Thursday, August 31, 2006

Today's must read

Regardless of whether you agree with his politics or not you should do yourself a favor and add Ben Cunningham's Taxing Tennessee site to your RSS feed. His guest blogging elsewhere has only made many of us wonder why he hadn't created his own blog--well, thank goodness--he finally has. You're going to be bookmarking from Ben and glad you did. And if you accidentally discover he's an OK Joe and not as whacked out as some on the other side of the political spectrum make him out to be--all the better.

Yes, he's going to keep you updated on tax efforts here and across the nation but also much more. If you're not into taxes and politics the tastier tidbits from Ben's Internet buffet include:

Google Book: Gutenberg was good--but this is Google folks.
25Gigs of free online storage--who couldn't use more virtual closet space?
Obituary info--family sluthes, heads up.
Marley Money--proving even bad hair decades doesn't hold some back
They do so have a small--now the secret's out.
The Fauxtoshop Diet--sign me up.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Ben. It's good to see you here.

(Hat tip Bill Hobbs)

Whose neighborhood?

You gotta wonder just who these folks are working for when, in regard to zoning changes, they're quoted in today's City Paper as saying:

Meanwhile, the Metro Planning Department still believes such mass downzoning is not a good thing — it makes duplexes a limited resource at a time when more and more people are moving into Nashville and want a variety of housing options for reasons of convenience and cost, according o the department.
Customers will still buy these, [real estate broker Many] Wachtler said, but residents relocating from Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles in search of housing at about $500,000 “want new, and they want in town — so the only way to do that is to get two [houses] on the lot.”
Councilmen Jim Shulman and Lynn Williams are both spending a lot of time trying to save their neighorhoods from these out-of-towners. CM Williams explains the neighbors' concern by saying:
“It is the character of the neighborhood they bought into,” which they wish to maintain, she said.
Indeed. I wish them success at preserving their neighborhood.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Absentee landlords

I'm glad to see a modest proposal to ensure that the very people that help craft and manage Metro policies are going to have to live under them. Councilman Charlie Tygard is introducing legislation to the Metro Council that would require

Mayor’s Office employees and employees of the Metro Council office to live within Davidson County if they earn $100,000 or more annually (City Paper)
Falling outside this legislation but of serious concern:
The statistics showed that by far the city’s public safety departments employ the highest number of workers who live outside Nashville: 432 police employees live outside the county, receiving about $21.3 million in annual salary dollars, and 526 fire workers live outside the county, earning approximately $28.4 million in annual salaries, according to the statistics.

In addition, six Metro department heads do not live in Davidson County, as well as six employees of the 39-member Mayor’s Office. In total, roughly 27 percent of Metro employees live out-of-county, receiving about $124 million of $413 million in total salary dollars Metro pays annually.
Allowing employees to live elsewhere has created a form of absentee landlordism. Imagine what having 432 extra police officers living in our neighborhoods could do to our crime rates. Imagine the improved response time when 526 emergency workers are closer to us in the event of a natural disaster. Many of them have had to make the difficult decision of choosing to live in the city they care for and providing the best education possible for their children--a very hard choice indeed.

Missing from this list of employee groups is teachers and support staff not living in Davidson County. Other than property tax rates nothing impacts our city like the schools and when 28.6% of our teachers are not putting their own children in the system they help craft and many not even living in the city we have a serious problem. A few people fussed at me in my school board race regarding my own children not being in the system--why the silence and even support for these folks?

When these people leave the county they are not part of the natural pressure that would be created to force change in our schools and government. These people know the systems intimately and they're choosing to leave. We've got to wonder why.

On a related note Ben Cunningham's Tennessee Tax Revolt group has had their signatures certified and their initiative to allow voters a direct voice on property tax increase will be on November's ballot.

Don Driscoll, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 205 that represents Metro employees and who opposes the measure, said he could not say whether the union would take any legal action if the measure passes. Both Metro and the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office have expressed doubts about the concept’s constitutionality.

Still, Driscoll was biting in his attacking of the idea, saying he believes it could damage the city’s education and health care systems. (City Paper)

Perhaps if more of these employees actually lived and paid property taxes in the city Mr. Driscoll's concern for his union members could be mitigated. Regardless, I believe our city would be better off with both CM Tygard's and Mr. Cunningham's proposals.

Monday, August 28, 2006

MNPS Maps and charts

Encouraged by a conversation with parents over at Nashville PTO Talk I spent most of this morning updating the chart page at The new charts are scanned copies of information I received from MNPS Student Assignment Services while on the BOE.

You'll find maps of private schools students, Free And Reduced Meal (FARM) students, population v. MNPS enrollment, students by race and even Hume-Fogg & MLK students by property values.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

MNPS enrollment figures

I posted these figures as a part of a NashvillePTOTalk list thread regarding marketshare. I received these from Student Assignment Services while a member of the BOE. I've added the % of Population column.

Year MNPS Enrollment Nashville Population % of Pop
1961 75,884
1962 78,577

1963 82,340

1964 85,800

1965 87,823

1966 89,937

1967 90,834

1968 93,107

1969 93,720

1970 95,789 448,003 0.213813
1971 95,524

1972 88,451

1973 85,406

1974 83,851

1975 81,441

1976 80,165

1977 77,998

1978 76,016

1979 73,830

1980 71,662 447,811 0.160027
1981 68,837

1982 66,734

1983 66,328

1984 63,765

1985 63,162

1986 63,346

1987 65,843

1988 66,325

1989 66,408

1990 66,623 510,784 0.130433
1991 67,140

1992 67,580

1993 69,176

1994 70,248

1995 70,481

1996 68,600

1997 70,679

1998 70,677

1999 69,685

2000 69,579 569,891 0.122092
2001 68,768

2002 69,938

2003 70,028

2004 70,759

2005 71,458 602,679 0.118567
2006 73,144

Friday, August 25, 2006

AYP appeals

At last week's AYP briefing at Kirkpatrick Elementary I asked Dr. Garcia which schools were having their status appealed. At the time he didn't know.

Just now I've received the list of schools that are having their Annual Yearly Progress appealed from Paul Changas, Director of Assessment and Evaluation for Metro Nashville Public Schools. Here's the list:

Brookmeade Elementary
Cohn ALC
Glengarry Elementary
Goodlettsville Middle
Lane High School
J. B. Whitsitt Elementary
Martha Vaught Middle
High School
High School
Stratton Elementary

He further stated that these appeals should be resolved some time next week.

Nashville's Big Dig

Shades of Boston's Big Dig and Memphis' Mud Island. Last night dreamers revealed a plan to create our own Panama Canal in Nashville. I don't think so.

"Not many cities are actually making their rivers wider." said Gavin McMillan on of the planners. Tennessean
Well, there's a reason for that. Let's name a few.

$292 million dollars. And no, just because you can get federal dollars for this project doesn't mean it's free. Where do people think those federal dollars come from? From mere citizens in one way or another. Any taxpayer whose been around nearly any time at all knows that there is no way that's what this project will actually cost 'just' $292 million. In the end it will be appreciably more.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I know that many have considered that recycling center a eyesore. Well get over it. It's legitimate and honest work. Try seeing it in a more positive light. Steiner-Liff (PSC now) has been there quite some time and were reducing, reusing and recycling long before it was cool. I and many other women I know clothed out children from the fabric bins that used to be there. We're not the only Nashvillians that dumped broken appliances there grateful to know that it wasn't going to a landfill. Let's spin that site as proof positive that for decades Nashville has been doing its part in the war on waste.

Catering to a Jamestown mentality. One of the lessons my children get from the founding of Jamestown is that when the swells don't pull their weight and focused on recreation instead of the essentials and the town suffered greatly as a result. When you've got a segment of your population focused on how to have fun and catering to those focused on having fun you're in potential danger. In an economic downturn what's going to be the first thing to go? Jobs at PSC or boat sales and Titans tickets?

Mud Island. Please.

Where were councilmembers? They were down at the Planning Commission meeting that was scheduled for just about the same time. I was there too. My invitation from Metro Planning to this meeting came just about 48 hours before this big dig unveiling. I e-mailed back and fussed about the lack of notice and the conflict with the Planning Commission meeting. I got no response. This conflict came off as if they didn't really want some folks to come. Now I know why.

Long term. Do we have any guarantees that when this dig is finished in 15 years or so, and you know just like the money the timeframe will grow, we'll still have a contract with the Titans for the use of the stadium? And when the Titans decide that they need a new stadium have we dug ourselves into a hole that we can't get out of?
A final master plan, paid for with a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and $200,000 from the Metro Parks Department, is scheduled to be presented in December. City Paper
Well, there's another $400,000 we'll never see again and could have been put to better use. I wonder how many policemen, teachers, emergency room visits or sidewalks that would have provided?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Magnet shutout

Bernie Driscoll's magnet school effort isn't going away and gets some support from the Tennessean this morning in an editorial headlined "Why the magnet shutout?".

School authorities point out that current policy says the roster of students for school closes on the first day of school. But parent Bernie Driscoll asks why schools can't create leeway so if a student moves or decides not to attend the magnet school, another student could fill that seat. Given the intense desire among students and their parents to be part of magnet schools, filling in those spots would appear to be common sense.
Ah, yes, common sense.
Driscoll says he's a "loudmouth" in raising the issue, but maybe a loudmouth is what the schools need on this issue, because it really shouldn't be so controversial.
I'm with Bernie on this and we're still waiting to hear why this policy is necessary and should not be changed. Dr. Garcia?

CompStatting schools

Considering that MNPS with over 73,000 students is a fair sized population I'm a little surprised to learn that we're just now considering what looks to me like a mini MPD CompStat program to track discipline issues.

Back in June CM Pam Murrey hosted a meeting in Cleveland Park to discuss the grave situation at Maplewood and how the community might help turn things around. At that meeting I, as a BOE member, asked Ralph Thompson, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, for crime information about Maplewood. He wasn't able to provide it. He did say that new statistics were expected shortly and that he'd have to go through it before he could provide the information needed. He has since managed to give me a few numbers but nothing comprehensive.

From today's City Paper we learn that a free program call School COP (Crime Operations Package) is being considered. I would have thought, given the success of CompStat techniques in Nashville, East Nashville specifically, we could have been doing this all along.

Of course, just like real life, if citizens/students don't report incidents they don't get logged and patterns and needs are not revealed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Williamson County leaves TSBA

The Williamson County Schools are unsatisfied with the Tennessee School Boards Association and has decided they'll use the $8,547 in dues for something else this year.

According to a brief article on page 2B of this morning's Tennessean:

"There are other organizations the school district could belong to, said Schools Director Becky Sharber."
"[School Board member Mark] Gregory said TSBA needs a wake-up call and WCS would deliver it. All 12 members voted not to pay the dues."
Very interesting.

Update of BOE meeting 8/22/06

The MNPS board secretary confirmed that the wording for GP3.10 which passed 9-0 on the consent agenda was the same one discussed at the last BOE meeting and pulled by me for a specific vote. At that time the board voted to remove it all together and now this board has reinstated it without discussion.

"Facilitating timely and efficient communications with the administration and constituents by offering to each Board member the use of a district provided laptop or a residential fax line with fax machine.”
She also provided me with the committee appointments made by Chair Pam Garrett

Charter Schools Committee
Connie Williams [ Executive Director of PENCIL Foundation] and
Sydney Rodgers [Chamber of Commerce Alignment Nashville]

CGCS [Council of Great City Schools] Convention
George Thompson
, honorary chair [long time BOE member and new chairman of CGCS]
Kathy Nevill,
acting chair [former BOE member and vice-chair]
and George [Thompson] announced that
Dr. Garcia
[Director of MNPS] would be co-chair

Committee to Evaluate the Director [Dr. Garcia] –
Ed Kindall, chair
Marsha Warden
Pam Garrett [currently BOE chair]
Steve Glover [new board member covering Kathy Nevill's old seat]

This isn't going away

If folks thought that the little dustup at the last BOE meeting over the magnet school process was a blip on the radar--I believe they're completely wrong.

Today's Tennessean highlights a complete waste and an injustice that must be changed. I, as a BOE member, had been lead to believe that there was hope for parents who were on the magnet school waiting list and so I passed that hope on to parents. Apparently, such isn't the case at all.

Current policy states that the roster of students closes on the first day of school. If a student leaves a magnet school on the first day, the spot is not filled, said Sandra Johnson, chief instructional officer for Metro schools.

What a complete waste. Didn't we budget and hire for a certain number of magnet slots? Is the administration committed to the magnet school program or not? Policy can be changed. What is the downside to making this change?

Parent Discoll asks a good question that deserves a prompt and clear answer:

"Why not create a two-week buffer where, if a kid moves or decides not to attend the school, then the next in line gets in?"


As for Driscoll, who hasn't been shy about his disdain, he's thinking about starting a Web site for parents fed up with the magnet school lottery process.

Let me know if I can be of any help Mr. Driscoll.

And as an aside, heretofore, the Tennessean has been providing BOE member contact information in their "Make your voice heard" box. In this article it points people to MNPS alone.

Here's a link for e-mail all the BOE members.

Clicking on the District # will take you to the MNPS website for that district. Not sure which district is yours? Check here. Clicking on the name will bring up your e-mail so you can write them.

District 1: George Thompson
District 2: Joann Brannon
District 3: Pam Garrett (BOE Chair for the moment)
District 4: Steve Glover
District 5: Gracie Porter
District 6: Karen Johnson
District 7: Ed Kindall
District 8: David Fox
District 9: Marsha Warden

Want to e-mail them all? Here ya go.

It's a whole new BOE

I watched much of last evening's MNPS BOE meeting via the 'net while preparing dinner. Since a great deal of that meeting was a tutorial on the system it didn't require my full attention having received OJT in this over the summer. I was glad that this overview was done at their first meeting. It needed to be and Pam Garrett ought to be commended for ensuring it was.

I would encourage folks who are interested in how the board actually works to view the 'policy governance' portion. I expect that in the near future it will be available to download from the Internet and I'll link to it for your convenience. I think it's very important for the taxpayers, voters and parents of Davidson County to understand this governing system as they attempt to interact with the board. I believe Mr. Ralph Schulz of the Adventure Science Center does an excellent job at clearly explaining it for lay people.

The introduction of the cabinet members is also very handy information and I hope that, as I've suggested, the actual PowerPoint presentation slides will be available to the public so that we can more easily follow along. There was some valuable information being shared but having a hard copy of that information would be a good resource for the community.

I was disappointed to hear that by unanimous consent the first vote of this new board included providing themselves laptops or fax machines and phone lines. I never bought the plea that not having those tools may keep a poor person from participating on the board and I never understood why the taxpayers even had to provide these in the first place. We've got teachers across the county paying for supplies out of their own pockets and taxpayers viewing this as an unnecessary perk. Great, you've staked out your parity with the council members. How does that really help the children of MNPS?

I did miss hearing the committee appointments that were to be announced at the end of the meeting. Mr. Kindall asked early on about when those were going to be announced. Ms Garret, as chair, remained firm though and reiterated that they'd be announced at the end of the meeting. I'm waiting to hear back from MNPS what those were.

The BOE will hold a 'retreat' this Friday and Saturday. I expect it will be an intense time for them as they get to know one another and their jobs, set priorities for the upcoming year, begin the evaluation of Dr. Garcia and decide who is going to lead this newbie board. It will be my earnest prayer that they'll be able to work together, set aside previous allegiances and relationships, hold the director accountable and will be able to quickly bring about the changes that must be made.

It's time to walk the campaign talk. God speed.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Agenda MNPS BOE 08-22-2006

Here's a link to the MNPS BOE agenda for this evening.

Agenda 08-22-2006

I've been out all morning and I'll be at Inglewood Elementary in a few minutes to hear the explanation for the staff incentive program they've named Alliance Awards. It'll be my last official business as BOE member.

The new board does get sworn in this evening. Oddly, the first order of business is to establish a quorum but since MOST of the board will be new I'm not sure how that'll work. I asked about that but I was told I didn't need to attend.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

MNPS Press Release AYP for 2006

Here's this year's AYP Press Release from MNPS. I'll blog about my perspective on the briefing this morning at Kirkpatrick later today.

Tennessee Adequate Yearly Progress Results

Show Achievements And Challenges For MNPS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 17, 2006) – The administration of Metro Nashville Public Schools today briefed current and soon-to-be seated members of the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education on 2005-2006 Tennessee Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results. The presentation reviewed data for every school in the district, and included some remarkable achievements and some continuing challenges.

“For the third consecutive year, the majority of our schools earned the Good Standing rating, the highest of 12 categories for a school to achieve,” Garcia said. “In the other categories we saw a mixture of movement, with some schools stable and some rated slightly up or down. We had 81 schools in good standing last year and 81 in good standing again this year. While we’re pleased to celebrate some significant achievements, we’re disappointed with the results in some areas.”

Garcia said he was particularly pleased by some high poverty schools moving into the Good Standing category for the first time ever.

“Kirkpatrick and Napier elementary schools hit all the performance benchmarks to achieve the Good Standing rating for the first time, showing a lot of hard work by many people,” Garcia said. “These are two of our highest poverty schools, with many of the students in each not having the advantages of some of our more affluent students. The Good Standing ratings for these schools reflect students, parents, teachers, principals and others working well together, with the right programs in place to ensure academic success.”

Garcia said the AYP results also showed some challenges, where schools had missed performance standards in some areas, placing them in the same category as last year or, in some cases, a lower category.

“We won’t be satisfied until every school achieves the Good Standing rating,” he said. “We know where improvements are required and we are already working to impact next year’s scores. There are many factors that determine a school’s rating, and a percentage point in one area can change a standing. We’re going to continue our efforts to seek improvements in every measurable area, so more of our schools will earn the Good Standing rating.”

Metro Nashville Public Schools provide a range of educational opportunities to nearly 74,000 students in Nashville and Davidson County. The governing body for MNPS is the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education, a nine-member group elected by residents of Metropolitan Nashville. For more information, please visit or call the MNPS Customer Service Center at 259-INFO.

# # #

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

AYP report released

The Tennessee Department of Education has officially released the AYP information. From the DOE's press release.

Seventy-six Tennessee schools demonstrated marked improvement for two consecutive years and have come off the high priority schools list, according to the Tennessee’s 2006 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results.
Davidson County still has 32 schools on the high priority list and is considered a high prority system along with Cumberland, DeKalb, Fayette, Hamilton, Jackson-Madison, Maury and Robertson Counties. Memphis has 36 schools on the list.

High priority schools are listed here.

District 5, my own, had 7 on the list. It now has six. It looks like Bailey Middle which was in its second year on this list improved enough to be removed from the list. Kirkpatrick, which was on the list for restructuring was removed. New this year is Shwab Elementary. Still on the list and headed down are Dalewood Middle Schol, Glenn Elementary Enhanced Option, Jere Baxter Middle School, and Maplewood Comprehensive High School. Stratford Comprehensive High School has been moved from Restructuring 1 to School Improvement 1.

For the complete AYP status on all schools and districts, as well as supporting materials, visit

UPDATE: The BOE members (both old and new) will be briefed by Dr. Garcia and staff at 11:00 tomorrow morning at Kirkpatrick Elementary.

