Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rezoning fears

If, like me you were unable to attend last evening's public meeting with the MNPS BOE at East Literature you're going to have to read the City Paper as the Tennessean has NO coverage this morning about this meeting. The CP gets kudos for turning the story around in time for a breakfast read but I'm growing tired of reading the phrase "some board members" which has become a stock phrase as of late. I'd like to know which board members. We've got elections coming up and voters need to know what these folks are saying in order to make informed decisions about who to keep on the board.

Quotes like this from the leader of the BOE come across as solid fence sitting in preparation for an August re-election campaign.

Board chair Marsha Warden , said the debate is rife with “competing values.” On the one hand, research supports the academic value of diversity in classrooms, she says. But on the other, neighborhood schools — while they would likely reduce diversity — could improve parental involvement that Warden says is one of the strongest indicators of a child’s success.
The problem here is that those who must make a decision are afraid of making it. They fear 'segregation' more than they fear 'uneducated'. The uneducated don't vote or hold you accountable for ruining their lives. Instead of bowing to the diversity crowd let's figure out how to make these schools meet the needs of THEIR students. Yes it's not fair that some schools may need more money for special teachers/tutors, building maintenance and counseling that will help families help their children to be better students. But what's really not fair is promising parents and taxpayers that you'll educate students and not doing so.

9 comments:

Nashteach said...

The problem here is that those who must make a decision are afraid of making it.

Then, as much as possible, we shouldn't let them. The choice should be up to parents. Those who want diversity can choose diverse schools; those who want schools close to home can choose those. Now, if, when we talk about neighborhood schools, we mean schools exclusive to the kids in that neighborhood and no one else, that is unacceptable. Surely no one means that though.

They fear 'segregation' more than they fear 'uneducated'.

No, they fear 'segregation' means the poor will be 'uneducated' while the wealthier kids will receive quality education. What they fail to deal with is that families making choices outside of MNPS (whether private or the 'burbs) are creating a segregated school system that the board will have no power to repair. What they fear is already happening. If something is to be done about it, we can't cling to the old ways- either of them. Both segregation and forced desegregation have failed because school assignment is in the hands of the bureaucracy, not the hands of parents. In a system this large, the values Mrs. Warden speaks of do not have to be "competing values" at all. It doesn't have to be "either-or"; and in this third option, some of the pressure of school assignment is off their backs, so their indecisiveness matters less.

din819go said...

Kay and Nashteach -- thank you!

Yes, let's make all of our schools choice schools. We know that parents that are responsible for seeing their children get to school as well as choose their school tend to be more involved in their children's education and therefore their success.

Sadly, Nashville long ago became a two tiered education city. We have parents that get in the academic magnets (probably need more of them if the board does not raise the quality of education and expectations of students in the zoned schools), parents that can afford private education and send their children there and parents that can and do move out of Nashville for a better education expereince but still work in the city. These families are all taking advantage of the choices available to them.

Now, to make choice available to the remaining families. In addition, teachers and administrators need to have higher expectations for all students and stop coddling them based upon any disability.

Furthermore, we need excellent teachers in each classroom of EVERY school - all magnet schools included. I believe we need to pay teachers more based upon experience, education and success in the classroom. I believe we can save money if we do this and switch from a pension plan (that few in the real world have) to a defined benefit plan.

By making more schools choice schools we can get out a lot of the transportation costs. Parents can choose neighborhood schools and buses can run abbreviated routes rather than running across town and back and forcing Hill Middle to change its opening time for 15 minutes.

We need to get creative in the way education is delivered in this city. I believe we need the mayor to take over the schools (before the state does) and appoint a board that will roll up their sleves and do what is best for the kids! Kids first, adults second.

Thanks again --

JJ Ross said...

Kay, it struck me that Marsha Warden's understanding of what "research" supports, leaves much yet to be learned:
"On the one hand, research supports the academic value of diversity in classrooms, she says. But on the other, neighborhood schools — while they would likely reduce diversity — could improve parental involvement that Warden says is one of the strongest indicators of a child’s success."

There are more than 1,000 things education research suggests.
See "School Work Isn't Working" for details.

We make ourselves crazy and squander unconscionable quantities of money, effort and good will, just trying to include and balance them all when research consistently shows that the BIG predictor of a child's school success is family and neighborhood demographics (education and income levels) rather than any school and student body demographics.

The community of the CHILD, not the school, matters most.
So rezoning isn't all it's cracked up to be no matter how you do it. The soundest research-based answers would take money and education strategies TO homes and parents and neighbors, not take money and parents FROM neighborhoods for teachers and schools -- no matter which school it is next year or who decides.

But if all that money just has to stay in the schools, then how about some of this research for the Board to claim as good works?
"The Future of Education -- and Everything Else"

JJ Ross said...

Aha - Nance tips me off that the NYT is writing about poverty and academic performance for Sunday:
"IN GAPS AT SCHOOL, WEIGHING FAMILY LIFE"

Kay Brooks said...

JJ wrote: The community of the CHILD, not the school, matters most.

And we need to keep that at the forefront.

Kay Brooks said...

NashTeach wrote: Now, if, when we talk about neighborhood schools, we mean schools exclusive to the kids in that neighborhood and no one else, that is unacceptable. Surely no one means that though.

No, not exclusive. But certainly their zoned school.

"and in this third option, some of the pressure of school assignment is off their backs, so their indecisiveness matters less."

Really. I'm sooo longing for a leader on the board to make an appearance.

Kay Brooks said...

ding819go wrote: Kids first, adults second.

Absolutely. But until we get some adults on the BOE ready and willing to tell the other adults with vested interests that their 'needs' will have to take a back seat to the needs of the children nothing will significantly improve. The adults with needs are well organized, monied and can deliver votes. Even those organizations that say they speak for children have disappointing agendas of their own.

I said it during my campaign for BOE and it's still true...if we keep electing the same people to run the system, we'll keep getting the same results.

Nashteach said...

I'm sooo longing for a leader on the board to make an appearance.

No kidding. I just don't understand why they wanted the job if they're satisfied being so reticent. We'll see what happens with the Director's evaluation next month...

din819go said...

Great comments --

jj -- thanks for the links!!