Haywood County’s Director of Schools (Joey Hassell) always asks the important questions. He’s a former Assistant Commissioner for Special Education at the Tennessee Department of Education, so he’s familiar with how the education policy game is played in Nashville. Fellow blogger TC Weber reports on the questions surrounding Schwinn’s manipulation of data to fit her narrative:
What I’m referring to, of course, is the Governor’s press conference where Lee and Schwinn handed out information that indicated Tennessee’s students were suffering a decrease in learning proficiency of 50% in literacy and 65%. The information was alarming but should have raised questions about how it was arrived at. As quoted by Chalkbeat,
“My biggest question is, where did this data come from? What districts provided it?” asked Joey Hassell, superintendent of schools in Haywood County, near Memphis. “We have not provided any data and, as far as I know, the state has not asked for it.”
According to the online magazine Center Square – who is currently providing some of the best coverage available on Tennessee Education issues – projections were developed from a study by the department conducted with national researchers in June of how students were projected to perform this year. Chalkbeat went a little further, pointing out that she also cited early diagnostic testing data voluntarily provided by some school districts, as well as the results of an optional state assessment that more than 30,000 students statewide reportedly took at the beginning of the academic year. None of which was provided to district leaders or members of the media.
Chalkbeatreports on the state’s Read to be Ready summer camps and the very real danger that funding for them could expire after this year:
Read to be Ready camps first opened in 2016, and Tennessee has expanded the program annually with funding from the U.S. Department of Human Services. But state officials learned in January that the federal grant now has to be used for child care programs, not educational camps. Gov. Bill Lee’s administration then reached into discretionary funds to keep the camps afloat this summer, since Tennessee already had announced $8.9 million worth of grants would be awarded to 218 schools hosting them for about 9,000 students in 2019.
Now the question is whether Read to be Ready summer camps will be funded in 2020 and beyond, especially following the demise last month of the initiative’s 3-year-old network of literacy coaches working with local educators to beef up reading instruction statewide.
State legislators already have begun to get an earful from their constituents.
“If we’re abandoning this, what’s the plan?” asked Joey Hassell, a West Tennessee school superintendent and an outspoken advocate of Read to be Ready. “Our summer camp in Haywood County Schools means a lot to us. We’ve got 90 kids in it for a month this summer to help them read better, and the legislature didn’t even talk about these funding problems this year.”
While Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn has indicated support for literacy initiatives, she hasn’t yet made assurances about the future of Read to be Ready.
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Ripley High School Principal Joey Hassell has been tweeting this weekend about the state’s move to an A-F grading system for schools. The new system came about because of a legislative mandate. Hassell’s not happy about it. Interestingly, Hassell was formerly an Assistant Commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Education.
Here are a few of his tweets about the A-F grading system for schools: