Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Head Chef

I am writing about education in my book which compares this type of institution with another - food.  It began when my Mother told me that I needed to figure out what to do for my professional life and that was either in food or teaching as both would be needed and I could do it anywhere.  After a brief stint trying to wait tables at a Senior Home then a small cafe I realized slinging hash meant something completely different to me so I went with book learning. I loved reading and loved talking about what I was reading so the second choice seemed to be the optimal one.  I went through ed school at Western Washington University and for a brief period went to grad school at the UW to get a Masters in Ed when I realized that the teaching about education was perhaps worse than actual teaching.  It was theory, research, often boring and clearly a reflection of the adage: If you cant do, teach.  Plus I realized that all the degrees and credits did not make me a better Teacher or pay me more, I just moved up the pay scale faster and then topped out earlier than most which in some ways also puts a target on one's back when they are funding and budgeting a school.  If salaries eat a large part of a school's cost the way to reduce that to distribute monies throughout the easiest way is RIFFing staff or finding ways to cut the pork and then when anyone thinks the union steps in and keeps them in place has never worked in a public school.   The game is politics and knowing how to play them. So often Teachers found themselves cut due to enrollment, change in schools curriculum or just driven out.   Some Teachers fought many just moved on it is an ugly ugly business and all things as they say in the kitchen and the classroom - fish stinks from the head.  But the one good thing about fish is you can tell by the eyes if the fish is fresh or no longer consumable. If Principals were only the same way. And like restaurants the reality is whoever is in charge, they set the tone and in turn how the whole functions within its parts.  Think of Gordon Ramsay as a Principal and then wonder what that school would be like.  Lately we have had more Mario Batali has head chefs and that explains that.

In my professional full time life Teaching, all four year, ( I hit that stat right on the money) I NEVER had a decent Principal.  I left and then coincidentally they were ridden out with a rail in every single school which may explain why I left.   The first, Gloria Izard Baldwin (now dead so I can speak ill of her) was horrific and promptly a year after I left the school's Teachers began to amass a series of problems and voted no confidence and she retired the following year.  I have seen that play out in almost every school  (or they simply move them like deck chairs on the Titanic) for the remainder of my professional life throughout Seattle Public Schools. This continues to this day, which also follows the endless Superintendent turn and burn.  It never changes but it does make me feel better for maybe it was my working in food that I could see the cloudy eye the minute I met these heads of state.  I used that as my exit ticket to get the fuck out and that may be why I stayed as a Substitute as clearly I realized then I wanted no part of this.  But I could and I was lucky but not everyone is.

When I came to Nashville I heard all about the Drive to 55, the Promise and all the other PR about the Governor (Haslam) focus and commitment to education. Like everything else about living in Nashville as I have come to learn that this is Southern Bullshit served next to a shot of comfort as you need it after you pull back the covers to see how cold this truth really is.  Education here is a debacle and everyday another argument, another saga or drama about the schools in Nashville but there are equal issues throughout the state including the wealthiest county in Tennessee - Williamson - struggles to fund schools so anyone who tells you how great it is there is saying that regarding crime and race and less about the schools as I suspect that most attend private academies as the rich do here.  And the current Plumber is keen to push vouchers and more focus on the Bible as the book of choice so anyone who thinks this is the "it" city then you would have thought Oklahoma was happening as well.

But then they are really really stupid here. Really stupid. I have had way to many conversations with Teachers who remind me why.  Again the Teacher who was the former Mechanical Engineer who was oblivious to Amazon opening an office, to an awareness about the violence here and was sure it was older teens; No, it is largely teens as early as 12 and up to 18.  A 16 year old girl was just released today on bond for killing a 70 year old man last year as he was taking out his trash.  There are many many more stories about kids, such as the 16 year old found with three, yes three knives on his person at school yesterday.  This school is across from the sole upscale mall in the area and I tell everyone to get out the area before 2pm or wait an hour to get on a bus as it is surreal to ride with these kids.  He claimed that he needed the knives to ride the bus at night.  Really so school gets out a night now?  And you need three?  Perhaps one is better off not knowing.................................Thought about that for a moment and the answer is NO. Maybe that is the problem here that they are so stupid they don't "know" Homonyms.

