Value Added Changes

 

In what is certain to be welcome news to many teachers across the state, Governor Bill Haslam announced yesterday that he will be proposing changes to the state’s teacher evaluation process in the 2015 legislative session.

Perhaps the most significant proposal is to reduce the weight of value-added data on teacher evaluations during the transition to a new test for Tennessee students.

From the Governor’s press release explaining the proposed changes:

The governor’s proposal would:
•        Adjust the weighting of student growth data in a teacher’s evaluation so that the new state assessments in ELA and math will count 10 percent of the overall evaluation in the first year of
administration (2016), 20 percent in year two (2017) and 35 percent in year
three (2018). Currently 35 percent of an educator’s evaluation is comprised of
student achievement data based on student growth;
•        Lower the weight of student achievement growth for teachers in non-tested grades and subjects
from 25 percent to 15 percent;
•        And make explicit local school district discretion in both the qualitative teacher evaluation model that is used for the observation portion of the evaluation as well as the specific
weight student achievement growth in evaluations will play in personnel
decisions made by the district.

 

The proposal does not go as far as some have proposed, but it does represent a transition period to new tests that teachers have been seeking.  It also provides more local discretion in how evaluations are conducted.

Some educators and critics question the ability of value-added modeling to accurately predict teacher performance.

In fact, the American Statistical Association released a statement on value-added models that says, in part:

Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores

Additional analysis of the ability of value-added modeling to predict significant differences in teacher performance finds that this data doesn’t effectively differentiate among teachers.

I certainly have been critical of the over-reliance on value-added modeling in the TEAM evaluation model used in Tennessee. While the proposed change ultimately returns to using VAM for a significant portion of teacher scores, it also represents an opportunity to both transition to a new test AND explore other options for improving the teacher evaluation system.

For more on value-added modeling and its impact on the teaching profession:

Saving Money and Supporting Teachers

Real World Harms of Value-Added Data

Struggles with Value-Added Data

An Ineffective Teacher?

Principals’ Group Challenges VAM

 

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

Investing in Priority Schools

The Tennessee Department of Education today announced $5 million in grants to 5 school districts to be used to address priority schools in those districts. It should be noted that the funds are from federal dollars and do not represent new state investment in schools.

From the press release:

The Tennessee Department of Education has awarded nearly $5 million in federal funds to five districts to plan for how to best support their Priority Schools, the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state, in terms of academic achievement.

“We believe this additional financial investment will help districts provide our Priority Schools with specific supports,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “For the past several years, our state has been focused both on improving overall performance of all kids in Tennessee, while closing achievement gaps and supporting students that are the farthest behind; we have seen results from these efforts and are excited to help districts plan for additional interventions.”

A new list of Priority Schools was identified last summer (see the complete list at http://www.tn.gov/education/data/accountability/schools_2014.shtml). These planning grants will provide resources for districts to plan for how to best support their Priority Schools, beginning in the 2015-16 school year. These funds can assist districts in engaging the community, recruiting teachers and leaders, and exploring additional resources that may be needed for Priority Schools.

Districts were awarded the following amounts:

  • Metro Nashville Public Schools, $1.3 million
  • Knox County Schools, $1 million
  • Shelby County Schools, $900,000
  • Jackson-Madison County Schools, $400,000
  • Achievement School District, $1.3 million

Additional funds will be made available through a competitive grant process in the spring of 2015 to further assist districts with implementation of their turnaround plans.

 

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

 

And the Winner Is …

Jason Vance, Director of Schools in Loudon County.

Jason claimed victory in Education Commissioner Madness.

The contest was a fun way to take a look at who might be Tennessee’s next Commissioner of Education.

Vance posted a brief statement after his victory about what’s important in the next Commissioner.

He mentions the need for increased teacher compensation, improved professional development, and clear and direct communication between the Department of Education and school district leaders.

As the candidate who emerged as the finalist from the policymakers and advocates side of the bracket, let me say that I’m honored to have received support round after round. I also want to congratulate Jason on his victory.

I believe the next Commissioner of Education should be a Tennessee educator who is committed to putting students first and who understands the challenges teachers face every day. Jason definitely meets that standard.

The contest also allowed me to learn more about the outstanding work going on in schools all around Tennessee. It has been exciting to hear about what so many of Tennessee’s school leaders are doing every single day to improve the quality of education in our state.

It is my belief that when these leaders are supported with investment in their schools and in the personnel that staff them, Tennessee students will achieve amazing results.

It is long past time to fix Tennessee’s broken BEP.

Adjusting the funding formula is not enough. New investment must be made in order to give our students the resources they need to succeed.

The next education commissioner should be a tireless advocate for our schools and students. It has been great to see so many outstanding leaders who make this their life’s work.

 

For more on education commissioner madness and other education issues, follow @BluffCityEd

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

The Data War

Blake Farmer of WPLN reported today on the “data war” between the state Achievement School District (ASD) and opponents of a plan to turn either Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend Middle over to the ASD.

According to Farmer’s report, ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic suggests that supporters or opponents can make data show whatever they want, quoting Barbic as saying:

“We can go back and forth with folks who want to do the data war,” Barbic tells WPLN. “For every data point they have, we’ve got one. The bottom line is that the schools that we’re talking about are in the bottom five percent.”

Essentially, Barbic is saying that the debate doesn’t matter, the ASD is going to takeover one of these schools because they can. He admitted as much in an earlier discussion of ASD takeovers in Memphis.

But, opponents of the takeover point to data suggesting that the ASD overall doesn’t outperform district schools and the ASD’s model is flawed.

Here’s some more information on the specific schools slated for takeover, the ASD as a whole, and the schools operated by LEAD, the charter operator named to takevover either Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend.

We’ll look at the number of students testing proficient/advanced in both reading and math

2013 Reading

ASD Average:  13.6

Brick Church Prep (LEAD): 12.8

MNPS Average: 40

Brick Church Middle:  20

Madison MS:  23.6

Neely’s Bend MS:  21.6

For 2013 in reading, note that both Neely’s Bend and Madison scored higher than the ASD average AND the score at Brick Church Prep, run by LEAD, which is the model for the takeover.

2013 Math

ASD Average:  19.6

Brick Church Prep: 24.2

MNPS Average:  42.5

Brick Church MS: 7.7

Madison MS: 15.2

Neely’s Bend MS: 25.4

For 2013 in math, Madison was below the ASD average and below the Brick Church Prep scores. Neely’s Bend was above the ASD average and also outscored Brick Church Prep.

2014 Reading

ASD Average:  17

Brick Church Prep:  37.2

MNPS Average:  40.7

Brick Church MS:  8.7

Madison MS:  24

Neely’s Bend MS:  24.3

For 2014 in reading, Brick Church Prep saw a significant bump in reading scores. But, the TVAAS data actually indicates a -3.7 in growth year over year. Here’s what that means. Brick Church Prep’s reading proficiency score bump is a result of new students added to the overall score. Madison Middle and Neely’s Bend both showed growth year over year and the growth in reading is roughly equivalent to the growth demonstrated by ASD schools as a whole.

2014 Math

ASD Average:  21.8

Brick Church Prep:  41.2

MNPS Average:  44.6

Brick Church MS:  8.7

Madison MS:  18.6

Neely’s Bend MS:  26.2

Of note here, the ASD’s average gains are similar to MNPS overall — that is, the ASD is getting gains no better than would be expected of a district school.  And, Neely’s Bend is right at that average in growth. Madison falls slightly behind in this catetory.

The bottom line: The ASD performs no better than district schools overall. Even in the case of the model, Brick Church Prep, a statistical anomaly created by a growing student population (they are adding a grade each year) creates the perception of growth, but the reality is growth scores there are no more spectacular than typical MNPS schools. For the year before Brick Church Prep grew by adding students, Madison and Neely’s Bend were on par with its performance.

If taking schools over is also designed to result in improved performance, it seems the ASD model doesn’t meet this standard.

Data war aside, I found some other interesting notes in the existing reports about tonight’s meetings at both schools.

Chalkbeat reports:

ASD chief operating officer Elliot Smalley said that a desire to have parents dominate the discussion over which school will be taken over — rather than teachers, as has been the case in Memphis — caused ASD officials  to rebrand the meetings as “parent meetings” rather than “community meetings,” which is what they called the equivalent meetings in Memphis.

It seems the ASD isn’t interested in a broader community discussion or in hearing too much from teachers.

ASD’s Smalley went on to say that it wasn’t about how many people showed up, but about the substance of what they said, according to Chalkbeat:

it’s about the quality of feedback from parents, not the quantity. He said officials would be listening for what parents like about their current neighborhood school and want to maintain, and what they don’t like.

It’s not clear if Smalley or the ASD have crafted a rubric in order to evaluate the quality of individual and collective feedback provided at tonight’s meetings. Will points be deducted from speakers who are teachers at the schools, but not parents?

Finally, on why these two schools, instead of others in MNPS that are lower performing, the ASD’s Barbic notes:

The ASD had 15 schools to choose from in Nashville. Early on, Barbic made it clear that it would be a middle school and that LEAD would run it. He notes that the selection process is more involved than just evaluating test scores. For instance, Jere Baxter, which was an option, is only at half capacity. Barbic says LEAD didn’t think there were enough students to work with in the building.

“You just can’t run a full, robust middle school program if there aren’t enough kids in the building to be able to do that,” Barbic says. “And when a building is half empty, it’s tough to make the case to be able do that.”

Interesting that LEAD can’t run a full, robust middle school program at Jere Baxter but can run a full, robust high school program that just graduated 43 students.

Data wars and rhetoric aside, it seems clear the ASD will move forward after tonight’s meeting and take over one of these schools. Smalley admits as much:

Although Smalley said that parent feedback would be an important factor in the officials’ final decisions, he said that in the end, the fate of Madison and Neely’s Bend will be decided by ASD officials alone.

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

Lily Brings the Fight

National Education Association President Lily Garcia was in Nashville yesterday and visited Ingelwood Elementary School. Earlier this month, she visited Shwab Elementary. Inglewood has been caught up in a controversy over whether or not it will be handed over to KIPP for a charter school conversion.

Upon entering the school, Garcia stopped and greeted teachers and guests who had gathered to meet her. MNPS School Board member Jill Speering was among those in attendance, as was Tennessee Education Association President Barbara Gray.

Garcia said she had a simple message for the teachers and parents at the school:

“We’re here today because we are on your side.”

Two students took Garcia on a tour of the school, including the library and a number of classrooms.

In one class, Garcia asked the students what was special about Inglewood. The students told her they were very excited because the school has a debate team.

Teacher after teacher greeted Garcia and thanked her for her visit. Some were crying, citing the criticism the school has received and the potential that it will be handed over to KIPP.

Some teachers cried as they talked about their love for students and the needs the families at the school face. At an earlier forum at Litton, one Inglewood teacher expressed a desire to provide more support for both the children she teaches and their parents. She told the group that Inglewood is heading in the right direction, but needs the ability to provide additional meals and other services for families.

One teacher nearly broke down when he told Garcia and those accompanying her that he “loved these kids” and that they need teachers who not only teach them, but love and support them every single day.

An active group of parents at the school has been resisting a charter conversion, writing letters to Dr. Register and conducting surveys demonstrating support for options that do not include handing the school over to KIPP. A survey of parents recently published by the group shows that nearly 80% of Pre-K families oppose a conversion of the school to KIPP and that none of the Kindergarten families surveyed want KIPP.

