Warning Signs

Following a deadly bus crash in Chattanooga last month, lawmakers and Governor Haslam indicated a desire to seek answers and improve bus safety.

It’s worth noting, though, that in the case of Durham School Services, there’s a track record that raises concerns about privatizing or outsourcing school services such as transportation.

Payday Report notes:

According to federal safety data, Durham School Services has been involved in 346 crashes in the past two years. These accidents have resulted in 142 injuries and 3 fatalities. During that same time period, the company was cited 53 times for “unsafe driving conditions”. According to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “93% of motor carriers in the same safety event group have better on-road performance” than Durham.

It’s not clear whether the legislature will address the issue of outsourcing as part of a bus safety legislative package.

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


 

 

Elissa Kim Appointed to the State Board of Education

The State Board of Education got a new member today. Elissa Kim, the former Nashville School Board member, has been appointed to the State Board of Education as the 5th congressional district representative. Elissa Kim served one term on the Nashville school board.

Elissa Kim previously worked as the Executive Vice President of Recruitment at Teach for America, and she was a teacher in New Orleans before that. Kim replaces Carolyn Pearre, whose term expired this year after serving on the board since 2002.

Welcome aboard!

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


 

Learning 1, Imaginary Menace 0

Despite the best efforts of Jay Sekulow and Steve Gill, it seems Tennessee’s 7th grade social studies standards will still include learning about Islam in the world religion portion of the course.

The Tennessean reports:

In total, the department’s social studies review team has cut down the number of 7th grade standards, where Islam is taught, from 75 to 67.
The process has included a name change of standards under the “Islamic World, 400 A.D/C.E.–1500s” to “Southwest Asia and North Africa: 400-1500s C.E.” Some references to the “Islamic World” have been changed to “Africa.”
And under the new draft standards, students are asked to learn the origins, spread and central features of Islam. These include the founder Mohammed, sacred texts The Quran and The Sunnah and basic beliefs like monotheism and The Five Pillars. The diffusion of Islam, its culture and Arabic language are also still included in the standards.

A little over a year ago, I wrote about Sekulow and his fear-mongering for profit around Tennessee’s social studies standards. Citing one of his emails, here’s what I wrote about the alternate reality in which Sekulow apparently lives:

Hundreds of seventh grade students all across Tennessee converting to Islam after their world history class. It’s happening everywhere. In rural and urban communities. It’s happening because Tennessee teachers are not just teaching world religions, they are specifically focusing on Islam and indoctrinating our children. They must be, with so many conversions happening every single week.
Actually, so far, no one has reported a single conversion of any student to Islam after taking a seventh grade history class.

Despite the lack of any actual problem, Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen called for an early review of the state’s social studies standards. And, State Board of Education Chair Fielding Rolston punted on the issue. That’s what prompted the changes noted in the Tennessean story cited above.

The good news is the standards (as proposed) leave the teaching of Islam as part of a broader curriculum on world religions largely intact.

It’s not clear (yet) if Sekulow and Gill will find a new way to gin up fear and pad their wealth as the state enters a comment period for the proposed revisions.

The comment period for the standards has been extended to December 15th. Those wishing to review the standards and offer feedback can do so here.

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


 

 

 

Interview with Dyslexia Expert Dr. Tim Odegard

Odegard, Tim 11-2015We welcome Dr. Tim Odegard to the blog to discuss dyslexia. Dr. Odegard is a dyslexia expert and is currently the Chair of Excellence in Dyslexic Studies and a Professor of Psychology at Middle Tennessee State University.

He is a cognitive psychologist and received his PhD from the University of Arkansas. He speaks locally and nationally on the process of reading and dyslexia.

What are the signs and symptoms of someone with dyslexia?

Students do not have to present with underachievement or difficulties in all of these areas to be said to have characteristics of dyslexia.

  •   Difficulty reading words in isolation
  •   Difficulty accurately decoding unfamiliar words
  •   Difficulty with oral reading (slow, inaccurate, or labored)
  •   Difficulty spelling
  •   Segmenting, blending, and manipulating sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
  •   Learning the names of letters and their associated sounds
  •   Holding information about sounds and words in memory (phonological memory)
  •   Rapidly recalling the names of familiar objects, colors, or letters of the alphabet (rapid naming)

We hear that 1 in 5 students have dyslexia. Is that fact or fiction?

It is a number based on study documenting the prevalence rate of dyslexia. The prevalence rate ranges from 5 – 20 % depending on the nature of the sample included in the study.

The reality is that when schools are required to report the identification rates of dyslexia the identification rate is less that 3%. This reality suggests that we do not have an issue of over identification in our country but one of under identification.

The data on the identification rates of Specific Learning Disability in our public schools also suggests that we have an issue in some states of under identification of specific learning disability. Dyslexia is just one form of specific learning disability.

When identified as having dyslexia, what type of intervention do students need to improve their reading ability?

These students struggle to read words accurately and or quickly. This can limit their ability to comprehend written material and learn new vocabulary from written material. These students need direct instruction that systematically teaches them how to read words.

Advocates say that OG (Orton-Gillingham) intervention is what is needed for all students with dyslexia. Has the OG method been proven to work with students with dyslexia?

Yes, there were several controlled studies conducted to test the impact of various Orton-Gillingham based programs. The results of these studies were summarized in a meta-analysis published in the Annals of Dyslexia. Due to the age of these studies they were not included in the What Works Clearinghouse.

Do all students who struggle with reading have dyslexia?

No, a small number of students with a specific learning disability in reading struggle with comprehension in spite of being able to accurately and efficiently read words and text passages. A specific comprehension problem is not dyslexia.

What are the two biggest misconception when it comes to dyslexia?

Many people still think that dyslexia is a medical diagnosis that must be tested and diagnosed by a health professional. This is not true. The reality is that dyslexia is not a medical condition and does not require a medical diagnosis.

Many people still think that school personnel cannot identify characteristics of dyslexia or dyslexia.

This is not true. The reality is that school psychologists in our public schools are often the best equipped to identify dyslexia. The 2016 Say Dyslexia law helps to clarify this for schools, and the Center for Dyslexia is working to provide educators and parents with valuable resources to aid in the identification of dyslexia.

What does the MTSU Center for Dyslexia offer parents and students?

The Center for Dyslexia has a small staff of experts in dyslexia and literacy dedicated to providing resources to parents, student and educators. We offer assistance to parents in understanding how they can work with their child’s schools in support of school based identification of dyslexia.

We also offer monthly parent workshops of different topics of dyslexia and supporting students with dyslexia. We have a limited capacity to provide testing services to students in the state.

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


 

Federal Report Shows TFA Teachers As Good As Or Better Than Traditionally Trained Teachers

The Institute of Education Sciences’ What Works Clearinghouse recently released a systematic review of all the research on Teach for America (TFA).

What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) is a place where educators can go to determine if programs are scientifically proven to work. It’s a helpful tool for all those educators who wondered, “Does this actually work?”

From their website:

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviews the existing research on different programs, products, practices, and policies in education. Our goal is to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions. We focus on the results from high-quality research to answer the question “What works in education?”

WWC doesn’t just review any type of research reports that are thrown out there. Studies have meet certain scientific requirements to be added into a systematic review of the subject at hand.

This current review looked at TFA’s effectiveness in math, science, English, and social studies achievement.

Overall Effectiveness 

Let’s start out with an overall look at the effectiveness of TFA teachers. Afterwards, I will break down the individual subjects achievement data. As you can see below, TFA teachers are better than traditionally trained teachers in math achievement, potentially better in science achievement, and are the same in social studies achievement and English achievement. The systematic review did not find a pattern of TFA teachers being worse than traditionally trained teachers in any subject.