[UPDATE: Thanks to Anonymous for pointing out that the following was LAST YEAR'S press release not this year's as I write immediately below. Please forgive the error.]

Here's the MNPS Press Release of moments ago:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (November 2, 2005) – Metro Nashville Public Schools made positive gains in several 2005 Tennessee Value Added Assessment System rankings, which were released last night by the Tennessee Department of Education, and made better than the state average gains in all TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) criterion referenced test categories. The scores show the amount of progress students make in a given subject from one year to the next, over a three-year period.

Areas in which MNPS made progress include TCAP reading/language, math, science and social studies. MNPS also made gains over the state average in all four TCAP categories.

“We are pleased to have yet another measure of success in our schools,” said Metro Nashville Board of Public Education Chair Pam Garrett. “These TVAAS results are the best we’ve earned in recent years, proving MNPS is on the right track. While we are certainly proud of what is happening, we recognize our task will be even more challenging next year as we adjust to budget shortfalls. The Board and MNPS administration are intent on moving forward as we deal with compromised funding; we will keep working to maintain the tremendous academic progress we’re now achieving.” MNPS also made strides in Gateway English II, End of Course English I, End of Course US History, writing assessment, ACT math, ACT English, ACT reading, ACT science reasoning and ACT composite. For the full list of scores, visit
Note the money excuse. "Tremendous academic progress"--I don't think so.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Elite activist objects

There is an amazing argument against the Tennessee Tax Revolt's efforts to give citizens the right to vote on property tax increases on a local blog for magnet school parents. This entry leans so left you may have to weight your computer monitor to read it while sitting upright. This line leapt out at me.

They [supporters of the petition drive] are interested in a political system that favors wealthy, elite activists who are over-represented in tax referendum elections.
Some have said that that the magnet schools system favors wealthy, elite activists who are over-represented in the school board election process.

The author of this entry may be a good example:
Alan Coverstone
Alan Coverstone is a teacher of Government and Economics, as well as Academic Dean at Montgomery Bell Academy. He is the father of two children who attend Hull-Jackson Montessori Magnet School, a part of the Metro Nashville Public Schools. He helped found and served as president of the PTO at Hull-Jackson. He also served as a Parents Advisory Council representative on the Mayor’s School Funding Task Force and currently serves on the Magnet Cluster board of the Parents Advisory Council.
Mr. Coverstone writes:
They openly call tax increases "pay cuts" for their family with no consideration at all of the "benefit increase" they receive from property value increases regularly experienced in communities with strong schools.
As a teacher of economics maybe (but I doubt) he can explain the 'benefit increase' the families of the Maplewood cluster are receiving from their property tax dollars.

Quality where it's essential

I made a comment earlier about both of the most recent teacher dismissal's coming out of District 5 and wondered if that was coincidence or the result of our District being a dumping ground for difficult teachers. Someone else wondered something similar and it's reported in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times.

The Washington, D.C.-based Education Trust looked at all states and found most wanting -- both in documentation of the problem of poor and minority students being concentrated with the weakest teachers and in proposed solutions.
Only 10 states analyzed whether minority students were taught disproportionately by teachers who weren't highly qualified.Only 10 states analyzed whether minority students were taught disproportionately by teachers who weren't highly qualified.

Only four looked at whether low-income students were taught by inexperienced teachers more than other students.

The Trust says the law requires all states to submit this data.

Though plans have been mandated since 2002, this is the first year the U.S. Department of Education made states submit them. The Trust criticized the feds for failing to give states enough guidance in drafting their reports.

This will get you to the Ed Trust's press release and here's a .pdf of their report.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A bold step?

1,162 public schools in Texas, 68 in Dallas alone, are getting rewarded for their efforts and we have 2 schools in Nashville in line for this MNPS pilot performance pay plan. Two in Nashville. This is a "bold step" and shows we're "eager to reward" according to Schools Director Pedro Garica.

From: Brown, Olivia H (MNPS) []
Sent: Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:07 PM
Subject: New diversified pay plan will begin in two Metro public schools

Press Release

Contact: Woody McMillin

Public Information Director

New diversified pay plan will begin in two Metro public schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 10, 2006) - Two Metro public elementary schools will be the first in the district to implement a diversified pay plan to reward staff members for exceptional student achievement.

Under an agreement reached yesterday, the teachers at Inglewood and Alex Green elementary schools will receive bonus pay-for-performance if student achievement at the conclusion of the 2006-07 school year exceeds pre-set benchmarks. In addition, all school support personnel such as secretaries, educational aides and custodians will be eligible for bonuses for their efforts in raising student performance above the benchmarks.

The new plan will place Metro public schools in step with a national trend to recognize exceptional teachers and staff members for exceptional work.

"This bold step shows the community we are eager to reward those who do great work in our schools," said Metro Schools Director Pedro Garcia. " [emphasis added]It shows we are open to new ideas and new ways of doing the most important business of educating our children."

The diversified pay plan at the two schools will serve as a three-year pilot study, with salary bonuses funded through private donations and grants to the district. Details of the pay plan will be finalized no later than Sept. 26 by a cooperative task force of district officials and members of the Metro Nashville Education Association, which agreed to the pilot plan in a contract negotiations session last night.

"The Metro Nashville Board of Education and the MNEA entered into a new today together to embrace a collaborative diversified pay plan," said School Board member Marsha Warden, who served as negotiations liaison for the Board. "Working on faith, both groups agreed this is important step and that a task group would be appointed to work out the details for this school year. Our efforts will dovetail with trends across the country to develop incentive plans that model the business-world application of bonuses and incentives."

In step with a national trend? Dovetail with trends? We're going get trampled if we don't catch up fast. Actually, it's our children that will get run over. Pick up the pace folks. These children don't have much time.

In the real world

Last night the professional organization representing Nashville teachers was concerned that diversified/merit/performance pay would cause dissension in the ranks. Today comes this article from Texas showing they're jumping in with both feet.

Texas' first full-fledged attempt to reward teachers for students' performance is under way this school year, with 1,162 public schools – 15 percent of all campuses – invited to participate in the state's new incentive pay plan.
Statewide, more than 33,000 teachers could get incentive pay from the $100 million Educator Excellence Fund if most districts opt to spread the money around and award the minimum bonus of $3,000.
While state teacher groups opposed the merit pay scheme when it was approved by the Legislature in a special session in May, proponents of the idea said it was time for Texas to start rewarding its best teachers and thereby encourage them to remain in the classroom.
(snip) Dallas Morning News
You want to see dissension in the ranks MNEA? Wait till this gets around.

