Sumner School Board Rejects County Commission’s Book Ban Request

While the Sumner County Commission issued a resolution calling for two books to be removed from school libraries, the Sumner County School Board voted (7-3) on Tuesday to keep “A Place Inside of Me” in schools.

More on the School Board’s vote from NewsBreak:

The Sumner County School Board last night voted in favor of keeping “A Place Inside of Me” on the bookshelves in the school system’s library. The move comes following a complaint that the book violates a new state law around objectionable content. Seven members (out of 11) voted in favor of keeping the book.

The School Board’s action came just one night after the Sumner County Commission passed a resolution calling for the book to be removed from school libraries.

That resolution said the book contained objectionable content, including “hatred of police, overthrow of the government, destruction of the nuclear family, and communism.”

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

Sumner County Commission Says Books Cause “Destruction of Nuclear Family”

Commission passes resolution calling for removal of two books from all school libraries

Using a new Tennessee state law about “appropriate” texts in school libraries, the Sumner County Commission this week passed a resolution calling for the removal of Zetta Elliott’s A Place Inside of Me and Laurence Yep’s Dragonwings.

Here’s more from NewsBreak:

The Sumner County Commission passed a resolution at its meeting last night (11/14/22) that states that two books currently circulating in libraries in Sumner County Schools violate state law and should be removed from all libraries in the county. The move comes as the Sumner County School Board is prepared to hold a hearing on the books at a meeting this week.

The resolution states “text found in the books has examples of racism, underage drinking, foul language, violence, drugs, prostitution, alcohol, hatred of police, overthrow of the government, destruction of the nuclear family, and communism.”

The Sumner County School Board previously held a meeting on A Place Inside of Me. At that meeting, there were 5 votes to keep the book, but six are needed. Two members of the Board were absent.

The board will meet tonight (11/15) to hear discussion on the book and vote again.

A local advocacy group says the County Commission’s action was intended to influence tonight’s vote:

Local advocacy group Sumner For Good is urging citizens to show up in support of the books. The group specifically called out the Commission’s vote as a “strong arm” tactic designed to change votes on the School Board.

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

Test Data Given Added Weight in Teacher Evaluations

This year, teachers in Tennessee who teach in subjects that take state standardized tests (TNReady) will see the quantitative portion of their evaluation increase by 10%.

Previously, TNReady scores in tested subjects counted for 35% of a teacher’s evaluation score and “other achievement measures” accounted for 15%. The remaining 50% came from observation scores.

Under the new law and updated State Board of Education policy, “other achievement measures” will now account for 25% of a teacher’s evaluation. TNReady will still count for 35%. Observation scores are reduced to 40%.

Other achievement measures include items like ACT scores.

TNReady is a notoriously unreliable measure of both student achievement and teacher performance. In fact, the test is not even designed to evaluate teacher performance. Additionally, the value-added model used to assess teacher impact has repeatedly been called into question in terms of its validity.

It’s also noteworthy that just as more colleges are dropping standardized test scores from admissions requirements, Tennessee is placing stronger emphasis on them in teacher evaluation.

The disconnect between Tennessee education policy and reality continues to grow.

The Tennessee Education Association has noted its opposition to the move:

“We know that test scores have never been a valid measure of teacher effect and that our kids are more than a score,” said TEA President Tanya Coats. “TEA wholly disagrees with the state’s continued push to increase its reliance on test data over other methods of evaluation like observations that are more meaningful in improving our practice as educators.”

The move also comes as Tennessee is experiencing a teacher shortage:

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

Reading Scores Show Promise as 3rd Grade Retention Law Takes Effect

Nashville education blogger TC Weber takes a look at a recent Comptroller’s report on literacy in the state and finds some reason for encouragement. There’s a bit of confusion, too, in terms of whether or not the growth reflected in the results shared will translate into better overall reading scores.

The issue is particularly salient this year, as a new law takes effect requiring retention for any third grader who fails to meet state benchmarks in reading.

Here’s more from Weber on the Comptroller’s report:

A recently released report from the Tennessee Comptroller’s office shows that Tennessee K-3 students are making positive, albeit slight, growth in acquiring reading skills. Those conclusions were drawn from state-mandated K-3 universal reading screeners (URS), which all school districts are required to administer as part of legislation passed in 2021 during a Special Session of the General Assembly on education.

Based on graphs included in the Comptrollers report, third-grade students saw the most movement, with students starting at 43 percent in the Fall of 2021, growing to 45 percent in the Winter, and then achieving a Spring 2022 score of 46 percent.

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

SCORE Hires Consultant to Help Charter Schools Maximize Take of Local School Funding

Nashville education blogger and new Tennessee Star reporter TC Weber reports that Bill Frist’s education reform organization – SCORE – has hired a national education funding consultant to help charter schools extract public funding for their private operations.

Afton Partners, a national organization specializing in school funding and education policy, has announced via social media a new partnership with the Tennessee State Collaborative for Reforming Education (SCORE) and The Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC). The stated purpose of the budding collaboration is to help Tennessee’s charter school leaders better understand the operational and financial implications of Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) – the state’s new funding formula for public schools.

The bottom line: The consultant is being paid to help charter operators get the most money from TISA – meaning a greater negative impact to local school system budgets.

This comes as no surprise, as SCORE has been driving the TN education reform bus for more than a decade:

It’s kind of amazing to watch the people who have been the key drivers of reform tell us that 1) schools are failing and 2) they NOW know the solution. If their first claim is true, why in the hell would we let them dictate education policy going forward?

Make no mistake: SCORE is all-in on the privatization of Tennessee’s public schools – and this collaboration is further evidence of where they stand.

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

Should it be Easier to Become a Teacher in Tennessee

The Tennessee State Board of Education is looking at ways to smooth the pathway into teaching, including by eliminating a key hurdle faced by some candidates – a test of teaching aptitude.

NewsChannel9 in Chattanooga has more:

Currently, all teachers in Tennessee must pass the education teacher performance assessment, whether they have a degree in another field or they’re in the process of student teaching.

But some are looking to drop the requirement for this assessment.

If adopted, the exemption would only apply to about 800-900 teacher certification applicants a year – those who are already “job-embedded” candidates doing teaching under the supervision of a mentor teacher.

The idea, according to officials at the State Board of Education, is to eliminate a barrier to teacher certification for those with a high level of training.

However, as the story notes, schools of education and even recent teacher applicants say the certification process, including the testing, is a key element of preparation for the classroom.

It was about a decade ago when then-Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman pushed the State Board to increase the rigor of requirements to become a certified teacher.

This was supposed to dramatically improve education quality in Tennessee.

Now, facing both a teacher shortage AND a reluctance by policymakers to significantly improve teacher compensation, the State Board is seeking to lower requirements so more people will be eligible for these positions.

It’s noteworthy that in each case, the reform in question did NOT result in any increase in compensation or improvement in working conditions for teachers.

It’s as if investing in teachers is a bridge too far – instead, so-called education “reformers” will continue to try everything possible EXCEPT dramatically raising pay in order to address the issue at hand.

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

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