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Math Achievement 

According to this systematic review, TFA teachers see the great achievement with math. The studies involved look at over 65,000 students and found TFA teachers had a statistically significant positive effect on math achievement. The review found a medium to large amount of evidence for this claim. screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-10-38-48-amScience Achievement 

For science achievement data, the one study included over 36,000 students and found a positive and statistically significant effect of TFA teachers on science achievement.

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-10-44-41-amSocial Studies Achievement 

The one study included in this section found no statistical significant effect on TFA teachers in regards to social studies achievement. This means that TFA teachers were the same as traditionally trained teachers when it came to their student’s social studies achievement.

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-10-48-54-amEnglish Achievement

For English achievement, the systematic review looked at 5 studies that included over 53,000 students. They found that there was no statistically significant effect of TFA teachers compared to traditionally trained teachers. TFA teachers and traditionally trained teachers were the same when it came to English achievement.

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-10-51-54-amWhat are the takeaways? 

TFA teachers do better in math and science achievement, but do no worse in English and social studies achievement compared to traditionally trained teachers. The takeaway is that TFA teachers, with limited amount of training, are doing the same or as better as teachers who spend years in training.

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


 

 

 

Emotional Rescue

Tennessee won’t be a part of a national collaboration around social and emotional learning in schools and, according to state Senator Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, we have Jim Tracy to thank (or blame?) for that.

Just last month, the Department of Education announced our state’s selection to participate in a multi-state collaboration around social and emotional learning.

Since then, the plan has faced some criticism, including from lawmakers.

Chalkbeat’s Grace Tatter reports that Rep. Sheila Butt of Columbia questioned the need for such collaboration at a recent hearing:

The recent pushback over social-emotional standards also has included a wariness of collaborative work across state lines, an attitude that contributed to the state’s decision to scrap the Common Core academic standards for math and reading in favor of “homegrown standards” that Tennessee will roll out in 2017.

“I don’t understand why we have to constantly collaborate with other states,” Rep. Sheila Butt said during a summer study session last month. “We don’t have to do it that way.”

Oh, and there’s Jim Tracy. He penned an op-ed in the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro taking credit for Tennessee rejecting the funding for the project.

Tracy:

After hearing from many constituents about potential funding for this controversial program, I contacted the Department of Education. This action helped in the decision making process by the DOE to decline funding for it.

Tatter explains the “controversial” initiative this way:

The social and emotional standards developed with CASEL would have set benchmarks for what students should know or be able to do in each grade when it comes to skills such as decision-making, self-awareness, social awareness, self-control, and establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.

And here’s how the program was described when it was announced:

The standards will be developed in collaboration with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, also known as CASEL, which announced this week that Tennessee will join the initiative along with California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Washington. The national organization previously has partnered with urban districts including Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools but is branching out into state policy to spread strategies around social and emotional learning.

Tennessee’s new standards will be drafted beginning Sept. 1 by a team that includes researchers, parents and educators. The final product will be reviewed next July by the State Board of Education.

A multi-state collaboration with both national experts and Tennessee educators and parents on an issue shown to have a clear impact on student behavior and performance — that’s what we just scrapped.

For its part, the state says it will still focus on social and emotional learning, just without the input of CASEL or the collaboration from state partners.

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


 

 

 

TNDP’s Mary Mancini Calls Pinkston’s Comments Unacceptable

After Holly McCall’s allegations of threats from Will Pinkston and the response by Will Pinkston calling her a “sleeze” and unfit for public office, Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini called his comments unacceptable:

“Bullying behavior from anyone is unacceptable anytime and anywhere and it is especially unacceptable from elected officials and leaders in our community.

Will Pinkston has brought a notable level of intelligence and hard work to the Metro Nashville Board of Education and it’s clear that he cares tremendously about the quality of the city’s public education. That said, disrespectful language and behavior from elected officials and leaders in our community is always unacceptable.

It’s unfortunate for all involved that Will did not use better judgement in both his public and private interactions.”