A decision is expected this week on whether or not Inglewood will be converted.

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

 

Memphis Faculty Senate Speaks Out on Relay Deal

Last week, we reported (thanks to Nancy Bailey) on a proposed collaboration between the Relay Graduate School of Education and the University of Memphis to create a new teacher education program that would train teachers to serve in the lowest-performing schools in Memphis.

Now, Chalkbeat has the story of the Memphis Faculty Senate expressing its displeasure at the move.

The bottom line: The faculty in the Deparment of Education wasn’t consulted about the move and views it as unfriendly competition.

The Relay Project in Memphis is receiving funding from the Hyde Foundation there, among other supporters.

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

Haslam Really Wants to Raise Teacher Pay

But he probably won’t.

Not in 2015, anyway.

Just yesterday, the Tennessee Education Association called on Haslam to deliver on his teacher pay promise.

But Haslam says the state is out of money and can’t possibly be raising anyone’s pay.

Back in October, Haslam said paying teachers more, “might be a good idea.”

But again, the issue comes back to where to find the money.

Why isn’t there any money?

Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote back in April:

Where’d the Money Go? Governor Haslam blames the $160 million hole in the budget on lower than expected corporate taxes.  However, no mention is made of the $46 million in lost revenue from a 1/2 cent decrease in the state portion of the sales tax on food.  While removing or reducing the sales tax on food is a laudable goal, doing so without finding revenue to replace it is irresponsible.  The sales tax on food is the most reliable portion of state revenue. Additional revenue is lost by the gradual phase out of Tennessee’s estate tax, previously impacting estates over $1 million.  The plan is to phase that out entirely by 2016, with an estimated revenue loss of around $30 million this year and around $97 million in 2016-17′s budget. So, that’s roughly $76 million, or close to half of the projected shortfall for the upcoming budget cycle. To his credit, Haslam says he wants to hold off on efforts to repeal the Hall tax on investment income – a tax paid by a small number of wealthy Tennesseans with investment income.  However, he has also said reducing or eliminating the Hall tax is a goal. Phasing out the tax, as proposed in legislation under consideration this year at the General Assembly, would mean a loss of $20 million in the 2015-16 budget year and an ultimate loss in state funds of $160 million a year and in local revenue of $86 million a year.

The interesting thing is, overall revenue collection is UP in Tennessee for the first three months of FY2015.

Yes, collections for certain corporate taxes contiue to fall, but despite this, overall revenue keeps going up.

Here’s the breakdown based on reports from the Department of Revenue:

Month          Overall Increase               Sales Tax Increase

July                 2.4%                                          3.1%

August         3.7%                                            6.7%

Sept.            7.4%                                            5.3%

Oct.              5.7%                                           7.3%

 

So, net revenue is up before any tax loopholes that are allowing business tax revenue to escape are closed.

If that trend continues, it would seem difficult for Haslam to keep making the argument that there’s just no money available to invest in schools.

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

 

 

TEA Calls on Haslam to Deliver on Teacher Pay Promise

The Tennessee Education Association is asking Governor Haslam and the General Assembly to give teachers a 6% raise in the next session of the General Assembly. The association says it is Haslam’s chance to deliver on his promise to make Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation in teacher pay.

The group suggests that revenue is available, as sales tax collections continue to improve. Additionally, the group notes that closing corporate tax loopholes could stop losses in Franchise and Excise tax collections and allow for investment in teacher salaries.

From a press release:

The Tennessee Education Association today called on Governor Bill Haslam to fulfill his October 2013 promise to make Tennessee the “fastest improving state in the nation in teacher pay.” The call comes just days before Haslam conducts his first budget hearing for the Department of Education.

“Governor Haslam has said he intends to make Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation in terms of teacher pay,” said TEA Executive Director Carolyn Crowder. “Teachers are eagerly anticipating his budget hearing on Friday to see if he will start living up to that promise.”

