Archives for category: Tennessee

According to the Bluff City blogger, Memphis parents and teachers have reached the boiling point. They are angry about the annual ritual of takeovers of their public schools. Things are not going well for the Achievement School District (ASD). It absorbed the state’s lowest performing schools and promised they would become high-performing schools within five years. The clock is ticking. Now parents, teachers, school officials and communities say they don’t want to lose their public schools. They are tired of empty promises. Even some charter operators have backed off, aware of public outrage. The blogger says it is a true revolt. Outsiders rearranging their lives and their schools, without listening to the community. Enough is enough. People don’t like pointless disruption of their communities.

Those who long to see teachers fired based on student test scores must have been happy last week in Tennessee. Four teachers were fired based on the state’s evaluation system. Is it valid? Is it reliable? Were they fired for teaching in high poverty schools? Did the state or the district provide them with support?

Audrey Amrein Beardsley blogged about this termination process in Tennessee here. (The number fired went from five to four after she wrote about it.)

Beardsley wrote:

“It’s not to say these teachers were not were indeed the lowest performing; maybe they were. But I for one would love to talk to these teachers and take a look at their actual data, EVAAS and observational data included. Based on prior experiences working with such individuals, there may be more to this than what it seems. Hence, if anybody knows these folks, do let them know I’d like to better understand their stories.

“Otherwise, all of this effort to ultimately attempt to terminate five of a total 5,685 certified teachers in the district (0.09%) seems awfully inefficient, and costly, and quite frankly absurd given this is a “new and improved” system meant to be much better than a prior system that likely yielded a similar termination rate, not including, however, those who left voluntarily prior.”

A lawsuit seems inevitable.

Two board members were outspokenly critical:

“If the firings are approved then [after independent review], the group of teachers will become the first to lose their jobs under Metro’s new system that relies on state teacher evaluation to dismiss teachers deemed low-performing.

[Superintendent Jesse] Register, in pushing firings that state law authorizes, has said that all students deserve excellent teachers. But evaluations continue to be debated in Tennessee four years after their implementation

“If we have bad teachers in the classroom, I fully agree that we need to get them out of the classroom,” said board member Amy Frogge, who voted against certifying the teachers of each. “The problem is, I’m not sure we’re using a fair measure to do that.”

“Two of the teachers who face termination are at Neely’s Bend Middle School, another is at Madison Middle School and the fourth is at Bellshire Elementary School.

“Teacher evaluations in Tennessee, known as the Tennessee Education Acceleration model, have faced criticism particularly for their use of student gains on tests measured through value-added data. This compares student scores to projections and comprises 35 percent of an overall evaluation score. Qualitative in-class observations by principals account for an additional 50 percent. The remaining 15 percent is based on other student achievement metrics.

“The board’s Will Pinkston, a frequent critic of Register, objected to the board being asked to take up the votes after receiving details about the situations of each teacher only days before.

“I do not trust this process or the people behind it,” said Pinkston, who made four unsuccessful motions to defer voting on the charges.

“If mass teacher dismissals are going to be the new normal, then let’s do it right, not scramble to get information to meet some arbitrary deadline.”

This is very sad. It was written in response to this post. This is a report on the technocratic data collection about preschool readiness of children with disabilities 0-3. There is not a whiff of humanity in this data collection. What are they thinking in the Tennessee State Department of Education? Does any of this help children? Is it part of Race to the Top? What is the point? What benefit to the children? What am I missing? A reader writes: “Tennessee has been using this measure for 4 years. (I am in no way condoning this) Target Data and Actual Data for FFY 2012-13: FFY 2012-13 was the third full year in which Early Childhood Outcomes (ECO) data (entrance and exit) were collected from all nine TEIS Point of Entry offices (TEIS-POEs). Since FFY 2010, ECO data have been collected in the Tennessee Early Intervention Data System (TEIDS) based upon the seven-point scale of the ECO Child Outcomes Summary Form (COSF). The Lead Agency calculates and reports only on children that have been in TEIS a minimum of 6 months (defined as 183 calendar days between entry [ECO entrance date] and exit [ECO exit date]). Outcome entrance ratings are made by the IFSP team using assessment/evaluation, eligibility, and parent information at the initial IFSP meeting. Statewide, assessment/evaluation information is obtained from the Battelle Developmental Inventory-2 (BDI-2). Outcome exit ratings are made by the IFSP team at a review change or transition meeting for children who have been in early intervention services for a minimum of 6 months prior to exit or at three years of age. Exit data from Part C are utilized by several Local Education Agencies (LEAs) as entry data for children who are determined eligible for Part B, preschool special education services. http://www.tn.gov/education/early_learning/doc/TN_PartC_APR_FFY_2012-13.pdf

Andy Sher, a reporter in Tennessee, thought he would trip up Lamar Alexander by saying that he supported national standards when he was U.S. Secretary of Education in 1991-92, and is thus hypocritical now when he criticizes Common Core.

Senator Alexander explained that he supported voluntary national standards then and now.

Senator Alexander is right. I was there. I administered the award of grants to professional groups of teachers and scholars to write voluntary national standards. We made awards to develop standards in science, history (U.S. and world), English, the arts, civics, economics, physical education, foreign languages, and geography. We made no awards to secret committees headed by entrepreneurs, only to professionals in the field.

As Senator Alexander says, we made clear that the standards were strictly voluntary. It was up to states to use them or not, to revise them as they saw fit. There were no tests of the standards. That was left to the states too.

The goal was to inspire states, not compel them. One thing I admired about Lamar. He never thought he had all the best ideas. He respected federalism.

Kristen Buras, a professor at Georgia State University who recently published a book about “education reform” in New Orleans, here warns the people of Nashville not to copy the New Orleans model.

 

This is what happened in New Orleans, according to Buras:

 

 

The attempt to turn around neighborhood schools by closing them and opening charters caused greater harm than Hurricane Katrina. I fear the same destructive “reforms” will strike Nashville.

In 2005, Louisiana’s state-run Recovery School District (RSD) assumed control of most public schools in New Orleans and handed them over for private management and profit making by “nonprofit” charter school operators.

Experienced veteran teachers in New Orleans were unlawfully fired and replaced by transient, inexperienced recruits from beyond the city, with most departing after two years. Teach For America stood ready to supply new teachers. Most of all, it stood to profit.

Neighborhood schools were closed without genuine community input. Meanwhile, charter school operators have paid themselves six-figure salaries, used public money without transparency and appointed unelected boards to govern the schools.

Community members have filed civil rights lawsuits, including one by Southern Poverty Law Center alleging thousands of disabled children were denied access to schools and federally mandated services in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Moreover, there are charter schools in New Orleans with out-of-school suspension rates approximating 70 percent.

Charter school operators in New Orleans do not care about children — they care about making money. They do not want to serve children who are “expensive” or may compromise the business venture.

 

It is the same story in city after city that takes New Orleans as its model.

 

Good news about Buras’ book: Originally published in hardcover for $125, it is now available in softcover for $43. It is a must-read to learn about what happened in New Orleans from the perspective of families and students, not entrepreneurs and politicians.

 

 

 

 

Tennessee is one of Arne Duncan’s favorite states because it was one of the first states to win Race to the Top funding, it has a rightwing governor and legislature, and an experienced, TFA-trained state commissioner. Thus, the state is committed to charters, to privatization, and to eliminating tenure (it already abolished collective bargaining). This is Arne’s kind of state, a state where Democrats are powerless.

But, trouble! A new poll by Vanderbilt University finds that after three years of experience with the Common Core, 56% of teachers want to abandon it. Not fine-tune it. Abandon it.

Read the story and watch the politicians try to spin the collapse of teacher support.

“Support for Common Core among Tennessee teachers has waned so much since last year that a majority now opposes the academic standards, a new statewide survey shows.

“With the future of Common Core under fire in Tennessee, a new report from the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development could provide more ammunition to those who want to roll back the standards.

“The new 2014 survey, undertaken by a group led by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development and released Wednesday, found that just 39 percent of respondents believe that teaching to the standards will improve student learning — compared with 60 percent who said the same last year.

