Archives for category: Tennessee

Knox County, Tennessee, has a superintendent, Jim McIntyre, who is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendent’s Academy. McIntyre accepted a grant from Broad to hire another Broadie as director of planning and improvement. McIntyre didn’t seek approval from either the Knox County Board of Education or County Commission for the grant, which was partially underwritten by the Broad Foundation.

On Monday, the Knox County Commission rejected the grant, which has already been spent. perhaps Superintendent McIntyre should replace the taxpayer funds expended on this illegal hire. Was it patronage to his benefactor?

As we have seen in many districts, Broadies tend to hire other Broadies (and TFA). This is a rate rebuke to the Broad Foundation, which is a strong supporter of top-down management, high-stakes testing, charter schools, and school closings (to make way for charter schools.)

Thanks to reader Ellen Lubic for bringing this story to my attention.

The Education Cpmmission of the States will present its James Bryant Conant award to Willism Sanders. Sanders is a pioneer of VAM (also known as value-added measurement or modeling).

 

VAM is probably the single worst feature of corporate reform, the one that is most likely to demoralize teachers, lead to early retirements, and to the decline in new recruits to teaching. Sanders promotes the idea that teachers can be evaluated by the test scores of their students. He pioneered VAM in Tennessee in the late 1980s and today it is a widely used methodology, even though Sanders has copyrighted his methods; it is proprietary and other researchers are not allowed to understand how it works.

 

Although Sanders’ team markets his product with grandiose claims, one need only look at Tennessee to see that it is not near the top of NAEP. After 30 years of VAM, what does Tennessee have to show for its reliance on high-stakes testing? Who would call Temnessee today a national model?

 

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley describes Sanders:

 

“VAMs were first adopted in education in the late 1980s, when an agricultural statistician/adjunct professor [emphasis added, as an adjunct professor is substantively different than a tenured/tenure-track professor] at the University of Knoxville, Tennessee – William Sanders – thought that educators struggling with student achievement in the state should “simply” use more advanced statistics, similar to those used when modeling genetic and reproductive trends among cattle, to measure growth, hold teachers accountable for that growth, and solve the educational measurement woes facing the state at the time by doing so. It was to be as simple as that….”

 

Chalkbeat, which covers education issues in Tennessee, recognizes that VAM is very controversial:

 

“As per the article: “Hailed by many who seek greater accountability in education, [Sanders’s] TVAAS continues to be a topic of robust discussion in the education community in Tennessee and across the nation. It has been the source of numerous federal lawsuits filed by teachers who charge that the evaluation system—which has been tied to teacher pay and tenure—is unfair and doesn’t take into account student socio-economic variables such as growing up in poverty. Sanders maintains that teacher effectiveness dwarfs all other factors as a predictor of student academic growth.”

 

Amrein-Beardsley is stunned that ECS is giving this honor to a man who tried to turn teacher evaluation into a “science” comparable to producing crops. She wonders whether angry teachers might picket the ECS meeting in Denver in late June.

States across the nation are talking about, planning, or implementing Tennessee’s Achievement School District. The director of the ASD, Chris Barbic, pledged to take the state’s lowest-performing schools (inthe bottom 5%) and move them into the top 25% of schools in five years. All the schools in ASD are charter schools. The spin and hype about the ASD have been so intense that few people asked for evidence that it was working. The promise was enough evidence.

But this tweet appeared tonight:

Commercial Appeal (@memphisnews)
6/4/15, 8:02 PM
Memphis Achievement School District superintendent says he’s not sure 5-year turnaround goal is possible. memne.ws/1GacI5o

Gary Rubinstein knows reformers better than most people. He started his career in Teach for America in Houston in the early 1990s and eventually became a career math teacher in New York City. He is one of the most perceptive critics of reform, having started in the early days of the movement.

In this post, he deconstructs the boasts of Kevin Huffman about the Achievement School District in Tennessee. Huffman is now trying to export this model to other states, despite its failure thus far to achieve its goals. Rubinsteinreviews the record of the ASD and finds it mixed at best:

“Just by the numbers, the results are truly mixed. Of the original 6 ASD schools that are currently in their third year under the ASD, two schools have improved, two have stayed about the same, and two have gotten worse.” Some success.

