A TN Teacher Talks ASD

A Tennessee teacher has some questions about the Achievement School District:

Why is the ASD in Tennessee?

Submitted by Lucianna Sanson, President of the Franklin County Education Association

Why is the ASD, modeled after the RSD in New Orleans, here in Tennessee in the first place? What is the true rationale for bringing Charters to our state? We don’t need the ASD. We need strong community schools with wrap around services. We know how to run our schools. We need money to support our public schools, not Charter Authorizers that make money off of them.

Teachers, students, parents, and vested community stakeholders don’t want their community schools sold, they want them funded. If the ASD were truly transparent the Charter Authorizer would admit they are in TN to take our tax dollars to turn a profit, not turn our under-funded, under-staffed, under-paid, under-appreciated public schools around.

Who benefits from the ASD? Who pays for the ASD? Why are the majority, if not ALL of the schools selected in the “matching” process located in low-income communities, namely communities where the majority of students are black or brown? Why are experienced teachers pushed out and replaced with Teach for America recruits, green from college with no experience in the classroom?

Tennesseans, don’t be fooled into thinking these Charters are good neighborhood investments. As Anthony Cody points out in his new book, The Educator and the Oligarch, parent “choice” is simply a “charm offensive.” Parents and teachers are lured into believing that ed reform and Charters are a good use of our tax dollars. They are not. They are a good investment for the venture capitalists who make money off our students and public schools.

Do you have thoughts on the ASD or other education policy issues in Tennessee? Let us know, propose an article, and share your thoughts here.

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

 

 

Fitzhugh Talks Huffman

Shortly after it was announced that Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman is leaving his post, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh issued the following statement:

“In 2010 Democrats and Republicans passed Race to the Top. We had buy-in from teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders setting us on a path for real improvements in public education. While the hard work of our teachers has certainly produced some positive results, these outcomes would be much greater without the culture of hostility and mistrust created by the Department of Education.
Now we need to reset the conversation. Tennessee will never see real, lasting change until we stop blaming teachers and start addressing root problems. Our schools are underfunded, our teachers are underpaid and we aren’t talking about poverty and parental involvement–two key factors in student improvement. Our hope is that Governor Haslam’s new Commissioner of Education understands these issues and shares our commitment to addressing them going forward.
House Democrats stand ready to work with Governor Haslam, his new appointee and all those who value public education. Though we often disagreed, we thank Commissioner Huffman for his service and wish him the best as he returns to the private sector.”
Fitzhugh has been a frequent critic of the current education reform agenda pushed by Huffman.
For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport

 

Huffman Resigns as TN Ed Commissioner

Controversial Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman is leaving his post, the Tennessean is reporting.

The paper cites a press release from Governor Haslam’s office noting that Huffman is leaving his position for a post in the private sector.

There was no immediate word on who might succeed Huffman as Commissioner of Education.

Huffman led a Department of Education that claimed credit for improved achievement on NAEP while downplaying widening achievement gaps and a lack of investment in the BEP formula.

Huffman also took criticism for his failure to communicate about new teacher evaluations and for his lack of communication regarding implementation of the Common Core, which resulted in Haslam holding an education summit and “re-setting” the conversation around standards.

Around this time last year, Directors of Schools from around the state were signing a letter expressing a lack of confidence in Huffman’s leadership.

While Haslam has not yet said who may replace Huffman, two potential candidates are Deputy Commissioner and former Putnam County Director of Schools Kathleen Airhart and former Senate Speaker Pro Tem and now SCORE Executive Director Jamie Woodson.  Another potential candidate is Knox County Director of Schools Jim McIntyre, a supporter of the Haslam education agenda.

More on who may replace Huffman.

Here’s House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s statement on Huffman leaving.

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport

The ASD Responds

Bluff City Ed does a phenomenal job of covering the Memphis education scene and we’ve published information from a number of their stories on Tennessee’s Achievement School District.

Today, Bluff City Ed has a response from the ASD about some of the criticism the District is receiving.

Here are a couple highlights:

On performance:

If you look at our 2nd year charters, their average composite proficiency growth over two years is 11.2, compared with an average growth of 2.2 over three years in the 10 Priority schools on our matching list.  All three of our 2nd year charters had Level 5 growth last year.  Two are off the Priority list.  I say this not to suggest that every ASD school is where it needs to be—far from it—but that when it comes to ASD charters with at least two years’ experience running schools, these schools are showing real promise.  Where our schools aren’t performing, we’re going to hold ourselves accountable.  It’s just way too early to draw major conclusions about school performance and policy implications.  There may be a time for a mea culpa or a moratorium, but not after two years.

On Contentious Meetings:

We had loud, contentious meetings last year, too.  It’s absolutely right for people to come in skeptical, emotional, and confused by this.  It’s a lot to take in.  For teachers, especially, it’s difficult news.  Understanding this, our goals aren’t to claim we have every answer, but to stand humbly before parents, teachers, and community members; to listen and learn; to make sure we’re sharing every bit of information we have; and to always keep our focus on what’s best for kids.

Elliott Smalle, the ASD’s Chief of Staff, says a lot more about issues like co-location and the future of the ASD. The entire post and response is worth a read.

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

 

The Value of the Report Card on Teacher Training

Every year, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission issues a Report Card on the state’s teacher training program. To evaluate educator effectiveness, THEC uses the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

Which effectively renders the Report Card of little value.

Not included in the report is a teacher’s overall effectiveness score on the TEAM model. That would include both observed scores and value-added data, plus other achievement measures. That would be a more robust score to report, but it’s not included.

I’ve written before on the very limited value of value-added data.

Here are some highlights of why we learn almost nothing from the THEC report in terms of whether or not a teacher education program is actually doing a good job:

Here’s the finding that gets all the attention: A top 5 percent teacher (according to value-added modeling or VAM) can help a classroom of students (28) earn $250,000 more collectively over their lifetime.

Now, a quarter of a million sounds like a lot of money.

But, in their sample, a classroom was 28 students. So, that equates to $8928.57 per child over their lifetime. That’s right, NOT $8928.57 MORE per year, MORE over their whole life.

For more math fun, that’s $297.61 more per year over a thirty year career with a VAM-designated “great” teacher vs. with just an average teacher.

Yep, get your kid into a high value-added teacher’s classroom and they could be living in style, making a whole $300 more per year than their friends who had the misfortune of being in an average teacher’s room.

If we go all the way down to what VAM designates as “ineffective” teaching, you’d likely see that number double, or maybe go a little higher. So, let’s say it doubles plus some. Now, your kid has a low VAM teacher and the neighbor’s kid has a high VAM teacher. What’s that do to his or her life?

Well, it looks like this: The neighbor kid gets a starting job offer of $41,000 and your kid gets a starting offer of $40,000.

So, THEC uses a marginal indicator of educator effectiveness to make a significant determination about whether or not educator training programs are effective. At the very least, such a determination should also include observed scores of these teachers over time or the entire TEAM score.

Until then, the annual Report Card on teacher training will add little value to the education policy discussion in Tennessee.

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

Hamilton County School Board Member Explores BEP Lawsuit

A Hamilton County School Board Member is exploring the idea of a lawsuit that would force the State of Tennessee to fully fund the BEP, the state’s funding formula for schools.

Hamilton County Board Member Jonathan Welch argues that the school system loses $14.5 million a year because the BEP is not fully funded by the legislature.

Welch’s proposal comes on the heels of a resolution passed by the Shelby County School Board calling for increased BEP funding.

These proposals come in an environment where the current BEP leaves Tennessee schools funded at less dollars per student than Mississippi. Additionally, Tennessee teachers rank 40th in the nation in improvement in teacher pay over the past 10 years.

A deeper analysis of the BEP suggests the entire formula is broken and that the state needs an investment of nearly $500 million to fix it.

Of course, as noted in the Times-Free Press story on the issue, some in the General Assembly want to reduce sales taxes and end the Hall Tax on stock dividends and bond interest.

The question is: Will the 2015 session of the General Assembly see a serious move to improve the BEP or will it take a lawsuit to force lawmakers to act?

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

 

Diane Ravitch Coming to Nashville

Education historian Diane Ravitch will be visiting Nashville on Wednesday, November 19th.

Here are the details from a press release:

Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE), Tennessee BATs, and Momma
Bears today announced a special event featuring acclaimed historian, best-selling author, and former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch. Ravitch served in the administrations of President George H.W. Bush, where she worked alongside then-U.S. Secretary of Education and current U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, and President Bill Clinton.

The event, “Educating Nashville,” will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19, in
Nashville. The venue will be announced via TREE’s Facebook page, http://facebook.com/TNExcellence, on Monday, Nov. 17. Dr. Ravitch will be introduced by local officials and will hold a question-and-answer session after her remarks regarding the hoax of education privatization. Following the program, attendees are encouraged to stay and meet
with public education advocates from across the state.

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Ravitch to Nashville,” said Lyn Hoyt, president of TREE. “She has seen and studied the effects of education privatization across the country and
is the nation’s foremost expert on what works and doesn’t work when it comes to
reforming our public schools.”

Ravitch frequently writes about topics including Common Core, charter schools, vouchers, and standardized testing and is well respected across partisan lines. Tennessee’s own Senator Alexander urges readers of his “Little Plaid Book” to “[r]ead anything Diane Ravitch writes
about education.”

The event is free. Parents, teachers, elected officials, policymakers, and members of the media are encouraged to attend. To RSVP, visit http://ravitchnashville.eventbrite.com.

About Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She blogs at dianeravitch.net, a site which has had nearly 8.3 million page views in less than a year. From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of George H.W. Bush. From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. She was appointed by the Clinton administration’s Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and
reappointed by him in 2001. From 1995 until 2005, she held the Brown Chair in
Education Studies at the Brookings Institution and edited “Brookings Papers on
Education Policy.” Before entering government service, she was Adjunct Professor
of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has
authored 11 books and edited 14 others.

About TREE
Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) is a
statewide volunteer advocacy organization rooted in fighting for strong,
equitable public education, and committed to growing child-centered education
policy.

About Tennessee BATs
Tennessee BATs (Badass Teachers) is an affiliate of the national BATs organization and is a rich and diverse group of education professionals and concerned citizens/families who
strive to engage in discourse that improves their profession.

About Momma Bears
Momma Bears is a Tennessee-based grassroots organization of public schools advocates who defend and support children and public schools and recognize quality public education
as a right for every child.

Here’s our 2013 interview with Diane Ravitch

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

Memphis Teachers Organizing Against the ASD

Chalkbeat has the story on a group of teachers in Memphis organizing against the Tennessee Achievement School District’s takeover of schools there.

The ASD has faced a particularly challenging environment this year as it prepares to takeover 9 more Memphis schools.

The Shelby County Teachers Coalition, as the group is calling itself, points out that ASD schools are getting mixed or disappointing results and that the disruption ASD takeovers cause is bad for kids and their communities.

For his part, ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic says he welcomes the dialogue, even if it is rather intense:

“So much of this conversation is right—people asking great questions, voicing support for their schools, and expressing deep emotions about education, schools, and community,” ASD superintendent Chris Barbic said in an e-mail to his community Monday. “We don’t believe authentic community engagement is a neat and tidy process.  Not if it’s done right.  It’s totally understandable that last week’s meetings spurred people’s emotions and generated good, hard questions. We commit to standing with communities and, together with our operators, answering these questions and listening to parents’ input.”

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

AG Issues Tenure Opinion

This summer, in response to the Vergara v. California decision on teacher tenure in that state, Tennessee State Senator Dolores Gresham asked the Attorney General for an opinion on whether Tennessee’s tenure laws violated the state constitution’s protection of a student’s right to a free education of the state or federal equal protection clauses.

The short answer: No. The state’s teacher employment laws do not violate a student’s right to a free education.

Here’s the full opinion.

On the equal protection issues, the AG noted that Tennessee’s laws require a longer probationary period before tenure is awarded and that Tennessee’s dismissal process for tenured teachers is clear, fast, and relatively inexpensive.

Thanks to Tennessee Education Matters for their coverage of this issue.

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

East Nashville United Plans Town Hall Meeting

East Nashville United is holding a Town Hall Meeting on schools on November 9th at 3:45 PM at East Park Community Center.

From their media advisory:

After weeks of contradictory and confusing statements from Metro Schools about its proposed “Third Way” proposal, East Nashville United (ENU) will host a town hall meeting to raise concerns about the future of the Stratford-Maplewood cluster. This open meeting will be held on Sunday, November 9 at 3:45 p.m. at the East Park Community Center, 600 Woodland Street, 37206.

ENU, a parent-led coalition formed after the announcement of sweeping changes to the Stratford-Maplewood clusters, invites all members of the community to join this discussion around the lack of community input into the school plan. The group has also invited MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register, Executive Director of the Office of Innovation Dr. Alan Coverstone, and School Board Member Elissa Kim to share their thoughts on the district’s proposed changes and to take questions from the community.

“The district’s plan will affect every public school parent in East Nashville,” says John Haubenreich, ENU’s chair. “We’d like to invite parents and all stakeholders to our town hall meeting to learn more about the district’s actions and what it all means to them.”

ENU would like to particularly discuss the district’s plans for Inglewood Elementary and Kirkpatrick Elementary, particularly in light of the apparent agreement to turn Inglewood over to KIPP that surfaced last week. This news broke after the Nashville Scene published emails from Coverstone revealing that the district engaged in detailed negotiations to hand over Inglewood to KIPP weeks before Register’s announcement of his “Third-Way” proposal. The plan for Inglewood is in direct contradiction to comments made by both Coverstone and Register to Inglewood parents. Both had said no plan is set for the school, with Register telling Inglewood parents he would recommend against a charter conversion.

“Dr. Register appears to be making this stuff up as he goes along. That’s not exactly comforting to those of us who raise our kids here,” Haubenreich says. “From everything we can tell, his plan will close down some schools, convert others to charters, and affect pathways for students throughout both clusters. So far, there has been no real community input whatsoever.  Any plan like that is simply going to destabilize our schools instead of improving them.”

Dr. Register has pledged to put his sweeping plan before the school board in December. As of publication, Metro has yet to announce the members of the task force it agreed to create last month.

For more on this issue:

East Nashville Parents Call on Register to “Start Over”

East Nashville United Asks for More Time

MNPS and East Nashville United Debate the Meaning of Some Emails

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