“It also found 56 percent of the 27,000 Tennessee teachers who responded to the survey want to abandon the standards, while 13 percent would prefer to delay their implementation. Only 31 percent want to proceed. The 2013 survey did not ask questions in this area.

“There’s been a pretty big drop of support for the Common Core,” said Dale Ballou, a Vanderbilt professor and director of the consortium.

“But there doesn’t seem to be any single symptom or explanation for that change. It’s a lot of different factors that seem to be playing into this. The one thing I would caution people against is jumping to the conclusion that this means now that teachers are actually trying it, they’re discovering that it doesn’t work.”

Gosh, no, don’t jump to that conclusion, the one that common sense suggests. Don’t conclude that “now that teachers are actually trying it, they’re discovering that it doesn’t work.” There must be another explanation. If I think of one, I will let you know.

WOW! Read this!

The revolution is beginning. The reformers are in trouble. People are waking up and catching on.

“Dad Gone Wild” writes about how he loved Punk Rock. He thought he was the only one. No one understood. That was back in 1977.

Now he found himself wondering about education reform. It didn’t feel right to him. He started looking, and he discovered he was not alone.

He writes:

“Then a crazy thing happened. Slowly but surely punk rock began to creep into the mainstream. I can remember the first time I heard the familiar chorus of the Ramones blasting from a car commercial. Iggy Pop music was being used in Carnival Cruise ads. New bands were being formed that sited the forefathers as instrumental in their formation. The truth was beginning to reach people and they were embracing it. It was all very magical and validating.

“I see a similar thing taking place in the world of education. A few years ago when I first started paying attention to education policy it was all about the power of Teach for America, Charter Schools and Choice. These were tenets that never felt right to me but the voices of support were so great I felt like I was missing something. After all Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Wendy Kopp, David Levin and Mike Feinberg are all highly educated individuals who have studied education policy extensively. How could they possibly be wrong? Then I discovered Diane Ravitch.

“Discovering Diane was a feeling akin to the first time I heard a Clash record. Wait a minute there are people that feel like I do who can help formulate these feelings and give them voice? It was awe inspiring and I wanted more. So instead of hanging around record stores I started hanging around Twitter and other social media sites. Instead of discovering the Ramones, Undertones, Replacements and Husker Du, I began to discover Bruce Baker, Gary Rubenstein, Anthony Cody, Edushyster, Crazy Crawfish and Julian Vasquez Heilig. I read, and still do, everything they wrote. I followed the people they followed and my mind once again just began to expand.”

And he joined with other parents and they started fighting for their schools, and they started pushing back against legislation that would hurt their public schools.

“These days it seems everywhere I look there is a parent group or community group pushing back against the reform agenda. People are starting to realize that our schools may need work but they don’t need scrapping. They need us all to get in together and work to improve them. There is realization that schools are a cornerstone of our community and a healthy school translates to a healthy community. They are starting to realize that poverty in America is very real and fighting it is essential to improving our schools. I can not express to you how much it makes my heart sing to see this uprising. If it continues, not only will we improve our schools but we’ll improve our communities.”

WOW! The wheel is turning, the revolution is underway.

A post in the Tennessee Parents blog complains about the “Rocketship Charter School Nightmare in Tennessee.” Parents say that anyone who attended an informational session about the Rocketship Charter School discovered that their child’s records were pulled and moved to Rocketship. When they went to their zoned school, they were told that they had enrolled in Rocketship, even though they had not.

 

A parent wrote:

 

“Apparently ANY family that went to an info session about the new Rocketship Charter Schools had their records pulled without permission. So students and parents showed up the first day of school only to find out that they were not registered at their zoned school. Their children were registered at Rocketship without their permission.

So they went to Rocketship to get their children switched back to their zoned school, and it was like walking into a high-pressure timeshare sales job. Rocketship pressured them to stick around and try it. It was a nightmare to get Rocketship to release their child’s records to re-enroll in their zoned school. This happened to over 100 families. A bait-and-switch nightmare with their children’s school placement.

Rocketship also confused ELL and immigrant families by misleading them to believe that they were supposed to go to charters. It is a mess. Strangely, the media isn’t picking up on it. There is a lot of hush-hush. Some are wondering if they are trying to keep students there past the 20th day to get the ADA funding and to boost their enrollment numbers.”