Holly McCall: Pinkston Told Me He Has a Kill List of MNPS Staff

Update: Will Pinkston has responded to Holly McCall’s accusations by tweeting that McCall “is a known sleeze and unfit to serve in public office.”

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Many Tennesseans do not believe that, though. In her legislative race, McCall recently raised $54,000 in one of the most conservative districts in the state.

Who is funding her campaign? The top democratic leaders in the state:

Franklin Mayor Lillian Stewart ($200) and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean ($500); state Rep. John Ray Clemmons ($250) and state Sens. Lee Harris ($150) and Sara Kyle ($150); Nashville Metro Council members Bob Mendes ($350) and John Cooper, and his wife Laura ($1,500 each, for both the primary and general, for a total of $6,000); attorneys Charles Bone ($1,000), James Yokley ($1,500), Bob Tuke ($250), Leigh Walton ($250), Aubrey Harwell ($250), David Garrison ($250) and Chase Cole ($250).

Others backing McCall include Planned Parenthood’s Jeff Teague ($250), and local business leaders Wayne Smith of Community Health Systems ($1,000; CHS also donated $1,000), developer Bert Mathews ($250), former AT&T president Marty Dickens ($1,000), Christopher Hopkins of the developer-friendly Saint Consulting ($1,250) for which McCall has worked, Medalogix CEO Dan Hogan ($700) and Elizabeth Schatzlein, the wife of the former CEO of Saint Thomas Health ($1,500).

Looks like they don’t believe she is unfit for public office.

Original story below:

Holly McCall, who is currently a Democratic candidate for TN House District 65, has responded to the Tennessean story on Will Pinkston by saying that Will Pinkston allegedly told her that he had a kill list of MNPS employees while pointing at his forehead.

 

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Below are other tweets Holly McCall has sent out today about being threatened, scared, and how she feels like she is hurting her chances for office by taking on a candidate backed by the Democratic Party. As you will see below, she doesn’t live in Nashville or support charter schools.

 

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Holly McCall has uploaded a screen shot from the latest texts from Pinkston. She also says that Pinkston has been threatening her for six months.

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Will Pinkston Creates A Hostile Workplace

The Tennessean is out today with an article about Will Pinkston’s abusive behavior to workers of MNPS. Here’s just a taste of what the article has laid out:

  • Alan Coverstone, former Director of Charter Schools said that Pinkston “threatened me saying I had better watch myself, and eventually saying that I had better barricade myself in the office because he would come up there and get me.”
  • Former Director of Schools Jesse Register received complaints from staff about calls, emails, and in person confrontations with Will Pinkston.
  • A handful of current or former employees of MNPS were too scared to go on the record for risk of retribution from Will Pinkston. One staff member said that Will Pinkston would throw you under the bus if he didn’t get his way.
  • After Jason Egly, a MNPS teacher at the time, got into an discussion on twitter, Egly’s principal and district officials approach him to talk about it after Pinkston reported him to the central office. Egly was afraid for his job.
  • Vesia Hawkins, the former board administrator for over six years, requested another assignment because of Will Pinkston. Pinkston continued to contact Hawkins through direct messages on Twitter after she left her board administrator role. Board Chair Sharon Gentry had to tell Pinkston:“Unless you have a business reason to contact her or any MNPS employee, your contact should be with the Director of Schools.” The night after that email from Gentry, Pinkston continued to contact Hawkins.

These are just the few brave people who spoke on the record about their experiences with Will Pinkston. I have heard from other teachers and staffers who are too afraid to speak out because they are afraid of losing their jobs. This isn’t bullying, this is abusive.

It’s not just bullying when Will Pinkston tells a staff member to barricade himself in an office because he is coming for him. That’s abusive.

It’s not just bullying when teachers are afraid of losing their job. That’s abusive.

It’s not just bullying when a staff member has to change jobs because of Will Pinkston. That’s abusive.

When elected officials in Nashville stand by Will Pinkston, they are enabling this abusive behavior. No one deserves this abuse.