Archives for category: Tennessee

As a parent in Nashville, the blogger called Dad Gone Wild attended a meeting called by the state’s “Achievement School District” (ASD) to persuade parents that their community public school is a failure and needs to be turned into a charter school run by the ASD.

Dad concluded that the state officials were “gaslighting” the parents–misleading them, frightening them with false data, slandering their school.

This is no failing school, he wrote. The teachers were greeted like rock stars. Failing school?

“This description doesn’t fit any of the schools I’ve been in. In each of them I’ve been hit by an overwhelming wave of community. Last night teachers from the school were introduced at the beginning of the meeting and they were greeted like they were the Rolling Stones taking the stage. So wait a minute, you mean the community loves the very people that are robbing their children of their future? How is that possible? In fact the crowd was so anti-ASD that if I was them I would have packed my stuff and gone home, but I don’t have a savior complex.

“It was interesting that when the opposition spoke there was an energy in the room, but when the ASD representative spoke the room felt heavier, the shuffling louder, and the sound of side conversations increased. Looking around I see a well kept school. Examples of student work litter the halls. Teachers move about interacting with students and their families. They obviously have formed strong bonds. Trust me, I know failing and this didn’t look like it.”

The reformers won’t stop labeling children, teachers, and schools as failures. That’s their bread and butter.

Dad Gone Wild won’t stand for that:

“When Chris Barbic as head of the ASD says “I’m just here to make a bad school better” and chooses to ignore all the factors that go into that school, that’s immoral. When teachers tell me that the ASD representatives who toured the school were more interested in the property then the actual students, that’s immoral. When you refuse to provide adequate translators to parents who are going to be affected by your actions, that’s immoral. I also believe, when you stand and preach about how every dollar goes to the child yet you draw a salary of 200k from working with kids that live in poverty, that’s immoral. The whole process is predatory and immoral.

“I’ll be honest with you. I consider quitting this fight on a daily basis. It makes me nuts. It impacts my home life. It takes time away that I could be spending with my family and truth be known, we have other options. Then on a day like today, when I go read to my child’s class at a school that because of demographics could be labeled a failing school, it becomes crystal clear again. When I look out at all those kids who are all facing their own individual challenges that reformers expect them to overcome alone or they’ll label failures, I remember. Going to this school is going to make my children better people and their presence is going to make those children better people. I owe it to my children to give them that chance.”

I spoke last week to the annual convention of the Association for Career and Technical Education in Nashville. It was a great audience, and I loved meeting so many educators who are devoting their lives to preparing young people for life after school.

 

The night before the CTE convention, I spoke to local activists for public education in Nashville. It was an exciting time. The state commissioner Kevin Huffman had resigned only days before. Memphis parents are in an uproar over the steady expansion of the charter sector and the loss of their public schools. Meanwhile, Nashville’s superintendent has a plan to introduce more charters, whether parents want them or not.

 

Here is an account of the evening and the situation by Lucianna Sanson, a BAT in Tennessee:

 

Lucianna writes:

 

This week, Nashville was honored when Diane Ravitch spoke at an event hosted by a group of local grassroots education activists: TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence), Momma Bears (a blog run by some fierce parent activists), and the TnBATs (BadAss Teachers Association) at Vanderbilt University at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19, 2014. Diane was in town to speak at a CTE conference, but she graciously spent her night speaking with, and to, a room full of approximately 400 teachers, parents, administrators, students, reporters, and concerned citizens.

 

Diane spoke at length about education reform and the venture capitalist agenda that is behind the movement. In the interest of selling this agenda, which includes privatizing public education, education reformers are fond of calling education “the civil rights issue of our time.” Ironically, they cast themselves in the mold of great civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and the Freedom Riders. Diane Ravitch pointed out the hypocrisy of this by stating that rather than uplifting African Americans and other People of Color through community schools with wrap-around services, the Reformers promote Charters and Vouchers, which re-segregates schools rather than bringing, or keeping, diverse communities together.

 

Dr. Ravitch spoke about Charter schools, an issue that is particularly troubling for Tennessee because Memphis City/Shelby County has been taken over by the Achievement School District, or ASD, which is modeled after the Recovery School District, or RSD, in New Orleans. This is very troubling because New Orleans only has five public schools remaining in the city. The communities of New Orleans no longer have any ownership or say-so about their own schools. Memphis residents are aware that their schools are being taken over, not to help their students and communities, but to make corporations richer. Residents are fighting back and speaking out against Charter school takeovers.

