Categories
Education

Huffman Optimistic TN’s New, Long-Form NCLB Waiver Request Will Win Approval

Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman says Tennessee is still “well-positioned” to get a waiver from the federal government on the No Child Left Behind law, although the state was caught off-guard by some criteria for the move.

Tennessee applied for a waiver in July and expected a fairly quick response. The state had also heard substantial positive feedback from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about its chances of getting the waiver.

But the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance material in September outlining what was required in the waiver process, and the state is looking at a Nov. 14 deadline to submit a revised application.

Huffman acknowledged one aspect of the guidance came “out of left field.” That item requires the state to identify 10 percent of its schools where achievement gaps are pronounced and how to address them.

The achievement gaps could be in any number of subgroups, such as how white students perform compared to non-whites, or how students from low-income families perform compared to other students.

Huffman said there is a lot of overlap in the state’s original waiver application and what is required in the follow-up, but he noted the “focus schools” in the 10 percent looking at achievement gaps presented the department with a new task in terms of requirements and specificity.

“This we did not anticipate until we opened up our guidance at the end of September,” Huffman said.

He said the state would attempt to target interventions for schools with achievement gaps, and he said competitive federal grants could provide the resources needed.

A later deadline than Nov. 14 will also be available early next year for states to apply, Huffman said.

“People have suggested only 5 or 10 states are positioned to get a waiver in the first round, primarily because most states have not gone down the path on some of the things we’ve gone down the path on,” Huffman said in a presentation this week to the Tennessee State School Board. “So I think we’re well-positioned relative to our peers to get a waiver.”

Huffman said the state’s original waiver request was seven-and-a-half pages long, but he expects the Nov. 14 application to be hundreds of pages long, including attachments.

The commissioner said one strength in the state’s application, as in the original application, is its intervention efforts on the bottom 5 percent of schools in proficiency. Those efforts include Tennessee’s steps in developing its achievement school district.

Huffman said the federal government has not said publicly when a response to the application could be expected, but he said the state would like to hear results by the end of this year. The process would involve simply meeting criteria for the waiver and would not be a matter of Tennessee competing with other states.

Many states have complained about unrealistic expectations in the No Child Left Behind law as it stands pertaining to adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

Categories
Education News

Tennessee Favored In No Child Left Behind Announcement

Gov. Bill Haslam got the first real sign that Tennessee will get what it wants on the No Child Left Behind law when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called him last Friday about attending an event in Washington.

The event, it turns out, was a White House ceremony Friday where Haslam introduced President Barack Obama, who announced changes on NCLB. Tennessee requested a waiver from the law in July.

Deciding whether to accept an invitation to the White House would normally be a no-brainer for a governor, but Haslam had a little scheduling conflict. His daughter, Annie, is getting married. The wedding was planned for Saturday in the front yard of the Tennessee Residence — with the governor himself performing the ceremony.

“I said, ‘I’ve got a little issue. I’ve got a wedding going on that week, and I’ve got to make sure my boss says it’s OK,'” Haslam said Friday in Nashville. He didn’t say exactly who the boss was he was referring to, although presumably it is First Lady Crissy Haslam. The rehearsal dinner was scheduled Friday night.

“Once I knew I could do it logistically, I said I would be glad to, because I think they’re doing the right thing,” Haslam said of the trip.

The governor wasn’t allowing many details about the wedding, but he was happy Friday to talk about his visit to Washington, the return from which delayed him from his appointment to speak in Nashville at the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development. A luncheon crowd of hundreds of people waited for him in the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel.

Haslam, who usually keeps a full but tight schedule, apologized repeatedly for being late when he finally got to the podium. Weather had delayed his return. He didn’t speak long. But the journey to Washington spoke volumes about Tennessee’s place in education reform in the Obama administration’s eyes.

Obama announced a new flexibility plan on NCLB for states engaged in education reform. The criteria to receive that flexibility fall in line with the reform effort going on in Tennessee, begun under former Gov. Phil Bredesen. Duncan gave high praise to Tennessee’s efforts when he appeared in Nashville in August at West End Middle School and at the offices of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education.

Obama is seeking reforms that still include standards that will make students college-ready and career-ready, accountability in the education system and evaluating teachers and principals on their effectiveness. But the White House move appears to be an agreement that expectations in NCLB have proved to be simply impossible to reach.