State teacher salaries have remained flat since 2011, Haslam’s first year in office, when compared with the Consumer Price Index.

“When you factor in rising insurance premiums, some Tennessee teachers’ salaries are worth less now than they were when Haslam took office,” Crowder continued. “We are hopeful that the governor will rectify this situation and include a desperately needed raise in his proposed budget.”

TEA is asking Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly to ultimately increase the state’s BEP funding for teacher salaries from $40,000 to $45,000 per BEP-generated teacher. Based on 2014 salary numbers, that would be a net increase to the average teacher’s salary of 11.3 percent.

“We’re not asking for this to happen all at once, but we are asking for the governor to get serious about investing in our teachers. The povertization of the teaching profession in Tennessee must stop,” Crowder said.

TEA’s proposal would mean a 6 percent increase in pay this year, with the remainder of the increase to be phased in over two to three years.

Crowder notes that many teachers didn’t get a raise this year or last, while inflation and classroom supplies coming out of teachers’ pockets have hit family budgets hard.

“Six percent is fair and critical, helping us break even with inflation because of stagnation at the state level and gets us on the road to becoming the fastest-improving state in the nation in teacher pay.”

By building the pay increase into the BEP formula, local school systems would receive additional financial support from the state.

“This proposal represents an investment in our state’s teachers and their students, but it also represents an investment in communities across Tennessee struggling to meet their budgets. We’re simply asking Governor Haslam to honor his promises and make investing in public schools a priority.”

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

On Notice

In late October, LEAD Academy’s Middle School was put “on notice” for failing to meet academic expectations. In fact, despite being rated “satisfactory” in academic performance in 2012 and 2013, the school has been on a downward trajectory in terms of student achievement. This year, they landed on the “review” category at MNPS.

This is noteworthy because LEAD is on tap to possibly take over either Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend Middle depending on what the Achievement School District decides in meetings in Nashville this week.

While LEAD’s Brick Church installment does well in both student achievement and achievement growth as measured by TVAAS, LEAD Academy’s middle school does not show these results.

Here’s a portion of the letter from Carol Swann, Coordinator of Charter Schools at the MNPS Office of Innovation:

This letter serves as formal notice that the academic performance of LEAD Middle School is significantly below expectations. Although the three year average of Lead Middle is rated “Satisfactory” (white) on the APF, the 2014 status fell into the “Review” (yellow) category. WE would like to challenge you to significantly raise that status, as a school must have a three year in the “achieving” (light green) or “excelling” (dark green) categories to be recommended for simple renewal through a streamlined process at the end of their current ten (10) year contract.

LEAD’s contract expires in 2016.

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

 

ASD vs. Nashville Middle Schools

The Tennessee Achievement School District is holding meetings this week at Madison Middle and Neely’s Bend Middle to determine which of those two schools it will takeover and likely hand to a charter operator in 2015.

Back in October, it was announced that five Nashville middle schools were on the potential takeover list. They included Jere Baxter, Bailey, and Joelton.

Now, it’s down to Madison and Neely’s Bend.

As the discussion moves forward, it’s worth noting how these schools have been doing relative to the ASD average.

In Reading/Language Arts, Neely’s Bend and Madison Middle outperform all ASD schools except LEAD Academy at Brick Church. While the two year gains are slightly lower than the ASD average, the number of students scoring proficient or advanced is nearly 7 points higher than the ASD average.

