Archives for category: Tennessee

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.

In the New York Times, Motoko Rich reported Arne Duncan’s scathing criticism of Arne Duncan’s policy of test-based evaluation for teachers. The story shows that Duncan dreamed up this policy, that he promoted it in Race to the Top, and in the waivers he offered states to avoid the onerous conditions of No Child Left Behind. Rich points out that Duncan borrowed the rhetoric of his most scathing critics in offering states a delay. The story includes an excellent quote from Anthony Cody, recommending that the federal government butt out and leave decisions about teacher evaluation to states and districts.

Kevin Huffman said that Tennessee will continue with Duncan’s policy, even though Duncan has denounced it. “In Vermont, by contrast, the state board of education recently adopted a resolution saying formulas based on test scores would not be included in teacher evaluations.”

It is a good story about the politics of the issue.

The only point missing from the story is that the policy has failed to make a difference wherever it has been tried, that teachers in states like Florida are rated on the performance of students they never taught, and that the American Statistical Association warned that teachers affect only 1-14% of test score variance. In short, the policy doesn’t work. It demoralizes teachers to be judged by a false metric. It has failed. But its advocates can’t bring themselves to admit failure.

The school board of rural Cheatham County, Tennessee, voted 6-0 against opening a charter school.

The research is clear: schools in rural and semi-rural districts work best when they have the support of the entire community.

Cheatham County, Tennessee, doesn’t need competing schools–one that picks its students, the other legally required to accept all students.

Stick together. Act as a community. Don’t divide your community.

When your board meets on August 18, tell them you support public education. Tell them you want your school to be governed by an elected board, not an unaccountable corporation.

Tell them you support your community public school. Your school needs parental involvement and community support. It needs collaboration, not competition. Don’t let the elites push you around for their benefit. Schools are not a hobby or a plaything. They belong to the community. Don’t let them take it away. It is yours.

In their rush to privatize public education in Tennessee, the Governor and the legislature enacted legislation in 2011 authorizing the Tennesee Virtual Academy, an online charter school run by K12 Inc.

K12 is a for-profit corporation started by Michael and Lloyd Milken. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It earns millions for its owners but has received bad reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The National Education Policy Center wrote a devastating critique of its academic results, as did CREDO in a report about Pennsylvania. In that state, virtual charter schools do worse than either public schools or brick-and-mortar charter schools.

Nonetheless, Tennessee wanted to be in the vanguard of the privatization movement. K12 partnered with Union County public schools, which collect 4% of K12’s proceeds. K12 pockets the other 96%, which is drawn from public schools across the state. The K12 virtual school is one of the lowest performing schools in the state, but Commissioner Kevin Huffman lacks the grit to shut it down. Despite its poor results, enrollment continues to grow. The company uses public dollars for recruiting, marketing, and advertising, and parents are persuaded by the sales pitch and the free computer to try homeschooling. Unfortunately, students often lack the motivation to stick with the program, and many drop out and return to their local public school, minus the state tuition grant.

Instead of shutting the school down, after three years of poor results, Commissioner Huffman announced that he would not permit the next entering class of 626 students to enroll. If the TVA were a public school, it would have its doors nailed shut. But Huffman decided to give TVA more time and to ignore its dismal results.

In a pattern that is typical for virtual charter schools, the students at the TVA have low test scores and high attrition. When the students return to their public schools, they have low proficiency. Meanwhile, their home district loses money, and K12’s bottom line grows.

Meanwhile a Washington-based organization that advocates for school choice blasted Huffman. The Center for Educational Reform said:

“The Center for Education Reform strongly condemns the recent directive by the Tennessee Education Commissioner to un-enroll 626 students from the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), denying them their school choice rights.

“It’s an outrage that these 626 legally enrolled students are now being forcefully turned away, just two weeks before the start of the school year,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform. “This represents an unreasonable attempt by Commissioner Huffman to virtually block the schoolhouse door.”

To CER, school choice is far more important than school quality. No matter how low the test scores or the graduation rate, no matter how high the attrition rate, CER will fight for students’ right to choose low-quality schools. How this is supposed to improve U.S. education is a mystery.

Except for a small number of students with compelling reasons to stay home instead of going to school, virtual charter schools are a waste of public funds.

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Poor Tennessee! It is locked in the embrace of fake reformers who promise miracles, and a far-right legislature that wants to believe them. Worse, having won a Race to the Top grant, it has to produce miracles, even if they are fabricated out of whole cloth.

One of the alleged miracles-to-be is the Achievement School District, led by Chris Barbic of TFA and YES Prep. Barbic came to Tennessee to take charge of the lowest-performing schools and promised to raise them up to the top 25% in the state in only five years.

Now come the lies. Gary Rubinstein here unravels the manipulation of data to show how unimpressive the gains are as contrasted to the miracle claims.

Gary writes, after analyzing the numbers:

“Suddenly, it’s not so good anymore. The ASD grew by 1.1% more than the state in that period while the ASD actually went down by .7% more than the state went down. At this rate of losing .35% of ground each year to the state, the ASD will never get out of the bottom 5% in reading, and for math where there is a 30% difference between the ASD and the Tennessee average, if they creep up at .5% a year it will take 60 years for them to get to the 50% mark, let alone the top 25%.”

As Gary shows, there were no miracles, other than the miraculous tales told by the reformers to their true believers.

The clock is ticking. Three years to go until the bottom 5% is in the top 25% of all schools in Tennessee. Anyone want to place bets?

Carol Burris, principal of south side High School in Rockville Center, New York, writes here about the multiple flaws of test-based teacher evaluations.

At an Ed Trust celebration, Duncan told the crowd, “But we can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We can’t let the utopian become the enemy of the excellent. And we can’t let rhetorical purity become the enemy of rigorous practice.” I do not have any idea what the third admonishment means, but I doubt Arne needs to fear that his rhetoric is pure.

So it came as no surprise that when he spoke of Tennessee’s teacher evaluation plan, Mr. Duncan praised the state for “not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good”. The teachers of Tennessee, however, are not seeing the new system as “the good”—they are, for the second time, suing the state because the system is, in their eyes, arbitrary and flawed. And it is.

When it comes to the new teacher evaluation systems, it is not a dispute between perfect and good. We are now forbidding the good to be the enemy of the lousy. The use of students’ scores is becoming more and more indefensible. In New York State, teachers despise APPR, and it is equally unpopular among principals who, for the most part, see it as a headache that does nothing to improve teacher performance. Teacher and principal scores, by district, were supposed to be released in the winter. It is the end of July and they have not appeared. That is not a surprise. If they were released, it would be an embarrassment, especially for districts that actually tried to engage in the Las Vegas pursuit of predicting student growth from pre-tests to post-tests. The New York State Education Department is stalling, and Governor Cuomo is letting it happen.

There was one state, Massachusetts, that created a plan that was more sensible than most. It did not use numbers, but rather was rubric based. It was phased in over time and applied to everyone, including central administrators. But now that the time has come to phase in the test scores, the trouble begins.

In his July 17 memo to Superintendents and Charter School leaders, Commissioner Mitchell Chester states he is pleased that the Bay State has not chosen “an algorithmic approach,” only to later explain in detail the algorithm by which teachers should be evaluated by test scores. To go further down the path of the lousy, he explains how the state will generate growth scores from PARCC exams for participating schools, and then attempt to show “growth” from the prior year student MCAS scores. Please say it isn’t so. That is not a growth measure. That is comparing students with similar scores on one test with each other the following year on an entirely different test. New York did the same thing last year. Can you do it? Of course you can—there is very little that you cannot do with numbers. It is easy to create a formula that is intimidating enough that eyes will glaze over. But that does not make it valid, reliable, fair or useful. It will be one more silly system that will result in a lawsuit, no doubt.

Chiefs for Change, including State Superintendents Huffman and Skandera, took the NEA and AFT to task for having the guts to back away from the test-based teacher evaluation systems they once supported. They accused them of ‘evading accountability’ like horse thieves running from the posse. They wanted union leaders to sit compliantly with hands folded, in the face of mounting evidence that the test-score evaluation systems are not working. These Chiefs for ‘change at any cost’, do not understand. True accountability means having the courage to speak the truth when facts come to light, even when it contradicts what you once supported. To keep one’s mouth shut as the lousy marches forward is wrong.

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