Astro's Blog

What is Diversity?

By: Astrometeor, 3:35 AM GMT on February 20, 2014

Diversity is how many different races, cultures, and nationals a group has within itself. In theory. Why do I say "in theory"? Good question. It's because the Metro Nashville Public School District tends to quantify "diversity" as "number of African-Americans". This subject, as you can see, has now become quite sensitive. We are suddenly dealing with multiple issues instead of just an education statistic. The issue arises from an attempt by MNPS to get rid of the 7th and 8th grades at my school, MLK Magnet HS here in Nashville, TN. Ultimately, that failed. Now we are scheduled to have an expansion (somehow, details not finalized). However, at one of the meetings with concerned parents, the Director of Schools, a certain Dr. Register, responded to a question asking why were the standards for grades lowered by saying "We can not raise the standards (minimum grade, e.g. 85 average) for getting in to MLK, because that would hurt diversity." I apologize for my crude language, but that's B.S. The parents argue (correctly, I should add) that if the standards were raised, the only persons missing out on MLK would be the same individuals who would do terrible at MLK, and wouldn't be in any shape for the better. As for what Register means by diversity, history hasn't been kind. He can't say "African-American" otherwise he'll be torched for being racist. No matter the charge, there is some truth in his words. Regardless, those who actually want to learn won't be affected by Dr. Register's opinions. Maybe the good doctor should get a look at what diversity really is.

This is diversity:

 photo CountryDiversity_zps637e73c0.jpeg

That's the foreign make-up of the student body at my school. Trust me, a raising of standards won't hurt Register's precious diversity plan. If anything, the students on the border line of getting (and who want to learn, unlike others) will do the extra work to succeed. His lack of faith in the students here in Nashville is astounding. No respect shown whatsoever.

If you're curious in how those meetings went, he sounded like a regular politician, dodging questions, and failing to offer any adequate answers. *Sigh*. Oh least we stopped him from tearing my school apart. Minor victory. Now, if only MLK could go charter school. THAT would be nice.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments, questions, and/or concerns below. I'll try to answer anything you may be unsure about!

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Happy Valentine's Day

By: Astrometeor, 6:10 AM GMT on February 14, 2014

Re: Title. Happy Valentine's Day everyone. Hope everyone has a good day today, and a good weekend as well. Give someone a hug. And make sure to have a smile on your face as much as possible today. A look to history to see what happened on February 14:

Wiki History on Valentine's Day

From the wiki page: February 14 is the 45th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 320 days remaining until the end of the year (321 in leap years).

And for Elizabeth, my Valentine:

One more thing from me, I'll try not to argue with Max for the entirety of this weekend. I shall be nice to him, no trolling whatsoever from me. I shall expect the same from him.

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Poor vs Good Teachers-Part Two

By: Astrometeor, 5:30 AM GMT on February 09, 2014

This part is more dedicated to the teachers whom I have encountered more so than the first part. As in, the negativity shown to good teachers by the school board/central office and the floundering of officials when they find someone who is actually accredited to teach and is an accomplished person in several fields.

Remember the Grading for Learning blog entry I made a while back? If not, here's the link: Grading for Learning blog post. Teachers were told not to criticize the policy, lest they want to receive a pink slip. Some teachers felt threatened, but the old and experienced teachers at my school laughed at Central Office's foolishness, and went ahead and told the student body about the new grading policy. Which is now severely affecting students' grades (for example my little brother's grades) and causing nightmares for some teachers....but that's another story.

During a meeting with my AP Calculus teacher (due to me not doing my homework...) the school asked my mother to take up the cause against the Grading for Learning policy, being that my mother is a 10+ year veteran in dealing with MNPS-Metro Nashville Public Schools. Right now, it seems to be that the current plausible method of attack against MNPS's ludicrous policies is simple-don't follow them. Well, what about that pink slip threat Astro? Baseless threat, I reply. First of would be quite hard to follow several stellar teachers from my school on the basis of not following a rather immature policy. Teacher Unions' exist for the protecting teachers against threats like these. But Astro, didn't you say you don't like unions? Yes, I did, but they are here for a reason, and not everything they do is bad, some things are well needed, especially when the public is rather ignorant on the issue.

Anyways, we (anti-Central Office folks) got our answer so to speak on whether or not MNPS could back up their threats-in two unfortunate ways. First, my honors chemistry teacher contracted cancer...she's currently fighting a serious fight. It took MNPS nearly a year to find a replacement. That was for honors, mind you. We also had to replace an AP position recently, after the teacher fled to a local charter school after being harassed by Central Office. We only filled the position quickly because a neighboring county was in the midst of a budget crisis. Now, imagine if a whole bastion of teachers took a concerted pledge against Grading for Learning. What is MNPS going to do? Fire them? And leave the kids without a capable teacher? Lol, they wouldn't survive the resulting criticism...and investigations.

