Koch Brothers, Haslam Gang Up on Gloria Johnson

The race for Tennessee’s 13th District House Seat features incumbent Democrat Gloria Johnson versus an army of out-of-state special interest groups who have teamed up with Governor Bill Haslam to unseat one of the most outspoken defenders of public education in the General Assembly.

Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity has sent mailer after mailer comparing Johnson to such horrible figures as Lane Kiffin and Barack Obama (it is difficult to tell which of the two is viewed less favorably in Knoxville).

The Tennessee Federation for Children has spent $100,000 against Johnson. The outfit is curiously named, since it is based in Washington, DC, and doesn’t have a Tennessee presence until it is time to push for risky and expensive voucher schemes at the General Assembly. Thanks in part to Johnson’s leadership, the TFC’s voucher plans have failed in two consecutive General Assemblies. Now, they’re coming after Johnson.

Joining (leading?) the parade of attacks against Johnson is Governor Bill Haslam. His Advance Tennessee PAC is spending $50,000 on a new TV attack ad against Johnson.

What’s Haslam’s beef against the Knoxville teacher-legislator? Gloria Johnson has routinely criticized Haslam for his lack of leadership and general failure to communicate, especially when it comes to education issues.

Johnson correctly warned that Common Core would die in Tennessee unless Haslam did a better job of talking with teachers and parents about the merits of the program.

The good news for Johnson is that Haslam and the Koch Brothers teamed up with TFC in the primary in August to challenge Republicans who weren’t sufficiently in support of privatizing public schools, and they lost many of those races.

Of course, a teacher and defender of public schools can’t compete dollar-for-dollar with such intense spending. But the focus on House District 13 when the GOP already holds a big majority in the General Assembly makes one wonder what exactly these groups want for their money.

I wrote a piece about the GOP 2013 legislative agenda on education that I think is exactly what these groups want to see pass in 2015. If only they can get Gloria Johnson out of the way.

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

Heyburn Named to Lead State Board of Ed

From a News Release:

The Tennessee State Board of Education announced Friday morning that Sara Heyburn will become the board’s executive director upon the retirement of current executive director Gary Nixon.

Nixon, set to retire at the end of this year, was recognized at Friday’s board meeting for his decades of service to Tennessee students.

“Dr. Nixon provided excellent leadership over the last decade, and we believe that Dr. Heyburn is the right person to follow in his footsteps,” Fielding Rolston, chairman of the state board, said. “The board was impressed with Dr. Heyburn’s leadership in key areas over the past years. We also have been impressed with her ability to build consensus among different education groups and her willingness to meet with and listen to all stakeholders.”

Heyburn has served as the assistant commissioner for teachers and leaders at the Tennessee Department of Education since 2011, where she leads the state’s efforts related to increasing teacher and leader effectiveness. Prior to that, she served as an education policy adviser for the state and also worked for Vanderbilt University as a policy analyst at the National Center on Performance Incentives. Heyburn holds a B.A. in English and a master’s degree in teaching, both from the University of Virginia, and she earned an Ed.D. from Vanderbilt University in 2010. She began her work in education as a high school English teacher in Jefferson County Schools in Kentucky and Williamson County Schools in Tennessee.

“I am humbled by the board’s decision,” Heyburn said.  “It is an honor to work on critical issues affecting Tennessee children, and I will work diligently to ensure that the board continues to pursue student-centered policies.”

Wayne Miller, executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), added, “Dr. Heyburn has always been very easy to work with and open to the ideas that TOSS brings to the table. I look forward to many opportunities to collaborate with her and the state board as we continue to improve the academic experience for all of Tennessee students.”

Heyburn will assume the role early next year.

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

In Response to the Response: An East Nashville Story

Yesterday, I reported on a clash between East Nashville United and MNPS over emails purportedly revealing a plan to turn Inglewood Elementary School over to KIPP, a local charter operator.

Essentially, MNPS says that the emails and other communications are about an ongoing dialogue. In a statement, MNPS said it appreciates the passion around the issue of East Nashville schools and that no final decisions have been made about charter conversions or other options.

For their part, East Nashville United remains skeptical.

In a response posted today on the group’s blog, East Nashville United says that MNPS is playing word games. The group calls into question the credibility of MNPS Innovation Zone Director Alan Coverstone and MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register.

