Top Down Policy Failure in Public Education
by Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.
Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) does not have the answers, nor does our newly elected Mayor who recently launched an aggressive media campaign to recruit new teachers willing to work within the constraints our over-regulated, under-funded public schools. This article MNPS News glossed over the magnitude of the desperate situation in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS).
But it does raise questions about the hiring and retention practices by the Board of Ed. The basic fact that students are not making adequate progress is a reflection of the top-down policy failure by MNPS and the Board of Ed. Students are not making adequate progress, and teachers are being shuffled around in a desperate attempt to fix a problem that they do not fully understand.
This data seems to support the need for performance based incentives such as the study on performance incentives at the National Center for Performance Incentives on the Peabody Campus at Vanderbilt University. Teachers in the experimental group receive a $15,000 bonus if their students demonstrate a pre-determined level of achievement and demonstrate proficiency. In conjunction with the RAND corporation, data will be collected twice a year: at the beginning of the academic term to establishing the baseline level of competency for each student. Data is then collecting at the end of the year to measure achievement. Several waves of data will be collected and evaluated over the next several years will be evaluated in conjunction with the RAND Corporation.
In order to fix our broken schools, we need to look at schools that work. There are in fact public schools in urban neighborhoods that are successfully educating the students despite limited budgets, supplies, and adequate funding. So what is it about these schools that allows them to successfully educate disadvantaged, at-risk students and how can we replicate their success?
As an educator employed by MNPS, I earn $10.46 / hour (without benefits) teaching at-risk students. What does this say about the fiscal priorities of our community? My graduate degree in education is from the very same university that Mayor Karl Dean attended in New York City. What does that say about our values as a society? What does that say about the value of a graduate degree from the Ivy League?
I called HR and the "Certificated Office" to inquire about obtaining a provisional teaching license and alternative certification, I was simply told that I was not eligible for alternative certification and without additional coursework, and tuition and fees, I was not deemed qualified to teach in Metro. I am not qualified to teach in Metro since, apparently, Metro "does not teach education." What a joke. To make matters worse- I had to pay them to find out that I was not even qualified to work with Head Start. I went to Head Start! Shouldn't that be enough? I find it difficult to believe that a city so desperate for teachers is not willing to bend the rules just a little or waive the application fee for anyone who is willing to work in such a hostile environment.
The state Department of Education could not offer any realistic solution to the simple fact that I cannot afford to pay the fees associated with the application fees certification requirements. If the Mayor really needs applicants, perhaps the city should comp the application fees necessary to be considered for employment. They are strangely unfamiliar with the political process, and teachers are expected to implement and carry out policies that were designed by academic professionals or educational consultants. If MNPS truly wants a better-qualified staff, then the Mayor, the Board of Education, and school administrators need to take a closer look at the methods used to recruit, retain, and reward qualified individuals willing to sacrifice their financial stability for a career in public service.
The high rate of student mobility is compounded by the constant shifting of school personnel. Many schools may just lose the few experienced, dedicated teachers they still have left have, to surrounding districts, cities, and states. Such instability in the system may even prompt the younger set to leave the profession all together and discourage future teachers from applying for jobs in Metro. Now that I realize my education was a complete waste of time and money, is it any wonder that I am ready to give up on teaching and maybe even ready to leave Nashville for good. The local hardware store has more to offer including benefits!
Everything we know about the positive outcomes in neighborhood schools is their strong reliance upon community buy-in and parental involvement. One thing that makes magnet, lottery, charter schools, parochial, and private schools so good is the fact that parents, teachers, students, and administrators fight to get in, and fight to stay there. The act of choosing, in effect, leads to an enhanced sense of community and builds a supportive, consistent, and structured environment. Calling rezoning and teacher shuffling in Metro "Project Fresh Start" is ridiculous-- it would be more accurate.
The state Department of Education could not offer any realistic solution. The high rate of student mobility is compounded by the constant shifting of school personnel The Board need to take a closer look at the methods used to recruit, retain qualified educators.
Elyssa D. Durant © 2009-2013
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