So on Friday morning, Haslam stood in the East Room of the White House, thanking Duncan, saying while he doesn’t always agree with Obama there should be action when Republicans and Democrats do agree, and introducing the president. No one guaranteed Haslam would get what he wants on NCLB, but the sight of the East Room appeared to say he would.

“When they said, ‘Do you want to come?’ I said, ‘Well, please don’t ask us up there if you’re going to embarrass us down the road,'” Haslam said. “I think the message was: ‘We like the path that you’re on.'”

States across the country have complained about the standards required in the law as being unrealistic and not achievable. The Obama administration seems to agree. Tennessee has been involved in education reform that won $501 million in the first round of the federal Race to the Top competition, showing the Obama administration likes what the state is doing.

The Obama administration issued criteria Friday that will give states that are working on reform the flexibility they seek. The White House noted that many states have adopted college- and career-ready standards and are implementing reforms in teacher and principal evaluations.

Obama said Friday a fresh approach will give states the opportunity to improve but will not serve as a reprieve from the spirit of the No Child Left Behind Law, which was adopted under former President George W. Bush.

Haslam said in his remarks at the White House that Tennessee is most qualified to make its own decisions about how to make progress in education. Tennessee’s efforts and the federal government’s position seem to match.

“We have talked with Secretary Duncan several times over the last five or six days,” Haslam said in Nashville Friday. “We talked about what their criteria are and where Tennessee stacks up.

“I think they feel really good about what we’ve submitted to them and what we’re doing in Tennessee, so I don’t have any final word, but I feel good about our position.”

Haslam was asked if the federal step to give more authority to the states is a weakening of standards.

“Here’s why it’s not weakening the standards,” he said. “No Child Left Behind, while it was about raising standards, it let every state set their own. Until last year, Tennessee set the standard really low. Then it just measured by whether you met your own bar. Tennessee did the right thing and set the bar higher.

“Now all of a sudden we’re on a path (with the original NCLB expectations) where 100 percent of our schools weren’t going to meet the standards. It’s much better to measure improvement.”

Haslam used one of his frequent analogies by comparing the situation to a workout exercise.

“If somebody said, ‘Bill Haslam, you should get in better shape, and I want you to run a four-minute mile next week,’ no way,” he said. “I can get in better shape, but if the goal is to run a four-minute mile, it’s not going to happen. If they measure my improvement, I can do that.

“We basically are going to use the accountability standards that are set out in Race to the Top in our winning application there. It’s one of the reasons we feel good about our application for a waiver. They’re asking states to do the same thing they asked in Race to the Top.”

Haslam viewed the invitation to the White House as acknowledgement of what the state is doing, but he spoke openly of the obvious political consideration in choosing a Republican governor to join the Democratic president in the ceremony.

“The things they are asking us to do, we are doing, in terms of focusing on the achievement gap, in terms of linking student performance to teacher evaluation,” Haslam said. “All the key things that the president talked about are the things we are doing in Tennessee, and I think are the right things to do as well. That’s one of the reasons I decided to go do that.

“I think they do want some states that they can give waivers to, and hopefully quickly, and say this is a state that’s on the right path. Obviously, politically, it doesn’t hurt to have a Republican governor up there with him, just to be truthful about it.”

Obama thanked Duncan, then thanked Haslam for being at the announcement and for “the great work that he’s doing in Tennessee.

“I’m especially appreciative because I found out that his daughter is getting married, and he is doing the ceremony tomorrow, so we’ve got to get him back on time.”

Categories
Press Releases

Obama Thanks Haslam; President Also Congratulates TN Governor on Daughter’s Wedding

President Barack Obama on No Child Left Behind Flexibility; Remarks Distributed by the White House Press Office, Sept. 23, 2011:

East Room, 10:24 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Everybody, please have a seat. Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. I see a whole bunch of people who are interested in education, and we are grateful for all the work that you do each and every day.

I want to recognize the person to my right, somebody who I think will end up being considered one of the finest Secretaries of Education we’ve ever had — Arne Duncan. (Applause.) In addition to his passion, probably the finest basketball player ever in the Cabinet. (Laughter.)

I also want to thank Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee for taking the time to be here today, and the great work that he’s doing in Tennessee. I’m especially appreciative because I found that his daughter is getting married, and he is doing the ceremony tomorrow, so we’ve got to get him back on time. (Laughter and applause.) But we really appreciate his presence. Thank you.

And a good friend, somebody who I had the pleasure of serving with during the time that I was in the United States Senate, he is now the Governor of Rhode Island — Lincoln Chafee. It’s wonderful to see Lincoln. (Applause.)

Thank you all for coming. And I do want to acknowledge two guys who’ve just worked tirelessly on behalf of education issues who happen to be in the front row here — from the House, outstanding Congressman, George Miller. (Applause.) And from the Senate, the pride of Iowa, Tom Harkin. (Applause.)

Now, it is an undeniable fact that countries who out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow. But today, our students are sliding against their peers around the globe. Today, our kids trail too many other countries in math, in science, in reading. And that’s true, by the way, not just in inner-city schools, not just among poor kids; even among what are considered our better-off suburban schools we’re lagging behind where we need to be. Today, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t finishing high school. We have fallen to 16th in the proportion of young people with a college degree, even though we know that 60 percent of new jobs in the coming decade will require more than a high school diploma.

And what this means is if we’re serious about building an economy that lasts –- an economy in which hard work pays off with the opportunity for solid middle-class jobs -– we’ve got to get serious about education. We are going to have to pick up our games and raise our standards.

We’re in the midst of an ongoing enormous economic challenge. And I spend a lot of my time thinking immediately about how we can put folks back to work and how we can stabilize the world financial markets. And those things are all important. But the economic challenges we face now are economic challenges that have been building for decades now, and the most important thing we can do is to make sure that our kids are prepared for this new economy. That’s the single-most important thing we can do. (Applause.) So even as we focus on the near term and what we’ve got to do to put folks back to work, we’ve got to be thinking a little bit ahead and start making the tough decisions now to make sure that our schools are working the way they need to work.

Now, we all now that schools can’t do it alone. As parents, the task begins at home. It begins by turning off the TV and helping with homework, and encouraging a love of learning from the very start of our children’s lives. And I’m speaking from experience now. (Laughter.) Malia and Sasha would often rather be watching American Idol or Sponge Bob, but Michelle and I know that our first job, our first responsibility, is instilling a sense of learning, a sense of a love of learning in our kids. And so there are no shortcuts there; we have to do that job. And we can’t just blame teachers and schools if we’re not instilling that commitment, that dedication to learning, in our kids.

But as a nation, we also have an obligation to make sure that all of our children have the resources they need to learn, because they’re spending a lot of time outside of the household. They’re spending the bulk of their waking hours in school. And that means that we’ve got to make sure we’ve got quality schools, good teachers, the latest textbooks, the right technology. And that, by the way, is something we can do something about right away. That’s why I sent the jobs bill to Congress that would put thousands of teachers back to work all across the country and modernize at least 35,000 schools. (Applause.)

Congress should pass that bill right now. We’ve got too many schools that are under-resourced, too many teachers who want to be in the classroom who aren’t because of budget constraints, not because they can’t do the job.

So parents have a role and schools need more resources. But money alone won’t solve our education problems. I’ve said this before, I will repeat it: Money alone is not enough. We also need reform. We’ve got to make sure that every classroom is a place of high expectations and high performance. And that’s been our vision since taking office. That’s why instead of just pouring money into the system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. And to all 50 states — to governors, to schools districts — we said, show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement; we’ll show you the money. We want to provide you more resources, but there’s also got to be a commitment on your part to make the changes that are necessary so that we can see actual results.

And for less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, Race to the Top, under Arne’s leadership, has led states across the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning. And, by the way, these standards that we’re talking about — these high standards that we’re talking about were not developed here in Washington. They were developed by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country — essentially as a peer group, a peer review system where everybody traded best practices and said, here’s what seems to work, and let’s hold all of our schools to these high standards. And since that Race to the Top has been launched, we’ve seen what’s possible when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate but the work of local teachers and principals and school boards and communities working together to develop better standards.

This is why, in my State of the Union address this year, I said that Congress should reform the No Child Left Behind law based on the principles that have guided Race to the Top.

