This Is What Success Looks Like

Episode 7: This is What Success Looks Like

Show Notes


The question of a school’s “success” is the thread underlying this entire podcast – and the specific target we aim at today by listening to the voice and experience of four representative Bailey students.   In the face of all we could put in the basket of “learning loss,” the educators at Bailey reconstructed their interactions and their expectations to experience success for themselves and their students …. Yes, success (or at least substantial improvement) in test scores, but success understood far more broadly and deeply to incorporate mental health, social and emotional capacity, academic achievement, and growth in intelligence.  


Listen to four Bailey students speak for themselves about why they were there, what they remember, and how they have made their way – with stories still very much being told.   Success for these young adults is not so much about achievement understood in test-based terms as about who these young people are and why we might feel good about who the Bailey students have become and are still becoming.  You will meet Damisha, Brandon, Maia, and Zee, all in their early 20s.   As you’ll see, their stories differ but what they share is that Bailey, a middle school, was a place where they experienced both love and limits.  It felt to them like a place where they could grow and develop.  



00:00  A meditation on “success” in school  Barbara Stengel

04:50   Introduction,  Barbara Stengel

06:03   Damisha Hanserd, transfer from KIPP and East, who stayed through 8th grade

                     The power of Black teachers

                     Getting in trouble and academic achievement

                     Education at Bailey better than East

                     Juggling college, the pandemic, and responsibility as a mom

                     Bailey shaped me

17:31   Brandon Tok, transfer from Rutherford County, who spent his 8th grade year

                     From the “best” high school, leaving college for a family business

                     Diversity among students at Bailey

                     Influential, even “life-saving,” teachers

                     Parental presence matters

                     Bailey’s social impact

31:00   Maia Black, arrived in 6th grade and left after 7th

                     “Trouble” moved her to Bailey

                     Athletics as a form of self-discipline

                     Student diversity at Bailey

                     Teachers wanting to understand

                     Admin working together for student success

                     All that Bailey had to offer            

47:25   Zionna Jennings, at Bailey before the Sawyer/Jasper era

                     When people believed in me

                     On my own and overwhelmed

                     Love and limits – and a new family

                     Mental health in disadvantaged communities

                     Bailey as a school community for “student teachers”

                     (Not) Reaching for the stars

64:20   Wrap-up and lead in to Bailey’s being closed  Barbara Stengel, Christian Sawyer


In this seventh episode, there are references to a variety of social, educational and historical news and commentary. You can find sources to find out more about these at our website:


Chasing Bailey is a podcast about a group of teachers, leaders, and others who dedicated   themselves to changing the fortunes of a failing middle school in Nashville TN from 2012 to 2016.

They succeeded, but their achievement was bittersweet.

In 2016, the district closed that school.

Still, those who were there knew they had stumbled onto something special, some       important educational truths    that might help all of us find our way out of the morass that COVID 19 has left us in.

Our Host is Barb Stengel, a retired professor of educational practice at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. She is a self-described fan of the Bailey experiment.

Between 2012 and 2016, Barb spent one day a week at Bailey, coordinating the school’s collaboration with Peabody, and serving as an informal cheerleader while also learning from this remarkable effort. She knew early on it was a story worth telling. So over the past year, Barb has spent time with dozens of staff, students, parents, and district administrators who were eager to talk about their experiences.


Chasing Bailey is hosted and narrated by Dr. Barbara Stengel, Vanderbilt University.


This episode was edited and co-produced by Brenna Fallon.   The executive producer is Dr. Lowery Woodall, Millersville University of Pennsylvania.


Our theme music is Midnight Blues by lemonmusicstudio.  Occasional music for this episode includes Soul Food by Chris Haugen and Good Friends by Caffeine Creek Band.


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