As someone who has deep familiarity with Metro Nashville Public Schools – as a graduate, a teacher, and a parent – Abigail Tylor is eager and qualified to have an immediate and positive impact on our schools.
Value Our Teachers
As a former Metro teacher, Abigail has been privileged to know and work alongside many strong and passionate teachers who care deeply for their students. When Metro closed for the rest of the school year in March, she watched her friends and colleagues take a deep breath and get to work. They were given no extra funding, scant training, and were battling the same fears as the rest of the country. But they’re used to doing more with less.
Sometimes Abigail worries that, because our teachers have become so adept at doing more with less, the public believes they don’t actually need everything they keep asking for. Just because it’s possible for a doctor to perform emergency surgery with limited tools outside of an operating room doesn’t mean that we should stop supplying them with a full array of instruments and an optimal environment in which to work.
Likewise, our teachers deserve to start every school year with textbooks for every student, a full closet of necessary supplies like pencils and paper, and access to supplemental material to target individual student needs. They also deserve to have a complete support system backing them up – social workers, guidance counselors, speech and language pathologists, paraprofessionals, classroom aides, and full time school nurses, just to name a few.
What it boils down to is this: Teachers deserve to be treated like the professionals they are.
They deserve to be paid what they’re worth, they deserve to be trusted to know how to do their job, and they deserve respect and support for the increasingly difficult tasks they face every day.
Research has proven what the best teachers have known all along – students who feel respected and cared for will work harder and better than those who don’t. If we truly want our teachers to be exemplary and effective, shouldn’t we take care of them and treat them with respect?
Respond to COVID-19
With the stark reality that our COVID-19 curve is far from flattening, Dr. Battle has made the difficult decision to begin the school year virtually. That means we must ensure that all Metro Schools students will have the tools they’ll need to fully participate. In addition to the laptops Metro handed out in the spring, 10,000 more are scheduled to arrive in early August (with more to follow), and Dr. Battle has gotten permission to loosen some of the restrictions on digital devices purchased with Title 1 money so they can also be shared with our students at home.
But having a device is only half the battle – Metro Schools will need to work closely with community partners to ensure the provided hotspots are accessible and working for all the students who need them. Clear and thorough training for teachers on how to use the digital platform to teach will be necessary. And Metro Schools needs to reach out to provide training to parents and students as well.
Metro Schools will continue to use school locations and bus drivers to make sure students get meals. The social and emotional learning department is working overtime to make sure all students’ social and emotional needs will be best met.
Abigail’s biggest concern are students whose IEPs require special services they can’t receive virtually. The Exceptional Education staff must collaborate with parents, paraprofessionals, general education teachers, and community partners to create a bridge to make sure these students get what they need.
Nashville benefits when a quality education is provided to all students. As a Metro Schools parent, Abigail is working to figure out how to make this challenging situation work just like all Metro Schools families. Now is the time to come together as a city to support one another and our schools. That may mean working out a plan with one or two trusted families to switch off the adult in charge so everyone has the chance to go to work. (Perhaps a small group of older students could safely utilize an adequately sized space during their lessons so they can concentrate.) Businesses need to continue to be as flexible as possible so vulnerable children are not left home alone. It will take the whole community to make it through this time successfully.
Fully Fund Metro Schools
Whenever we have a deficit, education is always one of the first things on the chopping block. As the already underfunded budget gets cut even more, necessary programs like student support services and facilities maintenance fall to the wayside and classroom sizes increase exponentially.
Abigail will work with Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle towards realizing the director’s intention to increase employee compensation, HR and IT infrastructure, community and parent engagement and communications, Schools of Innovation, and textbook replacements.
Reduce and Realign Standardized Testing
High stakes testing has become weaponized. We target teachers and schools based on the outcomes of these tests and punish them for things out of their control. We tell kids who have worked hard all year despite significant hurdles that their scores mean they are a failure. Not to mention that preparing for these tests takes away valuable learning time and adds unnecessary anxiety to everyone involved.
Abigail will fight for transparency around all high stakes testing, and she will demand the time spent testing be developmentally appropriate. She will work to give teachers needed relief from overt and prolonged ‘teaching to the test,’ which, at the very least, means removing the tie between a teacher’s evaluation and TN Ready’s notoriously unreliable measurement.
More than anything else, Abigail wants tests that measure what we actually expect kids to learn from school. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are unquestionably necessary, but so is social and emotional learning.
The framework already exists for how to measure important skills like flexible thinking, conversational skills, and collaboration. Why don’t we spend a little less time forcing our kids to memorize things they’re just going to forget and a little more time teaching them life skills that will make them not just a productive member of society, but also a good person?
Fight Privatization of Our Schools
The goal of public education is to serve the entire public. Most of the people who make up the fabric of our communities were taught in public schools. From circuit court judges to the person who delivered your last package, you can’t avoid interaction with – and sometimes even dependence on – a public school graduate. Abigail wants our community to be the best it possibly can, and that requires strong support for public education.
When public education starts to get privatized through charter schools and vouchers, the already chronically underfunded school system breaks down a little bit more. More students we could have helped slip through the cracks – who knows what they could have accomplished with a full set of resources behind them? The kicker is that charters and voucher schools aren’t even providing better outcomes than local, neighborhood schools. Public school money should stay in public schools.
Increase Social and Emotional Learning Supports
When Abigail was teaching in the general education classroom, she quickly learned why teachers say “Maslow’s before Bloom’s.” It’s shorthand for the fact that you can’t teach a child whose basic needs haven’t been met until you meet that need. Children who are homeless, hungry, dealing with a life changing event (eviction, parents’ divorce, etc), or otherwise traumatized must be met and cared for where they are before we can expect them to turn the energy they spend surviving into learning.
SEL doesn’t only benefit students who are deeply struggling. It gives our teachers and administrators the ability to recognize trauma for what it is, and learn how to cope with it appropriately. It can also play an important role in bringing our collective discourse back to civility.
Studies have shown that coping skills can be taught quite successfully. In an all too common scenario of bullying, SEL provides the framework to help both the bully and the victim learn different ways to navigate social settings. When implemented properly, good SEL can change the entire culture of a school for the better.