"There's [sic] 22 bills that have been filed right now to either try to kill this thing or pull it apart, and this thing hasn't even gotten out of the Petri dish."
YES Prep was quoted as saying to the Commercial Appeal,
“We are not going to experiment at the risk of Memphis students. That is not fair to them,” said Bill Durbin, superintendent of Yes Prep Memphis. After hiring staff for the coming year and spending the better part of two years laying groundwork in Memphis, Yes Prep is leaving. It has no intention of returning."
Even more interesting was Chris Barbic's response to YES Prep abandoning the ASD,
"ASD Supt. Chris Barbic minced few words in reaction to the charter firm’s decision, saying Yes Prep apparently was not serious about the difficulty of the work in Memphis and that it was a significant hardship to deal with a pullout this late in the game. "This is the big leagues. If you want to play in the big leagues, the work is difficult, in the public and there is lots of scrutiny and pressure. Some organizations will hear that and say, ‘We want to step up to that challenge and make it happen.’ If you want to play single- and double-league ball, maybe Memphis is not for you,” he said.
So this is a GAME???
The leaders and philanthropists naively think that these young, fast-tracked RELAY teachers will increase test scores of students. In truth, these temps will lower costs of labor and replace experienced, lifelong educators like Meghan Vaziri, who was a level 5 teacher in a school that the ASD took over. (Level 5 is the top score you can get as a teacher in Tennessee). According to the former Memphis City Schools, level 5 is considered an "irreplaceable" teacher, yet Vaziri has been replaced by a temporary Teach For America teacher who only had 5 weeks of training over the summer. Meghan Vaziri is now self-employed as a freelance artist and web developer, but she would love to teach in public schools again. Since witnessing firsthand the ASD's failure with the students and the school she once worked in, she has been an advocate fighting against the ASD's future takeover of public schools. She attends every public meeting she can, and she bravely speaks up. She knows that the ASD is not working, that the average test scores of the ASD after 2 years are still not as high as they were when the schools were public schools. About losing her job, she says she is okay, that "really the only people who were truly hurt were the children who already have too much chaos in their lives to have lost their long time teachers."
When asked for proof that this new RELAY program would work, President Rudd of the University of Memphis could give no proof and honestly admitted in a public meeting this RELAY program is "an experiment." The faculty at University of Memphis is outraged that this Relay program arrangement was brought to their public University in secret, and is proceeding despite their arguments and logic, despite the fact that the University of Memphis already has an outstanding teacher training college that this RELAY program will undoubtedly harm, and despite the fact that President Rudd keeps cancelling public meetings and rescheduling them at inconvenient times for people to attend. President Rudd has now formed a "task force," to "study" the issue, but we've heard his wife has been appointed to serve on it. Everyone knows what the "task force" is intended to do. They are not dumb.
Why don't these leaders and philanthropists "experiment" on their own children in private schools? African American leaders and parents should be outraged, especially the pastors in their communities who one would think would be fighting for justice and equality for the children in their neighborhoods... but, oddly, many are not. Why is this? African American pastors are targeted by reformers and hailed as "visionaries" to promote vouchers for the children in their communities. Don't be surprised when branches of private schools suddenly find building space in those African American pastor's churches and provide a lucrative rent income to their struggling congregations with your public tax dollars. Money speaks. Like charter schools, the private schools are not equipped to handle students with special needs, disabilities, or handicaps. They are not prepared to handle the needs of high-poverty students. Schools will be segregated even more with vouchers. This has happened in other states, and Tennessee will be no exception.
Poor children are NOT an experiment.
Poor children are NOT a game.
Poor children are NOT a petri dish.
They deserve quality public schools in their communities.
Stop screwing around with their education!
Stop listening to overpriced consultants!
Stop listening to overpaid lobbyists!
Stop giving away our public education dollars to private entities to profit from!
Lest you think, "well, those schools deserve to be taken over by the state because they were in the bottom 5%," think about this: There will ALWAYS be a bottom 5%. Even if every student in the state bubbles every single question on the TCAPs correctly this spring, there will still be a bottom 5% of schools. Cut scores on high-stakes tests are intentionally set to have a failing percentage of students. Middle and upper class students have a clear advantage when it comes to testing. Tennessee Education Report rightly calls TCAP the "Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment of Poverty," for that is the data that TCAP truly shows. This system is rigged!
Can public schools do better? Absolutely, with support they need, they certainly can! Have they been starved of funding and resources? Yes!!! The BEP has not been fully funded by the State in our children's lifetimes, so local school boards have struggled for yearswith inadequate funding to pay for never-ending mandates from the state such as expensive testing, computer requirements, and RTI2. Across the state, and especially in poorer areas, class sizes have increased, extra-curricular programs have been slashed, and corners have been cut to make dollars stretch.
Schools in the bottom 5% especially need additional support that they aren't getting. They take children where they are, and they do their best to make them better. Give them smaller class sizes and guidance counselors and watch the children flourish! Make sure that every student's face and name is known and cherished by a staff member in their school building. Don't let those children slip through the cracks! Yes, this takes an investment of money. But we can either pay for it now when the children are young and it will make a positive difference in their lives, or we will be forced to pay doubly for it in the future if those children enter the school to prison pipeline and taxpayers are forced to fund the high cost of incarceration.
Rich people and politicians often say that we "shouldn't keep throwing money at schools" and that "local districts need to better manage their money." Ironically, their own children are in private schools with millions of dollars in endowments where they pay $30,000+ per year tuition without blinking. Our districts in TN are educating children with a third of that or less, while PTAs and PTOs diligently try to fill in the difference through bake sales and car washes. Before those rich people and politicians cast a stone and dismiss public education as wasteful, they should take a look at the boulder in their own eye. What is good for their own precious upper class children is no less than what middle-class and poor children also need... small class sizes, enrichment through the Arts and sports, safe school facilities, no common core, and no excessive standardized testing.
Show us a failing school in a middle or upper class neighborhood. You can't. They don't exist. They are all in the poorest neighborhoods in the state. Poverty is the common factor in failing schools. Fix it, and the precious test scores will rise in Tennessee. Treat children with respect, and not as a commodities. Children need stability and real teachers, not charter vultures, not more testing, not common core, not temporary untrained teachers, and certainly not vouchers to mediocre private schools.
Tennessee, we can do this!!!