ESSA Occupies ASD’s Territory Meanwhile Students Are Sidelined 

In this Chalkbeat article about the ever-decreasing role of Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) in school turnaround, one can only deduce that the students – 98% of whom are black and brown children – don’t have a fighting chance. 

I’m gravely concerned about students in perennially failing schools and ESSA’s lack of urgency in righting the ships. 

Under the new federal education law called the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, Tennessee must give local districts the opportunity to improve priority schools on their own before swooping in with its most rigorous intervention: ASD takeover.

Very simply: children do not have time to wait while adults figure this thing out. 

Shouldn’t Parents Get a Say Before School Board Blocks Charter Schools?

According to the school board agenda for this week’s meeting, they are voting on a moratorium of any future charter schools in Nashville.

Never mind the political agendas at work behind this resolution. The bigger problem is that the agenda from last week gave no notice to the public about the appearance of the resolution. And the text of the resolution itself didn’t appear until a few hours ago.

Nashville education blogger Zack Barnes rightfully points out the lack of public transparency here and questions the motives of the resolution’s author (ahem, Will Pinkston, I may have mentioned him before). While Miranda Christy proclaims in the Tennessean that the resolution lacked adequate public notice.

And who is this “public” that deserves notice anyway? Parents and families, that’s who. The ones who need more and better public school options for their kids. The kind of public schools that can sometimes be provided by high-quality charter school operators.

What’s Really Going On

Obviously I agree with Zack and Miranda, the public needs a chance to be part of the democratic process. But I also know how the sausage is made.

See, I used to work at the district, and I’ve been party to publishing these school board agendas myself. Typically, there are two reasons an agenda item would show up this late. Usually it’s innocent—there’s just a bureaucratic maze that can take time to navigate, getting all the right signatures and sign-offs. Or sometimes, also innocently, an item of urgency springs up and is time-sensitive; requiring immediate board approval.

But another, more rare but insidious reason for a resolution to pop up without notice is simply to avoid pushback and scrutiny.

My sausage-maker’s experience tells me that’s what’s going on here.

But whatever the reason, parents must be part of the discussion. And that means taking adequate time and the proper steps to ensure they are.

A resolution to halt charter schools, some of which could provide needed public options to Black and Brown families in MNPS, is a big deal. Parents deserve to be at the table.

There’s No Shortage of DeVos Defenders 

Herein references another pro-DeVos article, this time from the Wall Street Journal. Deputy Editor Ingrid Jacques of Detroit News responds to Ms. DeVos’s critics

Michigan’s charter model has also been criticized for its purported lack of accountability. Critics claim that schools aren’t held to high standards. But more than 100 charters have been closed in the last 20 years, both for academic and financial reasons. Not a single traditional public school in the state has ever closed because of poor performance.

Call it serendipity or a coincidence, but check out this piece published December 6, 2016 by Daniel Quisenberry for the Fordham Institute with a perfect response to the article referenced in my post titled Baited By Another Charter Hit Piece and Discovering Common Ground.

Good stuff.

Therefore, if we assume that the policy solutions applied in Detroit and to Michigan charters have any bearing on DeVos’s future plans for the nation, her priorities would comprise support for performance-based accountability, authorizer accountability, automatic-closure for low performing charters, charter autonomy, and data driven coordination of charter openings and closings.

Baited By Another Charter Hit Piece and Discovering Common Ground

Scrolling upon the tweet introducing this article in the Detroit Free Press about Betsy DeVos and Michigan charters, I could smell the charter hate through my iPhone. So I scrolled on. And then back. Baited!

Life is interesting when you allow yourself to be open to dissenting views- you might discover common ground. Which is exactly what happened reading this article. 

The reporter does a yeoman’s job criticizing DeVos for picking and choosing data that best fits her narrative while doing the exact same thing for this article. However, here’s where our paths meet:

Someone focused on outcomes for Detroit students might have looked at the data and suggested better oversight and accountability.

But just this year, DeVos and her family heavily pressured lawmakers to dump a bipartisan-supported oversight commission for all schools in the city, and then showered the GOP majority who complied with more than $1 million dollars in campaign contributions.

The Department of Education needs a secretary who values data and research, and respects the relationship between outcomes and policy imperatives.

And on this Sunday morning, that deserves an AMEN. 

Yes, You Should Be Afraid to Run for Nashville School Board. But You Should Do It Anyway!

Don’t get me wrong, I am good friends with most of the school board members. I do believe most of them are good people who really do love the babies.

Maybe it’s too early for board members whose terms are up in 2018 to decide whether they will run again. But it’s a great time for prospects to scavenge the landscape.

And yes, I mean scavenge, because the 2016 board race back in August didn’t actually end until this week. And it left a path of scorched earth and burned spirits.

Should I Be Scared?

I strongly encourage you to think about running for school board. (I might even start a sign-up sheet right here on the blog!) But…heed my warning.

To recap: A group of “concerned citizens” (Zack Barnes says it best here) filed illegal campaigning charges against Stand for Children, its Nashville director Daniel O’Donnell, and school board candidates Miranda Christy, Thom Druffel, Jackson Miller and Jane Meneely. After four months, the post-election nightmare finally ended, but not without sending a strong cautionary message (See Miranda’s story) to anyone who hopes to bring new ideas and a focus on children to the Nashville school board.

And hey, this could be you!

I know, I’m a terrible saleslady—what with telling the brutal truth and all. But here’s the thing: nearly 90,000 children need adults with the capability to make decisions that positively affect the trajectories of their lives. We need some bold community members to come stick up for the children—not the adults or the institutions or the entrenched system.

So, if this is you, be afraid. Be very afraid.

And do it anyway.