Now, why do I doubt the school district's ability to find a position? There is a Tennessee State University professor who retired from college recently. He holds several degrees, and of course, decades of teaching experience. He applies for a job with MNPS. Their basic reaction is a confused one, not knowing where to put a man who is well-talented because his degrees are in select sciences, not the generic sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology that are taught in schools. Don't ask me why or how they came to that decision, I have no clue. Granted, I have limited knowledge on this particular case, only knowing what tidbits by mother has gleaned off from respectable sources.

Let me give you a brief factual review on the AP teacher that left for the charter school. She is a truly amazing teacher, one that I got to witness teach for about two weeks. Then she left for the charter. They offered her an amazing job proposal, good pay supplemented with retirement pay from MNPS. So, she left. She had taught for one year at my school...after being fired from a previous MNPS school for supporting the students. You can read the article behind that story here: Teacher vs MNPS. You can draw your own conclusions about that battle.

That being said, what is the solution? The common response would be to elect people to the school board and hire a superintendent who actually has an inkling of an idea of how to run a school system. For my school, dozens of parents have/do want to take the school to a charter school, and use something similar to a voucher system. Unfortunately, there is no way we're going to achieve that with the current school board personnel. Which brings us back to the first option.

Thanks for reading Part Two of this particular topic. Comments below are greatly appreciated!

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Poor vs Good Teachers-Part One

By: Astrometeor, 11:42 PM GMT on February 03, 2014

Well, this is a pretty simple topic on face value. Want to hear it? You don't? To bad, I'm still going to say something.

Good teachers, in essence, make learning fun and accessible, no matter the grade, ability, or socioeconomic status of the student. Everyone learns when a good teacher is in the room. Case in point, my Honors Algebra I teacher from 8th grade. I got, oh say 90s on her tests, but a 98 on the state final (the only Q I missed we didn't learn due to an epic flood canceling school in 2010). Everyone in my grade got a 96 or higher that year of the EOC (End-Of-Course state test), even the ones that were failing her class. She was, and is, a good teacher.

Bad teachers, on the other hand are (usually) easy to make out. They just stand there and drone on, day after day, with no variability in the lessons, and no care for the student populace. This, unfortunately, even happens in my school. Quite visibly in some aspects, too. One teacher (no names for fear of unfair punishment) will even begin to drift into her personal life which the kids could care less about. The Central Office of the district defended the teacher saying "the kids get good scores on the AP test, so your accusations are unfounded." Well, of course the students still got good grades because they belong to the rare breed of students that actually care how well they do in school. These kids took it upon themselves to form study groups, print off old tests, and teach themselves the material. And then they told the principal that the teacher was horribly inaccurate. Against Central Office's wishes, our old principal demoted the teacher (union rules wouldn't allow us to fire her) to a life of teaching art to 7th graders, a subject that is harmless to the students.

The Central Office highlighted its ignorance of the workplace in a series of meetings, by one worker going, "Oh, we just can't fire people for not doing their job sufficiently, that would be ridiculous and the union would throw a fit." Apparently (I was not there), every single parent's mouth dropped to the floor, and my mother responded with, "I could be fired right now for almost no reason at all." Now, it was the Central Office employee's turn for the mouth to drop. Complete willful ignorance, and another example that has pushed my mother to ask for charter schools. Public schools in the South just don't work.

Now, how to fix? First, get rid of stupid union bargaining rights. The "we teachers are underpaid" will only work when I see actual improvement. Earn that raise! If you entered the teacher workforce for money, then you are in the wrong business. Yes, I understand that everyone needs a living wage, however, if you are not fulfilling your basic job requirement (teaching kids), then your low wage is completely justified. Which brings me around to another point. Fire a teacher for not teaching kids anything. Please. Don't force other schools to hire "displaced teachers" unless the teacher was displaced for something that won't affect students, like arguing with principal over dress codes. Try to hire someone who has a degree in the field and a teaching certificate. I don't want to be learning physics from someone who only claims a "teaching certificate", I want to know that my teacher actually knows his/her stuff.

Yes, there are good teachers out there, I definitely don't want to put them in a bad light. But, the nature of how the educational system works down here is simply ludicrous. Run the system like a business, with the product being smart, intelligent students, and progress will be made. Fire the workers (teachers, administrators, counselors) who slack off on the job or aren't enthused by their job.

That's another thing. I've met too many teachers with either short tempers or a disdain for students. If you don't have patience, or if you don't like kids, why are you even here?
Well, this is the end of Part One. Part Two will follow hopefully in the next two or three weeks. I have underestimated how fast time flies when one is busy, it seems. Oh well. Maybe I'll get this series done by the end of summer, if I'm lucky. College might give me more free time than I've had all of senior year, lol. Thanks for reading everyone.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

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