Nashville Non-Profit to Present “AntiRacist Classroom” Event

From a Press Release:

July 24 at 1:00 PM (CT) The Educators’ Cooperative will host a virtual conversation titled “Antiracist Teaching, Learning, and Leading from the Classroom” in an effort to openly address the legacies of segregation, white-flight, and white supremacy in schools. The teachers of EdCo are dedicated to facilitating this essential antiracist work cross-sector, for the benefit of all students. Registration for the event will open Tuesday, July 7 at 8:00 AM (CT) at educatorscooperative.com

Tickets, priced from $15-$60, are limited in order to ensure active engagement by all participants.

The event will feature four expert panelists:

José Luis Vilson is a Teacher, Activist, Author of This is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class and Education (Haymarket Books, 2014), and Executive Director of EduColor, an organization dedicated to race and social justice issues in education. Vilson asserts, “The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of police, plus the ensuing uprisings across the world have created a level of urgency among white educators to become more aware of their complicity. I’m choosing to engage this new set of subscribers with a huge sense of responsibility and awareness of the moment.”  

Ansley Erickson is a Columbia University Professor and Author of Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits (University of Chicago Press, 2016), an exploration of educational inequality in Nashville from World War II through the end of Nashville’s court-supervised school desegregation in 1998. History of Education Quarterly called the book “a comprehensive history that explores how factors both within the school system and without have interacted to increase inequality.”

Christiane Buggs is an MNPS Board Member, graduate and former educator. She serves on the EdCo board and on the founding board of The Equity Alliance, where she actively works to equip African Americans with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process.

Alecia Ford is an award-winning MNPS Teacher. She will facilitate a post-panel workshop for teachers to share resources, connect with accountability partners, and make concrete plans for implementation. 

EdCo Executive Director Greg O’Loughlin is “honored to host this distinguished panel of activists, authors, public servants, and educators for what promises to be a meaningful and thorough discussion.”

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The Educators’ Cooperative is a Nashville, Tennessee based non-profit organization that provides a professional learning community for K-12 teachers. EdCo provides professional development and support for educators to collaborate across sectors, disciplines, and career stages, aiming to revolutionize teacher development and leadership by focusing on the common ground all teachers share.

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

190 Days of NO

Ahead of a key vote by the Shelby County School Board to extend the school year there to 190 days (adding 10 days to the calendar), teachers are tweeting their disapproval.

Here’s a sample:

The Forever School Year

Apparently, that’s what’s being considered in Shelby County.

WMC-5 has more:

According to a letter sent by Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray to SCS teachers, the district is considering adding 15 days to the upcoming school year to make up for time lost when schools shut down early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights of the plan being considered include:

Fall break changing to a four-day weekend instead of a full week

Thanksgiving break starting Wednesday instead of the full week

The school year ending June 7 for students, nine days later than scheduled

SCS estimates the cost for the plan could be between $25 million to $30 million

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#CancelTNReady

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, calls are rising for the State of Tennessee to cancel the annual student assessment known as TNReady. If followed, this would be the second consecutive year the test did not happen. TNReady has a troubled history, with three testing vendors over five years and a slew of problems.

Here’s more on the latest debate from Chalkbeat:

Tennessee’s simmering debate over standardized testing is heating up during the pandemic as key education groups clash over whether the state should remove the burden of testing from school communities for a second straight year.

Groups began lining up both for and against testing after Superintendent Joris Ray, who leads the state’s largest district in Memphis, announced Monday that he will petition Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn to take steps to drop the annual assessment known as TNReady in 2020-21

In addition to Ray, the Tennessee Education Association has expressed support for suspending the test in the coming year.

Meanwhile, pro-testing lobby group SCORE continues to push a narrative that says the failed test is a necessary tool:

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This

Peter Greene explains pretty much everything you need to know about public education in this post about returning to school amid COVID-19:

Finally, we know that based on everything we think we know right now, the price tag for safely opening schools again is huge. Lots of folks are trying to run numbers, and everyone agrees that the figure will be in the billions—many of them. And simply throwing up our hands and going back to some version of distance learning is, we already know, not much of an option—unless we pour a bunch of money into getting it right.

Teachers know, in their guts, where this is headed. They have seen versions of this movie before. For instance, in 1975 Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which promised every student with disabilities a free appropriate public education. Knowing that meant extra expenses for school districts, Congress promised funding to back IDEA. They have never, in 45 years, honored that promise, and schools have just had to find their own way to meet that unfunded mandate.

We’re having a national conversation about controlling the spread of coronavirus in classrooms where teachers still have to buy their own tissues and hand sanitizer.

THAT^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

And, well, this:

It would be great—absolutely great—if elected officials responded to the current situation by saying, “There is nothing more important than our children’s education, so we are going to do whatever it takes, spend whatever is necessary, to make sure that every single schools has every single resource it could possibly need to make its students and staff safe and secure and able to concentrate on the critical work of educating tomorrow’s citizens. We will spare no expense, even if we have to cut other spending, raise taxes on some folks, or spend more money that we don’t actually have.”

Nobody who has been in education longer than a half an hour expects that to happen.

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Sounding the Alarm

Tennessee teachers are raising concerns about school budgets as new demands are created in response to COVID-19.

Tennessee Lookout has more:

Districts across Tennessee currently have task forces composed of members of the community and most have released few details about reopening schools for the fall. Metro Nashville Public Schools announced Tuesday three different scenarios for the fall reopening while Shelby County Schools announced their plan to combine in-person and distance learning. The Hamilton County Schools task force, with administrators, teachers, parents, students, community leaders and health professionals, say too many variables and possible changes could occur within the next two months to announce a plan yet.

Initial announcements have caused concerns due to the implied need for increased resources, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and social-distancing protocols that will require more staffing. 

Smaller class sizes, more nurses and counselors are just a few of the many resources necessary for students to return to school, according to TEA.  

“In order to meet the needs of our students, their safety needs and academic needs, we need more resources, not fewer,” said Beth Brown, president of TEA. 

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Testing, Texas Style

Dale Chu reports that Tennessee is taking a Texas-like approach when it comes to testing in the age of COVID-19. Here’s more:

Last month, Texas made assessment headlines when they offered optional, end-of-year assessments to districts and families free of charge in response to the cancellation of spring testing and the anticipated drag on student performance caused by the pandemic. Not to be outdone, Tennessee just made a similar announcement, albeit aimed at schools and districts rather than individual students and families, that includes three options: a beginning of year readiness test, an item bank for the creation of customized tests, and a full length mock assessment.

Testing-1-2-3 readers may recall that Tennessee has earned some notoriety in recent years for playing a particularly vigorous game of musical chairs vis-a-vis their state assessment, with Pearson being the state’s third testing vendor in a five year period. The tumult in the Volunteer State means that Penny Schwinn, the state’s newish education commissioner, has her work cut out in trying to re-establish the assessment system’s credibility; making these resources available free-of-charge could help to broker some good will.

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Tennessee PTA Statement

Statement of Tennessee PTA President Kim Henderson:

Tennessee PTA joins with others throughout the nation who are deeply saddened by the continued examples of racism, systemic discrimination and injustice that are present in our society.

We support National PTA president Leslie Boggs who said “This ongoing problem of unequal justice has led to protests across this country and continues to have a profound effect on African Americans and communities of color, who feel hurt, frustrated, angry and afraid. Our nation must do better, and PTA stands with those who peacefully seek to inspire meaningful change…Our transcendent goal has always been to change the lives of children for the better and we will continue to ensure our society values and protects every child. We encourage PTA members and all concerned citizens to speak out and demand that every child be afforded the opportunity to make their potential a reality. Together, we can move above and beyond the perceived division of our diverse experiences and build a shared experience—the experience of working together as human beings, intent on building a better nation and world for our children’s future.”

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Tennessee PTA stands and advocates for equal opportunities for all children and youth. We work to amplify the voices of those who are too often unheard. It is time for all our members and the communities in Tennessee to participate in honest and open discussions and earnestly listen to those in our communities of color. We must have empathy, examine our own thoughts and feelings and then speak up and work to find ways for improvement which will alleviate injustice, cultural biases and discriminatory practices ensuring a better future for our youth.

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

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Obsolete?

Haywood County Director of Schools Joey Hassell takes outgoing Senate Education Committee Chair Dolores Gresham to task for her comments suggesting school districts are obsolete:

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

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From 4 to 2 to 0

In what was ultimately a failed effort to preserve his planned school voucher scheme, Gov. Bill Lee cut a planned teacher pay increase from 4% to 2% in his emergency COVID-19 budget. Now, as the General Assembly considers the economic fallout from the pandemic, it appears the teacher salary boost will move to zero. This while key state officials are slated to receive raises. More from Fox 17 in Nashville:

Legislative staff which has analyzed Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s budget recommendations is calling out the state’s revised budget for keeping the salary increases of some officials while cutting teacher increases.

According to Governor Bill Lee’s new budget overview, the revised budget gives the governor a $4,600 raise which reflects a 2% increase. Others, such as the Attorney General, judges, district attorneys, and more will also receive raises which are mandated by statute.

However, the legislative staff notes the 2% salary increase for K-12 teachers, higher education employees, and state workers is eliminated in the new budget.

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

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