 

 

Gary Rubinstein, myth buster, takes a hard look at Tennessee’s Achievement School District and finds less than it claims. Gary has a brilliant way of pulling data apart and finding manipulation and tricks. He does it here, slowly and methodically

Tennessee’s State Commissioner Kevin Huffman (ex-TFA, Michelle Rhee’s first spouse) brought Chris Barbic to Tennessee to create a statewide districts made up of the state’s lowest performing schools. Barbic, founder of the YES Prep charter chain in Houston, pledged that the schools in the Achievement School District would move from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in the state in five years.

Gary writes:

“The first cohort of the ASD was 6 schools started in the 2012-2013 school year. This grew to 17 schools in 2013-2014, and now 23 schools for 2014-2015. I was skeptical of this plan from the beginning. As I wrote to Chris in one of my open letters, still unanswered, I felt like this was a goal that can only be achieved by some sort of cheating or lying. One cheat that is happening is that many of the charter schools did not take over existing schools but became new schools which phased in one grade at a time. This makes it pretty hard to say that a school that never existed was originally in the bottom 5% of schools.”

Reviewing the ASD’s claims, Gary sees that some schools allegedly are making large gains while others are not. The “miracle” school appears to be Frayser 9GA.

Gary’s antennae go up when he hears miracle talk, so he investigated and found this:

“What I learned is that Frayser 9GA isn’t, technically, a school for which it is possible to calculate the growth between 2013 and 2014. Also, it is debatable, if it can be counted as a school at all. Here’s why:

“Westside Achievement Middle school, the one that had the dropping scores in the bar graphs above, serves students in grades 6-8. They were one of the original 6 ASD schools in 2012-2013. Rather than send their eighth graders to Frayser High School in 2013-2014, they decided to expand Westside Achievement Middle school to have a 9th grade in their building. They enrolled 99 students and called the ‘school’ Frayser 9GA for ‘9th Grade Academy.’ 2013-2014 was the first year that this school existed, which is why comparing their scores for their 99 9th graders to the scores of already existing Frayser high school is not a fair comparison. This article from the local Memphis newspaper explains that 85% of the 8th grade class at Westside Achievement Middle School wanted to continue at that school for the new 9th grade program.”

He concludes:

“But the ASD decided to call the 9th grader program at Westside Achievement Middle School, all 99 students there, its own ‘school’ rather than what it actually is, a grade in the school. It is not playing by the rules to pick a grade out of a school, call it its own school and then plot it on a graph as if it was an actual school that was once in the bottom 5% of schools and that with the help of the ASD catapulted to the top 50%. So the question is, how is it that this school is failing to grow their 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in 2013-2014, yet they are getting miraculous results with their 9th graders? And what would the score for this school be if they counted the four grades as one school rather than pulling out the 9th grade class and calling that its own school?”

Gary Rubinstein’s conclusion: no miracle school. He wonders what will happen to the reformers as their promises fail to materialize, as their promises don’t come true in the states and districts they control. Spin, hype, and fancy brochures with multicolor graphs will take you just so far and no farther:

“It is fortunate for Duncan that he will be out of office when the house of cards that is the ASD comes tumbling down, three years from now. I’ve noticed that many reformers have been going into hiding lately: Wendy Kopp stepped down from being CEO of TFA. Michelle Rhee stepped down from being CEO of StudentsFirst. Others will surely follow into the safety of their underground bunkers. Duncan will leave office and will surely find a safe place to hide from all the questions as the reform movement continues to collapse. What will happen to my old friend Chris Barbic when this all goes down? He’s always been a decent guy. I worry he might be the only one with enough principle to go down with the ship while the others cowardly abandon it.”

Jesse Register, the Director of Metro Nashville public schools, proposes to close a number of low-performing schools and replace them with charter schools, despite the fact that the state’s all-charter Achievement School District has not outperformed public schools.

Parents, community members, and teachers are upset by his lurch to the corporate model. Where is the school board, whose majority supports public schools? Why did Jesse Register drink the privatization Kool-aid?

Just bear in mind that New Orleans Recovery School District is one of the lowest performing districts in the state.

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