Key Voucher Vote Tomorrow

Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence (TREE) has the details:

HB126, this year’s voucher bill, is up for a crucial vote tomorrow (Wednesday) morning in the House Budget Subcommittee.

Please take a moment to e-mail committee members and ask them to oppose this bill. You can do it using our one-click feature at http://treetn.org/act.

This insidious legislation will lead to bad outcomes for students and taxpayers across the state. We need your help to stop it.

Take action and share with your friends. http://treetn.org/act

Showing up in person at the committee hearing is also encouraged. It will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Enter Legislative Plaza at the corner of Union and 6th and take a right after security. The hearing is in Room 16.

More on vouchers:

The Evidence is In: Vouchers Don’t Work

What Do the Facts Say?

Arizona’s Voucher Lesson

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


 

 

TREE: A Takedown of Vouchers

Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) is out with an email detailing the latest efforts to pass vouchers at the Tennessee General Assembly. The message is clear: Vouchers don’t work and they’re pretty expensive.

Here’s the text:

The “Ever-Expanding Universe of Vouchers” was a blog post https://treetn.org/expanding-vouche… TREE did last year warning Tennessee about school voucher intentions. In that blog we stated, “Voucher supporters, along with money from outside interests, will stop at nothing to expand voucher programs in Tennessee, effectively creating a privatized black hole for taxpayer dollars. Tennessee ranks 47th in funding for public education, leaving schools to tread water while legislators look for ways to fund private schools.” And where are we AGAIN this year? Fighting back multiple attempts to expand public school vouchers.

One bill will expand the TN IEP voucher. Only 38 out of 20k qualifying families bothered to sign up for the current version of this voucher. But, it is not about what families want. It is about expanding. This new version wants to qualify more disabilities to wave their IDEA rights and take the money even though we have no idea if the pilot works. This IEP expansion is modeled after Arizona. The Arizona Legislature created its ESA program in 2011 for special-needs students and has since expanded it to allow children from poor-performing schools, from military families, and others. Watch for this pattern in Tennessee. It is all intentional.

MEMPHIS IS THE TARGET
The other voucher bill (HB126) left progressing through committee is squarely and unfairly aimed at Memphis as a pilotAnd Memphis parents, school boards, and elected officials have not been silent in their objection. Here is what we know about urban pilots. Every time a voucher starts as an urban pilot for a small number of students, it expands across the state. Flashback to charter schools as an urban pilot solution. And now several rural districts are seeing charter school intent letters. The playbook is followed in every state where privatized solutions proliferate. Vouchers will not stop at a pilot. Isn’t the point of a pilot to see if something works? The word pilot is a sham. We don’t even know if the IEP disability pilot is working and it is already expanding.

This Memphis pilot bill is stuck on whether it will even use the TNReady to see if the pilot works.  How is that fair? How do you show a voucher pilot improves educational outcomes for children if they don’t take TNReady? Then what kind of overreach will we see private school curriculum to make sure “the test” is addressed? It is a slippery slope.

THANK YOU COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Concerns are growing fast as the County Commissioners Association published a spreadsheet (shown above) that TREE obtained via email, sent to Association members outlining a rough idea, county by county illustrating “[H]ow a k-12 voucher program might impact county budgets, particularly if you compare revenue lost when a student transfers out of a school district and into a private school.  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6… ) The chart shows the amount of county property tax needed to offset a 10-percent decrease in student population. [The Association] research has cross-checked many of the systems and, for the most part, it appears to be accurate. ” Of note: Carroll County sets its districts differently, so the formula used does not translate for that county.

The property tax increases to offset vouchers seen on the spreadsheet is not something any county commissioner wants to pass on to property owners. Lauderdale County loses the most with an 84.23 cent increase per year. Davidson is looking at a 30.36 cent increase. The Tennessee Ed Report did a post that outlined skyrocketing taxes in Indiana and some potential scenarios for Tennessee. http://tnedreport.com/2017/03/the-v…

School vouchers become a parallel school system to fund. One Tennessee cannot afford.

Parents feel vouchers are an empty promise. Study after study show they do not work to increase achievement. https://www.brookings.edu/research/… Without transportation and the ability to cover all the extras, a voucher is not really in reach of most public school families. The private schools most familiar won’t be taking vouchers. And in the end, voucher school choice is the choice of the private school to accept a student and to keep a student. It opens the door to discriminatory practices that leave Shelby County parents in doubt this is little more than a religious school subsidy with tax dollars that experiments on their children.

Our government needs to invest in neighborhood schools, invest in RTi2 small intervention classes, time with a teacher, community schools coordinators to coordinate wrap-around services and discipline supports. Fund opportunities to engage in learning. Not siphon off public dollars into private, unregulated hands. We must support Shelby County Schools, not public money for vouchers. Former Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey confirmed that he supported intentions to expand the program statewide when he recently spoke to a group of Shelby County Republicans in Bartlett. These pilots are nothing more than seeds for state voucher program growth and higher taxes.

And here’s a breakdown of those costs at a 10 percent level:

TREE Vouchers 2017-1

 

TREE Vouchers 2017-2

In fairness, the Indiana experience has shown about a three percent rate of students taking vouchers. Still, that’d add up to a pretty hefty tax increase in many places. All to support a second school system. The Indiana experience shows that creating a voucher school system means an education funding deficit.

This is a key week for vouchers, as the Shelby County pilot bill is going before the House Finance Subcommittee.

Stay tuned to see if legislators will advance a voucher scheme.

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


 

 

Hoyt Chosen to Lead Community School Alliance

TREE co-founder Lyn Hoyt has been chosen to lead a new group focused on community schools.

From a press release:

The National Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) announces a new state alliance coordinator advocating for community schools in Tennessee. Lyn Hoyt, co-founder of TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence) will lead Tennessee AROS to strengthen public school advocacy by recruiting alliance members that will support schools and districts committed to the creation of transformational community schools.

A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. It is a “stakeholder model” created by the school and the community. Some of the student needs might include improved health with a donated dental visit, access to enrichment, tutoring or even access to food and clean clothes. Public and private partnerships shape these services.

“I will be advocating and educating about how a ‘transformational’ community school model works to help address academic and opportunity disparities. I will also help schools explore how a community school model might meet the needs of their children,” Hoyt said. “We are ready to work closely with organizations like the PTA, TREE, and TEA to shape an alliance that can partner with parents, teachers, and community members. We already have community school efforts going on in Tennessee and we want to support and grow those efforts.”

“I am excited to see Lyn bring her perspective as a Tennessee native, public school graduate, public school parent, and former PTO president to Tennessee AROS.,” says Inez Williams with the Tennessee PTA. “It all connects. Tennessee PTA believes strongly in the important role parents and community members play in student achievement. The community schools model provides an opportunity for all stakeholders in a community to truly be a part of their local schools’ success.”

Lyn also brings a perspective from her volunteer role as president of TREE: Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence, a grassroots band of parents, teachers and public school advocates committed to growing child-centered education.

“This opportunity with TennAROS really allows me to pursue a meaningful role in helping communities connect their good works, their non-profits, their churches, those who want to give their time and talent to help public schools thrive.”

For now, Hoyt will also continue her role with TREE.

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) is an unprecedented alliance of parent, youth, community, and labor organizations that together represent over 7 million people nationwide. We are fighting to reclaim the promise of public education as our nation’s gateway to a strong democracy.

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


 

A Matter of Fairness

A coalition of education advocacy groups released an online petition today calling for a one year waiver from using student test scores in teacher evaluations in Tennessee.

Here’s the press release:

A coalition of groups supporting public education today launched an online petition asking the Tennessee General Assembly and Governor Bill Haslam to grant teachers a grace period from the use of student test scores in their evaluations in the first year of new TNReady tests. The petition tracks language adopted unanimously by the Knox County School Board, which passed a resolution last week opposing the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation for this academic year.

“The state has granted waivers so that TNReady scores aren’t required to be counted in student grades for this year,” said Lyn Hoyt, president of Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE). “If TNReady won’t count in student grades, it’s only fair that it shouldn’t count for teacher evaluation.” Hoyt noted that the transition to the new test means entering uncharted territory in terms of student scores and impact on teacher evaluation scores. As such, she said, there should be a one year or more grace period to allow for adjustment to the new testing regime.

“TNReady is different than the standardized tests we’ve had in the past,” Hoyt said. “Our students and teachers both deserve a reasonable transition period. We support the Knox County resolution and we are calling on the General Assembly to take notice and take action. Taking a thoughtful path transitioning to the new test can also build confidence and trust in the process.”

Hoyt also cited a recent policy statement by the American Educational Research Association that cautions against using value-added data in teacher evaluations and for high-stakes purposes. “Researchers who study value-added data are urging states to be cautious in how it is used to evaluate teachers,” Hoyt said. “The transition to TNReady is the perfect time to take a closer look at how test scores are used in teacher evaluations. Let’s take a year off, and give our students and teachers time to adjust. It’s a matter of fundamental fairness.”

Groups supporting the petition include:

Strong Schools (Sumner County)
Williamson Strong (Williamson County)
SPEAK (Students, Parents, Educators Across Knox County)
SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment)

Middle TN CAPE (Coalition Advocating for Public Education)
Momma Bears Blog
Advocates for Change in Education (Hamilton County)
Concerned Parents of Franklin County (Franklin County)
Parents of Wilson County, TN, Schools
Friends of Oak Ridge Schools (City of Oak Ridge Schools)
TNBATs (State branch of National BATs)
TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence)
TEA (Tennessee Education Association)

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

School Discipline Panel in Nashville

Three advocacy groups are hosting a panel on discipline in public schools tomorrow night in Nashville.

From a press release:

Public school discipline in Nashville is a topic of discussion among parents, city leaders and educators in MNPS. What is the best way to keep children on task and learning in the classroom? What can reduce suspension rates and drop out rates?

There are two methods at work in MNPS and in local charter schools. One is a very strict approach called “No-Excuses Discipline”, lauded for results that improve classroom control. But, is criticized for an oppressive approach to zero-tolerance and punitive measures. The other method is restorative justice that works to lower rates of suspension and expulsion and to foster positive school climates with the goal of eliminating racially disproportionate discipline practices and the resulting push-out of students into the prison pipeline. Both methods are used in charters and in MNPS.

“We are pleased to bring together advocates locally and from across the country to discuss different discipline efforts we are seeing in MNPS.” says Lyn Hoyt, president of TREE. “As a community we need to understand what is working and what is not. We hope this panel can share stories and methods to better refine the social emotional growth of our children.”

National experts on charter school discipline, along with local parents and teachers who have experienced no-excuses and restorative justice school environments will make up the panel set to convene November 17th at Margaret Allen Middle School, 500 Spence Lane in Nashville at 6:30 pm.

Joining the panel is New Orleans native Ramon M. Gri­ffin, a third-year Ph.D student in K-12 Educational Administration at Michigan State University. His research interests include urban education, urban community engagement and the intersection between trauma exposure, PTSD and discipline policies in no-excuses charter school culture.

From the Annenberg Standards: ” Community-based groups have fought for, and in many cases won, new district-wide discipline policies that focus on restorative practices, eliminate or reduce the role of police in schools, and end out-of-school suspension. But most of these new discipline policies apply only to traditional public schools. Charter schools in most states are free to design their own protocols for student discipline. Increasingly, community-based and youth organizing groups are expanding their campaigns for just and fair discipline policies to include charter schools.”

Middle Tennessee Coalition Advocating for Public Education (CAPE) is a regional coalition that organizes actions advocating for public education. facebook.com/MTCAPE

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

Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) is a member-run organization that encourages civic involvement and collective action so that the people of Tennessee have a greater voice in determining their future. We have been working for social, economic, and environmental justice in Tennessee for more than 40 years. http://www.socm.org/

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

TREE Takes on Charter Expansion

As the State Board of Education considers overruling the MNPS School Board and possibly approving charter schools for Nashville originally denied at the local level, grassroots advocacy group TREE is calling on citizens to take action.

From the inbox:

Attention Nashville and Tennessee Education Advocates! We need you to write the Tennessee State Board of Education TODAY! Be a voice for local control. Metro Schools recently approved two of fourteen charter applications.  Among the ten who were denied were KIPP, Rocketship and The International Academy of Excellence.

The International Academy of Excellence filled out an incorrect form and should have not been considered at all but was for legal reasons. These three charter companies are asking the State Board of Education to overrule the Nashville school board and divert funds from the Metro Schools budget to pay for opening their six proposed charter schools.

If you would like to see the local school board retain the ability to decide how to spend local tax dollars, and what schools should operate in Nashville, you must speak up NOW. Public comments are being received until October 7. Please copy this email list into your email recipient box:
Fielding Rolston <frolston@ecu.org>
Mike Edwards <medwards@knoxvillechamber.com>
Allison Chancey <achancey@bradleyschools.org>
Lonnie Roberts <lroberts@trh.com>
Carolyn Pearre <cpearre@comcast.net>
Lillian Hartgrove <lhartgrove@cookevillechamber.com>

It is fine to be brief. A few points you might to make:

1. Note if you are a Nashville taxpayer and/or public school parent.
2. Nashville currently has 8,112 charter school seats and will open another 8,157 over the next few years, under current approved charter contracts, effectively doubling the amount of charter school seats without ever approving another charter.
3. There is no evidence of demand for more charters and in fact there are currently many empty seats in Nashville charter schools.
4. If the state board of education overrules the local school board, it will force our city to fund a privatized public school.  A school that can not be shut down by our locally elected board if problems arise.
5. Nashville must be free to put its schools budget to the best use to improve education for ALL students. Under the law MNPS must adhere to their contract with approved charters and fully fund them.  Whatever amount is left gets divvied up among the remaining schools in the district continuing the trend of systematic underfunding which means not meeting the needs of our schools.

Thank you for your time and quick attention. Your voice is needed TODAY!
TREE

For more on the charter debate in Nashville:

The True Cost of Charters

Mary Pierce on Closing Charters

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

 

Grassroots Education Groups Applaud Testing Task Force Findings

Following the release of Tennessee’s Assessment Task Force findings recommending reduced use of standardized tests in Tennessee schools and transparency for the tests that are administered, a coalition of groups that in June had called for just this sort of testing reform issued a press release applauding the findings and urging timely action to make them reality.

Here’s the release:

Pro-education groups today announced their support for recommendations issued by the Tennessee Assessment Task Force, chaired by state education commissioner Candice McQueen. The recommendations call for the elimination of standardized testing for kindergartners and first graders; fewer standardized tests for older students; a parent advisory group and greater testing transparency.

“This is a great step in the right direction,” said Lyn Hoyt, president of  Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) and public school parent. “Professional educators, teachers, and students all know that the singular focus on standardized tests is counterproductive. The science is clear: Forcing the youngest students to take these tests is both useless and developmentally inappropriate. Hoyt also lamented about the shroud of secrecy that the Department of Education wraps around the tests. Touting their habitual inconsistency with reporting test scores, including delayed release of TCAP scores in 2014 and seemingly artificially inflated “quick scores” in 2015, and cut scores that change every year. “It is time for the secrecy surround these tests to end,” Hoyt said. “We called for testing transparency months ago and now it is time for Governor Haslam and the legislature to act.”

TREE in partnership with a dozen other advocacy groups circulated a petition earlier this summer calling for the publication of standardized test questions and answers; pre-determined cut scores; and a reduction in the use of standardized tests.

“We urge the state to adopt these recommendations in a timely manner and continue to make efforts to both reduce the testing burden, increase instruction time away from test prep and increase confidence in the process,” Hoyt said. “Standardized tests should be used as tools to guide future learning, not as a weapon to use against our teachers and students.”

The coalition includes the following groups:

Strong Schools (Sumner County)
Williamson Strong (Williamson County)
SPEAK (Students, Parents, Educators Across Knox County)
SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment)
Momma Bears Blog
Gideon’s Army, Grassroots Army for Children (Nashville)
Advocates for Change in Education (Hamilton County)
Concerned Parents of Franklin County (Franklin County)
The Dyslexia Spot
Parents of Wilson County, TN, Schools
Friends of Oak Ridge Schools (City of Oak Ridge Schools)
TNBATs (State branch of National BATs)
East Nashville United
Tennessee Against Common Core (Statewide)
Coalition Advocating of Public Education (CAPE)

 

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

 

Education, Inc. Coming to Nashville

A coalition of education advocacy groups will be hosting a screening of the film Education, Inc. on September 1st. Here’s the press release:

Students, parents, teachers and public education advocates are gathering Tuesday, Sept. 1, for a screening and discussion on the trend of corporate takeovers of American public schools examined in the documentary Education, Inc.

Screening of the film begins at 6:00 pm followed by a panel discussion at Vanderbilt Wilson Hall 103, located at the intersection of Terrace Place and 21st Ave. (Metered parking is available around the space.) Panelists include: Nashville School Board member Will Pinkston, Nashville school teacher Amanda Kail, and Nashville parent Chelle Baldwin.

Several groups from Tennessee have come together to sponsor the event: Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence, Metropolitan Nashville Education Association, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Vanderbilt Students of Nonviolence and Vanderbilt Students Engaging in Education Dialogue (SEED).

“As public schools nationwide struggle for funding, complicated by the impact of poverty and politics, corporate reformers see opportunity to take away local controls of our community schools,” said Lyn Hoyt, president of Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence (TREE). “It’s important we stop and take a look at what’s happening here in Tennessee.”

Education, Inc. was produced by documentary filmmakers and public school parents Brian and Cindy Malone. The Malones made the film to inform and
engage local communities across the country. They have made the film available for house parties and community screenings by simply purchasing a DVD. Their hope is that students, parents, citizens and public school advocacy groups will use the film to help start an important conversation about the role and value of public education in America.

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

A Call for Testing Transparency

Advocacy groups from across the state have issued a call for testing transparency, even starting an online petition calling for the ability to review questions and answers after standardized tests are administered.

Here’s the latest email from TREE:

Tennessee’s public education system finds itself mired in TCAP controversy for the second year in a row. The Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE) release of seemingly inflated quick scores, without clarification on how they were calculated, left educators and parents befuddled and upset. After considerable questioning of the TDOE’s actions they released a statement attempting to clarify the situation, claiming a lack of communication on their part as the culprit, but didn’t actually address the gross deficits of a testing system that is completely lacking in transparency and accountability. The TDOE continues to move the goal posts of a high stakes testing system that remains off limits for public scrutiny. Tennesseans are tired of blindly accepting TCAP results from the TDOE. So, TREE has joined with more than a dozen grassroots organizations that support strong public schools across Tennessee to demand accountability from the TDOE in the wake of confusion created by the latest release of “quick scores” and associated raw “cut scores” from recent TCAP tests. [view press release]

We also want to draw attention to another concerning problem with standardized testing: Our children are losing immeasurable amounts of instruction time due to test preparation and administration. Please review the graphic attached to this post, based on the 2014-15 school year. (story continues below graphic)

The TN Department of Education’s state testing calendar and information from teachers were used as reference.

The TN Department of Education’s state testing calendar and information from teachers were used as reference to create this calendar. 2015-16 TDOE testing calendar>>

As you can see, our children are spending the large majority of their school year taking or preparing for tests. It is unfair to our children, teachers, and our society that data collection and high stakes testing has trumped instruction time. Public education was created to provide our society with a well-educated electorate and work force. It is the single most important factor in making our country the world leader it is today. But our nation’s leaders are fixated on excessive data collection with a focus solely on subjects covered on high stakes tests. This has led to the devaluation of a well-rounded education and in some instances the removal of arts, language and music education in our schools. Our reputation for being the most creative and innovative country in the world is in jeopardy as our nation now values honing test scores over fostering critical thinking and creativity. There are ways of evaluating the academic growth of a student that do not limit instruction and enable our teachers to hone their education delivery in turn fostering student achievement. Some examples include portfolio reviews, research projects, peer review committees, and standards-based evaluations, etc.


Sign the petition to demand transparency. E-mail Commissioner McQueen and Governor Haslam and tell them you want our tax dollars to go to teaching, not testing. Commissioner McQueen – Commissioner.McQueen@tn.gov Governor Haslam – bill.haslam@tn.gov Then contact your legislators and send them a copy of this testing calendar and post. Tell them why you are concerned about the excessive testing and demand transparency for the standardized tests that our state’s legislature and department of education require our students to take. Let them know you are holding them accountable and urge them to explore alternatives to boxing in our students and schools with high stakes testing. With their and your help, we can take back our schools and turn them into breeding grounds for a level of creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving that has never before been seen in human history.


Thank you to our growing number of grassroots organizations coming together to support strong public schools across Tennessee and demand accountability from the TDOE. Groups participating in this network include:

Strong Schools (Sumner County)

Williamson Strong (Williamson County)

SPEAK (Students, Parents, Educators Across Knox County)

SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment)

Momma Bears Blog

Gideon’s Army, Grassroots Army for Children (Nashville)

Advocates for Change in Education (Hamilton County)

Concerned Parents of Franklin County (Franklin County)

The Dyslexia Spot

Parents of Wilson County, TN, Schools

Friends of Oak Ridge Schools (City of Oak Ridge Schools)

TNBATs (State branch of National BATs)

East Nashville United

Tennessee Against Common Core (Statewide)

**For full disclosure, I’m a co-founder and the volunteer Executive Director of Strong Schools, a co-signer of the call for testing transparency.

More on TNReady, next year’s standardized test replacing TCAP

An Alternative to Standardized Testing

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

TREE vs. Vouchers

TREE – Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence – is taking to the Hill on Tuesday to express opposition to a voucher scheme. Some form of voucher proposal has been before the legislature in three consecutive sessions now. So far, vouchers have yet to pass and become law. Will this be the year? Or will opponents once again win the day in defense of public schools?

Here’s the email from TREE:

novouchersticker

Join us at the Tennessee State Capitol, Legislative Plaza, on  Tuesday, March 3 for a “Day on the Hill Against School Vouchers.” Come help us take action!

Here are the current voucher bills in committee: HB0210/SB0122 and HB1049/SB0999

We encourage you to make appointments with your elected officials now to share your concerns over this destructive legislation. Find their contact info here. They are always very open to hearing from constituents.

At our booth you will find flyers with talking points and an opportunity to craft your message to share with your lawmakers in writing. If you are not able to get an appointment or speak to anyone in the General Assembly, come to the TREE booth and we will make sure your voice is heard. We will be joined by other citizen activists from other groups opposing vouchers.

Go right, down the hall, from the security check-in. You will find our table and many others. Our booth will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

If you are unable to join us in Nashville, please take the time to thoughtfully e-mail or call your elected officials and tell them you do not want private school vouchers in Tennessee. Remind them that research consistently shows vouchers do NOT increase student achievement. Let them know that our public schools are already stretched thin, and we cannot afford to take money AWAY from our public schools at a time when our schools are asked to do more and more. Find your legislators’ email addresses and phone numbers here.

You can read more on Facebook. Please join us. We will be giving away our round “No School Vouchers” sticker shown above at our booth.

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