Changing Teacher Ed in Memphis

Nancy Bailey has the story about a new program at the University of Memphis that appears to be an attempt to change teacher education.

Bailey notes that the new program will be run by The New Teacher Project and the Relay Graduate School of Education.

It is designed to give would-be teachers an intensive residency and those in the program must commit to teaching for three years in a high-needs school.

Here’s what Bailey has to say about Relay:

The Relay Graduate School of Education follows the same pattern and was started in New York City by Teacher U which launched in 2008 by the charters Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First. It uses words like “systematic” and “alignment.” You could say Hunter College’s Graduate School of Education at the City University of New York opened the door to this quasi-“blind leading the blind” faux teacher prep.

And here’s who is behind the project:

Relay’s Collaborators are:

  • Teach for America
  • The New Teacher Project
  • Citizen Schools

And their investors include:

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • Credit Suisse
  • Fund For Public Schools
  • The Leona M. And Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
  • JP Morgan
  • The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF)
  • New Schools Venture Fund
  • Robin Hood

In Memphis, the Hyde Family Foundation is supporting the new venture.

For Nancy’s full take on the issue, read here.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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More Trouble for the ASD in Memphis

Bluff City Ed cites a Chalkbeat story noting that Green Dot is pulling out of a possible takeover of Raleigh-Eqypt High School.

The story notes that both Freedom Prep and KIPP have also pulled out of prior agreements to takeover Memphis schools.

While charter operators are pulling out of the process, the community is increasingly outspoken in opposition to the ASD takeovers.

Here’s the key takeaway noted by Jon Alfuth at BCE:

I also hope that this serves as a wakeup call for the ASD. As shown at Fairley, it is possible for communities to work with ASD authorized charters and have a positive experience. But the opposite has happened with Green Dot. Chris Barbic, the ASD Superintendent, said in the chalkbeat article, “We’re going to go back and do an autopsy once we’re done with all this.” Lets hope that autopsy helps the ASD identify how it can create more situations like Fairley and less like REHS moving forward.

Read Jon’s full story.

More stories on the ASD in Memphis:

Teachers organize against ASD takeovers

ASD faces Memphis struggles

Is the ASD working?

For more on Memphis education issues, follow @BluffCityEd

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

A Tennessee Teacher on Diane Ravitch’s Nashville Visit

Franklin County teacher Lucianna Sanson writes about her take on Diane Ravitch’s speech in Nashville last week:

This week, Nashville was honored when Diane Ravitch spoke at an event hosted by a group of local grassroots education activists: TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence), Momma Bears (a blog run by some fierce parent activists), and the TnBATs (BadAss Teachers Association) at Vanderbilt University at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19, 2014. Diane was in town to speak at a CTE conference, but she graciously spent her night speaking with, and to, a room full of approximately 400 teachers, parents, administrators, students, reporters, and concerned citizens.

 

Diane spoke at length about education reform and the venture capitalist agenda that is behind the movement. In the interest of selling this agenda, which includes privatizing public education, education reformers are fond of calling education “the civil rights issue of our time.” Ironically, they cast themselves in the mold of great civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and the Freedom Riders. Diane Ravitch pointed out the hypocrisy of this by stating that rather than uplifting African Americans and other People of Color through community schools with wrap-around services, the Reformers promote Charters and Vouchers, which re-segregates schools rather than bringing, or keeping, diverse communities together.

 

Dr. Ravitch spoke about Charter schools, an issue that is particularly troubling for Tennessee because Memphis City/Shelby County has been taken over by the Achievement School District, or ASD, which is modeled after the Recovery School District, or RSD, in New Orleans. This is very troubling because New Orleans only has five public schools remaining in the city. The communities of New Orleans no longer have any ownership or say-so about their own schools. Memphis residents are aware that their schools are being taken over, not to help their students and communities, but to make corporations richer. Residents are fighting back and speaking out against Charter school takeovers.

 

Teachers, parents, and other invested stakeholders are attending neighborhood meetings, holding signs, and speaking to the ASD, local boards, and local leaders. They are asking for their schools to be funded, not sold to the highest bidder. While Memphis is in the eye of the storm, the ASD has reached out to Nashville and is now attempting to take over schools there. The citizens of Nashville are resisting as well, and part of that resistance has taken the form of grassroots organizations holding ed reform awareness workshops, talking with lawmakers, speaking out at BOE meetings, blogging about the truth of ed reform, and working with the local state teacher’s association to raise awareness regarding these issues.

 

Diane encouraged Tennesseans to continue to work together in solidarity to fight ed reform. She encouraged us, as teachers, parents, students, community leaders, and citizens, to be pro-active in speaking up and speaking out. As a teacher, and a parent, a citizen, and a local education activist, I am encouraged by her words, emboldened by them, and inspired by them. I, as well as many others in Tennessee, have become an outspoken advocate for our public schools. In that spirit, I have included the short speech I gave from the TREE, BEARs, and BATs event. It is a call to action, a call to work in solidarity, and a call for all local activists to stay strong, stay focused, and continue to work together. As Diane reminded us, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Here’s my report on the Ravitch event.

And here’s an article Sanson wrote earlier this year about the ASD.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

Teachers Leaving TN School for the Blind

WSMV in Nashville has the story about how 31 teachers have left the Tennessee School for the Blind over the past two years. That’s a 50% turnover in teachers.

The WSMV story notes complaints from teachers and staff about leadership tactics at the school.

According to the report, state legislators are beginning to ask questions and may call a hearing on the issue.

The school, based in Nashville, educates blind children from all across Tennessee in grades K-12.

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport

Inglewood Parents Write Dr. Register

Parents at Inglewood Elementary School have submitted an open letter to MNPS Direct of Schools Jesse Register regarding the possible conversion of that school to a charter school.

Here’s the text of the letter:

RE: Inglewood Elementary Families Resoundingly Reject Charter as Future Pathway
Dr. Register:
On Septemember 5, 2014 Inglewood Elementary PTO started a letter writing campaign, an online petition (http://goo.gl/HceEvM) and a paper petition to persuade you and the MNPS School Board to allocate appropriate resources and allow the current administration/faculty the time to utilize those resources in an effort to improve the test scores of our students and to make sure that they are as prepared for the next stage of education as any other child in the city. To date our combined petitions have more signatures than families in the school. Our letters numbered so many that they created confusion in your office.
As the “3rd Way” was announced our message became more refined and our voices grew stronger. On September 24, 2014, you heard the same message from Inglewood PTO, the faculty and the caretakers of our community, in three separate meetings. The message was two-fold: 1. we do not want a charter school to convert Inglewood and 2. we want the appropriate resources and the time to use them. At the end of your day at Inglewood you stated very clearly that you believed a charter was the wrong direction for Inglewood:
“It sounds like this community does not want this school to convert to a charter school. So, we need to hear that,” said Register. “I would be very hesitant to recommend a conversion here. There are some other places where a conversion might work, but I don’t think so in this community. Nashville Scene SEP 25, 2014
One month later on October 27, 2014 Andrea Zelenski reported that you had changed his mind: “Register Flips, Hasn’t Ruled Out Giving Inglewood Elementary to KIPP” Nashville Scene. What was more striking to the 200 people who attended our meeting with you, and
the 200 who signed our paper petition and wrote letters to you, was another comment in the same article:
So we take that (community voice) into consideration and I acknowledge that feedback from the meeting. That was faculty and community members, very few parents there.  
The PTO’s response to that was to show any obviously confused naysayer that the overwhelming opinion of our parents is NO CHARTER CONVERSION.
We, the stakeholders in Nashville public education, are at a critical moment in the discussion. The East Nashville Advisory Board has been seated and Achievement School District has made an announcement regarding the school they will choose to convert. Inglewood PTO is still collecting data but below are preliminary results that make our case loud and clear. Answering the question: If you (the parents of Inglewood students) could choose what type of school Inglewood Elementary becomes which of the following would it be?
School wide prelim results:
STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) Litton-> Stratford 20.2%
STEaM (science, tech, engineering, arts, math) Litton->Stratford 52.6%
Charter (Publicly financed, privately run with emphasis on discipline, school as team, longer days, and high test results) KIPP Middle-> KIPP High 7.9%
Paideia (active learning method featuring presentation, practice and discussion, most similar to a college liberal arts education) East Middle-> East High 13.2%
STEM or STEaM 3.5%
STEM or Paideia 1.8%
leave as is .9%
Grade level breakdown of the 4 primary choices:
Pre-K   K         1         2           3         4
STEM 26.1% 29.2% 28.6% 14.3% 16.7% 7.1%
STEaM 39.1% 66.7% 57.1% 47.6% 50% 64.3%
Charter 4.3% 0%       7.1%    14.3%  16.7%   7.1%
Paideia 13% 4.2%      7.1%    19%    11.1%      21.4%

Results are preliminary findings from a survey sent home to all Inglewood Elementary parents via daily folder.
Again, the parents of Inglewood Elementary are telling you, Dr. Register, Dr. Coverstone, Randy Dowell, and others who might have questioned our understanding of the situation and resolve to have our voice heard that we do NOT want a conversion to KIPP or any other charter. As we have said since early September, we DO want the appropriate resources, which MNPS has begun to supply, we do want the time to use them, and we do want the support to make sure our wants align with our needs. Lastly, we want to remain a part of AND become a vital player in the rising Litton-> Stratford pathway.
Sincerely,  Inglewood Elementary School PTO

This is not the first time Inglewood parents have expressed displeasure at the proposed direction of their school.

They earlier expressed concern about being handed over to the ASD.

Additionally, Jai Sanders, of the Inglewood PTO is involved with East Nashville United’s efforts to slow down or stop conversion of East Nashville schools into an “all-choice” zone.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

Frogge, North, Speering Challenge ASD Takeover in Madison

MNPS School Board member Amy Frogge is asking residents to speak out about a proposed takeover of either Madison Middle or Neelys Bend Middle by the Tennessee Achievement School District.

She’s posted on her Facebook page a request for community action regarding the takeover and published a letter on the issue from former Board member Mark North.

Board member Jill Speering, who currently represents the area where the schools are located, is also taking up the fight.

Here’s the post:

PLEASE HELP.  The ASD wants to take over Nashville schools that the ASD is underperforming!  Why? To improve its track record.  If we make noise, this will not happen!
Memphis is successfully fighting off ASD takeovers by charter groups. Three charter organizations have backed out of takeovers in the past 3 weeks because of community outcry!  (See links in comments.)  This is not inevitable.
The following is a Facebook post from fellow school board member, Jill Speering, who represents the schools marked for ASD takeover:
Mark North, a lifetime resident of Madison, a graduate of Madison High School, and a previous school board member wrote the following letter and sent it to elected officials about the possible takeover of Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend Elementary by the Achievement School District (ASD). We are asking the community to come together and support our Madison schools. If we work together and demonstrate our support for our Madison schools we could possibly avert a potential takeover of our neighborhood schools. We need community support! Please consider attending meetings that will be announced soon to show the ASD that the community is behind our Madison schools. If you would like to discuss this with me, please email me at jill.speering@mnps.org.
“Friends:
The Achievement School District (ASD) will announce on Friday which Metro school it is going to take over. The word on the street is that it will either be Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend Middle.
That would be outrageous. The ASD is failing, and these two schools are both outperforming the ASD. 40% of ASD students scored “Below Basic” in Math and that percentage of failure actually increased from the previous year. Also, 43% of ASD students scored Below Basic in Reading and a whopping 46.3% in Science.
In terms of students scoring proficient or advanced, each of these two Middle schools outperformed the ASD.
If the ASD takes over one of these schools and the school does not improve its scores at all next year, it will still improve the ASD’s overall score. Ironic? Yes, and tragic for the children of Madison.
Moreover, both of these two schools improved last year (as compared to 2012-13) in all three subjects and each school improved at a rate better than the ASD in 2 of the 3 subjects.
Attached is a chart showing how these two schools fared as compared to the ASD. Obviously, these schools need to improve, but their record shows that MNPS will be more successful making that improvement that the ASD.
Finally, if the ASD is allowed to continue to exist despite its dismal record, it should not be allowed to takeover schools unless its own scores are substantially better than the school it proposes to take over.
Mark North”
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

The Sweet Sixteen

Round 1 of Education Commissioner Madness is over and Round 2 — The Sweet Sixteen – is well underway.

The Round of 16 includes former legislator Gloria Johnson, Deputy Commissioner of Education Kathleen Airhart, and Williamson County Superintendent Mike Looney, who edged out Tullahoma’s Dan Lawson with a late surge.

The Sweet Sixteen also features PET’s JC Bowman and TEA’s Jim Wrye.

Head on over to Bluff City Ed and vote NOW for who should advance to the Elite Eight.

For more on education issues in Memphis, follow @BluffCityEd

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

ASD on the March in Nashville

Andrea Zelinski has the story on the plans for the Achievement School District to take over a middle school in Madison.

Whether it is Madison Middle or Neelys Bend will be announced on December 12. According to the story, the ASD will talk with district leaders, teachers, and parents in the community before making the final decision.

Amid rumors that Inglewood Elementary would be handed over to the ASD, parents there rallied opposition to a takeover.

In Memphis, parents and teachers are increasingly speaking out about the ASD takeovers.

A data analysis provided earlier this year at Bluff City Ed indicates the ASD is struggling to hit its targets or even out-perform district schools.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Replacing TCAP

Measurement, Inc. has been hired by the State of Tennessee to design new assessments in ELA and Math.

The contract came about because the General Assembly passed legislation calling on the state to open bidding for new assessments rather than continue as planned with administration of the PARCC tests.

Here’s an email sent to educators today explaining the upcoming changes:

Over the past several months, Gov. Haslam and his administration, including the state department of education, have participated in a number of ongoing conversations with you and your colleagues about K-12 education in Tennessee. These conversations have reflected both the historic progress Tennessee has made through your work as well as your concerns and recommendations for improvement. One emerging theme from these discussions has been the challenges experienced by educators due to the uncertainty of the state’s assessments in English language arts (ELA) and math and the impact of administering the existing TCAP exams while meeting the current ELA and math academic standards.
We are excited to report to you that this week the state of Tennessee completed the process to replace the state’s current TCAP assessments in ELA and math. The new measurements of learning for ELA and math will be called Tennessee Ready (TNReady). These assessments, to be administered by Measurement Inc., were selected through a fair, thorough and transparent process established by the General Assembly and administered by the state’s Central Procurement Office.
TNReady will be administered beginning in the 2015-16 school year and will assess our state standards in ELA and math. These standards are located on the department of education website (ELA is here and math is here).
You’ll find additional information about TNReady below:

  • By Tennessee, For Tennessee: Tennessee educators – both at the K-12 and higher education levels – were significantly involved in the selection process and chose an assessment that is both fully aligned to the state’s academic standards but also adaptable to future improvements. Tennessee will make decisions about item selection, test length and composition, and scoring. In the future, Tennessee will decide on changes to the test based on changes to standards, and Tennesseans will be engaged in item development and review.
  • Higher Expectations and Critical Thinking:  TNReady will expand beyond just multiple choice questions to include: writing that requires students to cite text evidence at all grade levels; questions that measure math fluency without a calculator; and questions that ask students to show their work in math with partial credit available.
  • Resources for Parents and Teachers:  Online tools will be available for schools and teachers to develop practice tests that can provide students, teachers, and parents with valuable and immediate feedback. These resources will be available before the end of the 2014-15 school year.
  • Comparability:  While the assessments will be unique to Tennessee, TNReady will allow Tennesseans to compare our student progress to that of other states. Through a partnership between Measurement Inc. and American Institutes for Research, TNReady will offer Tennessee a comparison of student performance with other states, likely to include Florida and Utah.
  • Training:  The Tennessee Department of Education will provide training for educators across the state during the summer of 2015.
  • Test Administration & Scoring: TNReady will have two parts. The first portion, which will replace the state’s current comprehensive writing assessment, will require extended written responses in ELA and math and will be administered in February/March. The second portion will include selected responses, such as multiple choice and drag-and-drop items, and will be administered in April/May.
  • Technology: TNReady will be administered online and available for use on multiple devices with minimal bandwidth. As most states move their tests for all grade levels online, we must ensure Tennessee students do not fall behind their peers in other states. However, all districts will have the option of administering paper-pencil exams.

We look forward to sharing additional details about the new assessments in the coming months.  Additional information will be posted on the new TNReady page of our website.
Finally, as previously noted, Tennessee will make appropriate revisions to assessments in the future to reflect any change in the academic standards. Recently, Gov. Haslam and the State Board of Education announced a public review process in which all Tennesseans will have an opportunity to provide input on our ELA and math standards. These public comments will then be reviewed by committees of Tennessee educators, which will make recommendations to the state board. We encourage all of you to be engaged in this process in an effort to ensure our academic standards continue to reflect higher expectations for our students. To participate in the standards review process, visit https://apps.tn.gov/tcas/. We want to thank you for your patience and acknowledge the tremendous dedication you have shown in improving the life outcomes for Tennessee students and their families. Thank you for what you do every day.

For more on education policy and politics in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Ravitch: Ed Reform is a Hoax

Education scholar and activist Diane Ravitch spoke at Vanderbilt University in Nashville last night at an event hosted by Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE), the Tennessee BATs (Badass Teachers), and the Momma Bears.

Ravitch touched on a number of hot-button education issues, including vouchers, charter schools, teacher evaluations, and testing. Many of these issues are seeing plenty of attention in Tennessee public policy circles both on the local and state levels.

She singled out K12, Inc. as a bad actor in the education space, calling the Tennessee Virtual Academy it runs a “sham.”

Attempts have been made to cap enrollment and shut down K12, Inc. in Tennessee, but they are still operating this year. More recently, the Union County School Board defied the State Department of Education and allowed 626 students to remain enrolled in the troubled school. The reason? Union County gets a payoff of $132,000 for their contract with K12.

Ravitch noted that there are good actors in the charter sector, but also said she adamantly opposes for-profit charter schools. Legislation that ultimately failed in 2014 would have allowed for-profit charter management companies to be hired by Tennessee charter schools.

On vouchers, an issue that has been a hot topic in the last two General Assemblies, Ravitch pointed to well-established data from Milwaukee that vouchers have made no difference in overall student performance.

Despite the evidence against vouchers, it seems quite likely they will again be an issue in the 2015 General Assembly. In fact, the Koch Brothers and their allies spent heavily in the recent elections to ensure that vouchers are back on the agenda.

Ravitch told the crowd that using value-added data to evaluate teachers makes no sense. The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) has been around since the BEP in 1992. It was created by UT Ag Professor Bill Sanders. Outgoing Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman made an attempt to tie teacher licenses to TVAAS scores, but that was later repealed by the state board of education. A careful analysis of the claims of value-added proponents demonstrates that the data reveals very little in terms of differentiation among teachers.

Ravitch said that instead of punitive evaluation systems, teachers need resources and support. Specifically, she mentioned Peer Assistance and Review as an effective way to provide support and meaningful development to teachers.

A crowd of around 400 listened and responded positively throughout the hour-long speech. Ravitch encouraged the audience to speak up about the harms of ed reform and rally for the reforms and investments our schools truly need.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport