We’re Number 2!

We’d like to the thank the voters in the Nashville Scene Readers’ Poll who selected Tennessee Education Report as #2 in the Best Political Blog category.

We’re honored to have earned the respect of readers, having landed in the Top 3 in 2013 and 2014 and earning our highest ranking this year.

Thank you!

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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.

TN Teachers Part of Award-Winning ESSA Team

Tennessee teachers and Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows Natalie Coleman and Debbie Hickerson were part of a team being recognized for their efforts on development of an ESSA strategy plan.

Here’s more from a press release from Hope Street:

This week, a cross-state coalition of Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows will join 11 other teams in Chicago as finalists of the Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future’s Agents for Learning Challenge. The challenge, which called upon educator teams across the country to create plans that detailed innovative uses for federal funding for professional learning and student outcomes under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), named the Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellow team of Trey Ferguson (NC), Cassie Reding (KY), Carly Baldwin (KY), Natalie Coleman (TN) and Debbie Hickerson (TN) as finalists. The “Game Changers” team from Hope Street Group is the only team with representatives from three different states to receive this honor. Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows will also be strongly represented: current Fellow Sarah Giddings and former Fellows Debbie Hickerson and Rebecca Wattleworth will also be in attendance to present theirinnovative proposals with their respective teams.

Trey describes their team’s initial incentive to throw their hat in the competition ring:

“My teammates and I felt too many professional learning opportunities were happening to us, not for us, and definitely not with us. Too many systems are being developed from the top down and do not provide adequate resources or accountability to enhance good teaching practices.”

The finalist teams represent a diverse and knowledgeable group, among them 56 teachers, administrators and learning leaders from 12 different states. When asked about their strategic approach, team member Natalie Coleman tapped into the need for collaboration among educators:

“Our proposal focuses on collaboration and learning from excellence, and we have proposed a model of professional learning that makes it possible for teachers to learn from one another through observations, peer feedback and ongoing follow-up sessions.”

Hope Street Group, a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity, was given the unique opportunity to plan and sponsor the event:

“We were honored to be asked to co-sponsor this event and help plan it,” commented Dr. Tabitha Grossman, the National Director, Education Policy and Partnerships for Hope Street Group. “Giving teachers an opportunity to share their insights and innovative ideas about how educators can learn together and individually is something we hope to do more of in the coming months with the partners who are involved in this event.”

Dr. Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, weighed in on the call for teachers to lend their leadership–their expertise, experiences, and input–in the distribution of ESSA funding:

“States tell us they are looking for ways to capture stakeholder input, and the creative and bold ideas in the applications show how much these engaged educators have to offer as we enter the implementation phase of ESSA.”

In addition to the proposal presentations, the Chicago event will feature opportunities for the team members to engage to receive coaching to refine their plans and build skills in advocating with policymakers. As evidenced by the insight offered in the proposals, the challenge further demonstrates the need for teacher voice in education policy on the school, district, state and national levels. Educators can provide a firsthand perspective into what is effective and needed by students, themselves and their colleagues. A unique perspective only they can offer.

The presentations from the top 12 finalists will be live-streamed from 1:00pm to 3:30pm (CST) on July 22nd and can be viewed from this URL:http://www.learningforward.org/agentslivestream. If you are not available to watch on July 22, the recorded presentations as well as the teachers’ plans will be available online.

To learn more about Hope Street Group’s Teacher Fellows Program, please visit http://hopestreetgroup.org/impact/education/teacher-fellowships/. For additional information or questions, or to request interviews, please send an email to outreach@hopestreetgroup.org.

About Hope Street Group

Hope Street Group is a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity.

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

 

Will Pinkston Responds

In the District 7 School Board race, Zack posted recently about Jackson Miller’s allegations about negative, personal attacks.

Here’s a response from Will Pinkston:

Regarding Jackson Miller’s attack on me: Apparently, it’s easier for him to point fingers at someone else rather than to take responsibility for his own actions. Since Miller moved from East Nashville to a rental house in 12 South at the last minute to run against me, I’ve been inundated by his former associates with all manner of strange information — everything from his checkered social media behavior as well as his extensive legal problems, including criminal contempt charges and a litany of lawsuits. I have not, until I was attacked, publicly referenced these issues. And I’ve got no interest in dwelling on them.

Bottom line: I’m running on my record. As an aide to Gov. Bredesen, I was part of the team that helped write the policies that made Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the history of the Nation’s Report Card. As a member of the Nashville School Board, I stood up to a bureaucracy that was failing students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers. Now, Nashville’s schools are under new management and we’re moving in the right direction. As a product of MNPS and a public-school parent, I am more optimistic than I’ve ever been about the future of this school system. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Mayor’s Office, the Metro Council, and the school board are rowing in the same direction. And that’s a great thing.

As a 12 South-area resident since 2008, I have seen our neighborhoods change a lot — and as a board member, I was proud to play a role in returning the historic Waverly-Belmont building back to service as an elementary school. I will keep focusing on the positive developments happening in our school system. I will not, as Jackson Miller wants me to do, get drawn into a tit-for-tat. Early voting begins Friday, July 15, and runs thru July 30. Election Day is August 4. I would appreciate your vote and the opportunity to serve Nashville’s students for another four years. Thank you.

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

 

Nashville Chamber’s SuccessPAC Endorses in School Board Race

Today, the Nashville Chamber’s SuccessPAC endorsed candidates for the upcoming Nashville School Board race. Below is part of the release from the SuccessPAC:

SuccessPAC, the political action committee created by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for school board elections, announced today its support for four Metro school board candidates in the Aug. 4 election in which voters will elect five of the nine school board members. The SuccessPAC board invited all candidates who qualified for the ballot across the five districts up for election to complete a questionnaire and interview with the committee.

“Our committee had a thorough discussion about each of the candidates over the course of the past two months,” said Darrell S. Freeman, Sr., SuccessPAC chairman. “In making our endorsement decisions, we look for candidates who are knowledgeable, experienced and are focused first and foremost on academic success for all students. This year, we specifically looked for a commitment to improve the board’s governance and public perception.

The endorsed candidates are:

District 1: Sharon Gentry

“School Board member Sharon Gentry has served ably for two terms, and has led the board as chair for the past two years” said Freeman. “Dr. Gentry’s leadership capabilities were clearly evident in guiding an often divided board through the completion of the second director search in 2016. It was successful, largely because the board was able to learn from and address the shortcomings of the 2015 search. Leadership is realizing when something isn’t working and then being willing to try a different approach.”

The other candidate in the race, Janette Carter, was not able to schedule an interview with the committee.

District 3: Jane Grimes Meneely

“The committee was impressed with Jane Grimes Meneely’s past business experience in management, technology and human resources,” said Freeman. “Her focus is on making sure there are high-performing public schools in every neighborhood in district 3. She is also committed to a school board that focuses on setting policy and a cohesive strategy for improvement.”

“The committee respects greatly incumbent Jill Speering’s long career as an MNPS educator and her passion for literacy. We are hopeful that new leadership gives the next board an opportunity to move past the divisiveness that has characterized much of the past four years.”

District 5: Christiane Buggs & Miranda Christy

Voters in district 5 are truly fortunate to have a range of choices on the ballot. “We found Christiane Buggs to be an energetic, and passionate advocate for children,” said Freeman. “She has the insights of a professional background in education, while also demonstrating a clear understanding of her potential board governance role. Her teaching experience in both MNPS and a charter school also positions her to help the rest of the school board bridge their toxic divide over charter schools.”

“We believe Miranda Christy has the necessary background, skills and temperament to be an outstanding school board member,” said Freeman. “Ms. Christy’s professional background as an attorney and her extensive volunteer experience in education equip her to be an effective representative for district 5. We appreciate her clear understanding of board governance and the need to also serve as an effective representative of her constituents.”

Voters will also find that candidate Erica Lanier brings a valuable parent perspective to the race in district 5.

Candidate Corey Gathings declined to participate in the committee’s process.

District 7: No endorsement

The Committee chose not to make an endorsement in district 7’s two-candidate race. “Four years ago, our committee believed incumbent Will Pinkston had the background and expertise to help lead our school board to a new level of strategic focus and effectiveness. Unfortunately, Mr. Pinkston’s public battles on social media and his attacks on officials with whom he disagrees have limited his effectiveness,” said Freeman.

Challenger Jackson Miller is an MNPS parent and business owner who has been a committed volunteer in education. “Mr. Miller’s candidacy gives voters a choice in the district 7 election,” said Freeman. Ultimately, the committee was not convinced that Mr. Miller had the time to manage the considerable demands of serving in elected office.”

District 9: Thom Druffel

“Thom Druffel is a longtime business executive and education volunteer who exhibits a passion for educating our city’s children,” said Freeman. “The committee was impressed with Mr. Druffel’s desire to steer the school board away from the political divisiveness of much of the last four years. We believe that Thom Druffel will focus less on promoting his personal viewpoints, and instead work to find common ground with the remaining eight members of the school board on how to move the school district forward. We commend Mr. Druffel for placing a priority on increased student achievement for all students.”

Incumbent Amy Frogge declined to participate in the committee’s process.

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