New board e-mail addresses

On August 22 the new MNPS school board will be sworn in. During this transition time it might be helpful to include the newly elected board members in discussions and correspondence so I'm providing the e-mail addresses of those board members for the community to utilize. Clicking on the District # will take you to the MNPS website for that district. Not sure which district is yours? Check here. Clicking on the name will bring up your e-mail so you can write them.

District 1: George Thompson
District 2: Joann Brannon
District 3: Pam Garrett (BOE Chair)
District 4: Steve Glover
District 5: Gracie Porter
District 6: Karen Johnson
District 7: Ed Kindall
District 8: David Fox
District 9: Marsha Warden

Want to e-mail them all? Here ya go.

BOE & MNEA negotiations

Yesterday from about 3:15 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. the BOE met with the teacher's union to hammer out the final sticking points of the educational agreement. There were the subject of diversified pay and elimination of a key sentence regarding final decisions.

We spent the vast majority of that 7 hours wrestling with the diversified pay. I may never understand why they are so set against us paying hard working teachers what they're worth. They expressed concerned about creating 'dissension' in the ranks. I'm concerned about attracting and retaining teachers with proven skills.

The MNEA objected to the Board being allowed to appoint a community member to a committee to set the parameters for this pay--that would give the Board, in MNEA opinion, an unfair advantage. We agreed on 3 from the administration, 1 from the BOE and 4 from MNEA.

I and several other BOE members as well as MNPS staff objected to MNEA being called an 'equal partner' in school restructuring. The BOE concerns included the fact that we are charged with holding the director of schools accountable and if MNEA had 'equal partner' status in these restructurings the director wouldn't be fully responsible and accountable to the board.

The MNEA insisted on having these extra monies paid through the MNPS payroll system vs. them receiving them directly from the grant agency via a 1099. Their argument that these teachers would be surprised by this sort of payment and not understand their tax obligations or get the pension benefit didn't get far with me.

So we were left with:

Memorandum of Agreement on Diversified Pay Committee:
The Board agrees to work in partnership with MNEA to develop, implement and evaluate a pilot diversified pay plan at Alex Green and Inglewood elementary schools for three years starting in the 2006-07 school year pending receipt of adequate grant and/or private funding. All certificated staff at each school shall be eligible for diversified pay on the basis of parameters agreed to by a committee consisting of three members representing the administration, four from the MNEA, and one member of the Board of Education. The committee shall accept public input from community members. The committee shall be chaired jointly by a member appointed by the administration and one by the MNEA. The committee shall conclude its work and report back to a Joint Conference of MNEA and the Board of Education as soon as feasible, but no later than September 26, 2006. The supplemental agreement shall be ratified by October 15, 2006. Continuation or expansion of the pilot beyond the 2008-09 school year shall require the mutual agreement of the MNEA and the Board. All diversified compensation shall be paid to certificated staff via the MNPS payroll system. The Board and the MNEA agree to use the committee structure described above to develop, implement and evaluate any other diversified pay for teachers in MNPS (exclusive of charter schools).

Memorandum of Agreement on School Restructuring
The Board shall involve MNEA in preliminary discussion on school restructuring necessitated by the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.
About 10:00 p.m. we finally got to the paragraph in Article I, Section E-8 of the Educational Agreement with the MNEA (page 3). That sentence is:
"If agreement cannot be reached through deliberation with a mediator, the Board shall have the responsibility for a final decision. "
MNEA wanted to eliminate that sentence. I understand this had been a sticking point all along.

Ms. Nevill, myself and Ms. Warden (who had been our chief negotiator liason all along) spoke all saying essentially no. My comments were short and to the point: "Absolutely no way."

The MNEA went to the back room to caucus and came back rather quickly. They gave it up. The signatures were affixed and we were all free to go.

BOE Meeting 08-08-06

Just a couple of comments about Tuesday's BOE meeting.

1. Public participation included a 3 minute commercial for MNEA by their president Jamye Merritt. I'm all for public comment. But I don't think we have any obligation to provide this union a public platform to puff their organization. Had she come with a specific issue that needed to be dealt with it would have been another matter but such wasn't the case. It was quite general and in light of the fact we were meeting with them the next day came off as merely a chance to get before the public.

2. Parent Bernie Driscoll expressed the frustration that many parents are feeling at this time of year. He charged that the magnet school list had been closed in violation of policy and wanted people held accountable and sought redress. That same day the Duncan family had filed a formal complaint of their own regarding a similar issue and board members testified that these issues come up every year.

I had to wait until the end of the agenda before I could I move that

1. the board instruct Dr. Garcia to investigate
2. if it was true that the policy had been violated that the violator receive a reprimand in their personnel file and
3. that the list be reopened for 30 days in an attempt to repair the damage.
Unfortunately Mr. Driscoll didn't hear any of that as he had had enough, loudly expressed his displeasure with the process and stormed out. He apologized by e-mail the next day and I believe he was very sincere in regretting his display. But I don't fault him in the least.

If we're consistently having these problems we're consistently not fixing the problem. The process needs to be more accountable, more transparent, needs to happen earlier in the year (as Ms. Nevill suggested) and we cannot just assume that parents know how all this works. And certainly not having a chance to let the office know they hadn't gotten a letter with a critical date on it is a huge failure that must be addressed if MNPS intends to earn back trust in the magnet lottery system.

3. Also on the agenda was the approval of the Governance Process (GP's). These are rules the board members have committed to follow. I pulled this from the consent agenda expressly for the purpose of getting a roll call vote on GP-3-10 which said:
Facilitating timely and efficient communications with the administration and constituents by offering to each Board member the use of a district provided laptop or a residential fax line with fax machine.
There was a bit of back and forth. Ms. Warden was still concerned for those community members that may not have the financial resources to obtain these tools on their own and ensuring some equity with the Metro Council members. The result was that at Mr. Kindall's motion the board voted to remove the paragraph above entirely and left it to the next board to vote on it if they choose. Mr. Blue, Ms. Nevill and I voted no on that motion but being in the minority the motion carried and it was deleted from the Governance Process policy. The provision of these items was never included in the GP's heretofore and so I suppose the status quo could continue without any board vote at all.

4. Dr. Garcia reminded us that the work on Cane Ridge High in Antioch (and other important work) would be delayed because of the Council delay in approving the capitol budget. The last I heard that vote was to take place this coming Tuesday. It's my understanding that the Council isn't quibbling about the MNPS budget but other things. But MNPS must still wait on that budget approval before needed repairs and construction can continue. I consider this a poor excuse. We've got to back this process up a good bit in order to ensure a timely flow of maintenance and building. Budget squabbles are not new. They happen every year. MNPS must plan far enough in advance that we're not at the mercy of the process.

5. The Committee to Evaluate the Director, headed by Mr. Kindall, provided the following timeline for the evaulation of Dr. Garcia this fall.

8/8/06: Board Votes on the evaluation method and approval to retain TSBA's services for the evaluation

9/26/06: Ends Monitoring for E-2--Academic Achievement Completed. [As explanation: each month specific portions of Dr. Garcia's job performance are evaluated and graded by board members. One of those items monitored is academic achievement and that will be the final part of the year long process.]

9/29/06: Dr. Garcia responds with an executive summary on the status of accomplishment on the Strategic Plan and goals for the past year.

10/3/06: Board members return their annual summative evaluation forms to Tammy Gissom of TSBA.

10/17/06: The Committee to Evaluate the Director will meet to review results of the director's evaluation.

10/24/06: At this BOE meeting the evaluation of Dr. Garcia will occur. [Actually this date wasn't mentioned it was stated that this would occur the Tuesday following 10/17/06.]

11/7/06: Committee to Evaluate the Director will draft the instrument ot be used for the 2006-07 evaluation.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tax referendum petition

I'm with Ben Cunningham. We've got to get a handle on this property tax issue and I don't see the Metro Council getting it done. I've signed the petition and encouraged others to do the same.

Today's City Paper has two interesting quotes.

Although some in the business community have blamed residential flight on the troubled state of the Metro school system, Cunningham countered that the surrounding counties are producing quality schools with lower property tax rates.
“It’s difficult to get people to vote to raise their own taxes,” [political analyist Pat] Nolan said. “So it will be incumbent on the elected officials to explain why they need to retain some control over a major revenue [stream].”
And so two comments.

I regularly talk with people who are very concerned about the condition of Metro schools. Rightly, they have the best interests of the children at the forefront of their minds. They also have the reality of having to live on a budget. And so what we've done is raised taxes to a point where they cannot afford to stay here and send their children to private schools. And they cannot stay here and let their children attend their bad zoned school--magnet schools being unavailable to these unlucky families.

Additionally, both Metro and the MNPS have consistently failed over and over again with amazing arrongence to realize that they are not entitled to our money. If they want it they've got to explain to Joe Taxpayer why he and his family should do without and the Metro/MNPS need is greater.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Magnet trouble

I've gotten several phone calls and e-mails in my short tenure on the school board about magnet school admissions. It's clear that many parents are not happpy. I received this in my e-mail box this morning. I've received permission to post it here.

Subject: Formal Complaint Against the Magnet School Office [child's name]

Dear Sirs and Madams:

We are respectfully requesting your assistance. Please review the attached Formal Complaint Against the Magnet School Office, Director Kaye Schneider, Its Employees and the Administration of the Metropolitan Nashville Public School System. We have filed this Complaint today, Monday, August 7th, at the Magnet School Office.

We are attempting to follow procedures as outlined in Complaint Policy, CAP Number 0110; but as you you all are aware, school begins Monday, August 14th. Any assistance you can provide to expedite this process would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.

Michael D. Duncan
[phone number excised]

Beth Duncan
[phone number excised]



Pursuant to MNPS Complaint Policy #0110, Michael and Beth Duncan submit the following information in support of a Complaint filed for and on behalf of their son, [child's name]:

Statement of Facts

1. [child], a legal resident of Davidson County,
Tennessee, applied to Martin Luther King Magnet School prior to the fall 2005 deadline for admission in 9th grade entry level.

2. [child] was deemed qualified for admission and
placed on the waiting list following the lottery drawing in January 2006.

3. As of May, [child]'s parents were informed that he was
number three (3) on the waiting list.

4. On July 20, [child]'s parents were informed during a phone
call placed to the Magnet School Office that [child] had been accepted. During the phone call, [child]'s father, Michael Duncan was told that a letter would be mailed soon. The Magnet Office employee failed to inform Michael Duncan of the content or import of the letter. He was specifically told that the letter had not been sent as of July 20, 2006.

5. Neither [child's name], or his parents, Michael and Beth
Duncan, received any further communication from the Magnet School Office.

6. On August 4, 2006, [child]'s parents called Martin Luther
King Magnet School to find out about registration procedures. They were informed by school personnel, guidance counselor, that [child] was not
on their approved list and that they would need a letter from the Magnet Office.

7. Michael and Beth Duncan called and attempted to speak to
the Director, Kaye Schneider. They learned she was not in the office, but that Karen Callis would return their call. Ms. Callis never returned the calls.

8. On August 4, 2006, the Mr. and Mrs. Duncan made several
calls in an attempt to resolve the problem. Each time a different employee answered the call and provided information. Some of the employees stated that [child]'s letter had been mailed July 17, 2006. One other stated the letter was mailed July 19, 2006. Supervisor, Vern Denny, told Mrs. Duncan that the system would not tell him when the letter had been mailed.

9. Recall on July 20, 2006, Mr. Duncan was told that no
letter had been sent and he did not know when to expect a letter.

10. No letter from the Magnet School Office or any other
department of the MNPS arrived to [child]'s mailing address: [contact info excised]. [child], Michael and Beth Duncan have maintained
this address as their permanent residence since December 1993 and have never
experienced problems receiving properly addressed mail.

Request for Information

1. Complete and current copy of the Board of Education
Operating Policy regarding Magnet School Admission, including but not limited to all policy established by letter, directive, written or verbal memorandum, custom or tradition.

2. Complete and current copy of the Administrative/Director's

Procedures used to implement the Magnet School Admission Policy, including but not limited to all procedures established by letter, directive, written or verbal memorandum, custom or tradition.

3. Complete and current copy of the Magnet School Office's
policies and procedures pertaining to communications with parents and students regarding admission, including but not limited to, such procedures established by letter, directive, written or verbal memorandum, office custom/tradition or internal operating methods. Please include all instructions or training given to Magnet School Office employees regarding content of communications with applicants.

4. State with specificity the date on which and method for
informing applicants of the process for confirmation of acceptance.

5. State with specificity the date on which [child]'s slot first became open or the date upon which [child] moved from the waiting list to the accepted for admission list. Your response should include the earliest date that the Magnet School Office had any knowledge or notice of the availability for admission for [child].

6. State with specificity the date on which the person who
held the slot immediately preceding [child] was accepted.

7. State with specificity the date on which the person who
held the slot immediately behind [child] was accepted.

8. State the number of students from the waiting list between
May 2006 and August 4, 2006 who were accepted into Martin Luther King Magnet

9. List the name, title and duties of each employee,
permanent or contract, who worked in the Magnet School Office between January 2006 and August 2006.

10. State the name and title of the employee who generated and
addressed the letter of acceptance to [child].

11. State the name and title of the employee or contractor who
applied the postage to the letter sent to [child].

12. State the name and title of the employee or contractor who
delivered the letter to the United States Post Office.

13. State the date and location the acceptance letter enclosing
the request for confirmation was mailed.

14. Provide a copy, written or recorded, of the telephone
conversation dated July 20, 2006 occurring between approximately 9:45 and 10:10 a.m. between Michael Duncan and your employee.

15. Provide a list of all applicants who have informed the Magnet
School Office that they failed to receive the letter of acceptance and request for confirmation of acceptance since the lottery drawing January 2006.

16. State the number of complaints filed about nonreceipt of the
letter of acceptance since the beginning of the lottery process for admission.


Upon information and belief, Michael and Beth Duncan, parents of [child] allege the following:

1. The MNPS, Magnet School Office, its directors,
supervisors, and employees, denied [child] due process by failing to properly communicate with or inform the parents of [child] of the policies and procedures for admission to Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School.

2. The MNPS, Magnet School Office, its directors,
supervisors, and employees denied [child] his right to due process by failing to communicate or inform him of his acceptance on or near the actual date the vacancy for his slot occurred.

3. The MNPS, Magnet School Office, its directors,
supervisors, and employees denied [child] his right to due process by failing to insure proper policy and operating procedures for informing applicants during phone calls of the necessity of submitting a signed acceptance letter prior to a deadline for admission. Current policy dictates that parents call the Magnet School Office for information on an applicant's status.

4. The MNPS, Magnet School Office, its directors,
supervisors, and employees denied [child] his right to due process by failing to devise or implement fail safe procedures for generating and mailing letters of acceptance. The Magnet School Office has failed to implement procedures for verifying the posting of official mail.

5. The MNPS, Magnet School Office, its directors,
supervisors, and employees have denied [child] his right to due process by failing to provide an expedited review process or by failing to promptly communicate or inform him of the procedure for appealing the decision to revoke his acceptance into Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School.

6. [child] and his parents relied upon the
communication of acceptance dated July 20, 2006 between Michael Duncan and the Magnet School Office to their detriment.

7. [child] will be irreparably harmed by the denial
of his due process. Based upon [child]'s position on the waiting list for Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School, he relinquished his hold on a position at a private school. Based upon notification of acceptance to the magnet school, [child] was precluded from pursuing a timely special transfer from Maplewood High School to an acceptable alternative.

8. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School and its students
will be harmed by the failure to admit [child], a well-qualified student who has many positive attributes and abilities to offer the school.

Relief Requested

[child], by and through his parents, Michael and Beth Duncan, requests immediate and unconditional acceptance and admission into Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School prior to the first day of classes, August 14, 2006.

Respectfully submitted,

[child], by and through Michael and Beth Duncan

[contact info excised]

Wal-Mart degree

This from the Associated Press.

[Tennessee Governor Phil] Bredesen wants to tailor community college programs to offer courses on retail management.

Bredesen, a Democrat, pitched his proposal on how to address a management shortage at big-box retail stores on a recent trip to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

While no formal arrangement has been struck, Bredesen and Wal-Mart officials agreed to work on developing a curriculum.


Still, Bredesen acknowledged, there are bound to be some skeptics about his plans to work with Wal-Mart on educational programs.

"You can't do anything without some criticisms," Bredesen said. "But I certainly think that when you have an employer of that size — who has that many good jobs that they are saying need to be filled — we need to respond to that."

Will Chinese be the required foreign language? Don't overlook our 'need' to respond to the educational needs of businesses. Frankly, I think we 'need' to respond to the dropout rate first.

BOE Agenda Tuesday 08-08-06

Here's a link to the MNPS BOE agenda for tomorrow evening.

It's an epidemic

Sunday's Tennessean had series of articles regarding dropouts. They interviewed several and what jumped out at me was the abysmal advice and service MNPS provided these people when they were students.

"Mom took me to High School to see about me getting in school there, but they said I couldn't start because I didn't have a transcript,… We kept going back and forth for two months, and we could never get it straightened out.'' Simone Moore

She couldn’t even start? OK, maybe she couldn’t get her diploma until after the paperwork was cleaned up but not even be allowed to attend classes? Add her to the graduation rate body count of 40 charged to the counselors at Maplewood.

“Bryant eventually dropped out of summer school, but when she returned to Glencliff that fall, she said school officials wanted her to take AP English 4, Honors History and a few other courses. "I was going for an honors diploma, and I thought the AP English course would be too much for me because I was working full-time,'' she said. "School officials told me that I had to take that course, and I ended up flunking it with a 68. "I had no vehicle, and they wanted me to take a credit recovery class after school three hours a day for three days a week, but I had to be a work at 5 p.m. in MetroCenter.” Elizabeth Bryant

"While Seivers and Johnson wouldn't call the dropout problem in Metro or statewide an epidemic,..."

Despite what Sandy Johnson & Lana Seivers think, and yes I know they're the paid professionals, a 20% dropout rate and worse is an epidemic and it must be stopped. Perhaps the real problem is that they're allowed excuses like this without losing their jobs.

"Yes, we have a problem,'' Sandy Johnson, chief instructional officer for Metro schools, said in an interview. "I think a lot depends on how the graduation rate is calculated.
So intead of focusing on educating the children and doing whatever it takes to help them stay on task we're going to work the numbers? The answer has been yes and I'll try and get Dr. Garcia's proposed 'new and improved' grad rate formula posted here.

UPDATE: Here are the 2005 graduation rates for MNPS high schools--

From the bottom:
Maplewood 41.2
Pearl Cohn Magnet 48.2
Stratford 50
Glencliff 51.4
Whites Creek 53.7
McGavock 54.2
Hillwood 60.8
Antioch 63.4
Hunters Lane 66.9
John Overton 67.1
Nashville Arts Magnet 88.5
East Literature Magnet 97.3
Hume Fogg Magnet 99
MLK Magnet 99.4

So teach them already

It appears that Dr. Garcia wants to reinvent the wheel and seems to be doing just what he says needs to be guarded against.

