NEA President Visits Nashville

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia was in Nashville today to kickoff American Education Week.

While in town, the visited Shwab Elementary where she toured the school and served as a guest teacher in a first grade classroom.

After the tour and class visit, Garcia was available to the media.

Here are some highlights of what she had to say:

On education policymaking:

“Policymakers should respect educators. We don’t need top-down management of teachers. We need to trust teachers and treat them like professionals. When we begin trusting teachers and providing them with resources, we’ll unleash a true revolution education.”

On Common Core:

Garcia says she was initially a Common Core skeptic. But says she reviewed the standards for 6th grade, which she taught, and found them to be reasonable. She said Common Core is and should be a state initiative.

“Common Core belongs to the states and states should adapt it to meet their needs. In order for Common Core to work, we need to get back to trusting teachers. Common Core sets the standard. Teachers should decide how to meet those standards. Where Common Core has failed, it is because of top-down management. Implementation must include teachers and trust teachers to meet the standards.”

On Value-Added Modeling:

“Voodoo value-added models are silly. They are silly because the voodoo formula can’t control for factors like poverty that impact kids. They can’t control for the fact that a kid may be hungry or may be an English Language Learner taking a test in English instead of their native language.

“I was the Utah Teacher of the Year. I know that kids are more than a test score. I’m not afraid of evaluation, I welcome it. Data can be helpful, but high-stakes use of value-added data is not appropriate.”

On NEA’s Education Agenda:

“NEA wants to end No Child Left Untested,” Garcia said. “2014 is the magic year when all kids were supposed to be proficient. Now, we’ve got a waiver process because that goal is simply not possible with human students. This just shows that NCLB was a fraud.

“NEA wants the federal government to set standards and provide resources and then listen to teachers and local communities.”

On Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander’s Agenda with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee:

“NEA shares common ground with Sen. Alexander on the need for local control and an end to the waiver process for NCLB. We also agree with him on the need to focus more on National Board Certification for teachers.

“Where we differ with Sen. Alexander is on his push for privatization, whether it be vouchers or charters. If Sen. Alexander respects science and data, he’ll see that charters and vouchers simply don’t work.”

On creating an “all-choice” zone in East Nashville:

Garcia said she wasn’t familiar with the specifics of the East Nashville plan, but said, “Whenever you see people pushing grand plans to expand charters, they’re just not reading the research. The research shows that charters aren’t any better than district schools.”

She also suggested that the few charter success stories happen as a result of significant outside money being poured in. “If districts saw that kind of money coming into their schools, they’d see a difference, too.”

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

 

Why TN Teachers Didn’t Like Kevin Huffman

Kevin Huffman announced yesterday he’s leaving his post as Commissioner of Education. The news was met positively by many teachers around the state. But, why didn’t Tennessee teachers care for Kevin Huffman? Why did a number of local teacher associations vote “no confidence” in Huffman in 2013? Why did Directors from across the state sign a letter telling the Governor that Huffman needed to do a better job?

I wrote a post for a different blog back in 2011, Huffman’s first year, about his remarks on teacher evaluation. In short, he got off to a bad start in terms of communicating with and about teachers, and never recovered.

Here’s that post from 2011 in its entirety, with some notes about what has happened since then included:

Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education, Kevin Huffman, offered his thoughts today on the state’s new evaluation system for teachers which takes effect this year.

 

While I certainly agree that the evaluation system needed significant improvement, I have some concerns about the Commissioner’s statements.

 

Specifically, he notes:

 

Tennessee is now a few weeks into a new era of evaluation. The new system is strong, though not perfect, and it represents a dramatic leap forward over the past system that told nearly all teachers they had succeeded, even when students had failed.

 

This statement assumes that the poor performance of Tennessee students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was solely or primarily the result of bad teachers. By his calculations, since 70 percent of students failed to meet satisfactory progress on the NAEP, 70 percent of Tennessee teachers must not be performing up to par.

 

What’s missing from his analysis, however, is the reality that until 2010, Tennessee had incredibly low standards relative to the NAEP. In fact, nearly 87% of students were deemed proficient on TCAPs despite only 27% testing proficient on the NAEP. Here’s the deal: Tennessee schools were held accountable under NCLB for hitting TCAP benchmarks. Tennessee policymakers set the standard. And Tennessee teachers were hitting the mark they were told was important. In fact, data suggest more and more Tennessee students were marching toward TCAP proficiency each year. By that indicator, Tennessee teachers were doing a fine job. Policymakers set a target, and Tennessee teachers hit it year after year. Since curriculum and accountability were not tied to NAEP, it seems unreasonable to expect that teachers would be helping students hit NAEP benchmarks.