“ASD tries to put all the positive spin they can on their results, but the thing that they try not to mention is that in this past year the ASD got the lowest possible score on their ‘growth’ metric, a 1 out of 5. In Tennessee they take their ‘growth’ scores very seriously. They have been experimenting with this kind of metric for over twenty years and they base school closing decisions on it and also teacher evaluations. So it is hypocritical, though not surprising, that Huffman fails to mention that the ASD, on average, got the lowest possible score on this last year, and instead they focus on the two schools that have shown test score improvements.”

Rubinstein writes:

“There is absolutely no reason why Kevin Huffman should be given the opportunity to pitch his ideas to the Pennsylvania senate or in the media over there. It is like a state trying to improve their economy and asking for guidance from a man who got rich by winning the lottery. Huffman is a person who knows very little about education, but who has been very lucky to get to where he is. He taught first grade for two years, spent a bunch of years working for Teach For America, got appointed as Tennessee education commissioner mainly because of his famous ex-wife, and only managed to keep his job for three years before basically getting run out of town. He has gotten credit for the 4th and 8th grade NAEP gains between 2011 and 2013, but has taken none of the blame for the lack of progress for 12 graders or for the recent drops in the Tennessee State reading test scores. This is a new kind of phenomenon, the edu-celebrity who rises to power, leaves after a few years having accomplished very little, and then making a living as a consultant. Some gig.”

Kevin Huffman, former state education leader in Tennessee, came to Pennslvania to sell the glories of corporate reform as practiced in Tennessee. Peter Greene recounts his claims here.

Huffman wanted particularly to sell the virtues of the Tennessee Achievement School District, which gathers the state’s lowest performing schools into a group, eliminates local control, and converts them to privately managed charters.

As Greene shows, the ASD in Tennessee has been a bust so far.

“So first, strip local school boards and voters of authority over their own schools. Second, allow a mixture of innovation and stripping teachers of job security and pay. The stated plan in Tennessee was that the bottom 5% of schools would move into the top 25% within five years. Doesn’t that all sound great? But hey– how is it working out in Tennessee?

“That depends (surprise) on who is crunching which numbers, but even the state’s own numbers gave the Tennessee ASD the lowest possible score for growth.

“In fact, Huffman forgot to mention the newest “technique” proposed to make ASD schools successful– allow them to recruit students from outside the school’s geographical home base. This is the only turnaround model that really has been successful across the nation– in order to turn a school around, you need to fill it with different students.”

Greene read Huffman’s op-Ed with advice to Pennsylvania

Huffman wrote:

“When I spoke with Pennsylvania state senators last week about school turnaround work, one senator asked me directly, “When you created the Achievement School District, were you worried that it was too risky?” I responded, “The greatest risk would be to do nothing.”

Greene comments:

“Pretending that any senator actually answered that question, the answer is still dumb. Your child is lying on the sidewalk, bleeding and broken after being struck by a car. A guy in a t-shirt runs up with an axe and makes like he’s about to try to lop off your child’s legs. “What the hell are you doing?” you holler, and t-shirt guy replies, “Well, the greatest risk would be to do nothing.”

“Doing Nothing is rarely as great a risk as Doing Something Stupid.

“Achievement School Districts are dumb ideas that offer no educational benefits and run contrary to the foundational principles of democracy in this country. They are literally taxation without representation. Huffman should move on along to his next gig and leave Pennsylvania alone.”

The House members of the Tennessee legislature voted unanimously to reduce the role of test scores in teacher evaluations, at least temporarily. Controversy continues about whether teachers and other school staff should be evaluated by the scores of students they don’t teach. (Note: readers, please tell Andrew Cuomo that other states are reducing the role of test scores, not increasing them.)

 

A bill that temporarily would alter the amount that student test score growth impacts teacher evaluations in Tennessee passed unanimously in the House Thursday. But first, lawmakers debated the merits of a system that grades teachers based on scores in subjects they don’t teach.
The proposal, brought to the legislature by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
The bill proposes to phase in the weight of test scores as the state transitions to its new assessment, called TNReady, which will be rolled out during the 2015-2016 school year. Under the proposal, scores from the new test would account only for 10 percent of the teacher evaluation score in 2015-16 and 25 percent in 2016-17, before returning to the current 35 percent in the 2017-2018 school year.
The policy also addresses concerns that teachers of non-tested subjects — such as art and physical education, as well as school counselors — can be penalized for test scores they don’t directly impact. The bill proposes that student growth for those positions count for 10 percent in 2015-16, down from 25 percent, and move to 15 percent in subsequent school years.
Some legislators said that provision is inadequate, however. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) offered an amendment that would prohibit test scores from impacting evaluations of non-testing teachers at all. He said allowing educators to be graded based on the scores of other teachers is akin to grading students based on the scores of their peers.
“Parents would be outraged,” Fitzhugh said.
Rep. Mark White maintained the bill is fair without the amendment, however, because no teacher works in isolation. “Does the librarian not have an effect on student reading?” he asked. “Can a guidance counselor not play a role in affecting student performance?”

As the state legislature considers vouchers for religious schools, a new poll of voters in Tennessee shows that they don’t want more school choice. They want charters to be reformed, meaning more transparency and accountability and stronger protections against financial fraud.

Voters ranked school choice dead last among their concerns.

“Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA) Leaders say a recent survey of local voters shows that Tennesseans overwhelmingly favor reforms for local charter schools to protect students and taxpayers.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected charter expansion as a priority, the survey found. Instead, voters favored charter reforms to strengthen:

• Transparency and accountability

• Teacher training and qualifications

• Anti-fraud measures

• Equity policies for high-need students

“It’s clear our communities support quality public schools, not an expansion of charter schools,” said MNEA President Stephen Henry. “We need to make sure ALL Nashville schools are held to the same accountability and transparency standards that taxpayers expect.”
The survey also found voters rated the need for more parental involvement and the reduction of excessive student testing as bigger priorities than expanding charters.

“Specifically, voters favored by greater than 80% approval reforms that would:

*provide rigorous, independent audits of charter school finances

*require charter schools to publish how they spend taxpayer dollars, including all budgets and contracts

*ensure that teachers in any publicly-funded school meet the same training and qualification requirements”

Tennessee is the latest state considering vouchers, euphemistically calling them “opportunity scholarships.” The Senate Education Committee passed them. They will be considered by the House on Tuesday.

Why not be honest and call them what they are: vouchers. If the experience of other states is a guide, low-income students will have the “opportunity” to attend religious schools that have a meager curriculum and uncertified teachers, and students will learn creationism. The students will likely have lower test scores than their peers in the schools they left.

Funding is up to the districts, which are mandated to participate.

What a waste of children’s lives and taxpayer dollars.

T.C. Weber, blogger known as Dad Gone Wild, says it is time to end the Achievement School District experiment in Tennessee.

Then-State Commissioner Kevin Huffman persuaded his friend Chris Barbic to launch the ASD as an all-charter district made up of the state’s lowest performing schools. Barbic had created the YES prep charter chain in Houston. He promised that the ASD schools would all be in the Starr’s top 25% in five years.

The ASD has been embroiled in community protests and financial mismanagement from the start, writes Weber. It is nowhere near its goal.

He writes:

“I will show you more of what we’ve come to expect from the Tennessee’s ASD, which is more sloppy work and inattention to detail. Since inception, its been nothing but one issue after another for the ASD. In the past they’ve failed to report their per pupil spending, even though all other districts were able to. Back in September, reporter Ezra Howard analyzed the state data and showed that local efforts in Memphis were performing better than the ASD. October came and Bluff City, an education blog out of Memphis, reported the city in near revolt against the ASD. To close out the year, they engineered a hostile takeover of a Nashville school. Perhaps a few more Happy Hours are needed.