The post includes a timeline of events and lays out the case that members of the East Nashville community may not be getting the full story from MNPS.

Read the full story from East Nashville United’s perspective.

The bottom line: This story is just getting started.

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

 

Deception or Dialogue? MNPS, Inglewood Elementary, and KIPP

One day after East Nashville United blasted district leaders for emails related to the future of Inglewood Elementary, including a possible charter conversion, a spokesperson for MNPS said in a written statement that the emails referenced by ENU only reinforce that no final decision about Inglewood’s future has been made.

In a press release issued Tuesday, East Nashville United called on MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register to “back away from his backroom deal to hand over the management of Inglewood Elementary School to KIPP, a local charter school operator.”

In response, district spokesperson Joe Bass wrote that MNPS is “considering all of the potential options” and “discussing those options with leaders at KIPP and with parents at the schools.”

Here’s the full press release from East Nashville United:

East Nashville United is calling on Jesse Register to back away from his backroom deal to hand over the management of Inglewood Elementary School to KIPP, a local charter school operator.

On September 24th, Nashville Schools Director Jesse Register hosted a community meeting at Inglewood Elementary to discuss his recently announced East Nashville schools’ plan. Nearly every parent at the meeting voiced unbridled support for their zoned school, prompting Register to tell the Nashville Scene that he was not inclined to hand over Inglewood to KIPP.
“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.”
On Monday, however, it was revealed that Register had already made a deal with KIPP for Inglewood Elementary, despite repeated assertions to the community that “there was no plan” and statements to Inglewood Elementary parents confirming that he was not going to convert the school to a charter. Recently released emails confirm that the district’s central office had already settled on Inglewood as a location for the next KIPP location, weeks before Register announced his 3rd Way Plan to the school board.
“We made it very clear to Dr. Register that we were not in favor of a charter conversion and he appeared to listen,” says Jai Sanders, an Inglewood parent and one of the founding members of East Nashville United. “But now it’s clear that the fix was already in to flip our school to KIPP and that his meeting with parents was a charade.”
Although East Nashville United has repeatedly signaled its support for the existing charter schools in the Stratford and Maplewood clusters, John Haubenreich, the chair of the parent-led group, affirmed yet again that his group’s opposition to the district’s dealings is not over the role of charter schools in public education.
“Had the parents at Inglewood expressed any interest in handing over their school to KIPP, we would not oppose a charter conversion,” Haubenreich says. “But the parents made it clear that they did not want a charter to run their school. What they wanted–and still want–is for their zoned school to stay intact, only with MNPS providing it with the resources it needs to succeed.”
Haubenreich says he is mystified how Register could hedge his position after hearing from so many Inglewood parents.
“Our message all along has been that any East Nashville plan can be created only after listening to parents and educators,” he said.  “We thought that’s the direction we were all headed, but now it appears we’re back to square one, fighting a cram-down scheme concocted in back rooms by people who don’t live in our neighborhoods and don’t have kids in our schools..”
Ruth Stewart, the vice chair of ENU, says that the recently released emails raise serious questions about whether Register has any plans to listen to the community task force. The task force, pushed for by East Nashville United, was supposed to help devise a plan by listening to parents and educators and researching the best options for each school.  Stewart, however, says the recently released emails suggest that district officials and charter officials were already engaged in serious policy discussions well before anyone else knew an East Nashville plan was afoot.
“We were told over and over that there was no plan, but the emails show the exact opposite.” Stewart says. “Before the task force begins its work, we want to know details of this secret plan. We’re not sure what the point of having a task force is if the district is already making decisions behind closed doors, with no community input.  Who knows what else they’ve already decided and haven’t told us about.”
Here is the full text of the written response from MNPS spokesperson Joe Bass:
The emails and public comments referenced by East Nashville United only reinforce what we have consistently said all along – that no final decision about the KIPP conversion has been made. What these comments show is that we are considering all of the potential options, discussing those options with leaders at KIPP and with parents at the schools.

 

The feedback we are receiving is helping to inform our decision, and we want to receive more input before a final decision is made. It’s not just the loudest voices that should be heard in this decision-making process, but all voices.

We want to hear from parents with children currently enrolled in the schools under consideration for conversion, as well as parents who are already choosing other school options for their children and parents who have young children who will be entering the school system in the future.

We appreciate the passion that is being shown by parents across East Nashville – their involvement in this process is key to creating a stronger network of schools in that part of our city.

 

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

ASD Faces Memphis Challenges

Bluff City Ed has the story of how Memphis teachers, parents, and students are standing up and resisting the Achievement School District.

The story chronicles recent events in summary format and demonstrates that what the ASD is selling is not being well-received. It could be because there are real questions about the effectiveness of the ASD’s work in Memphis.

From the story:

If the last few days are any indication, Memphis is close to an open revolt against the Achievement School District.

It doesn’t take much more than a cursory look at the news since the announcement of the ASD’s nine new takeovers to reach this conclusion.  The revolt is coming every quarter, both from within the schools being taken over and from those outside the schools in the community. It’s even coming from district leaders and, one can infer, from the charter operators themselves.

What make it notable is that it’s all much more intense than what we’ve seen in previous ASD takeovers. Its no longer bordering on dissent – it appears we’ve moved now into open revolt.

Read the whole story to understand the resistance and what it might mean for the ASD’s future in Memphis.

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

Why is TN 40th?

Recently, I wrote about Tennessee’s history of not investing in its teachers. Specifically, Tennessee ranks 40th in the nation in overall teacher pay and 40th in growth in teacher pay over time. So, Tennessee teachers are paid low salaries and those salaries don’t improve much as teachers advance in their careers.

Now, I’d like to take a look at why Tennessee teacher pay is low and is not improving.

The simple answer is this: The BEP is broken.

The BEP is the Basic Education Plan which is the state funding formula for public schools. The formula includes a number of components, including funding for teaching and staff positions based on district size as well as allocations for teacher salaries and insurance. It is the mechanism by which the state fulfills its constitutional responsibility to provide a free public education to all Tennessee students.

The BEP is not the sole funding source for public schools. Instead, the BEP generates dollars that are sent to local districts and each district is also asked to pay a share of the cost of providing education to the students there. The formula includes a mechanism which identifies a district’s “ability to pay” and districts receive a percentage of the total anticipated education funding needs based on that ability. Small, rural counties typically receive a much larger percentage of their total education budget from state BEP dollars than do large, urban districts or wealthy suburban districts.

The idea behind the formula is to introduce an element of equity to Tennessee schools. That is, no matter where a child lives, he or she should have access to a high quality education. Sure, wealthier districts will likely always spend more to enhance the basic program, but at a fundamental level, a child in Hancock County should be able to access the same basic educational opportunities as a child in Williamson County.

One key indicator of equity historically has been disparity in teacher pay across districts. Yes, a teacher in Shelby County has a higher cost of living than one in Perry County. But, fundamentally, the gap between salaries should not be such as to deprive rural districts of the opportunity to compete for teaching talent.

Back in 2002, the small school systems that originally banded together to sue the state to create the BEP sued the state again. This time, arguing that because of the widening disparity in teacher pay, education funding in the state was no longer equitable. At that time, the highest-paying districts in the state were paying salaries nearly 46% higher than the lowest-paying districts (based on numbers from the TN Department of Education). The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the small schools and ordered the state to move toward funding fairness. As a result, the state made teacher salary a formal component of the BEP and funded it at a fixed percentage.

In the years following this adjustment, the pay disparity among districts dropped from 46% to 35%. The parties to the equity lawsuit agreed this was progress and from 2004-2009, the disparity hovered in the 35-36% range.

Following the economic recession of 2008-2009, however, investment in the instructional component of the BEP stagnated. This enabled wealthier districts to continue investing in their teachers while poorer districts could not keep up.

In 2014, the salary disparity among districts is just under 42%. Yes, that’s not far from the 46% ruled unconstitutional back in the 2002 case. And, the trend is heading in the wrong direction for equity, having worsened some 7 percentage points since 2008.

Why does this keep happening? The BEP is broken.

As I mentioned, the BEP includes an instructional component which provides districts funding for teacher salaries. The current instructional component sets a salary number of $40,447. The state then funds this component at 70%, leaving districts to pay 30% of the salary cost for that teacher.

There are a few problems with this. First, nearly every district in the state hires more teachers than the BEP formula generates. This is because students don’t arrive in neatly packaged groups of 20 or 25, and because districts choose to enhance their curriculum with AP courses, foreign language, physical education, and other programs. This add-ons are not fully contemplated by the BEP.

Next, the state sets the instructional component for teacher salary at $40,447. The average salary actually paid to Tennessee teachers is $50,355.  That’s slightly below the Southeastern average and lower than six of the eight states bordering Tennessee. In short, an average salary any lower would not even approach competitiveness with our neighbors.

But, this gets to the reason why salary disparity is growing among districts. The state funds 70% of the BEP instructional component. That means the state sends districts $28,333.90 per BEP-generated teacher. But districts pay an average of $50,355 per teacher they employ. That’s a $22,000 disparity. In other words, instead of paying 70% of a district’s basic instructional costs, the state is paying 56%.

There’s an easy fix to this and it has been contemplated by at least one large school system in the state. That fix? Moving the BEP instructional component to the state average. Doing so would cost just over $500 million. So, it’s actually NOT that easy. Another goal of those seeking greater equity is moving the BEP instructional match from 70% to 75%, essentially fulfilling the promise of BEP 2.0. Doing so would cost at least $150 million.

Oh, and there’s one other problem with the BEP as it currently functions that impacts equity. The BEP insurance component. The BEP provides funds (45%) for teacher insurance. But, the BEP only funds teacher insurance for 10 months. Teachers receive insurance for 12 months. This creates a gap that MUST be filled by local districts. Wealthier districts are better able to absorb this cost while continuing to offer competitive pay. Poorer districts often keep salaries low in order to make up the money needed to cover the state-mandated insurance match.

Taking the state’s insurance match from the BEP from 10 months to 12 months would cost $64 million. It would also free up funds that could be used to close the salary gap among districts while easing the burden on local taxpayers. While addressing the salary issue will take creativity and some patience, the insurance issue is one that can be fixed with the exertion of some reasonable effort. That is, someone willing to find a way to allocate $64 million to the BEP in a state budget that is over $30 billion. It may mean less money in reserves. It may mean making different choices in terms of budget priorities.

The BEP is broken. It can be fixed. Doing so will require a commitment to investing in teachers and schools. It will require an adjustment in the state’s priorities. But, the broken BEP can be fixed.

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

Experts on New Orleans Ed Reform to Speak in Nashville

As debate continues over an education reform model for Nashville’s public schools, two local groups have teamed up to offer an event that will highlight the reform experience of the Recovery School District in New Orleans.

From a press release:

As Nashville continues to reform its public school system, it must look to the successes and failures of particular reforms in other cities as a guide. Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) and Gideon’s Army: Grassroots Army for Children have invited Karran Harper Royal and Dr. Kristen Buras to discuss the impact of education reform on the students, teachers, and schools of New Orleans, La.–the nation’s first all-charter school district.

Kristen Buras is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University. She is the author of Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance, which chronicles the past decade of education reform in her hometown of New Orleans.

Karran Harper Royal is an education advocate in New Orleans. She has been a public school parent for the last 23 years and has has worked with various community groups uplifting parent and community voices in public education.

“On Tuesday, October 21, the State of Louisiana released their RSD (Recovery School District) performance scores,” reports Karran Harper Royal. “While the state average rose from 88.5 in 2013 (on a 150-point scale) to 89.2 in 2014, the RSD New Orleans average dropped from 71.9 to 71.2 during this same time period.  Does Nashville really want to follow this model?”

NOTE: These results seem somewhat similar to the so-far disappointing results coming out of Tennessee’s Achievement School District.

The speaking event “Is School Choice an Empty Promise? What Nashville Can Learn from New Orleans” will be an informative discussion about the real outcomes of charter school expansion. It will also provide an opportunity for concerned community members in Nashville to raise questions about access, achievement, equity, and accountability. The chance to dialogue across cities is a unique opportunity and is well timed in light of recent proposals to create an all-choice zone in East Nashville.

The event will be held at the East Nashville Recreation Center, 700 Woodland Street, Nashville, TN 37206 on Sunday, November 2. The speakers will begin at 3 p.m. and a question and answer period will follow. This event is free and open to the public.

Seating is limited. RSVP online is recommended.

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

Shelby County Schools Seek More State Funding

The Commercial Appeal reports that the Shelby County School Board has passed a resolution asking the state to properly fund public schools through the state’s BEP funding formula.

The board is asking the state to pay $10,000 more toward teacher salaries and fund 12 months of insurance premiums for district staff, instead of 10. The requests are also the top recommendations from the state Basic Education review committee from last year.

If the two requests were funded, SCS would receive $99.5 million in state funding, enough to give teachers the biggest raise they’ve had in years, while also offsetting the cost of monthly insurance premiums. The cost for the year now is spread over 10 months.

For more than two decades, the state has paid health insurance on a 10-month basis. Last year, the cost to cover 12 months was estimated at $60.4 million. This year’s estimate is $64 million.

In 2007, the state attempted to address the BEP funding shortfall by passing BEP 2.0, but that program has never been fully-funded.

Tennessee consistently ranks at or near the bottom of the country in terms of per pupil spending. Additionally, Tennessee’s teacher salaries consistently grow at a pace below the national average.

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

 

East Nashville United Applauds Action by Register

From a press release by the group in the orange shirts:

 

East Nashville United—the parent-led coalition formed in September after the abrupt announcement of sweeping changes to East Nashville schools—celebrates the director’s recent actions to provide long-awaited support to East Nashville’s priority schools. For example, the district has recently provided more reading instructors and reading-related resources for several priority schools including Kirkpatrick and Inglewood Elementary and Jere Baxter Middle School. The district also hired an assistant principal for Inglewood Elementary.

 

Jai Sanders, a parent at Inglewood and one of the founding members of ENU, commends the move, even as he questions why it took so long for the district to address his school’s needs.

 

“Our school should have had an assistant principal well before we landed on the priority list. That was inexcusable.” Sanders says. “But we are grateful for the district for filling the position and providing more reading-related resources for our children. This will help children and help them right away.”

 

The support for Inglewood is particularly noteworthy considering that just a few weeks ago education insiders speculated that IES was ripe for a closure or charter conversion to KIPP. But Register quickly discredited those rumors and provided much needed resources to the priority school.

“For my family, ‘choice’ means being able to choose my zoned school,” says Sanders. “We hope that any East Nashville proposal continues the district’s recent focus on our priority schools.”

 

Toward Tennessee Standards

In September, Governor Bill Haslam hosted an “Education Summit” designed to help “reset the conversation” around education policy, and specifically, Common Core. Since that time, policymakers have been suggesting that Common Core is dead in Tennessee and that the state will move toward its own set of standards.

Today, Governor Haslam took a major step in that direction, announcing a review of Tennessee standards in Math and English/Language Arts. He is essentially accelerating the normal review process for Tennessee standards and using that acceleration as an opportunity to review (and potentially revise) the Common Core standards that guide Tennessee’s standards.

Haslam also announced the development of a website that will allow Tennesseans to review the Common Core State Standards and offer comments. Additionally, review committees comprised of educators will be a part of the process.

Here’s the release from Haslam’s office:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the process for a public review of
the state’s K-12 academic standards in English language arts and math.  The
process is in partnership with the State Board of Education and will include
input from educators and citizens from across the state.

Academic standards are typically reviewed in Tennessee every six years.  With these
standards now in their fourth year, and with the discussion happening in Tennessee and across the country about Common Core state standards, Haslam believes this is the appropriate time to take a fresh look.

“One thing we’ve all agreed on is the importance of high standards in Tennessee,” Haslam
continued.  “This discussion is about making sure we have the best possible
standards as we continue to push ahead on the historic progress we’re making in
academic achievement.”

In the coming weeks, a website  will be available to every Tennessean to go online, review each current state standard and comment on what that person likes, doesn’t like, or would suggest should be changed about that particular standard.

The Southern Regional Education Board, as a third party, independent resource, will collect the data in the Spring and then turn that information over to be reviewed and analyzed by professional Tennessee educators.  The governor has asked the State Board of Education to
appoint two committees, an English Language Arts Standards Review & Development Committee and Math Standards Review & Development Committee, as well as three advisory teams for each of those committees.

The advisory teams will review Tennessee’s current standards and gather input to make
recommendations to the two committees, which will then propose possible changes
to the State Board of Education.

The two standards review committees will each be made up of six Tennessee K-12 educators and two representatives from Tennessee higher education institutions for a total of 16 Tennessee professional educators.

The two committees will receive input from three advisory teams each, for a total of six.  The advisory teams will be grouped by K-5th grade, 6th – 8th grade and 9th – 12th grade, and each team will be made up of six Tennessee K-12 educators and one representative from a
Tennessee higher education institution for a total of 42 Tennessee professional
educators.

The following have been appointed to serve:

Math
Standards Review & Development Committee
•        Committee Chair: John Prince, McNairy County Schools, director of schools
•        Jamie Parris, Hamilton County Schools, director of secondary math and science
•        Julie Martin, Williamson County Schools, assistant principal
•        Cory Concus, Tipton County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        Michael Bradburn, Alcoa City Schools, kindergarten teacher
•        Holly Anthony, Tennessee Technology University, associate professor of mathematics education
•        Stacey Roddy, Hamilton County Schools, director of elementary math and science
•        Stephanie Kolitsch, University of Tennessee Martin,
professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Math Advisory Team
K-5
•        Advisory Team Leader: Stacey Roddy, Hamilton County Schools,
director of elementary math and science
•        Kimberly Osborne, Murfreesboro City Schools, assistant principal
•        Jamelie Johns, Hamilton County Schools, elementary math coach
•        Michael Bradburn, Alcoa City Schools, kindergarten teacher
•        Theresa Feliu, Kingsport City Schools, fourth-grade teacher
•        Brandy Hays, Lebanon Special School District, 3-5 math teacher
•        Jo Ann Cady, University of Tennessee, associate professor of math education

Math Advisory Team
6-8
•        Advisory Team Leader: John Prince, McNairy County Schools,
director of schools
•        Amber Caldwell, Bradley County Schools, mathematics coordinator
•        Sherry Cockerham, Johnson City Schools, district math coach
•        Darcie Finch, Metro Nashville Public Schools, numeracy coach
•        Angela Webb, Putnam County School System, seventh-grade math teacher
•        Holly Pillow, Trenton Special School District, math coach and interventionist
•        Emily Medlock, Lipscomb University, assistant professor, College of Education

Math Advisory Team
9-12
•        Advisory Team Leader: Stephanie Kolitsch, University of
Tennessee Martin, professor, Department of Mathematics and
Statistics
•        Rory Hinson, Gibson County Special School District,
assistant principal
•        Chelsea Spaulding, Rutherford County Schools,
assistant principal
•        Joseph Jones, Cheatham County School District,
district math coordinator
•        Cory Concus, Tipton County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        Kimberly Herring, Cumberland County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        Beth Morris, Lincoln County School System, 9-12 teacher

English Language Arts Standards Review & Development
Committee
•        Committee Chair: Shannon Jackson, Knox County Schools,
supervisor of reading and English language arts for secondary schools
•        Susan Dold, Shelby County Schools, literacy advisor
•        Jami Corwin, Sullivan County Schools, secondary English language arts curriculum coordinator
•        Jaime Greene, Hamblen County Schools, 6-12 instructional coach
•        Tony Dalton, Hamblen County Schools, pre-kindergarten-first-grade district instructional coach

Shannon Street, Cannon County School District, sixth-grade English language arts and science teacher
•        Susan Groenke, University of Tennessee, associate professor of English education
•        Candice McQueen, Lipscomb University, dean of education

English Language Arts Advisory Team
K-5
•        Advisory Team Leader: Candice McQueen, Lipscomb University, dean
of education
•        Debra Bentley, Johnson City Schools, supervisor of instruction
•        Stacy King, Greenville City Schools, instructional specialist
•        Tony Dalton, Hamblen County Schools, pre-kindergarten-first-grade district instructional coach
•        Kerri Newsom, Lake County School System, first-grade teacher
•        Cathy Dickey, Greenville City Schools, first-grade teacher
•        Kelsea Cox, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, first-grade teacher

English
Language Arts Advisory Team 6-8
•        Advisory Team Leader: Shannon Jackson, Knox County Schools, supervisor of reading and English language arts for secondary schools
•        Jaime Greene, Hamblen County Schools, 6-12 instructional coach
•        Meghan Little, Metro Nashville Public Schools, chief academic officer for KIPP Nashville
•        Terri Bradshaw, Blount County Schools, literacy leader
•        Jessica Daigle, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, eighth-grade English language arts teacher
•        Tequila Cornelious, Franklin Special School District, instructional facilitator
•        Terri Tilson, Tusculum College, assistant professor

English Language Arts Advisory Team 9-12
•        Advisory Team Leader: Susan Groenke, University of Tennessee, associate professor of
English education
•        Brandi Blackley, Tipton County Schools, assistant principal
•        Elaine Hoffert, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, English language arts curriculum consulting teacher
•        Autumn O’Bryan, Cleveland City Schools, principal
•        Tammy Marlow, Macon County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        Jessica Mitchell, Hardeman County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        TJ Wilson, Williamson County Schools, 9-12
teacher

Recommendations are expected to be made to the State Board of Education by the end of 2015.

And here’s an email sent from Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman to all teachers in the state:

Dear teachers,

We are writing to give you some more detailed information about an announcement that Gov. Haslam is making today about our standards for English language arts and math.
As you know, while our schools have been implementing the Common Core State Standards for the past several years, we have seen significant academic progress. At the same time, we have heard many assertions about the standards, their origin, their implementation and their effectiveness.
The governor has asked the State Board of Education to lead a process of reviewing our standards in ELA and math, gathering feedback and seeking recommendations for improvement. In the normal course of business, the State Board reviews academic standards every six years in different subject areas, so this accelerates the normal process given the level of discussion about the Common Core State Standards.
The process will include:
  • An opportunity for public feedback on each standard via a website. This website will be launched as soon as possible, and no later than December 1. Kentucky is in the middle of a similar process, and you can see the website here (http://kentucky.statestandards.org) to have a sense of how this may look.
  • A review of public comments by standards review committees and advisory teams. These teams will be composed of educators from K-12 and higher education, built around grade level and subject bands. The governor’s office, working through the State Board of Education, has announced the committees and teams today, and they are built around input from Tennessee educators.
  • Submission of recommendations on the standards to the State Board of Education, led by the review teams and facilitated by the Southern Regional Education Board, which has agreed to help the State Board.
This process will take time; we need to allow significant time for public comment to ensure everyone is heard, and reviewing comments and recommendations similarly will be a lengthy process. It is important to understand we will proceed with the current, state-adopted ELA and math standards and these standards will remain in place until any revisions are made by the State Board. The review process should not have any impact on your plans for instruction this year.
As you know, Tennessee previously issued an RFP for a new ELA and math assessment. The assessment selected through this process will be Tennessee’s ELA and math assessment beginning in the 2015-16 academic year. As part of the RFP process, the vendor must commit to align assessments to state standards, meaning any revisions to standards would result in appropriate adjustments to the applicable state assessments in the future. Changes to the assessment would of course have to allow for sufficient time to train teachers and field test new items.
We recognize that any time there is a standards review process, there is the potential for confusion in the field. While this process could result in revisions to the standards, we continue to hear from all parties that Tennessee must have standards that are the strongest and most rigorous in the country. In particular, we know from our employers and our universities that Tennessee’s standards must include:
  • A focus on basic skills, particularly in lower grades, with special emphasis on literacy and on math facts, and on eliminating the calculator reliance prevalent on the TCAP in younger grades.
  • An emphasis on reading complex and authentic texts.
  • Renewed focus on writing across all grade levels, with a particular emphasis on ensuring our students can defend their arguments in written communication.
  • A focus on critical thinking and problem solving in math.
  • Assessments that de-emphasize multiple choice questions, include writing at all grade levels, and measure expectations that meet or exceed the expectations of students anywhere in the country.

We have attached here a fact sheet about this process. We will continue to communicate through local school districts about the process.

Please know there is widespread recognition of the volume of work that educators have put into raising academic standards. Our state leaders are in agreement that our standards must always represent the next step forward and we want to avoid retreating from the great work of Tennessee teachers that has led our students to such significant academic progress.
In addition, we hope that many of you will submit comments and thoughts in this process. After all, you have the expertise that comes from working with Tennessee students every day. Your input can have a significant impact on the direction of standards in future years.
For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport