Mary Holden on the Next Director of MNPS

Williamson County teacher and MNPS parent Mary Holden spoke to the School Board last night about her hopes for the next Director of Schools.

My name is Mary Holden, and I am a teacher and MNPS parent of a 2nd grader. I want to talk with you tonight about what is needed in our next director of schools.

First of all, we need someone with solid experience teaching children and leading schools. I believe it is important for our director of schools to have truly walked the walk when it comes to being a leader in public education. In other words, an applicant from the Broad Academy or someone who was a business leader but not an actual teacher, principal, and/or superintendent shouldn’t make it past the first cut.

Second, we need someone who 100% supports our public schools and views them in a positive light. Someone who understands the role that our public schools play in our communities and who will work tirelessly to build up these schools rather than parcel them out to competing charter schools who would instead work to divide communities and destroy our public schools. I want someone who knows the difference and will work to strengthen the public schools we have while trying to stop the expansion of charter schools. We need someone who understands the concept of community schools and will continue the work of building partnerships with local businesses and organizations who can provide resources and services for our neediest families through community schools. Someone who will ensure that our neediest schools receive equitable resources and the support personnel they need.

Third, we need an advocate to lead the fight against harmful state policies. For example, we need someone who understands the need to have fully funded schools and will fight for that at the state level. Also, someone who recognizes that we need to de-emphasize the role that standardized tests currently play. Someone who knows that we shouldn’t be evaluating teachers or students based on their test scores, especially when the test itself is a joke. We need a champion of a parent’s right to refuse these tests for their children, someone who understands the harm being done and the time that is taken away from learning by these tests.

Fourth, we need someone who is a strong supporter of our wonderful MNPS teachers and the hard work they do every day. They need to know that our director of schools has their back and has walked in their shoes. We need someone who seeks out feedback from teachers, parents, and students – and not business owners or others who don’t know anything about actually having children in public schools.

Finally, we need someone who understands and fights for the best interests of our children, especially as it relates to the role of play in learning; the importance of a well-rounded education that includes history and civics, science, art, music, PLAY, and of course, English and math; and the appropriate balance of technology in the classroom where I believe less is better.

Thank you for your time. I have confidence that you will make an excellent choice on behalf of our children and teachers.

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

 

Phasing Out

As Tennessee schools prepare to administer Phase II of the TNReady tests in late April and early May, parents are petitioning the General Assembly to stop the second phase altogether.

Grace Tatter reports:

Nearly 2,000 parents have signed a petition asking Gov. Bill Haslam and other state leaders to nix the entire second part of Tennessee’s new standardized assessment for students grades 3-11.

The change.org petition, which was started last week, garnered 1,000 signatures in its first three days from parents across the state.

The petition was started by Tullahoma parent and School Board member Jessica Fogarty.

While the Department of Education indicates it has no plans to suspend TNReady testing for this year, the Tullahoma School Board is set to vote on a resolution asking for just that at a meeting on Monday, April 18th.

Here’s a draft of that resolution:

A RESOLUTION OF THE TULLAHOMA CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION

TO SUPPORT A DELAY IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF TCAP ASSESSMENTS AT THE 3-8 GRADE LEVELS UNTIL SUCH A TIME THAT THE ASSESSMENTS AT EACH GRADE LEVEL NOT EXCEED A TOTAL NUMBER OF HOURS AS ENUMERATED BY THE GIVEN GRADE

WHEREAS, the Tullahoma City Board of Education is the local governmental body responsible for providing a public education to the students and families of Tullahoma City, Tennessee; and

WHEREAS, the State of Tennessee through the work of the Tennessee General Assembly, the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Board of Education, and local boards of education, has established nationally recognized standards and measures for accountability in public education; and

WHEREAS, the Tennessee Department of Education is currently working to implement a replacement to the former Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (“TCAP”) for the 2015-2016 school year; and

WHEREAS, these new assessments are called TNReady for the areas of English/language arts and math, 3 – 8 and TCAP Social Studies Achievement and U.S. History End of Course exams; and

WHEREAS, this school year is the first year that the new assessments will be administered and as such, the new assessments are more appropriate tools for establishing baseline performance than they are for evaluating or comparing performance; and

WHEREAS, because of the testing transition within TCAP including TNReady and other issues, the Tennessee Department of Education has already acknowledged that, for the 2015-2016 school year, public school systems in Tennessee will likely not be able to integrate the test results into each student’s final grades; and

WHEREAS, the Senate Education Committee of the Tennessee General Assembly has scheduled a hearing to address issues and concerns associated with the delivered assessment product provided by Measurement, Incorporated; and

WHEREAS, experts in education administration, child development, and child psychology endorse standardized testing as a limited measure of progress and effectiveness in the important task of learning; and

WHEREAS, current TCAP-TNReady mandated assessments in grade 3 exceed 11.23 hours per student, or more than the ACT Test at 2.95 hours,the SAT Test at 3.00 hours, the Graduate Records Examinations (GRE) at 3.75 hours, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) at 2.83 hours or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) at 6.25 hours; and

WHEREAS, current TCAP-TNReady mandated assessments in grades four and five (4, 5) exceed 11.08 hours per student, or more than the ACT Test at 2.95 hours,the SAT Test at 3.00 hours, the Graduate Records Examinations (GRE) at 3.75 hours, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) at 2.83 hours or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) at 6.25 hours; and

WHEREAS, current TCAP-TNReady mandated assessments in grades six, seven, and eight (6, 7, 8) exceed 11.83 hours per student, or more than the ACT Test at 2.95 hours,the SAT Test at 3.00 hours, the Graduate Records Examinations (GRE) at 3.75 hours, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) at 2.83 hours or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) at 6.25 hours;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED

The Tullahoma City Board of Education implores the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Department of Education to direct school districts to delay administrations of the TNReady suite of assessments until such a time that the assessments are of a reasonable amount of time for student completion of the assessment.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED,

The Tullahoma City Board of Education implores the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Department of Education to direct psychometricians, contractors, and developers to construct assessments designed to inform instructional practice and to provide accountability that would not require for administration a period of time in hours greater in aggregate than the specific grade level of the said child.

 

 

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

 

Amanda Kail on the Next Director of MNPS

MNPS teacher Amanda Kail made the following remarks at tonight’s school board meeting in reference to the selection of the next Director of Schools.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the school board. My name is Amanda Kail, and I am an EL teacher at Margaret Allen Middle School. I am here to speak first of all to thank you for your patience and your commitment to hearing teachers who have come to several board meetings this year. And to tell you of the many conversations of hope I have had with teachers across the district who feel like they are finally being heard. Your actions on our behalf have not gone unnoticed.
Secondly, I am here to suggest crucial requirements for the next director of schools from a teacher’s perspective. As you work together towards finding our next leader, I hope my comments can be of some use.
First and foremost, it is imperative that we find a candidate with significant and recent teaching experience. So much has changed in just the eight years that I have taught in public schools. MNPS is in desperate need of leadership that understands what currently is, and what is not, working in the classroom.
Second, we need a leader who will reduce testing. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a teacher in this district who does not feel that testing has taken far too much time away from instruction this year. Additionally, as educational experts, we can tell you that the quality of the tests we have been forced to give are so poor that we have gotten little to no useful information from the results. MNPS needs a leader who understands that testing is not learning, and who will put protecting instructional time as the highest importance for our schools.
Third, we need a director who will make teacher retention a priority. Teaching, especially in as diverse and complex district such as ours, is exceedingly difficult. We need to invest in teacher evaluation systems that are not impossible to survive for new teachers. And we need to value the experience and talents of veteran teachers by bringing back step raises, and by offering them more opportunities for real leadership in the district. And we need a director who will be willing to collaboratively conference with teachers, so that we can work together to make our district a national leader.
Fourth, we must have a candidate who will be an advocate for all our students, regardless of race, gender, economic status, sexual or gender identity, religion, ability, nationality, or immigration status. MNPS is a bright star of diversity. Our leader must be ready to engage with state and national politics to protect all Nashville’s kids, especially those who are most vulnerable.
And finally, we need a leader who can think of our district as a whole. Currently, we are a district torn by conflict over school choice and charters. We have several schools, including zoned and charter schools, that are half-empty. And now, on top of after-school tutoring, clubs, extra-curricular activities, home visits, and after-school parent conferences, teachers are having to go out canvassing on weekends in order to protect their jobs and their schools. I have students who have bounced from charter to charter, and then back to their zoned school in a matter of weeks. How does this help anyone? Kids need consistency. All schools need to offer the kinds of options that parents want. We need to stop perpetuating a system where one school has to tear down another in order to survive, and replace it with a community support services and collaboration.
I know your responsibility of choosing the director of schools is a heavy one. I hope that these suggestions will be useful in your search.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Leading from the Classroom

Debbie Hickerson is a 5th Grade Teacher at Cason Lane Academy in Murfreesboro and a Tennessee Hope Street Group Fellow.

Every professional journal we see these days contains an article which examines professional development for teachers. It is thrilling to see the educational community focus on ways we can better our practice, hone in on our talents, and strategize ways to find more tools for our classroom teachers. The highly regarded educational trainer and author, Harry Wong, has told us for years, “It is the teacher – what the teacher knows and can do – that is the most significant factor in student achievement.” (The First Days of School, 2001). This tells me that we must find the time, money, and support that will allow us to invest in our teachers. I have an idea on how we can do just that.

 

School districts are making requests for more substantial budgets today than they ever have. Even small school systems are seeking millions of dollars for operating costs. With so many school districts looking for ways to make the most of their allocations, it’s time to get creative with professional learning. It just makes sense to capitalize on the assets by having teachers instruct, not just mentor, one another and share their talents, skills, techniques, materials, resources, and strategies. Tennessee State Teacher Fellows working with the non-profit organization, Hope Street Group, produced a report in January 2016 containing data from teacher surveys and focus groups held throughout the state in the Fall of 2015. The press release states, The Hope Street Group report focuses on professional learning and teacher leadership, with results indicating that over half of the survey respondents aspire to a teacher leader role while remaining in the classroom.” Tennessee teachers didn’t want to leave the kids, they just wanted to help maximize their colleagues’ effectiveness.

 

These findings should cause principals to take a look at their faculty. The school is filled with scholars! These are highly educated people, with various degrees, skills, and talent. Why not tap into all that expertise?

 

What would leading from the classroom look like? “Teachers teaching teachers” is not a new concept, but it is one that is underused. This type of professional learning provides many opportunities for teachers to step up to take active roles in peer training. Districts who implement this style of teacher leadership have teachers who are leading in-service professional development. They may have book talks or hold lunch-and-learn sessions, lead professional book clubs, and occasionally spend time during faculty meetings giving presentations, sharing ideas, pedagogy, and/or strategies. Why not allow teachers to sign up once a month to conduct after school professional learning workshops?

 

Costs. Teacher-led professional development fosters accountability, collegiality, and teamwork. Schools receive funds earmarked for professional learning, so why not have teachers leave campus to travel to other schools and use these funds to cover the expense of substitutes? That afternoon, the same substitutes would be moved to different classrooms for another set of teachers to leave campus to observe lessons. The cost to the schools, and disruption to the students is minimal. The cost would be even less if paraprofessionals were used in place of substitutes.

 

True Collaboration. Language Arts teachers could spend one planning session a week with Drama, Social Studies, History, and Science teachers teaching them how to do a close reading of their content area materials. The following week, the content area teachers could provide valuable background knowledge for the Language Arts teacher before he/she begins a new topic as well as providing ideas for projects, differentiating lessons, and multisensory activities. This type of planning would be critical for arts-integrated lessons, particularly as many districts are embracing STEAM activities and strategies now.

 

Using built in PLC days. School districts that build in half days to the yearly calendar, could maximize those afternoons by offering break-out sessions for which teacher leaders offer a variety of professional learning workshops allowing teachers from any school to attend based on their own need and interest. Teachers would then have the option to receive specific methods, activities, hands-on materials, make-and-take manipulatives, as well as new strategies to take back and share with their teams. This would also provide an opportunity for teachers to discuss current trends in education, legislative bills that are coming up, or learning how to use Twitter, Linkedin, or other social media to their professional advantage.

 

It takes a village to raise a teacher. There are so many online webinars for teachers to earn PD credit, wouldn’t it be great to have a team who previews those and only shares the best, most valuable information? Many districts have parent conference days, classroom work days, and half days in which the special area teachers (also known as related arts) have nothing required of them. (Special area teachers include Drama, Music, Chorus, Band, P.E., Art, Library, STEM, Guidance Counselor, and the like). Having them work on a committee to preview PD webinars could potentially be a great school improvement project that would benefit everyone on the faculty.

 

Teacher buy-in is essential. Teacher leadership is going to require whole-hearted teacher and administrator buy-in, but the facts are undisputable. No intervention can make the difference that a skilled, knowledgeable teacher can, it is cost effective, makes the best use of our time, and is collaborative in nature. Since our schools receive school-wide scores and grades, quite frankly, the truth is when our colleagues look good, we all look good.

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

 

BEP. BEP 2.0. BEP 1.5?

Following a lawsuit filed by rural schools in Tennessee dubbed Small Schools, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled the state’s funding of public schools was unconstitutional. They ordered the General Assembly to come up with a more equitable way to distribute education funding. The result was the Basic Education Plan (BEP) which both equalized state funding to schools and injected $1 billion into the state’s schools over six years.

While Rep. Bill Dunn says that money didn’t improve schools, a generation of students in rural schools who experienced expanded educational opportunities likely disagree.

Subsequent lawsuits (Small Schools II and III) resulted in additional changes, including a salary equity fund for rural districts.

Then, in 2007, with bipartisan support, Governor Phil Bredesen secured passage of BEP 2.0 and began with an injection of more than $200 million in new dollars to schools.

2008 brought the Great Recession and prevented further investment in BEP 2.0, but the state’s BEP Review Committee has consistently recommended full funding of the newer formula, which would provide more funds to nearly all districts while leveling the playing field for those educating more “at-risk” students.

Enter Governor Bill Haslam. He appointed his own BEP Task Force independent of the statutorily mandated BEP Review Committee. At the time, I speculated this was because he didn’t like the Review Committee’s recommendations and its insistence that the state was at least $500 million behind where it should be in education funding.

Now, he’s proposing a “BEP Enhancement Act.” This so-called enhancement is sailing through the General Assembly. It is seen as the most likely vehicle to get money to rural districts and in a year when education funds are increasing, why sweat the details?

As I’ve written before, a few districts lose significantly in the move because it eliminates the Cost Differential Factor (CDF).

It also freezes BEP 2.o. Gone are the dreams of full funding of this formula. The law makes permanent the 70% state funding of BEP-generated teaching positions and funds teacher salaries at a rate well below the state average salary.

Back in 2014, I wrote about the broken BEP and the need to improve it and noted:

First, nearly every district in the state hires more teachers than the BEP formula generates. This is because students don’t arrive in neatly packaged groups of 20 or 25, and because districts choose to enhance their curriculum with AP courses, foreign language, physical education, and other programs. This add-ons are not fully contemplated by the BEP.

Next, the state sets the instructional component for teacher salary at $40,447. The average salary actually paid to Tennessee teachers is $50,355.  That’s slightly below the Southeastern average and lower than six of the eight states bordering Tennessee. In short, an average salary any lower would not even approach competitiveness with our neighbors.

But, this gets to the reason why salary disparity is growing among districts. The state funds 70% of the BEP instructional component. That means the state sends districts $28,333.90 per BEP-generated teacher. But districts pay an average of $50,355 per teacher they employ. That’s a $22,000 disparity. In other words, instead of paying 70% of a district’s basic instructional costs, the state is paying 56%.

Even with the upward adjustment of state money for teacher salaries, the state won’t be anywhere close to funding 70% of the actual cost of Tennessee teachers. Don’t even think about reaching the 75% goal imagined by BEP 2.0.

Nashville School Board Member Will Pinkston, who worked for Governor Phil Bredesen during the development of BEP 2.0 had this to say of Haslam’s proposed changes:

“With this proposed ‘BEP 1.5,’ Gov. Haslam is taking a huge step backward when it comes to public education funding. In 2007, Gov. Bredesen and the General Assembly made a significant commitment to K-12 schools by proposing and approving a new formula that now is universally recognized for its equitable approach to distributing public education dollars. At the time, Gov. Bredesen cautioned that new revenue generated by a tripling in the tobacco tax would be only a ‘downpayment’ toward fully funding the new formula. Then the Great Recession happened, and then a political transition occurred in the governor’s office. Those of us who care about education funding were hopeful that Gov. Haslam would continue the Bredesen legacy of investing significant new dollars in public education as the economy turned around. Instead, he’s given only lip service to education funding and has, at best, just shifted dollars around to give the appearance of increased funding. The reality is: The legislature, by its own admission, has acknowledged that public education in Tennessee is getting short-shrifted by the state to the tune of at least $500 million. And that means the real number is likely closer to $1 billion or more. By proposing a halt in the implementation of BEP 2.0, the governor is essentially proposing a massive funding cut. If he claims to truly understand the plight of public education funding, he should abandon BEP 1.5 and recommit to fully funding BEP 2.0. To do anything less would be breaking the state’s promise.”

That’s a pretty strong critique. But it’s not difficult to see why education advocates should have concern about the long-term impacts of Haslam’s BEP 1.5 effort.

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

CANCELLED!

While school boards in Tennessee discuss not delivering TNReady Phase II and the state’s Department of Education says doing so would cost districts their BEP money, the Commissioner of Education in Alaska has scrapped new computer-based tests this year.

The Washington Post reports:

Alaska officials have canceled the state’s computer-based standardized testing for the year, citing repeated technical problems that were interrupting students’ exams, throwing schools into chaos and threatening the validity of results.

“I don’t believe under the circumstances that the assessment we were administering was a valid assessment,” Susan McCauley, interim commissioner of the state education department, said in an interview Tuesday. “Validity relies on a standardized assessment condition, and things were anything but standardized in Alaska last week.”

If this sounds familiar, it should. Tennessee’s new tests got off to a rocky start in February and the backup plan, pencil and paper testing, faced a bumpy rollout as well.

Instead of cancelling this year’s tests or at least moving forward without administering Phase II, Tennessee is plowing ahead. And, despite serious questions regarding data validity, the results could still count for some teacher evaluations and for school and district accountability.

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

Ready to Refuse

As Tennessee schools prepare for Phase II of TNReady, the Department of Education has sent districts a memo outlining how they should handle students who refuse or attempt to “opt-out” of the test.

The general gist, according to reporting by Grace Tatter, is that you can’t opt-out or refuse. She reports:

District leaders received a memo last week instructing schools to “address student absences on testing days in the same manner as they would address a student’s failure to participate in any other mandatory activity at school (e.g. final exams) by applying the district’s or school’s attendance policies.”

The memo specifically notes:

 “State and federal law also requires student participation in state assessments. In fact, these statutes specifically reference the expectation that all students enrolled in public schools in Tennessee will complete annual assessments.”

That’s not entirely true.

Federal law, even with the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requires states to administer annual assessments in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school.

But there’s a difference in requiring a state to administer and requiring a student to complete an assessment. Federal law requires administration of the test, but does not compel students to complete the exams.

Then, there is state law. The memo lacks specific references to Tennessee statute, but there are a few sections that relate to testing.

TCA 49-1-6 includes references to performance assessment and the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS). This portion of state law says that annual assessments will be administered in grades 3-8 and then outlines the secondary school testing schedule. Here again, the law notes tests will be administered, but contains no compulsory language for students.

Then there’s TCA 49-6-60 dealing with proficiency testing. This section specifically details testing to be administered in grades 8, 10, and 11 as a strategy to promote college readiness. As these three tests are required for graduation, they are essentially mandated. Students who don’t take them won’t complete the graduation requirements.

What’s missing? Language that compels a student to take the test or requires a district to compel students to take the test. The memo says that “state and federal” statutes specifically reference the expectation that students will complete the assessment. True, TVAAS and other accountability measures are made valid by significant student participation in state tests. But, that alone doesn’t make them compulsory. Unless it’s one of the three proficiency tests specifically referenced in the graduation requirements section, there’s no language directly compelling students to participate in annual assessments.

It’s worth noting that while the Department of Education has said there would be penalties if districts refused to administer the TNReady tests, the memo says districts are not authorized to allow “opting-out” or test refusal. What it doesn’t say is what impact allowing opt-out would have on the district. If a district offers the test, and students refuse, then what?

Stay tuned as Phase II starts later this month.

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

 

 

Decoding Dyslexia Opposes MNPS Reading Recovery Initiative

Today, members of Decoding Dyslexia – Tennessee wrote to the Nashville School Board in opposition of the budget investment in Reading Recovery. Decoding Dyslexia has four major points in their letter.

  1. We feel that MNPS should not spend so much money funding a program that is not evidence-based and is known not to work for the very kids (those with dyslexia) who struggle most to read.
  2. We feel strongly that MNPS should spend its money training teachers in the Orton-Gillingham method, which will soon be required by law, which has been proven by years of research to teach the most troubled readers how to read
  3. We strongly feel that MNPS should heed the guidance of the TNDOE (who worked tirelessly with dyslexia advocates from TN STEP, Decoding Dyslexia – Tennessee, Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia and Tennessee chapter of the International Dyslexia Association to craft this guide) and spend its money on the Orton-Gillingham program contained in the guidance from the State. 
  4. We feel strongly that your district should follow the United State Congress’ lead and give students an evidence-based program to help all students read.

I hope you will read the full letter below. Decoding Dyslexia – Tennessee makes a push for using evidence-based reading interventions for all students. Let’s hope MNPS takes their advice.

 

April 5, 2016
Dear Metro Nashville School Board Members,
We, members of Decoding Dyslexia – Tennessee, would like to voice our opposition to the School Board’s proposal to invest a large amount of money into the “Reading Recovery” literacy program in MNPS.  Although we are pleased with your district’s focus on literacy, we strongly urge you to consider using a program that is evidence-based that will address the needs of ALL struggling readers. We urge you to fund a multi-sensory, evidence-based literacy program, such as Orton-Gillingham, which is proven to work for ALL students, not just those with dyslexia. Here is why:
1. Science knows that students with dyslexia make up 20% of our student population and 80% of the kids who ultimately end up in special education for learning disabilities.  Students with dyslexia are a huge percentage of our struggling readers. Scientists and dyslexia experts also know that students with dyslexia need an evidence-based program, like Orton-Gillingham, to learn to read. Leading dyslexia experts agree that Reading Recovery does not work for students with dyslexia and some, such as Lousia Motts, go as far to say its harmful and that it is “indefensible to keep spending money on this.” Sally Shaywitz, of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity writes “We have come too far and made too much progress to allow anything less than valid scientific evidence to be used in determining if, indeed, a program is effective in improving students’ reading.” We feel that MNPS should not spend so much money funding a program that is not evidence-based and is known not to work for the very kids (those with dyslexia) who struggle most to read.
2. Tennessee Legislature is about to pass the Say Dyslexia Bill which will require districts to screen students for dyslexia in kindergarten and will require districts to provide dyslexia-specific interventions, like Orton-Gillingham, to be put into general education in the RTI Tiers. Specifically, the Bill says “The LEA shall: provide student with appropriate dyslexia-specific intervention through the RTI framework.” We feel strongly that MNPS should spend its money training teachers in the Orton-Gillingham method, which will soon be required by law, which has been proven by years of research to teach the most troubled readers how to read.
3. The TN DOE has issued, in January 2016, the “Understanding Dyslexia: a Guide for Parents and Educators” which clearly states that: “It is not necessary for a student to be diagnosed with dyslexia in order to receive appropriate intervention. Once a school identifies that a student shows characteristics of dyslexia, it is important to provide the right interventions…These principles of instruction are often referred to by the following terms: Orton-Gillingham based, a Multisensory Structured Language, or Structured Literacy. Interventions must be aligned to individual students’ needs. For students with dyslexia or for students with the characteristics of dyslexia, the intervention should address the specific phonological deficits identified through targeted assessments.” We strongly feel that MNPS should heed the guidance of the TNDOE (who worked tirelessly with dyslexia advocates from TN STEP, Decoding Dyslexia – Tennessee, Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia and Tennessee chapter of the International Dyslexia Association to craft this guide) and spend its money on the Orton-Gillingham program contained in the guidance from the State. 
4. The United States Congress has recently passed the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia (READ) Act which instructs the National Science Foundation to create best-practices on evidence-based educational tools for children with dyslexia.  To pass the bill, the Congress held extensive testimony from dyslexia experts which, again, highlighted the need for evidence-based interventions for students with dyslexia.  We feel strongly that your district should follow the United State Congress’ lead and give students an evidence-based program to help all students read.
We urge you all to look deeply at this issue before dedicating such a large amount of money on something that is not proven to work for ALL students.  Dr. Michael Hart, an international dyslexia expert of 25 years, is willing to come present to your board on our behalf once he returns from an international dyslexia conference in India the week of April 18th.  Thank you for your attention on this most important issue. Thank you further for focusing your attention on literacy, which is hugely important for the success of ALL our students.
Sincerely,
Anna Thorsen
Eillen Miller
Julya Johnson
Lori Smith
Melissa Tackett
Suzanne Roberts
Rachel Doherty
P.S. If you would like more information about the details listed above, here are some resources:
  1. “Cautionary Note – Show me the Evidence” – by Sally Shaywitz, Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. http://dyslexia.yale.edu/ABOUT_Shaywitz_MajorStepForward.html
2.  The text of the whole Tennessee #SayDyslexia Bill can be found here: https://decodingdyslexiatn.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/hb2616-sb-2635-dyslexia.pdf
3. Full text of “Understanding Dyslexia: a Guide for Parents and Educators” https://tn.gov/assets/entities/education/attachments/sped_understanding_dyslexia.pdf
4. Congressional testimony about evidence-based vs. research-based practices https://youtu.be/nbQ9wAtTxlU.
5. A short, general informational TEDed Video “What is Dyslexia.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zafiGBrFkRM

 


 

 

A Little Less Ready

Grace Tatter reports on proposed reductions to the total testing time for TNReady:

After weeks of hard conversations prompted by the rocky debut of Tennessee’s new assessment, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Monday that the state will reduce the number of hours that students spend taking TNReady in its second year.

Beginning in 2016-17, the State Department of Education plans to scrap TNReady Part I in math and streamline the English portion of Part I, she said. Department officials will determine how many hours of testing the changes will save students in the coming weeks.

On average, third-graders this year will have spent 11.2 hours taking TNReady end-of-course tests; seventh-graders, 11.7 hours; and high school students, 12.3 hours.

The announcement comes amid concerns expressed by parents and district leaders and at least one district inquiring about the possibility of not administering TNReady Phase II this year.

Tullahoma’s Dan Lawson said:

“Outside of RTI-squared and TNReady, we don’t have time to do anything,” Lawson said. “We’re trying to have class on occasion.”

For more on education politics and policy in the volunteer state, follow @TNEdReport

Tyese Hunter: Let’s Accept The Facts

Nashville School Board Member Tyese Hunter is out with an editorial in the Tennessean where she discusses facts around Nashville’s charter schools.

Tyese Hunter breaks down some statistics on charter schools, including a recent report that showed that many Nashville charter schools are closing the achievement gap while MNPS schools are seeing the gap widen.

She compared this recent report to the data from the MNPS Academic Performance Framework, which showed that many charter schools were labeled as high performing.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 8.20.02 AM

 

She also discusses a report that showed that charter schools are teaching more students of color, more economically disadvantaged students, and more students with disabilities than the typical public school. Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 8.09.32 AM

But more than just laying out the facts, Tyese Hunter calls out her fellow school board members who ignore any data or study that doesn’t fit their belief system.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 8.12.29 AM

Read more of here editorial here.