 

Teachers, parents, and other invested stakeholders are attending neighborhood meetings, holding signs, and speaking to the ASD, local boards, and local leaders. They are asking for their schools to be funded, not sold to the highest bidder. While Memphis is in the eye of the storm, the ASD has reached out to Nashville and is now attempting to take over schools there. The citizens of Nashville are resisting as well, and part of that resistance has taken the form of grassroots organizations holding ed reform awareness workshops, talking with lawmakers, speaking out at BOE meetings, blogging about the truth of ed reform, and working with the local state teacher’s association to raise awareness regarding these issues.

 

Diane encouraged Tennesseans to continue to work together in solidarity to fight ed reform. She encouraged us, as teachers, parents, students, community leaders, and citizens, to be pro-active in speaking up and speaking out. As a teacher, and a parent, a citizen, and a local education activist, I am encouraged by her words, emboldened by them, and inspired by them. I, as well as many others in Tennessee, have become an outspoken advocate for our public schools. In that spirit, I have included the short speech I gave from the TREE, BEARs, and BATs event. It is a call to action, a call to work in solidarity, and a call for all local activists to stay strong, stay focused, and continue to work together. As Diane reminded us, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Lucianna’s Call to Action Speech

 

Hello Everyone and Good Evening. My name is Lucianna Sanson and I am a public high school teacher in Franklin County TN. As many of you may recall, two years ago, Kevin Huffman and the State Board of Education began talking about tying our teaching license to test scores. When I heard that- it was thestraw that broke the Came’l back for me.

 

I decided that I had had enough. Ironically, that same week, or perhaps even that same day, I found a grassroots association of fellow teachers on FB called the BadAss Teachers Association. Well, I knew that I was a BadAss and I realized that I had found a group of people as dedicated and fed up with ed reform as I was. Soon after finding the National group, I connected with the local TN state group and became an active participant and volunteer for the group. I added my teacher voice to the others that were speaking up for public education in my state. The following words are a call to action to you, fellow teachers, parents, and citizens. Join with me and speak up about ed reform. Together we can make a difference and be heard.

 

Tennessee,

We must stand up and be strong-

We must stand up and speak truth-

We must stand up,

and use our teacher voices to protect our children and our profession.

We must stand tall and proud, like the TREE,

We must be fierce and protective of our children, like the Momma Bear,

We must be brave and bold like the Bat, swooping down on those that threaten our public schools, our profession, and our students.

 

We must protect our children and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- a happiness that can not be found in Tennessee- unless we are free to learn, free to prosper, and free to work together without the yoke of national or corporate education reform inflicted upon us. If we can’t work together to educate our children, how can we work together to make a great nation?

 

We must protect our freedom.

We must protect our children.

We must protect them at all costs.

 

Our public schools are the last strongholds of our democracy.

Endless bubble tests do not train our students to be citizens in a democracy.

Endless bubble tests do not promote critical thinking and creativity!

 

Tennesseans,

We must be fearless warriors for truth.

We must speak truth to power.

We must be, in the infamous words of Dr. Mark Naison, the founder of the National BadAss teachers Association,

We must be BadAss!

 

Tennesseans, please join TREE, Momma BEARs, and TNBATs in the fight to save our schools. Our students deserve our support. Our children deserve our support. If we don’t stand up for our children no one else will.

 

If you would like more information on Momma Bears, TREE, and TNBATs, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

https://www.facebook.com/TNBATs   @Lucianna_Sanson

https://www.facebook.com/mommabears4edu   @MommaBears4edu

https://www.facebook.com/TNExcellence   @TNExcellence

Last week, Kevin Huffman and John Ayers resigned. Huffman was state commissioner of education in Tennessee, and he employed every possible strategy to make testing a centerpiece of education policy. Ayers was director of the Cowen Institute at Tulane University in New Orleans, which was greatly embarrassed when it released–and then rescinded–a “research” report claiming amazing gains in the charter schools of New Orleans. Both were big boosters of using student test scores to judge the quality and effectiveness of teachers, a methodology referred to as VAM, or value-added-modeling.

 

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, one of the nation’s expert researchers on teacher evaluation, looks at the two resignations as evidence that the VAM-mania is failing and claiming victims. There is as yet no evidence that VAM improves teaching,  improves student achievement, or correctly identifies the strengths and weaknesses of teachers. As its critics have said consistently, VAM results depend on many factors outside the control of the teacher and may vary for many different reasons. A teacher may get a high VAM rating one year, and a low VAM rating the next year. VAM ratings may change if a different test is used. Yet those who stubbornly believe that everything that matters can be measured with precision can’t let go of their data-driven mindset.

 

The lesson: proceed with caution with a methodology that has no record of success and that inevitably places far too much importance on standardized tests.

Kevin Huffman, state commissioner of education in Tennessee, has resigned.

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.

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