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.


 

 

College Planning Tool to Launch in Nashville

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry will jointly announce the launch of a college planning tool at an event in Nashville tomorrow – Tuesday, June 28th.

Here are the details from the press release:

As high school seniors and adults returning to school look for the right college and businesses seek to build the best workforce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry will introduce a data-driven tool to help with both at a June 28 event in Nashville.

The Chamber Foundation, in collaboration with Gallup and the American Institutes for Research, has developed a state-level college planner that will give prospective students a scientific way to evaluate colleges and the kinds of future employment to expect following graduation. The Tennessee version is among the first such programs in the country.

“Tennessee students and Tennessee businesses have a common interest in our colleges and the kind of education they deliver,” said Bradley Jackson, interim President of the state Chamber. “College is one of the biggest investments Tennesseans make, and they want some idea of what kind of job they can expect to find after graduation.

“At the same time, companies want a workforce trained in the skills they need, so they too have a vested interest in Tennessee’s college graduates. The Chamber Foundation’s Launch My Career tool is an innovative way to address the needs of both, and we are fortunate that it is being offered in Tennessee.”

The kickoff program will feature remarks by Commissioner Burns Phillips, head of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. An informal panel discussion will follow and will include David Mansouri, President of SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education); Mike Krause, Executive Director of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise initiatives; Ashford Hughes, Senior Advisor on Labor and Workforce Initiatives in the office of Mayor Megan Barry, and Russ Deaton, interim Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The event will begin at 10 a.m. at the AT&T Conference Center, 333 Commerce St., in Nashville.

The kickoff is aimed at introducing the college planning tool and creating a conversation about college programs that best serve the widest array of students and employers.

“Tennessee employers – and those who might be considering coming to Tennessee – are looking not only for a skilled workforce, but for individuals who are on the right paths in their own lives,” Jackson said. “Smart decisions about their education will put them on those right paths.”

The event is free and open to the public.
Additional information about funding:
Launch My Career Tennessee is supported by one of four College Value grants totaling $3.5 million from the non-profit corporation USA Funds. The grants support development in 12 states of new models for measuring college value to help students and their families, policymakers, and postsecondary institutions make more-informed decisions about the training and skills that will provide the greatest value to students and their communities.”

“Students and families are increasingly concerned about the value of college,” says Carol D’Amico, Executive Vice President of National Engagement and Philanthropy for USA Funds. “Through this new resource, students can make more-informed decisions about their future with data that illuminate critical links and opportunities between student goals and pathways, institutional offerings, and workforce needs.”

Learn more about USA Funds’ College Value initiative at www.collegevalue.net.

The Way It Used To Be

Mary Holden is out with her second blog post chronicling her challenges and triumphs in teaching. This post is about the early standards movement and how it impacted the profession. She writes:

From 2001 to 2003, I, along with a team of teachers from my school (Mar Vista High), took part in a program with the California Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) and the Western Assessment Collective (WAC) where teams of teachers worked to develop standards-based instructional units. This site describes the program I was a part of, but sadly, the links to the units we designed aren’t working anymore.

What I took away from this process was: 1) real teachers (not faceless corporations) were the creators of these curriculum units, 2) we kept them student-centered and realistic, 3) we had in-depth discussions of what the standards meant (called “unpacking” the standards), how they could best be assessed (and guess what? the answer was almost always NOT by multiple-choice tests! Shocker!), and how they could be taught to a diverse group of students at different levels. We were covering all the important topics – teacher creation of high-quality lessons and assessments, differentiation, standards, planning lessons together (which would later officially be called a professional learning community) – we were far ahead of the game! And it was a fun process as well. We met for several days in the summer and then during the school year for three years doing this work with CAPP/WAC. Part of what made it meaningful was that it did take so long, because again, real change takes time to take hold. We became better teachers as a result of this process, and those skills stayed with us for our careers.

Initially, the movement was positive and as Mary notes, student-centered. She writes much more, and it’s worth a read.

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

 

Mary Holden Takes to the Blogosphere

Veteran educator Mary Holden is leaving teaching, but not education. She’s started a blog and her first post sets the stage for what I expect will be some pretty interesting commentary.

Here’s an excerpt about why Mary chose to become a teacher:

Mrs. Zambruski, my English teacher in 10th and 12th grade, in particular, really made me love reading and learning. I knew in 12th grade that I wanted to be a high school English teacher just like Mama Z (as we affectionately called her). English was my favorite class, and the time we spent in a circle dissecting the themes and symbolism in what we read was what I loved most. Looking for meaning and discussing what things meant to us had a strong effect on me. I came to see that literature held the keys to the secrets of the universe. That may sound a bit dramatic, but I truly loved learning and interpreting and being inspired by what I read. So much so that I knew I wanted to share that feeling with others by being a teacher.

The initial post is certainly promising. Read it all here.


 

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

Corra Channels Trump

Over at Rocky Top Ed Talk, Charles Corra tries his best to demonstrate what education policy might look like under a President Donald Trump.

Here’s his take on Trump and Common Core:

Common Core is a disaster. You know who likes Common Core? Jeb. Bush. Jeb. Bush. You know, low energy Jeb. Do we like Jeb? Of course not. His brother was a disaster. I was against the Iraq War back in 2003, I said it would destabilize the region. And speaking of destabilizing a region, Common Core has destabilized our government. Our kids are getting indoctrinated by politicians who want to make a quick buck off textbooks. The only two books you need are my two favorites, THE BIBLE!!! and the Art of the Deal. That is it. So we’re going to abolish Common Core, make our elementary schools more like the Wharton School of Business. I went to the Wharton School of Business. World class business school.

There’s more and it’s a pretty good look at what Trump might have in store for America’s schools.

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

 

About Those Numbers

I posted last week about the Education Equality Index, first posting their press release and then some analysis based on a post from Bruce Baker.

Today, Education Cities and GreatSchools issued the following statement acknowledging some of the limitations of their data:

“Education Cities and GreatSchools have identified limitations in the interpretation of state-level Education Equality Index (EEI) scores. Our goal is to highlight states, cities and schools that are more successfully closing the achievement gap than others. We are confident that school-level and city-level EEI scores are highlighting success stories across the nation, but we have concluded that the state-level EEI scores are not the best way to compare states. Because states’ absolute EEI scores are highly correlated to the percentage of students in the state who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, we have removed the rankings of states based on the EEI score and pace of change pending further review. We want to ensure that the EEI adds value to the national conversation about the achievement gap, and we plan to further develop the EEI by exploring the possible incorporation of additional national measures. We welcome feedback and will continue to work to improve the Education Equality Index and its methodology over time.”

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

McQueen: We Are Listening

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen published a letter to parents and families about the TNReady roll out. The letter discusses how the Department of Education is also disappointed in the roll out. I’m going to break down her letter with my thoughts. The letter was posted with the attached bolded sentences.

You have probably heard a lot about testing recently as schools have started the annual TCAP assessments, including the new TNReady in math and English. I want to thank you for your patience and support during this transition. As we always see in education, parents and teachers have gone the extra mile to put students first.

As you know, our goal was to administer TNReady online this year. However, due to unexpected issues with our test vendor, students are instead taking the exam on paper. While this is not how we had hoped students would first take TNReady, the paper version of TNReady was created alongside the online version, so it is reliable with questions that have been reviewed and approved by Tennessee teachers. 

As you can see, Commissioner McQueen is using this letter to literally highlight the talking points on TNReady. It is a good reminder that all TNReady questions were reviewed and approved by Tennessee teachers.

We know the shift has brought challenges for our schools. We too are frustrated and disappointed by our inability to provide students with an online test this year and by the logistical difficulties. We have been working tirelessly to provide a positive testing experience as much as is within our control and to reduce anxiety. Districts already have the option to exclude TNReady and TCAP scores from students’ grades. In addition, the governor proposed to give teachers the flexibility to only include scores from this year’s TNReady and TCAP tests within their evaluation if it benefits them. If you want to learn more about the paper test transition, please visit our website and our blog.

We fully believe that our students are more than test scores. TNReady provides one – but just one – way to help parents and teachers make sure students are ready for the next step by showing how they are progressing. It will give you better information about what your student is learning and retaining because it includes more complex questions that look for how students think and analyze problems.

Yes, the rollout of TNReady has caused a lot of challenges. It was a nightmare for many schools to have to keep updating their testing schedule to prepare for TNReady (plus everything the schools did up until that point to get ready for a computer assessment). Our school had to change the schedule multiple times before testing began. While our testing went very smoothly, there were times when we did not have enough answer sheets for our students. We also had to postpone one grade level’s test because we lacked testing materials.

I know teachers across the state cheered when they heard that Governor Haslam is offering flexibility in regards to using scores in our evaluations. MNPS has already emailed all teachers about this proposed changed to keep the teachers updated. TNEdReport will keep you updated on this proposed legislation.

As we all know and agree with, students are not just data points. But the data provided can be helpful.

Parents should be able to clearly understand what their students know, how they are meeting grade-level expectations, and how they are performing compared to their peers. In the past, parent reports were often difficult to interpret and offered little guidance on how you could support your child, but TNReady allows us to provide parents with more specific and thorough information.

To assure we are creating parent reports that will best inform you, we ask for your feedback as we finalize the design of these reports. You can provide your thoughts on specific pieces of the proposed parent reports through this online form.

While we have not see the scores for TNReady, I am excited to hear from parents once they receive this information. I am cautiously optimistic that the state will provide better information for our parents and teachers. We have been let down before, and I hope it doesn’t happen with the scores.

We are fortunate to have incredible leaders in our communities: parents, principals, and teachers who face challenges every day while leading remarkable work on behalf of kids. Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed firsthand the character, focus, and teamwork in so many communities across the state. Thank you again for leading the team in your own household and working in partnership with our schools to seek continuous improvement even in the midst of challenges.

I think the best thing Commissioner McQueen can do is to communicate with teachers, parents, and the public as often as she can. Teachers need to know that the state cares about what is happening in schools across the state. I like how the state has provided a way for citizens to ask questions of the state. I have submitted a question to the state, and I hope there is follow through from the state.

What are your thoughts on McQueen’s letter? Have you submitted a question to the state? If so, have you heard back? Tell us below in the comments.


 

The Attacks on PET

Since September of last year, an anti-Professional Educators of Tennessee website has been up and running. The website, PETExposed.com, was started by Chattanooga activist Chris Brooks. I found this website after the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus shared a post from PETExposed.

Chris Brooks is a former Tennessee Education Association employee. When reached by TNEdReport, TEA responded that PETExposed “is not a TEA product. Chris Brooks no longer works at TEA, nor is he affiliated with the association.” I contacted TEA because I found Chris Brooks still listed on their website as an employee. I asked TEA when he was last affiliated with TEA because the PETExposed site was created six months ago, but they did not respond back.

The website largely attacks PET as a fake union and explicitly goes after the record of J.C. Bowman.

Bluff City Education ran a post from Bowman’s daughter to respond to the attacks from Chris Brooks.


 

 

Hope Street Group Seeks Next Round of TN Fellows

Hope Street Group is seeking its second class of Tennessee Teacher Fellows and applications are open through March 11th.

Hope Street Group seeks to engage Tennessee teachers in the education policymaking process. Fellows have opportunities to broaden their understanding of state reform efforts; learn media skills; and receive continuous support in writing blog posts, op-eds, and letters to the editor.

Hope Street is specifically seeking fellows from the following regions of the state:

Read articles from current HSG TN Fellows:

TNReady Made Students Tech Ready

Of Hope and TNReady

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