Garcia is planning to start the Directors Student Advisory Council (DSAC), a youth council with student representation from all high schools in the Metro Nashville Public School (MNPS) system. Garcia said he isn’t getting enough feedback from InterHigh, a student group whose volunteer members meet after school hours to discuss issues affecting public school students.
“It is essential that the voices of our youth are not lost in the shuffle of reform initiatives,” he said. Nashville City Paper
And so adding another group of student voices isn't going to do that very thing?

I'm with Ms. Nevill on this one:

"If the director needs a student advisory group to report to him, so be it. [But] why re-invent the wheel when it already exists?” she asked.
If Dr. Garcia believes he must have a student advisory group (and we can argue the merits of these voices to his job performance) and he's not getting enough feedback from the InterHigh group I think he needs to put on his educator cap. He needs to teach those students how to do this better instead of abandoning them. Mentor them in this effort and you'll have created a group of leaders that can carry that skill into the rest of their lives and our community. Abandon them as 'not good enough' and you've given them the back of your hand and failed to to fulfill your first calling--teach. If the very man charged with educating them won't do 'whatever it takes' what hope do any of them have?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Comments are being moderated

Comments are being moderated. So be civil, be nice or be deleted.

MNEA is watching

Also in my packet for the next board meeting was a copy of an e-mail from Jamye Merritt MNEA president to the BOE secretary.

From: Merritt, Jamye M (MNPS)
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2006 9:39 AM
To: Bryant, Melissa (MNPS)
Subject: Board Meeting

Good Morning!

Melissa I would like to be placed on the agenda to speak at all board meetings. If I will not be speaking, I will notify you. Thanks for everything!


Another teacher dismissal hearing

Also in my BOE packet for Tuesday is a letter indicating that a Maplewood teacher is being recommended for dismissal. The charges are incompetence, inefficiency, neglect of duty, unprofessional conduct and insubordination, as defined in TCA Section 49-5-501.

I commend Dr. Garcia for ridding our system of teachers that are failing to fulfill their commitments to the education of the children. I'm glad to read that this time the problem is only a year old and not four years old as in the previous dismissal. We need to keep a very short leash on these teachers.

I suspect we need to do many more of these and I'm not sure any board can endure that many. It has been suggested that the law be amended to allow a separate board/committee to do this absolutely necessary work. Personally, I think the board needs to endure these. It's only when they get tired enough of this nonsense that they will find the backbone to hold the MNEA accountable for the quality of their advocacy of these members during negotiation times. It's that backbone that will demand that the director hire excellent teachers on the forefront.

I don't envy the new board having to sit through hours and hours of droaning testimony that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. It was the board chair's decision to let the previous teacher and her MNEA lawyer go on and on and on issues that were not germane to the charges which just ate up time and added nothing of value to the deliberation. Frequently this tesimony contained unsubstantiated charges and slanderous statements about others that were rarely objected to by the chair. I understand that the concern of the chair is that limiting their testimony could be used as a way to appeal the board's decision. I also know that more than half of what was testified was completely useless to the case. And, in my opinion, actually harmed the teacher more than helped.

And I have no idea how much these hearings cost. The involvement of principals, other teachers, parents and children, the mounds of paperwork and research that must be done is tremendous. In a system with finite resources living in a world with only 24 hours in a day we cannot overlook how much of our resources are taken from our core mission in these efforts.

My suggestion to the new board is that they elect a chair who isn't afraid to take on the MNEA and move this process along in a much more professional and efficient manner.

Note: Both of the teachers charged for dismissal this year were from my District 5. If I had more time on the board I'd investigate whether District 5 has become a dumping ground for difficult teachers.

TCAP info available

In my BOE packet for Tuesday's meeting was the following letter from the DOE. Most interesting is the paragraph at the very end starting "On July 7".

State of Tennessee
Department of Education
8th Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243-0375

August 1, 2006

Dr. Pedro Garcia, Director
Metro Nashville Public Schools
2601 Bransford Ave
Nashville, TN 37204

Dear Dr. Garcia:

Thank you for your recent letter seeking clarification for release of the results of the 2005-2006 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test scores. It is important that all district personnel receive good, clear information as to the use and distribution of this information.

Phase One Achievement data, delivered to your district on June 15, 2006, contains a paper copy of each student’s individual performance on last year’s TCAP. This information can be shared at any time with the parents and guardians of the students as soon as your district receives it.

Phase Two Achievement data, delivered on June 28, 2006, contains the official school and district summaries of students’ performance last year. These exact summaries are embargoed until after the state releases them on the 2006 Report Card. Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-1-211 requires the state to release this information prior to November 1st each year.

However, all district employees, teachers, administrators, and school board members, may have access to all Phase Two data once it arrives at the district. These individuals must also be asked to embargo the summary information for public release. We encourage all districts to distribute these summaries to key staff and use them productively for planning and decision making purposes over the summer.

One July 7, 2006, MNPS was delivered an electronic database containing all Phase One Achievement data- individual student scores. Any district that has the capability may use this data to create their own estimates of school level and district wide score results. Distribution to the public of this information is allowed at any time with the understanding that district produced summaries may not match the final official scores released by the state on the annual Report Card.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have further questions.

Warmest Regards,

Dr. Mary Reel
Executive Director of Assessment and Evaluation

Cc: Metroplitan Board of Public Education
Mayor Bill Purcell
Julie Lampb, Chair, Parent Advisory Council
Woody McMillin, Director of Communications, MNPS

I maintain that voters, taxpayers and parents are adults. The information is ours. We paid for it. We have every right to see it when it's available. We are not baby birds who need the adults and professionals to digest this information first and then feed us their regurgitated version. You do us and the children a disservice by gatekeeping. It's stuff like this that continues to fuel the general discontent and distrust of MNPS. Start welcoming accountability and full disclosure of what is going on. Only then will you begin to earn the trust of the community that MNPS desperately needs in order to be effective.

For those of you just coming to this dance:
we were told by MNPS that TCAP information was embargoed by the State Department of Education and that's why it wasn't being released as early as it had been last year. We learned that MNPS broke the embargo last year to tout the small test score increases. Several in the community alleged that the scores were being withheld in order to influence upcoming school board elections and Dr. Garcia's contract renewal. As a board member I learned from the DOE that I was allowed to have this information. Through the BOE secretary I requested a copy of the TCAP scores. Dr. Garcia wrote the DOE asking for clarification about who could have this information. Word came back to me from Dr. Garcia's office that the information was embargoed and I wasn't allowed to have it--that took a week. I picked up the phone and called Dr. Garcia and told him I was entitled to the scores. I wanted the scores. The next morning he sent e-mails to all BOE members with instructions on how to access the information from the state's website with the stern caution from Dr. Changas that the information was still embargoed.