Dist School Name 2012 2013 2014 2 year gains
Achievement School District Brick Church – LEAD 23.7% 12.8% 37.20% 13.50%
Davidson Neely’s Bend Middle School 25.0% 21.60% 24.30% -0.70%
Davidson Madison Middle School 23.0% 23.60% 24.00% 0.98%
ASD C1 – Humes Upper 15.2% 27.6% 18.8% 3.6%
Achievement School Distrit Achievement School Distrit Average 15.60% 13.60% 17.00% 1.40%
ASD C2 – Whitney Elementary 18.7% 9.6% 16.3% -2.4%
ASD C1 – Westside Middle 16.9% 14.2% 15.5% -1.4%
ASD C1 – Cornerstone Prep (Lester) 10.0% 4.3% 15.4% 5.4%
ASD C1 – Corning Achievement Elementary 20.6% 12.1% 12.4% -8.2%
ASD C1 – Frayser Elementary 13.1% 4.8% 8.9% -4.2%
ASD C2 – Georgian Hills 11.1% 15.9% 8.4% -2.7%
ASD C2 – Hanley Elementary 11.2% 10.4% 5.0% -6.3%

 

In Math, Madison Middle is slightly below the ASD average while Neely’s Bend is slightly above. Again, LEAD at Brick Church outperforms all others.

Dist School Name 2012 2013 2014 2 year gains
Achievement School District Brick Church – LEAD 17.5% 24.20% 41.20% 23.70%
ASD C1 – Corning Achievement Elementary 18.3% 32.8% 31.0% 12.7%
ASD C1 – Cornerstone Prep (Lester) 8.3% 10.6% 25.3% 17.0%
ASD C2 – Whitney Elementary 17.7% 18.5% 24.1% 6.4%
Davidson Neely’s Bend Middle School 15.7% 23.20% 23.70% 8.00%
ASD C1 – Humes Upper 18.6% 17.9% 22.1% 3.5%
Achievement School Distrit Achievement School Distrit Average 15.1% 19.60% 21.80% 6.70%
ASD C1 – Westside Middle 18.6% 18.8% 16.6% -2.0%
Davidson Madison Middle School 16.20% 12.30% 16.30% 0.10%
ASD C1 – Frayser Elementary 10.8% 13.3% 14.6% 3.8%
ASD C2 – Georgian Hills 10.6% 23.6% 11.6% 1.0%
ASD C2 – Hanley Elementary 15.4% 22.7% 8.1% -7.3%

 

When compared with Jere Baxter, Bailey, and Joelton, both Neely’s Bend and Madison Middle score higher than the other three in RLA

 

Dist School Name 2012 2013 2014 TVAAS 2014 Enrollment
Davidson Neely’s Bend Middle School 25.0% 21.60% 24.30% 2 548
Davidson Madison Middle School 23.0% 23.60% 24.00% 1 756
Davidson Bailey STEM Magnet Middle 17.30% 17.10% 16.20% 1 445
Davidson Jere Baxter Middle 24.00% 17.70% 15.80% 1 435
Davidson Joelton Middle School 15% 21.40% 21.50% 4 277

Neely’s Bend is solidly in the middle in Math, while Madison is at the bottom there.

 

School   Name 2012 2013 2014 TVAAS 2014 Enrollment
Neely’s Bend Middle School 15.7% 23.20% 23.70% 2 548
Madison Middle School 16.20% 12.30% 16.30% 4 756
Bailey STEM Magnet Middle 11.40% 11.80% 19.90% 3 445
Jere Baxter Middle 24.70% 26.10% 25.50% 5 435
Joelton Middle School 19.70% 25.10% 25.80% 5 277

The data analysis raises some questions in my mind:

1) Why were these two schools targeted for potential takeover when other schools in MNPS show a lower performance?

2) Why would parents want their schools, which outpeform the ASD average, to be taken over by the ASD?

3) Why is LEAD an ASD anomaly? What’s going right at LEAD that can be replicated? Or, is it even practical to replicate what LEAD is doing across Metro Schools?

4) In Shelby County, iZone schools outperform ASD schools. Why not consider an iZone conversion for these Nashville schools?

5) What are the plans to provide resources/assistance to Jere Baxter, Joelton, and Bailey? These schools clearly need help and the ASD takeover in Madison won’t make that happen.

For more on Tennessee Education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport