monique Fisher
Valerie Fisher
Megan Fitchuk
Jeana Fletcher
Chelsea Florence
Esmerelda Flores
Tina Flores

Ana Flores
Norma Flores
D. Van Ford
Tracy Foster
Seda Franchesa
Derrick Free
Gloribel Fuentes Avalos
Fawzy Gad
Antronica Gaines
Ahi Galal
Rozhan Galnasky
Fabiolo Garcia
Gladis Garcia
Jaqueline Garcia
Kamisha Garcia
Maria Garcia
Adriano Garcia
Abraham Garcia
Maricela Garcia
Yurisa Garcia
Yadira Garcia
Tenisha Gardner
Hortencia Gareia
Alejandra Garibay Ramirez
Jennifer Garner
Javier Garrido Carrasco
Seife Gashaw
Michael Gatson
Abdulameir Gaudan
Tesfaye Gebisso
Samya Gerges
Rasha Gerges
Mariana Gergis
Zara Ghaderi
Rozalen Ghaly
Maria Gijon Jimenez
Leah Gillen
Ronnie Givens
Grace Gleaves
Shaunese Gleaves
Courtney Glenn
Norys Godos

Huda Gold
Concepcion Gomez
Rebecca Gomez
Concepcion Gomez
Ana J. Gonsales
Yelitza Gonzales
Hector Gonzalez
Juana Gonzalez
Margiana Gonzalez
Reyna Gonzalez
Hilda Gonzalez
Zaira Gonzalez
Melinda E. Goodwin
Victoria Gordon
Tabitha Gordon
Dwight Gordon II
Judy K. Gower
Mayra Gracia
Milton Gray
Christina Greer
Felix Gresham
Esmeralda Guereca
Angelica Guerra Garcia
Dolores Guevera
Maria Guillen
Francisco Guzman
Vaneska H
Angel Habib
Ahmad Haidous
Chinee Hall
Dante Hall
Tikiana Hall
Lakesha Hall
Beonke Hambrick
Rocquel Hambrick
Manal Hanna
Leisa Hans
Bethany Hanserd
Bethany Hanserd
Sherickea Hardison
Ebony Harris

Tamica Harris
John Harris
Lashonda Harris
Taylor Harris
Layla Hasan
Farhiyo Hashi
Zahra Hassan
Heath Hatcher
Monica Haugabook
Minnie Hawkins
Jennifer Hayes
Ebenezer Hayford
Tremayne Haymer
George T. Haynes
Jodi Hays Gresham
Carlice Hendrix
Maggie Hendrix
Johanna Hern
Emilio Hernandez
Elizabeth Hernandez
Enriqueta Hernandez
Leticia Hernandez
Maria Hernandez
Amanda Hernandez
Juan Hernandez Sebastian
Soada Hersi
James W Hewlett
Tomeka Hicks
Curtis Hickson
Lee-Ann Higgins
Michael Higgins
Sandra Hill
Mamawah Hill
Brittany A. Hill
Jordan Hines
Angelica Hinojosa Cordero
Simone Hodges
Virginia Holland
Jasmine Holmes
Maria Honorato
Celina Hortado
Jeralyn Horton

Tina Houck
Jason Howarth
Aidan Hoyal
Sade Huddleston
Brittany Hudson
Eustalia Huerta
Shericka Hughes
Keenan Humphrey
Shirelle Humphrey
Fatima Hunter-Brown
Shwan Hussein
Alicianiah Hussein
Yousef Husseini
Alondra Ibanez Martinez
Monica Illescas Palma
Zyara Intisar
Latoya Isaacs
Mariam Ishak
Mahabad Jabbary
Jennifer Jackson
Adrienne James
Donna Jean-Jumeau
Sherae Jefferson
Amor Jimenez
Celia Jimenez
Kendra Johnson
LaTori Johnson
Wykisha Johnson
Tearra Johnson
Chandra Johnson
Danielle Johnson
LaTasha Johnson
Tarleshia Johnson
Tiffany Johnson
Xavier Johnson
Christina Johnson
Joyce Johnson-Gardner
Adele Johnson-Kebe
Crystal Jones
Rochelle Jones
James Jones
Lisa Jones

Torean Jones
Kelvin Jones
Ki’Dejah Jones
Tira Jones
Arita Jones
Felton Jones Jr.
Joycelyn Jordan
Fanta Kallon
Elizabeth Keeler
Patrice Kendrick
JaTavia Kennedy
Teya Kergo
Krystal Keys
LaTonya King
Latonya King
Desiree King
Jackie Klaver
Tara Knight
Mohammed Kokoy
Kofi Kutten
Ebenezer Kwaw-Mensah
Ester Labeb
Halima Labi
Luis Lago
Chiquita Lambert
Cynthia Lamptey
Nii Lamptey
Kayla Lamson
Barbara Lane
Laura LaPrad
Louis LaPrad
German Lara Paredes
Guillermo Larrea
Bassima Lassin
Gaylene Latham
Jason Latham
Myrtesa Lawrence
Shenika Lawrence
Robbie Laymon
Evelin C Lazo
Kelly Lebel
Heather Lee

Kelli Lee
Monterey Lee, Sr.
Shamakia Legges- Lyons
Kris Leggett
Teresa Leggs
Iris Lemus
Karla Leon
Lovie Lester
Natalie Levi-Sousan
Kenia Leyva
Natividad Leyva
Deb Linn
Sarah Litten
Megan Long
Yesenia Lopez
Anayeli Marcia Lopez
Fanny Lopez
Fatima Lopez
Liliana Lopez
Brenda Lopez
Elizabeth Louie
Michael Love
Abigail Lozano
Carina Lozano
Reyna Lozano
Manuel Lozano
Celia Luna
Blanca Luna
Erica Lyons
Margarita Magdaleno
Aldigani Mahamud
Naseema Mahmoud
Kenia Mairena
Irma Maldonado
April Malone
Jose Mancilla
Sheena Maness
Irene Maqueda
Kesha March
Tomika Marks
Maria Marrufo
Lori Marsh

Carly Marshall
Carla Marshall
Geneva Martin
Ashlie Martin
Kathy Martin
Katy Martin
Jorge Martinez
Anwor Marzouk
Shaun Mason
Jude Mason
Stephen Mason
Hanan Masoud
Yossay Matos
Andreus Matthews
Natashia Matthews
Helen Matusala
Shaleeta McAdoo
Angela McCorkle
Kristi McDougal
Kate McGowan
Alisa McKissack
Tiffany McKnight
Sheron McLaurine
Shaneka McLemore
Jade McMath
Brent McMillian
Marcy McMillian
Esther McNeil
Nesreen Mechil
Elida Medina
Robyn Meeks
Ana Melgar
Jorge Melgar
Sandra Mendoza
LaShurida Meredith
Jim Messer
Rob Metcalf
Blair Metcalf
Nely Meza Lagunes
Michael Milad
Jamal Miles
Leslie Miles

Stephanie Miller
Jennifer Miller
Cecilia Miller
Heriberto Miranda
Shaka Mitchell
Stephanie Mitchell
Austin Mitchell
Leslie Mitchell
Tina Mitchell
LaNeise D. Mitchell-Hayes
Dionna Mobley
Janet Mobry
Merima Mohammed
Abdulqadir Mohammed
Muriu Moldanado
Carmen Molina
German Molina
Avikki Monts
Maria A. Moore
Anjanette Moore
Aaronnetta Moore
Anita Moore
Dedrick Moore
Marquita Moore
Tamecia Moore
Rachel Moore-Beard
Leautrice Moorer
Bertha Morales
Rosa Morales
Juan Morales
Karina Moran
Claudia Moreno
Maria Moreno
Akram Morkos
Hanan Morkos
Nicole Morris
Mary Morris
Soheir Mosad
Charasma Moseley
Amina Muhamed
Ashley Muller
Aracely Munguia Lopez

Araceli Munoz Pastrana
Claire Munyankindi
Ahmed Musonera
Jim Myers
Shemekia Myles
Mona Nady
Deepa Najhawan
Lisett Naranjo
Amir Nashed
Mariem Nashed
Dulce Navarro
Georgia Nawa Moreno
Elizabeth Neese
Bethany Neff
Sean Neff
LaDontae Nelson
Lovena Nevato
Phuong Nguyen
Piper Niemann
Anna Niemeyer
Lois Nixon
Rosemary Nkrumah
Mattie Nowlin
Martina Nunez
Mariama Nur
Desiree O’Neill
Issac Oakley
Guadalupe Ochoa
Alysa Ogbeiwi
LeKeisha Oglesby
Aderinsola Okunola
Vincent Onuoha
Ada Ordonez
Lucina Orellana
Ismael Ortiz
Maria Ortiz
Anna Ostrander
Anyson Overton
Michael Overton Sr.
Pat Oyinloye
Celsa Pacheca Trejo
Sharon Paoletta

Antonio Paredes
Sabrina Parker
Lakresha Parker
Bernice Parker
Dominiqutria Parker
Jeff Parker
Onya Parker
Tyrone Parker
Dan Parr
Riya Patel
LeToi Patillo
Arcola Patterson
Sheri Patterson
Kam Pau
Tishana Paulson
Maria Paz
Adriana Pena
Denitha Pendergrass
Lucinda Penney
Aretina Perez
Oliverio Perez
Leocadia Perez
Maria G. Perez
Shemika Perkins
Henry Perkins
Stacie Perry
Terica Peyton
Betty Phetsomphou
Aiden Phillips
Ashley Phillips
Khourimy Phinith
Pamela Pineda
Joao Pinho
Teresah Pinho
Tiffany Pinson
Brenden Pittman
Annie Poag
Corinthian Pointer
Concepcion Ponce
Elia Ponce
Porsha Pope
Zachary Pope

Eric Pope II
Denise Potter
Ashlee Pride
Yadira Prieto
LeSondre’ Proctor
Stephanie Proctor
Mohamed Qasim
Grace Quagraine
Maria I. Quintero
Carlos Ramirez
Lucia Ramirez Jimenez
Yasmin Ramirez Perez
Jose Ramos
Megan Ramos
Evelin Rangel
Jennifer Rauch
Kakali Ray
Jessica Reaves
Orfa Recinos
Karen Reyes
Maria Reyes
Ana Reyes
Elizabeth Reyes
Esthela Reyes Ochoa
Michelle Reyna
Chris Reynolds
Gwen Reynolds
Jessica Ricalday
Jeaneen Richard
Alisha Richardson
Shataria Richardson
Zaquito Richardson
Nick Ridings
Princecilla Ridley
Sandra Riley
Nancy Rios
Elurdes Rios Robles
Rafaela Rivas
Vicenta Rivas
Jose Rivera
Concepcion Rivera
Gerson Rivera

Kelita Rivera Valera
Juana Rivera- Soledad
Lashanda Robbins
Lesha Roberts
Leslie Roberts
Erica Roberts
Ron Roberts
Darlene Robertson
Darlene Robertson
Kimberly Robinson
Charlie Robinson
Alma Robles
Patricia Rocher
Augusto Rodriguez
Veronica Rodriguez
Yanet Rodriguez
Maria Rodriguez
Cindy Rodriguez
Celia Rodriguez
Estela Rodriguez
Jennifer Rogers
Stephanie Rogers
Jose Luis Roman
Alma Romero
Angelica Romero
Maria Romero
Marisol Romero
Rosario Romero
Carlos Romero
Kimberlyn Rose
Lemicah Ross
Lisa Rowan
Mischa Rowland
Sheila Rowland
Ambera Rudquist
Gladis Ruiz
Mariela Ruiz
Narketta Russell
Fredricka Russell
Christopher Rust
Kristina Rust
Tracey Rutherford

Nieves Saavedra
Emmanuel Safari
Fathi Saied
Vasace Sails
Mariam Saleh
Modjie Salmeron
Julie Salyers
Mariano Sana
Eva Sanchez
Lorena Sanchez
Marta Sanchez
Sandra Sanchez
Yanira Sandoval
Gisela Sarabia
Luisa Sawyers
Kathryne Scates
Crystal Schwartz
Julie Schwarz
Tim Schwarz
Dana Scott
Michael Scruggs
Teressa N Seabrook
Alisha Seay
Tabitha Sekura
Jeff Sellers
Tammy Sellers
Julio E. Serano
Noheny Serrano
Veronica Serrano Salinas
Tracey Settles
Reham Shafik
Ron Shaw
Rebecca Shaw
Mervat Shehata
Shanna Shelton
Suzan Shenouda
Tameka Short
LaQuita Shute
Martha Sierra
Francisco Sierra
Araceli Silva
Rose Simmons

Allison Simpson
Susie Simpson
Ethel Simpson
Harry Simpson
Carmen Sims
Amber Smiley
Larry Smith
Theresa Smith
Renita Smith
Tiffany Smith
Jennifer Smith
Jeanette Smith
Nancy Smith
Natasha Smith
Tyrone Smith
Brent Snader
Melinda Snader
Tashi Sneed
Wanda Sneed
Elizabeth Snellings
LaQuisha Soles
Arleth Solis
Isidra Soriano
Fabiola Soto
Alaina Southall
Andre Southall
Williera Sowell
Shade’ Spencer
Romeka Starks
Pamela Staten
Elizabeth Stein
Brandi Stevens
Tarrius Steverson
Latiaa Stewart
Keyonna Stewart
Dorothy Stewart
Renee Stewart
Michelle Stewart
Jerrisha Stockard
Katherine Stone
Reginald Stone
Jennifer Stone

Sherrill Stratford
Keshia Strickland
Dominique Summers
Bonssa Sura
Teresa Swain
Dominique Swanson
Ashley Sweatt
Teade Tagaloa
Shahrazad Taha
Brian Talley
Griselda Tapia
Kim Tatum
Melody Palmer Taylor
Angela Taylor
Vicki Testerman
Sonya Thomas
Sheree Thomas
Auslyn Thomas
I’Kesha Thomas
Lindsay Thomas-Batey
Robin Thompson-Hancock
Fiker Tngegne
Brandy Tode
Saed Tolentino
Sarah Tolentino
Terry Toran
Norma Torres
Maria Torres
Edith Torres Romero
Kerri Toth
Olga Tovar
Donyelle Townsend
Domonique Townsend
Ebony Trammell
Yaneth Trejo
Elona Tribue
Erika Troche
LaShuna Tucker
Yaronda Tucker
Tasha Turner
Kernia Tyler
Chris Unick

Jesus Valenzuela
Martha Valenzuela Fonseca
Maria Valle
Maria Vanatta
Jennifer Vance
Andolyn Vanderpool- Pope
Patricia Vaquera
Amairani Varela
Wendy Vargas
Ignacia Vargas
Mykel Varona
Otilia Vasquez
Deja Vass
Dustin Veazey
Karen Veazey
Abigail Velazquez
Audrey Vernon
Maria Villagomez
Elizabeth Villaneuva
Bonifacio Villanueva
Yolanda Villarreal
Adriana Villeda
Leticia Villeda Lugo
Ruth Villegas
Jalal Wahidi
Judy Walden
Quasia Walker
Amanda Walker
Teresa Walton
Amber Ward
Sonya Ware
LaDeshia Washington
Peytyn Washinton
LaKeith Washum
Nevin Wasif
Charlandra Watson
Damon Weakley, Sr.
Alicia Webb
Terriqua Webster
Yosief Weldeghebriel
David Wells
Meredith Wells

Kim Whitaker
Brooke Widmer
David Widmer
Lily Widmer
Rana Wigdahl
Crystal Wilcox
Denisha Williams
Ke’Andria Williams
Abiola Williams
Desiree Williams
Senora Williams
Emma Williams
Lisa Williams
Roman Williamson
Kellie Williamson
Erica Wilson
Tonya Wilson
Sarah Wilson
Maria Cristina Wiseman
Dereje Woldmeskel
Darren Womack
Amber Woods
DeAundrea Woods
Lakeia Woods
Rosemary Woosley
Jacqueline Wright
Sean Wright
Torror Wyatt
Cari Wymer
Janet Yanez
Tralecia Yarbro
Milad Yosef
Tao You
Tonya Young
Amira Youssif
Kelly Zaimah
Magda Zakaria
Ning Zam
Carlos Zapata
Teresa ZaragozaInsilar Zyara

Insilar Zyara

In Times of Upheaval, Teachers and Spiritual Leaders Calm Minds and Feed Souls

Exactly twenty-eight days ago, filled with anger and a hint of disgust at the display of hatred and depravity at Charlottesville, VA., I tweeted out:

Classroom and The Pulpit

As I wrangled with the events at and surrounding Charlottesville, I couldn’t help but think about today’s youth entering classrooms to learn about the various battles during civil wars when there is no shortage of history-making battles occurring just outside the schoolhouse steps. Since it was Sunday morning, my mind shifted to adults looking to their spiritual leaders for two-thousand-year old answers to modern-day mysteries.

In my mind, the classroom and the pulpit are the most influential platforms in our lives -save for media. Teachers and spiritual leaders have captive, pliable audiences ready and willing to receive instruction and wisdom. These trusted public servants help us think critically about the world in which we live and equip us with the tools to navigate toward a better tomorrow.

I’ve heard from teachers instructed not to mention the events at Charlottesville to students and witnessed teachers on social media working creatively to integrate current events into lesson plans in a valiant effort to satisfy both state and moral obligations.

Thankfully, in the four weeks since that tweet, I’ve been fortunate to experience answers to my questions.

Teaching and Preaching

Last Friday, I joined the ProjectLIT book club at Maplewood High School, where the LIT teacher Jarred Amato leads discussions on the book of the month, books relevant to current day issues and to the students he teaches. Two days later, I visited a church whose theme for September is “Timeless Principles for Perilous Times” and the sermon for the day was “Silence is Not an Option.” The unvarnished, powerfully delivered sermon offered by Pastor John Faison, Sr. of Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church is one for the ages and just the tea the nation needs right now. In the words of Pastor Faison, “silence recycles injustice.” Amen.

Amato and Faison are not the lone agents of courage and compassion who have accepted the enormous and unpopular responsibility of influencing social justice change through their respective platforms. And since Charlottesville our country was again shaken, this time by the president’s announcement to dissolve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), removing protections for undocumented youth.

In response to the DACA debacle, I’m reminded of a group of teachers, the DREAM keepers, and the strong message widely distributed defending their current and former DACA students. I also think of Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin courageously tweeting statements of unconditional love for DACA recipients and denouncing actions against them.


I am grateful for these acts of love for our sisters and brothers by protesting injustice through teaching and sharing. We need more of it.


There’s a (Project)LIT Movement Spreading Like Wildfire and I’m Here For It

For several months now I’ve been following Jarred Amato’s crazy book club antics on Twitter. Like, this dude had the wild idea of setting up a book club introducing books relevant to the students he teaches at Maplewood High School. Further, he opened up the club to members of the community who are afforded rare opportunities to interact with students  eager to share their points of view. 

If that’s not wild enough for you, Mr. Amato collects thousands of donated books and sets up little libraries around Nashville’s most distressed communities. Sounds silly, right?

Mr. Amato is white male teacher serving a population of mostly students of color and  has made reading popular through the study of books with modern-day social justice themes. Merging the importance of reading and offering a platform to make sense of the world many students find themselves, Mr. Amato has launched a movement. 

A movement wonderfully named ProjectLIT. Obviously, LIT is a play on words by using today’s “lit” when referring to something incredible or on fire while evoking the word “literature.” (“Lit” chart by generation: 90’s babies think “da bomb”; 80’s peeps think “fye” or “rad”, 70’s cats think “dynomite!”)

Mr. Amato downplays his brilliance in kickstarting this reading revolution by saying “it’s just so easy!” Yet, this easy little project has spread (dare I say ‘like wildfire’) to other Nashville schools and Tennessee school districts. 

I’m wildly impressed with the work of Jarred Amato and ProjectLIT community. I just had to meet him and check out their monthly book club this morning at Maplewood. This month’s book was All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. 

While I did not participate as a book club member but rather as a spectator, I was so inspired by the students that I’m signing on and will be back in October!

Next month’s book is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I’m there for it! The young ladies in my group expressed their excitement about getting started on this book which is not at all surprising because after all the author probably reminds them of someone. That person they see in the mirror. Beautiful. 

I look forward to sharing more information about ProjectLIT and Mr. Amato soon! In the meantime, I’ll be somewhere reading a ProjectLIT book club-approved book. 

NOTE for educators: follow and participate in #ProjectLITChat Sundays at 6pm CST.

The fearless leader of the most LIT book club in the state!

My new LIT TRIBE! We made a pact to read every single page of the next month’s book club pick The Hate U Give.
We’re ready for October!

Parents: Ignore Shiny Distractions, Focus On Student Progress and School Performance

“What parents really want to see are high-quality schools.”

The above quote is attributed to Jana Carlisle, Metro Schools’ Chief of Staff in a Tennessean article by Jason Gonzalez.  And if you listen, the same words can be heard in four-part harmony throughout Davidson County’s 525 square miles. 

I’ve talked with a number of parents in recent weeks who just want a school that will enhance their child’s greatness. And they care little about the kind of school it is. Yet, the subject of charter schools owns the airwaves and internets, whether they are being trashed by school board members or being blamed for the problems of traditional public schools by — ahem, school board members.

Parents: in the words of my ‘hood – don’t fall for the okey doke!

Shiny Objects With No Substance

Dr. Shawn Joseph, Nashville’s director of schools is now 13 months into his tenure and is naturally looking for things on which to hang his hat, successes. Unfortunately, I’m unable to tie any real outcomes to the current administration. That isn’t easy to write or admit after going to bat for the director last year after a most unfriendly welcome early in his tenure.

While I’m coming to grips with the truth, it’s equally troubling to witness accessorized distractions in the form of innovative ideas that are no more than a band-aid when a cure is sorely needed. For instance, according to this article, Metro Schools is dropping the plan to remove 5th grade from middle schools which currently holds grades five through eight. The article also looks at the twenty under-enrolled schools under the threat of closures.

When the director first introduced the rehashed idea of reconstructing middle school, I offered no energy, because we’ve done that. Twice in the last decade. It yields no tangible results.


Now we are reading about the possibility of closing schools. Really? School leaders are keen to the response of parading such propositions around for public consumption. Especially closing schools. Closing a school, even one that’s is not doing well by children academically and woefully under-capacity will create the worst kind of acrimony thereby creating the best kind of distraction.

I know you’re thinking I’m an old crazy lady who sits around the house with her cat and dog dreaming up wild conspiracy theories about education in Nashville. You would be right. But check this out anyway.

Stay Focused On What Matters

TNReady scores are out. We are waiting to get district and school-level results and we know already the state, on the whole, did poorly. Remember the chart distributed by the TNDOE celebrating End-of-Course “increases across all subjects?” It was a “creative” representation of student performance across the state setting the stage for the results we are seeing today. BOLO (be on the lookout).

As always, stay woke. Don’t get distracted by anything unrelated your child’s achievement because:

“What parents really want to see are high-quality schools.”



2018 School Board Race: Using Battle Scars to Chart the Path to Victory for Every Public School Student

Remember how vulnerable and scared you felt watching the nuclear war tough talks between the president of the United States and the leader of North Korea? It was reminiscent of playground bullies battling to control all areas in and around the monkey bars and seesaw while the other children stand on the sidelines too fearful to play until one of the bullies backs down or gets the crap beat out of him.  

From the White House to city government, we are vulnerable to the decisions, (good, bad, and evil) made by our elected officials. This is why your vote matters.

2018 School Board Race

In one year, Nashville will be preparing to swear in newly elected members of the school board. If history serves as a guide, the newly elected and re-elected members will be exhausted and bloodied, but full of false pride that their “side” won. (what about the kids, though?)

Look, we have an opportunity to learn from the political slugfest that was the 2016 Nashville school board race. Over the next four weeks, Volume and Light will go on a journey in hopes of offering a path to victory for those standing on the sidelines.

Because we must do it differently this time. Many charter schools parents feel vulnerable to the vicious attacks on their children’s schools. Traditional public school parents believe too much attention is lavished upon such a small percentage of the total school population. They are right. 

We must never forget how it makes us feel to watch our leaders fight for control of our future without our permission or best interest.

The four-part series will begin with a look back at the School Board Battle of 2016 with a blog I wrote just after the election, one that I have not been able to revisit. It was that bad.

Next week we will look at the districts up for grabs.

The Friendliest City in America Got Downright Mean in Its School Board Elections This Summeroriginally posted on Education Post August 23, 2016

Nashville. The city of It. This summer Nashville overflowed with It, as we celebrated the arrival of wine in grocery stores, the largest firework display in America, and a never-ending stream of music, which, like the Cumberland River, courses through our hometown. Oh, yeah, we’re friendly as all get-out, too. Like, the friendliest.

A visitor might hardly believe there are deep civic divides in such a shining city. But this summer we saw painful polarization in our education community. If we don’t find a way to tamp down the vitriol of this summer’s school board elections, it will tarnish It City. Worse, we will slide farther from our goal of better educating our young people.


Summer got off to a collaborative start, when the school board, mayor and a posse of politically plugged-in Nashvillians appointed Dr. Shawn Joseph, 41, director of schools, the first African American to hold the position in Nashville.

Leaving Maryland’s affluent Prince George’s County to tackle Metro’s socio-economically diverse system, which is plagued more by a fractious school board than by actual district performance, Joseph wisely negotiated a clause in his contract to set the tone for communication going forward:

…the Board, individually and collectively, shall promptly refer to the Director, orally or in writing, for his study and recommendation any and all criticisms, complaints, suggestions, communications or other comments regarding the Director’s performance of his duties of the operation of the MNPS.

In other words, you got a problem, you bring it to me. The end.

But what looked like the beginning of our happily-ever-after came to a screeching halt as school board races revved up and Nashville, the friendliest town in America, got downright mean.

The issue? Charter schools. I won’t bore you with the sordid details, and, honestly, I’m not confident in my ability to provide an unbiased account due to my participation in some of the campaigns. However, there is no shortage of reporting on this subject in local and national media.

It was this podcast by national education blogger Citizen Stewart and national education writer Peter Cook, whose granular color commentary of our election forced me to look at our dysfunction from an outsider’s perspective. That’s when I realized that Nashville’s It-ness is like a beautifully manicured lawn. It tells only part of the story, while we work like hell to keep our guests from seeing our dirt.


Depending on which side of the charter argument you embrace, the dirt of this election cycle was either loads of “outside” money dumped into school board races or middle-class leaders working to kill educational opportunity known to benefit Black and poor children.

When the votes were cast and the slate of charter-friendly candidates was vanquished, the refrain “dark money loses and public schools win” littered my social media timelines. The language implied that the thousands of students in Nashville’s charter schools were not part of our public school community.

What does that headline say to the parents of students in charter schools? It says their voices and choices don’t matter.

In an election cycle that was infamously dirty, that message may be the dirtiest part of all.


After a long hot summer knocking on doors, making hundreds of phone calls, and speaking with parents in schools of all stripes, I’m more certain than ever that the voices of choice are missing from the conversation. If we are to make lasting and profound change in our schools—to meet the needs of all families—we must hear all their voices.

So we must ask what accounts for the silence. Is it because we’re not inviting these voices into the conversation? Is it because we are drowning out voices we don’t agree with? Is it because we are not welcoming enough? Is it because we are making half-hearted attempts to engage in meaningful ways? Or is it—gasp—because we really don’t believe these voices are valuable to the discussion?

Until we answer these questions, battle lines will remain in place and our children will lose.


To ensure success, we must bring all parents from the margin into the fold. We must believe in our hearts that their voices and experience matter.

A parent armed with information is an empowered parent, a ready-made partner in an educational process that leads to the success of students and schools. Furthermore, parents should absolutely seek out learning centers that best fit their children’s needs, and they should be celebrated for their efforts rather than criticized for their choice.

Metro Schools is rich with options, and parents understand the importance of finding the right fit with a healthy acceptance of charters’ role in this narrative.

At Metro Schools, there is a school for EVERY family in our district, no matter what children want to learn, how they want to learn, where they want to learn or when. There is a choice for everyone, and with one application, the vast array of school choices are at your fingertips.

From this point forward, I pledge to do my part. Gone are the days of sitting on the sideline complaining while participating in meaningless Twitter battles that serve to boost egos rather than student achievement.

So, I’m looking for a few good voices. Voices of choice who will have the courage to promote a parent’s right to choose, encourage others to exercise this right, and serve as a support system.

If we truly believe in public schools, then we believe in the role parents play—no matter their choice.


Tennessee’s Literacy Initiative Must Work Quickly for Today’s Students

In 2025, seventy-five percent of Tennessee’s third graders will read at grade level. At the present, not even half of third graders are there. This Chalkbeat article shares the good news of Tennessee’s year-old effort to boost reading proficiency with the addition of literacy coaches to school districts that sign on to the initiative.

So far, 99 out 146 school districts are part of the literacy initiative as it begins its second year. Unfortunately, we don’t know if the reading coaches hired in the initiative’s first year made an impact on reading scores, because, you know, no 2017 scores as of yet. Another blog. Another time. But here’s hoping. If Candice McQueen is willing to expand the program, maybe she knows something we don’t.

The Future is Now

Education officials ALWAYS speak in terms of long-term goals that really only benefit the reputation of the system. Think about it: in eight years Tennessee promises all but 25% of its third graders will be able to read at grade level. We are preparing for partial success of students who have yet to be born, but it’s good to know most will be able to read.

What about today’s living, breathing 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders who are not reading at grade level? I’m eager to compare the scores of 2015’s third graders and 2017’s fifth graders (same students), these students have just entered 6th grade. See how that works? Accountability requires that we understand the current situation to prepare for tomorrow, whether it’s eight years, eight months, or eight days. Time is not on our side.

Reading to Learn

We know students learn to read in K-2nd grades and begin reading to learn in 3rd grade. To put it plainly, the expectation is that students have mastered basic reading skills by 3rd grade. Students must be able to read and understand what they’ve read in order to learn other subjects.

So when I hear an 8th-grade teacher talk about having to re-work her lesson plans because half of her students showed up on the first day reading at a fourth-grade level –well, that’s quite troubling. 

I’m not knocking the literacy initiative or the 2025 goal, but we must work fast for our older students who continue to matriculate without basic reading skills.

Read the entire Chalkbeat article here.