 

Huffman’s remarks also ignore this reality: Tennessee spends less per student than most of our neighboring states. 8 states test 100% of graduates on the ACT. Tennessee ranks 7th in that group, below every other state that spends MORE per pupil than Tennessee. Kentucky spends about $1500 more per student than Tennessee and gets significantly better results on the NAEP year after year. The point being: teachers can only do so much with limited resources and our state has done a pretty good job of limiting the resources.

 

Huffman also notes:

 

As new student assessments are developed and vetted by Tennessee educators and experts, we expect that next year, it will be possible for 70 percent of teachers to be evaluated by their own student-assessment results. Eventually, more than 90 percent of teachers will have such options.

This dream still hasn’t been realized — Portfolios are available for some non-tested subjects, but are not in wide use due to cost.

So more teachers will have their own value-added data. This means more assessments (TESTS) for Tennessee students. Will there now be TCAP-like tests in grades K-2? As the parent of a Kindergartener, I certainly hope not. What about related arts? Will there be a written test for an instrumental music course? Or is the value-added that a student who previously struggled with the flute now excels? How is that measured? In performance-based art, music, and theatre classes, will more time be spent drilling on concepts so a kid can pass a written test rather than on actually improving one’s ability to draw, sing, or perform?

 

Finally, the new evaluations are time-intensive and do provide regular feedback. That’s a good thing. However, there’s no indication of available funding for meaningful professional development tied to the evaluations. There is yet to be a serious discussion of funding for mentors for early career teachers to help them get up to speed on key concepts and improve their technique. Teach for America (where Huffman worked as a teacher and then as a national organizational leader) relies heavily on intensive support for their Corps members. Lessons are video-taped, coaches are provided, feedback is regular and strategies for improvement are offered. Research suggests that intensive mentoring in the first two years of a teacher’s career not only improves their practice and increases retention, but also results in higher student achievement.

 

Tennessee’s new evaluation system for teachers is no doubt an improvement. But unless that system is coupled with meaningful support for teachers and adequate classroom resources, we’ll still find ourselves far behind the rest of the country.

There’s been no significant commitment to professional development or intensive mentoring by the state. Teachers didn’t get a promised raise this year.

So, Tennessee teachers started off hearing from Huffman that they had failed. Then, resources for support didn’t materialized and the transition to Common Core wasn’t well-communicated. Huffman suggested the same flawed, value-added based evaluations were responsible for a 2013 NAEP boost, and then a promised pay raise was taken away.

Is it any wonder Tennessee teachers aren’t too sad to see Huffman go?

 

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

After Huffman: Who Will Be the Next Commissioner of Education?

Kevin Huffman is leaving his job as Commissioner of Education to pursue private sector opportunties, it was announced yesterday.

In my initial post, I mentioned three names of potential candidates for Tennessee’s next Commissioner of Education. Totally speculative on my part, but with good reasons for each. Today, I’ll talk a little more about each one and provide some background.

SCORE President Jamie Woodson

Woodson is a former member of the Tennessee General Assembly, first serving in the House, then moving on to the Senate, where she served as Chair of the Education Committee and later as Speaker Pro Tem, the number two job in that body. Woodson was intstrumental in the BEP overhaul known as BEP 2.0. So, she understands education issues and especially the BEP, which is getting lots of attention as districts seek more state funding.

Woodson is from Knoxville, where Haslam was Mayor. She understands the legislative process and has relationships that could be helpful to passing the Governor’s agenda in both bodies of the General Assembly. It’s also been rumored that she may someday be a candidate for Governor. Serving as Education Commissioner would give enhance her credentials for the state’s top job.

Here’s her bio from the SCORE website:

Jamie guides SCORE’s work as President and CEO and has been a leading figure in spearheading Tennessee’s efforts to better prepare students for college and the workforce. Prior to leading SCORE, she served for more than 12 years in the Tennessee General Assembly in both the House and Senate. As Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and later as Senate Speaker Pro Tempore, Jamie was a key leader in efforts to identify and support effective teaching, overhaul Tennessee’s K-12 education funding formula, raise academic standards for Tennessee students, turn around low-performing schools, and expand high-quality public charter schools in Tennessee. In addition, she was a key leader in Tennessee’s work to transform public higher education by aligning Tennessee’s postsecondary system and the state’s economic goals through changes in academic, fiscal, and administrative policies. As a citizen legislator, she also served as general counsel for an East Tennessee manufacturing firm.

Jamie serves on numerous statewide boards, including Tennessee Business Roundtable, and is a member of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Jamie received a Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She was selected as “Torchbearer,” which is the highest honor an undergraduate may receive from the university. Jamie attended public schools in Tennessee.

Deputy Commissioner of Education Kathleen Airhart

Airhart has served as Deputy Commissioner of Education Since late 2011. She is a former Tennessee Superintendent of the Year. She served as Director of Schools in Putnam County, where she worked with the local education association to design a differentiated pay plan.

Like Woodson, she is a Tennessean. She’s also an educator, which may placate the teachers and superintendents who have complained that Huffman doesn’t understand their jobs due to his limited experience in the classroom. Tapping Airhart makes sense as she’s been with the Department for most of Huffman’s tenure and she would have immediate credibility with educators.

Knox County Director of Schools Jim McIntyre

McIntyre, like Woodson, is from Knoxville. He and Haslam reportedly had a good relationship when Haslam was Mayor. While technically an outsider (McIntyre came to Knoxville from a post in Boston), he’s been in Tennessee for some time now and understands the state’s education landscape.

It was rumored that McIntyre was considered by Haslam’s for the job in 2011, but he was relatively new to Knox County then and chose to stay in that role. McIntyre now faces a School Board less friendly to his pro-reform agenda and may want to take the opportunity to exit rather than face a combative Board.

Here’s his bio from the Knox County Schools site:

Dr. Jim McIntyre has served in the field of education for more 20 years, with experience at both the K-12 and post-secondary levels.  He began his tenure as Superintendent of the Knox County Schools in July, 2008.  In his first year as Superintendent, Dr. McIntyre led the school system and the community through a process that produced a focused vision for the future of the Knox County Schools and a five-year strategic plan designed to achieve Excellence for All Children.

Prior to his appointment in Knoxville, Dr. McIntyre served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Boston Public Schools, where he was responsible for the day to day operations of the school district.  Jim had also served as the Budget Director for the Boston Public Schools for seven years. During Dr. McIntyre’s tenure, the Boston Public Schools was named one of the top performing urban school systems in the nation.

As a teacher at Vincent Grey Alternative High School in East St. Louis, Illinois early in his career, McIntyre taught English, anatomy, and physical education to a diverse group of at-risk students between the ages of 16-21.

McIntyre has served on numerous state-level working groups aimed at enhancing public education, and was also selected as a fellow in the prestigious Broad Foundation Superintendent’s Academy, an intensive ten month fellowship in the urban public school superintendency.

In 2010, Governor Phil Bredesen invited Dr. McIntyre and three others to join him in presenting Tennessee’s Race to the Top proposal to the United States Department of Education.  Tennessee was one of only two states in the country to be selected in the first round of this national competition, and was awarded $501 million for school reform and improvement.

As a parent of two Knox County Schools students, Dr. McIntyre is incredibly honored that the state-wide Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has named him the Tennessee Outstanding Superintendent of the Year for three consecutive years (2009, 2010, and 2011).

Dr. McIntyre holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Boston College, a Master of Science degree in Education Administration from Canisius College, a Master of Urban Affairs from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts.

 

It’s entirely possible there are other names being considered, but these three seem to fit with support for the Haslam agenda and some connection to the Governor.

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

A TN Teacher Talks ASD

A Tennessee teacher has some questions about the Achievement School District:

Why is the ASD in Tennessee?

Submitted by Lucianna Sanson, President of the Franklin County Education Association

Why is the ASD, modeled after the RSD in New Orleans, here in Tennessee in the first place? What is the true rationale for bringing Charters to our state? We don’t need the ASD. We need strong community schools with wrap around services. We know how to run our schools. We need money to support our public schools, not Charter Authorizers that make money off of them.

Teachers, students, parents, and vested community stakeholders don’t want their community schools sold, they want them funded. If the ASD were truly transparent the Charter Authorizer would admit they are in TN to take our tax dollars to turn a profit, not turn our under-funded, under-staffed, under-paid, under-appreciated public schools around.

Who benefits from the ASD? Who pays for the ASD? Why are the majority, if not ALL of the schools selected in the “matching” process located in low-income communities, namely communities where the majority of students are black or brown? Why are experienced teachers pushed out and replaced with Teach for America recruits, green from college with no experience in the classroom?

Tennesseans, don’t be fooled into thinking these Charters are good neighborhood investments. As Anthony Cody points out in his new book, The Educator and the Oligarch, parent “choice” is simply a “charm offensive.” Parents and teachers are lured into believing that ed reform and Charters are a good use of our tax dollars. They are not. They are a good investment for the venture capitalists who make money off our students and public schools.

Do you have thoughts on the ASD or other education policy issues in Tennessee? Let us know, propose an article, and share your thoughts here.

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

 

 

Fitzhugh Talks Huffman

Shortly after it was announced that Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman is leaving his post, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh issued the following statement:

“In 2010 Democrats and Republicans passed Race to the Top. We had buy-in from teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders setting us on a path for real improvements in public education. While the hard work of our teachers has certainly produced some positive results, these outcomes would be much greater without the culture of hostility and mistrust created by the Department of Education.
Now we need to reset the conversation. Tennessee will never see real, lasting change until we stop blaming teachers and start addressing root problems. Our schools are underfunded, our teachers are underpaid and we aren’t talking about poverty and parental involvement–two key factors in student improvement. Our hope is that Governor Haslam’s new Commissioner of Education understands these issues and shares our commitment to addressing them going forward.
House Democrats stand ready to work with Governor Haslam, his new appointee and all those who value public education. Though we often disagreed, we thank Commissioner Huffman for his service and wish him the best as he returns to the private sector.”
Fitzhugh has been a frequent critic of the current education reform agenda pushed by Huffman.
For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport

 

Huffman Resigns as TN Ed Commissioner

Controversial Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman is leaving his post, the Tennessean is reporting.

The paper cites a press release from Governor Haslam’s office noting that Huffman is leaving his position for a post in the private sector.

There was no immediate word on who might succeed Huffman as Commissioner of Education.

Huffman led a Department of Education that claimed credit for improved achievement on NAEP while downplaying widening achievement gaps and a lack of investment in the BEP formula.

Huffman also took criticism for his failure to communicate about new teacher evaluations and for his lack of communication regarding implementation of the Common Core, which resulted in Haslam holding an education summit and “re-setting” the conversation around standards.

Around this time last year, Directors of Schools from around the state were signing a letter expressing a lack of confidence in Huffman’s leadership.

While Haslam has not yet said who may replace Huffman, two potential candidates are Deputy Commissioner and former Putnam County Director of Schools Kathleen Airhart and former Senate Speaker Pro Tem and now SCORE Executive Director Jamie Woodson.  Another potential candidate is Knox County Director of Schools Jim McIntyre, a supporter of the Haslam education agenda.

More on who may replace Huffman.

Here’s House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s statement on Huffman leaving.

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport

The ASD Responds

Bluff City Ed does a phenomenal job of covering the Memphis education scene and we’ve published information from a number of their stories on Tennessee’s Achievement School District.

Today, Bluff City Ed has a response from the ASD about some of the criticism the District is receiving.

Here are a couple highlights:

On performance:

If you look at our 2nd year charters, their average composite proficiency growth over two years is 11.2, compared with an average growth of 2.2 over three years in the 10 Priority schools on our matching list.  All three of our 2nd year charters had Level 5 growth last year.  Two are off the Priority list.  I say this not to suggest that every ASD school is where it needs to be—far from it—but that when it comes to ASD charters with at least two years’ experience running schools, these schools are showing real promise.  Where our schools aren’t performing, we’re going to hold ourselves accountable.  It’s just way too early to draw major conclusions about school performance and policy implications.  There may be a time for a mea culpa or a moratorium, but not after two years.

On Contentious Meetings:

We had loud, contentious meetings last year, too.  It’s absolutely right for people to come in skeptical, emotional, and confused by this.  It’s a lot to take in.  For teachers, especially, it’s difficult news.  Understanding this, our goals aren’t to claim we have every answer, but to stand humbly before parents, teachers, and community members; to listen and learn; to make sure we’re sharing every bit of information we have; and to always keep our focus on what’s best for kids.

Elliott Smalle, the ASD’s Chief of Staff, says a lot more about issues like co-location and the future of the ASD. The entire post and response is worth a read.

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

 

The Value of the Report Card on Teacher Training

Every year, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission issues a Report Card on the state’s teacher training program. To evaluate educator effectiveness, THEC uses the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

Which effectively renders the Report Card of little value.

Not included in the report is a teacher’s overall effectiveness score on the TEAM model. That would include both observed scores and value-added data, plus other achievement measures. That would be a more robust score to report, but it’s not included.

I’ve written before on the very limited value of value-added data.

Here are some highlights of why we learn almost nothing from the THEC report in terms of whether or not a teacher education program is actually doing a good job:

Here’s the finding that gets all the attention: A top 5 percent teacher (according to value-added modeling or VAM) can help a classroom of students (28) earn $250,000 more collectively over their lifetime.

Now, a quarter of a million sounds like a lot of money.

But, in their sample, a classroom was 28 students. So, that equates to $8928.57 per child over their lifetime. That’s right, NOT $8928.57 MORE per year, MORE over their whole life.

For more math fun, that’s $297.61 more per year over a thirty year career with a VAM-designated “great” teacher vs. with just an average teacher.

Yep, get your kid into a high value-added teacher’s classroom and they could be living in style, making a whole $300 more per year than their friends who had the misfortune of being in an average teacher’s room.

If we go all the way down to what VAM designates as “ineffective” teaching, you’d likely see that number double, or maybe go a little higher. So, let’s say it doubles plus some. Now, your kid has a low VAM teacher and the neighbor’s kid has a high VAM teacher. What’s that do to his or her life?

Well, it looks like this: The neighbor kid gets a starting job offer of $41,000 and your kid gets a starting offer of $40,000.

So, THEC uses a marginal indicator of educator effectiveness to make a significant determination about whether or not educator training programs are effective. At the very least, such a determination should also include observed scores of these teachers over time or the entire TEAM score.

Until then, the annual Report Card on teacher training will add little value to the education policy discussion in Tennessee.

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

Hamilton County School Board Member Explores BEP Lawsuit

A Hamilton County School Board Member is exploring the idea of a lawsuit that would force the State of Tennessee to fully fund the BEP, the state’s funding formula for schools.

Hamilton County Board Member Jonathan Welch argues that the school system loses $14.5 million a year because the BEP is not fully funded by the legislature.

Welch’s proposal comes on the heels of a resolution passed by the Shelby County School Board calling for increased BEP funding.

These proposals come in an environment where the current BEP leaves Tennessee schools funded at less dollars per student than Mississippi. Additionally, Tennessee teachers rank 40th in the nation in improvement in teacher pay over the past 10 years.

A deeper analysis of the BEP suggests the entire formula is broken and that the state needs an investment of nearly $500 million to fix it.

Of course, as noted in the Times-Free Press story on the issue, some in the General Assembly want to reduce sales taxes and end the Hall Tax on stock dividends and bond interest.

The question is: Will the 2015 session of the General Assembly see a serious move to improve the BEP or will it take a lawsuit to force lawmakers to act?

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

 

Diane Ravitch Coming to Nashville

Education historian Diane Ravitch will be visiting Nashville on Wednesday, November 19th.

Here are the details from a press release:

Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE), Tennessee BATs, and Momma
Bears today announced a special event featuring acclaimed historian, best-selling author, and former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch. Ravitch served in the administrations of President George H.W. Bush, where she worked alongside then-U.S. Secretary of Education and current U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, and President Bill Clinton.

The event, “Educating Nashville,” will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19, in
Nashville. The venue will be announced via TREE’s Facebook page, http://facebook.com/TNExcellence, on Monday, Nov. 17. Dr. Ravitch will be introduced by local officials and will hold a question-and-answer session after her remarks regarding the hoax of education privatization. Following the program, attendees are encouraged to stay and meet
with public education advocates from across the state.

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Ravitch to Nashville,” said Lyn Hoyt, president of TREE. “She has seen and studied the effects of education privatization across the country and
is the nation’s foremost expert on what works and doesn’t work when it comes to
reforming our public schools.”

Ravitch frequently writes about topics including Common Core, charter schools, vouchers, and standardized testing and is well respected across partisan lines. Tennessee’s own Senator Alexander urges readers of his “Little Plaid Book” to “[r]ead anything Diane Ravitch writes
about education.”

The event is free. Parents, teachers, elected officials, policymakers, and members of the media are encouraged to attend. To RSVP, visit http://ravitchnashville.eventbrite.com.

About Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She blogs at dianeravitch.net, a site which has had nearly 8.3 million page views in less than a year. From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of George H.W. Bush. From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. She was appointed by the Clinton administration’s Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and
reappointed by him in 2001. From 1995 until 2005, she held the Brown Chair in
Education Studies at the Brookings Institution and edited “Brookings Papers on
Education Policy.” Before entering government service, she was Adjunct Professor
of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has
authored 11 books and edited 14 others.

About TREE
Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) is a
statewide volunteer advocacy organization rooted in fighting for strong,
equitable public education, and committed to growing child-centered education
policy.

About Tennessee BATs
Tennessee BATs (Badass Teachers) is an affiliate of the national BATs organization and is a rich and diverse group of education professionals and concerned citizens/families who
strive to engage in discourse that improves their profession.

About Momma Bears
Momma Bears is a Tennessee-based grassroots organization of public schools advocates who defend and support children and public schools and recognize quality public education
as a right for every child.

Here’s our 2013 interview with Diane Ravitch

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