“When looking at this audit it becomes clear once again that the Achievement School District’s forte is not in the details. Details like, failure to have contracts overseen and ensuring that they are in compliance with regulations, allowing Charter Management Operators to get paid before they paid their vendors, and billing salaries to the wrong programs. The amounts of money are albeit small and therefore for many not that concerning, but I would argue that, when coupled with the entire body of evidence, it shows a pattern of behavior. A pattern that is not beneficial to the students or the tax payers of the state of Tennessee.”

Weber concludes:

“Governor Haslam has made a welcome change at the top of the Department of Education, but like with any illness, the body can only heal when all of the infection is removed. Chris Barbic and the Achievement School District were brought here by Kevin Huffman through their shared experience as Teach For America members. Time proved that Kevin Huffman was not a good fit for Tennessee. Time has also shown that TFA is not a great fit for Tennessee. They are a part of the past and Tennessee needs to look forward. It’s time to add the Achievement School District to that list of failed experiments and embrace policies that will take us into the future, before the damage is irreversible.”

The following post was written by a parent in Tennessee. The state’s Achievement School District was created by former Commissioner Krvin Huffman with the intent of taking control of the state’s lowest-performing public schools and handing them over to charter operators. The goal, promised ASD leader Chris Barbic was that the lowest 5% would be in the top 25% within five years. The clock is ticking.

The parent writes:

Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD) Superintendent Chris Barbic, like other reformers, often talks about creating opportunities for students “trapped in failing schools.” But this week Barbic is pushing legislation that would allow Barbic to recruit students from high-performing schools INTO schools the state has identified as “failing.” Barbic told Tennessee legislators on Wednesday that parents are beating down his door to get into ASD charter schools that are some of the worst performing schools in the state, according to the state’s highly touted accountability measures.

However, Barbic failed to mention that parents have submitted a petition with 78 pages of signatures to the Memphis school board asking them to remove their school from Barbic’s expanding charter school empire. Parents aren’t “voting with their feet” to attend charter schools after all.

Parents are smart to avoid ASD-operated charter schools. ASD schools are underperforming district-run schools in Memphis (http://www.bluffcityed.com/2014/09/just-facts-asd-vs-izone-performance/). Even the ASD’s most touted school in Nashville, Brick Church Middle, is underperforming its district-run counterpart, and it’s clear from an independent report that the ASD takeover of Brick Church created a terrible environment for the students and staff alike. (http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/12/22/asd-riles-parents-community-school-takeover/20648199/) Furthermore, a recent audit shows that the ASD has been mismanaging public funds, including federal money. (https://norinrad10.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/time-to-end-the-asd-fiasco/) But the ASD continues to expand over parent protest, most recently by cherry-picking the highest performing priority school in Nashville to help boost its own miserable test scores.

The ASD was supposed to be a boon for national charter school operators like Rocketship. Barbic and Kevin Huffman recruited Rocketship and others to Tennessee with the promise of dozens of schools that they would take over. Tennessee has rigged its accountability system to place over 80 schools on a “priority school” list that charters can target for takeover. So far they’ve taken over 22 schools in Memphis. But students zoned for those schools taken over by Barbic’s charter school cronies have stayed away in droves, most opting to stay with schools run by the local school board. This has upset private operators who were promised full schools if they came to Memphis.

In order to fill up the empty seats, Barbic wants to take kids out of schools that are performing well and put them in the state’s worst performing schools, all to protect the bottom lines of charter school operators. Students abandoning ASD schools are also impacting Barbic’s own bottom line. He can’t afford to hire enough teachers to comply with the state class size requirement, but he has found a way to solve this problem by increasing class sizes at ASD schools. He was recently was granted a class size waiver by the newly appointed Commissioner of Education, Candice McQueen. This week, he testified at the legislature that the ASD class sizes are 14-15 students, but the waiver allows him to expand his class sizes far beyond this number.

In Tennessee schools must be held accountable to some of the highest standards in the country – unless there is a profit motive involved – and then the powers-that-be not only look the other way, they actually work to create more opportunities for students to attend schools that the state has labeled “failing”!

If Barbic is working to place students enrolled in high achieving schools into “failing” ASD schools, he is obviously not concerned about the best interests of Tennessee’s students. He is concerned about the best interests of his charter operator buddies and his own bottom line.”

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