Toward Tennessee Standards

In September, Governor Bill Haslam hosted an “Education Summit” designed to help “reset the conversation” around education policy, and specifically, Common Core. Since that time, policymakers have been suggesting that Common Core is dead in Tennessee and that the state will move toward its own set of standards.

Today, Governor Haslam took a major step in that direction, announcing a review of Tennessee standards in Math and English/Language Arts. He is essentially accelerating the normal review process for Tennessee standards and using that acceleration as an opportunity to review (and potentially revise) the Common Core standards that guide Tennessee’s standards.

Haslam also announced the development of a website that will allow Tennesseans to review the Common Core State Standards and offer comments. Additionally, review committees comprised of educators will be a part of the process.

Here’s the release from Haslam’s office:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the process for a public review of
the state’s K-12 academic standards in English language arts and math.  The
process is in partnership with the State Board of Education and will include
input from educators and citizens from across the state.

Academic standards are typically reviewed in Tennessee every six years.  With these
standards now in their fourth year, and with the discussion happening in Tennessee and across the country about Common Core state standards, Haslam believes this is the appropriate time to take a fresh look.

“One thing we’ve all agreed on is the importance of high standards in Tennessee,” Haslam
continued.  “This discussion is about making sure we have the best possible
standards as we continue to push ahead on the historic progress we’re making in
academic achievement.”

In the coming weeks, a website  will be available to every Tennessean to go online, review each current state standard and comment on what that person likes, doesn’t like, or would suggest should be changed about that particular standard.

The Southern Regional Education Board, as a third party, independent resource, will collect the data in the Spring and then turn that information over to be reviewed and analyzed by professional Tennessee educators.  The governor has asked the State Board of Education to
appoint two committees, an English Language Arts Standards Review & Development Committee and Math Standards Review & Development Committee, as well as three advisory teams for each of those committees.

The advisory teams will review Tennessee’s current standards and gather input to make
recommendations to the two committees, which will then propose possible changes
to the State Board of Education.

The two standards review committees will each be made up of six Tennessee K-12 educators and two representatives from Tennessee higher education institutions for a total of 16 Tennessee professional educators.

The two committees will receive input from three advisory teams each, for a total of six.  The advisory teams will be grouped by K-5th grade, 6th – 8th grade and 9th – 12th grade, and each team will be made up of six Tennessee K-12 educators and one representative from a
Tennessee higher education institution for a total of 42 Tennessee professional
educators.

The following have been appointed to serve:

Math
Standards Review & Development Committee
•        Committee Chair: John Prince, McNairy County Schools, director of schools
•        Jamie Parris, Hamilton County Schools, director of secondary math and science
•        Julie Martin, Williamson County Schools, assistant principal
•        Cory Concus, Tipton County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        Michael Bradburn, Alcoa City Schools, kindergarten teacher
•        Holly Anthony, Tennessee Technology University, associate professor of mathematics education
•        Stacey Roddy, Hamilton County Schools, director of elementary math and science
•        Stephanie Kolitsch, University of Tennessee Martin,
professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Math Advisory Team
K-5
•        Advisory Team Leader: Stacey Roddy, Hamilton County Schools,
director of elementary math and science
•        Kimberly Osborne, Murfreesboro City Schools, assistant principal
•        Jamelie Johns, Hamilton County Schools, elementary math coach
•        Michael Bradburn, Alcoa City Schools, kindergarten teacher
•        Theresa Feliu, Kingsport City Schools, fourth-grade teacher
•        Brandy Hays, Lebanon Special School District, 3-5 math teacher
•        Jo Ann Cady, University of Tennessee, associate professor of math education

Math Advisory Team
6-8
•        Advisory Team Leader: John Prince, McNairy County Schools,
director of schools
•        Amber Caldwell, Bradley County Schools, mathematics coordinator
•        Sherry Cockerham, Johnson City Schools, district math coach
•        Darcie Finch, Metro Nashville Public Schools, numeracy coach
•        Angela Webb, Putnam County School System, seventh-grade math teacher
•        Holly Pillow, Trenton Special School District, math coach and interventionist
•        Emily Medlock, Lipscomb University, assistant professor, College of Education

Math Advisory Team
9-12
•        Advisory Team Leader: Stephanie Kolitsch, University of
Tennessee Martin, professor, Department of Mathematics and
Statistics
•        Rory Hinson, Gibson County Special School District,
assistant principal
•        Chelsea Spaulding, Rutherford County Schools,
assistant principal
•        Joseph Jones, Cheatham County School District,
district math coordinator
•        Cory Concus, Tipton County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        Kimberly Herring, Cumberland County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        Beth Morris, Lincoln County School System, 9-12 teacher

English Language Arts Standards Review & Development
Committee
•        Committee Chair: Shannon Jackson, Knox County Schools,
supervisor of reading and English language arts for secondary schools
•        Susan Dold, Shelby County Schools, literacy advisor
•        Jami Corwin, Sullivan County Schools, secondary English language arts curriculum coordinator
•        Jaime Greene, Hamblen County Schools, 6-12 instructional coach
•        Tony Dalton, Hamblen County Schools, pre-kindergarten-first-grade district instructional coach

Shannon Street, Cannon County School District, sixth-grade English language arts and science teacher
•        Susan Groenke, University of Tennessee, associate professor of English education
•        Candice McQueen, Lipscomb University, dean of education

English Language Arts Advisory Team
K-5
•        Advisory Team Leader: Candice McQueen, Lipscomb University, dean
of education
•        Debra Bentley, Johnson City Schools, supervisor of instruction
•        Stacy King, Greenville City Schools, instructional specialist
•        Tony Dalton, Hamblen County Schools, pre-kindergarten-first-grade district instructional coach
•        Kerri Newsom, Lake County School System, first-grade teacher
•        Cathy Dickey, Greenville City Schools, first-grade teacher
•        Kelsea Cox, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, first-grade teacher

English
Language Arts Advisory Team 6-8
•        Advisory Team Leader: Shannon Jackson, Knox County Schools, supervisor of reading and English language arts for secondary schools
•        Jaime Greene, Hamblen County Schools, 6-12 instructional coach
•        Meghan Little, Metro Nashville Public Schools, chief academic officer for KIPP Nashville
•        Terri Bradshaw, Blount County Schools, literacy leader
•        Jessica Daigle, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, eighth-grade English language arts teacher
•        Tequila Cornelious, Franklin Special School District, instructional facilitator
•        Terri Tilson, Tusculum College, assistant professor

English Language Arts Advisory Team 9-12
•        Advisory Team Leader: Susan Groenke, University of Tennessee, associate professor of
English education
•        Brandi Blackley, Tipton County Schools, assistant principal
•        Elaine Hoffert, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, English language arts curriculum consulting teacher
•        Autumn O’Bryan, Cleveland City Schools, principal
•        Tammy Marlow, Macon County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        Jessica Mitchell, Hardeman County Schools, 9-12 teacher
•        TJ Wilson, Williamson County Schools, 9-12
teacher

Recommendations are expected to be made to the State Board of Education by the end of 2015.

And here’s an email sent from Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman to all teachers in the state:

Dear teachers,

We are writing to give you some more detailed information about an announcement that Gov. Haslam is making today about our standards for English language arts and math.
As you know, while our schools have been implementing the Common Core State Standards for the past several years, we have seen significant academic progress. At the same time, we have heard many assertions about the standards, their origin, their implementation and their effectiveness.
The governor has asked the State Board of Education to lead a process of reviewing our standards in ELA and math, gathering feedback and seeking recommendations for improvement. In the normal course of business, the State Board reviews academic standards every six years in different subject areas, so this accelerates the normal process given the level of discussion about the Common Core State Standards.
The process will include:
  • An opportunity for public feedback on each standard via a website. This website will be launched as soon as possible, and no later than December 1. Kentucky is in the middle of a similar process, and you can see the website here (http://kentucky.statestandards.org) to have a sense of how this may look.
  • A review of public comments by standards review committees and advisory teams. These teams will be composed of educators from K-12 and higher education, built around grade level and subject bands. The governor’s office, working through the State Board of Education, has announced the committees and teams today, and they are built around input from Tennessee educators.
  • Submission of recommendations on the standards to the State Board of Education, led by the review teams and facilitated by the Southern Regional Education Board, which has agreed to help the State Board.
This process will take time; we need to allow significant time for public comment to ensure everyone is heard, and reviewing comments and recommendations similarly will be a lengthy process. It is important to understand we will proceed with the current, state-adopted ELA and math standards and these standards will remain in place until any revisions are made by the State Board. The review process should not have any impact on your plans for instruction this year.
As you know, Tennessee previously issued an RFP for a new ELA and math assessment. The assessment selected through this process will be Tennessee’s ELA and math assessment beginning in the 2015-16 academic year. As part of the RFP process, the vendor must commit to align assessments to state standards, meaning any revisions to standards would result in appropriate adjustments to the applicable state assessments in the future. Changes to the assessment would of course have to allow for sufficient time to train teachers and field test new items.
We recognize that any time there is a standards review process, there is the potential for confusion in the field. While this process could result in revisions to the standards, we continue to hear from all parties that Tennessee must have standards that are the strongest and most rigorous in the country. In particular, we know from our employers and our universities that Tennessee’s standards must include:
  • A focus on basic skills, particularly in lower grades, with special emphasis on literacy and on math facts, and on eliminating the calculator reliance prevalent on the TCAP in younger grades.
  • An emphasis on reading complex and authentic texts.
  • Renewed focus on writing across all grade levels, with a particular emphasis on ensuring our students can defend their arguments in written communication.
  • A focus on critical thinking and problem solving in math.
  • Assessments that de-emphasize multiple choice questions, include writing at all grade levels, and measure expectations that meet or exceed the expectations of students anywhere in the country.

We have attached here a fact sheet about this process. We will continue to communicate through local school districts about the process.

Please know there is widespread recognition of the volume of work that educators have put into raising academic standards. Our state leaders are in agreement that our standards must always represent the next step forward and we want to avoid retreating from the great work of Tennessee teachers that has led our students to such significant academic progress.
In addition, we hope that many of you will submit comments and thoughts in this process. After all, you have the expertise that comes from working with Tennessee students every day. Your input can have a significant impact on the direction of standards in future years.
For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow @TNEdReport

Tennessee Education Summit: What About the Money?

Governor Bill Haslam was joined by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell today in hosting a Tennessee Education Summit.

The event focused on a range of education policy issues and included presentations on topics such as Standards and Curriculum, District and Teacher Accountability, and School Choice.

One topic not mentioned was the current level of financial support for public education provided by the state. While Governor Haslam has convened a BEP Task Force to study the current funding formula, he’s also said that task force won’t be talking about more investment, but about different ways to slice the current funding pie.

The closest anyone came to addressing the funding challenges faced by Tennessee school districs (Tennessee now invests less per pupil than Mississippi) was when Tennessee Teacher of the Year Wanda Lacy asked about what was being done to help teachers who received scores below a 3 on the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

The response was that the intervention for these teachers was left up to the district. That is to say, the state provides little or no funding for mentoring, coaching, or other support mechanisms that may be used at the district level to help improve teaching practice.

The issue of money was again approached when discussing the state’s transition away from TCAP and toward a new testing model better aligned to Tennessee’s current state standards. Because the tests must be completed online, many districts are being forced to upgrade their technology. Here again, the state’s support for this new technology lags behind what many districts need to catch up.

Not mentioned was Governor Haslam’s October 2013 promise to make Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation in teacher pay or any way the Governor or General Assembly might make that happen.

Tennessee has historically made big education promises only to fail to deliver when it came time to fund them. This was true of Lamar Alexander’s Career Ladder program, the original BEP, BEP 2.0, and now the new evaluation system which does not include funding for attendant support of teachers identified as below expectations.

In fact, a report released in Janaury by the Education Law Center indicates that Tennessee is among the worst states in the nation in terms of its investment in public schools. The report uses statistical methods to compare funding levels across states taking into account the different cost of living and socioeconomic factors of each state. In terms of raw funding level, Tennessee falls in the low to mid-40s among all states. Yes, Tennessee now spends less per student than Mississippi, as I mentioned above. Perhaps even more striking, Tennessee is near the bottom in terms of funding “effort,” a category that rates a state’s ability to fund public schools compared to the actual dollars invested. So, we have the capacity to invest more in our schools, but we’ve historically chosen not to do so.

Do we really need more money? An analysis of the achievement gap in Tennessee suggests we do. The NAEP data cited in that report indicate a widening achievement gap. That is, kids at the bottom of the income scale are falling further behind their better off peers. What’s essentially happening is the kids at the top of the income scale are gaining ground while kids from low income families are remaining stagnant. The takeaway: The resources available to middle- and upper-income kids make a difference. And it would be worthwhile to invest in the community supports necessary to create a more level playing field for low income kids.

Additionally, teachers aren’t all that happy about doing what Governor Haslam admits is incredible work but not being paid well for it. Time will tell if this results in teachers leaving the profession in Tennessee in significant numbers.

So, today’s big Education Summit was an interesting conversation about issues that can have an impact on our schools. But it avoided the biggest issue of all: How will we pay for the investment in schools our state needs?

 

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

 

“Tennessee Solution” a Viable Option?

Back in April, when Governor Haslam betrayed teachers and state employees and took their proposed pay increase out of his budget, a bipartisan group of legislators proposed what they then called the Tennessee Solution.

The plan had a price tag of $90 million and used reserve funds to pay out a one time bonus to teachers and state employees. The plan also called for a 1% raise to be provided only if state revenues exceeded budgeted targets.

By doing so, the plan put money in the pockets of teachers (essentially delivering a portion of Haslam’s promise) and also offered hope of more funds should the state find the money. Essentially, it said that if there is extra money, the first priority for those funds should be our teachers.

Ultimately, Haslam’s forces prevailed and that idea was rejected.

Now, there’s news that August revenues were far above projections. More than $30 million ahead, to be specific. The increase is due to the highest sales tax collections in more than two years. And, despite a negative growth number for non-corporate taxes, collections there were $6.1 million over budget.

If this type of revenue growth continues, delivering on the Tennessee Solution would be very doable. Except that the legislature decided against it at Haslam’s urging.

Yes, it’s still early in the revenue cycle, but making education a priority was the right thing to do in April and early revenue numbers show it fiscally feasible as well.

Next up, tomorrow’s Education Summit in Nashville. Where Haslam and friends should be talking about how best to use any unexpected revenue growth to invest in Tennessee’s public schools.

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