We have many local bloggers and of course the one Reporter, Phil Williams, who investigates and reports on the state of our schools here.  He of course like anyone who calls people out on their shit - racist.  I am not sure what he is called when he calls out white people as he was the one who broke the story about our former Slattern Mayor.  Maybe just asshole, the lesser of two evils.

In reality many who can't teach become Administrators. Which may explain why I have met few who are good at that job.  I just saw a Teacher who I used to sub for in Seattle is now a VP at a school that is to say the least challenged with an equally horrific Admin who has been in the job for years now and the school continues to be in the lowest quartile across the district.  Again this is how we solve the issues of racial gaps - we place ill qualified individuals in the job but if they share the same race or are women then we seem to think that is adequate to address the problem.  It is the largest cohort that attend the infamous Broad Academy for prospective Administrators throughout the country and right there one wonders what that is about?  Does Eli Broad think that more minority faces legitimize his horrific bullshit that he peddles?  There is some exploitation and racism right there.   The Broad Academy took a great hit and was exposed for what it was during the L.A. Teacher strike and it needed to be after years of wreaking havoc in urban schools.

They studied this in Tennessee about the issue of Administrators and to this I responded: Shocking! No, not really.  It was more, "Yes what else you got?"  This is what gets you a Ph.D stating the obvious and it was why I stopped pursuing a higher degree. I would rather use the money to learn shit.  Clearly I have learned a lot living here and my schooling is done.  It was a three year degree just shy of completion or maybe I am just a fast learner.

High-quality Tennessee principals less likely to serve poor and low-achieving students, study finds

Jason Gonzales, Nashville Tennessean Published Feb. 1, 2019

A research brief from Vanderbilt University's Tennessee Education Research Alliance has found that principal quality varies greatly from school to school in the state.

Impoverished or lower-achieving students are more likely to have a less effective principal, with that distribution of leaders concentrated in urban and rural school districts.

The finding from Vanderbilt University's Tennessee Education Research Alliance, which partners with the state, is the second in-depth look at Tennessee's school leadership.

The brief by TERA says the principal gap is driven by higher turnover in the schools and a tendency of districts to hire less effective principals for more challenging schools when vacancies arise.

Previous research by the group has shown "high-quality principals in Tennessee positively influence a variety of school outcomes, including teacher quality, teacher turnover, school climate, and student achievement."

"Taken together, these findings raise serious educational equity concerns," the brief says.

The study by Vanderbilt professor Jason Grissom, doctoral candidate Brendan Bartanen and Rowan University professor Hajime Mitani looked at four factors in how principals are sorted into school. The study looked at the distribution of principals in schools with high student poverty, low student achievement, a high percentage of students of color, and at the school location.

The findings concluded that:

Principal quality is unevenly distributed in Tennessee, with experienced and higher rated principals concentrated in schools with fewer students in poverty, low-achieving students and students of color.
And hiring and turnover drive uneven principal quality across the state, given that schools with higher rates of poverty, low achievement and students of color are more likely to hire inexperienced or ineffective principals and to experience greater principal turnover.

“Our findings provide evidence that there are inequities in where the most effective principals are placed across the state,” Grissom said. “High-poverty, low-achieving schools are the most demanding leadership environments.

"Presumably, Tennessee wants to place its most effective, most experienced leaders into those schools. But what’s actually happening looks very different."

Erin O’Hara, TERA's executive director, said change is needed in Tennessee.

“This research further underscores that to close achievement gaps, Tennessee must implement policies at the state and district levels that encourage a more equitable distribution of great principals across Tennessee schools,” O'Hara said.

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