And I want to say the goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable, and President Bush deserves credit for that. Higher standards are the right goal. Accountability is the right goal. Closing the achievement gap is the right goal. And we’ve got to stay focused on those goals. But experience has taught us that, in it’s implementation, No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them. Teachers too often are being forced to teach to the test. Subjects like history and science have been squeezed out. And in order to avoid having their schools labeled as failures, some states, perversely, have actually had to lower their standards in a race to the bottom instead of a Race to the Top. They don’t want to get penalized? Let’s make sure that the standards are so low that we’re not going to be seen failing to meet them. That makes no sense.

And these problems have been obvious to parents and educators all over the country for years now. Despite the good intentions of some — two of them are sitting right here, Tom and George — Congress has not been able to fix these flaws so far. I’ve urged Congress for a while now, let’s get a bipartisan effort, let’s fix this. Congress hasn’t been able to do it. So I will. Our kids only get one shot at a decent education. They cannot afford to wait any longer. So, given that Congress cannot act, I am acting. (Applause.)

So starting today, we’ll be giving states more flexibility to meet high standards. Keep in mind, the change we’re making is not lowering standards; we’re saying we’re going to give you more flexibility to meet high standards. We’re going to let states, schools and teachers come up with innovative ways to give our children the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future. Because what works in Rhode Island may not be the same thing that works in Tennessee -– but every student should have the same opportunity to learn and grow, no matter what state they live in.

Let me repeat: This does not mean that states will be able to lower their standards or escape accountability. In fact, the way we’ve structured this, if states want more flexibility, they’re going to have to set higher standards, more honest standards, that prove they’re serious about meeting them.

And already, 44 states –- led by some of the people on this stage –- have set higher standards and proposed new ways to get there — because that’s what’s critical. They know what’s at stake here.

Ricky Hall is the principal of a charter school in Worcester, Massachusetts. Where’s Ricky? Oh, Ricky’s not here. (Laughter.) He was — there he is. Ricky — I wasn’t sure if he was behind me. Good. Thank you. (Applause.) Every single student who graduated from Ricky’s school in the last three years went on to college. Every single one. (Applause.) His school ranks in the top quarter of all schools in Massachusetts — and as you know, Massachusetts’ schools rank very high among the 50 states. But because Ricky’s school did not meet all the technical standards of No Child Left Behind, his school was labeled a failure last year. That’s not right. That needs to change. What we’re doing today will encourage the progress at schools like Ricky’s.

Is John Becker here? He is? All right, here’s John. (Laughter.) I didn’t think you were John. (Laughter.) John teaches at one of the highest-performing middle schools in D.C., and now with these changes we’re making he’s going to be able to focus on teaching his 4th-graders math in a way that improves their performance instead of just teaching to a test. (Applause.)

We have superintendents like David Estrop from Springfield, Ohio — right here. (Applause.) Dave will be able to focus on improving teaching and learning in his district instead of spending all his time on bureaucratic mandates from Washington that don’t actually produce results.

So this isn’t just the right thing to do for our kids -– it’s the right thing to do for our country. We can’t afford to wait for an education system that is not doing everything it needs to do for our kids. We can’t let another generation of young people fall behind because we didn’t have the courage to recognize what doesn’t work, admit it, and replace it with something that does. We’ve got to act now. (Applause.) We’ve got to act now and harness all the good ideas coming out of our states, out of our schools. We can’t be tied up with ideology. We can’t be worrying about partisanship. We just have to make sure that we figure out what works, and we hold ourselves to those high standards. Because now is the time to give our children the skills that they need to compete in this global economy.

We’ve got a couple of students up on stage who are doing outstanding work because somebody in their schools is dedicated and committed every single day to making sure that they’ve got a chance to succeed. But I don’t want them to be the exception. I want them to be the rule. Now is the time to make our education system the best in the world, the envy of the world. (Applause.) It used to be. It is going to be again, thanks to the people in this room.

God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Thank you. (Applause.)

Categories
Education NewsTracker

DOE: TCAP Officials’ Resignations Have Nothing To Do With Test Score Mixup

The state Department of Education says the resignation of two testing division officials is “completely separate” from a mistake the department made in downgrading two school districts four years ago.

The director and assistant director of the DOE’s division that administers the student achievement tests known as TCAP resigned Friday. One of the officials worked for the department in 2007 when the state misinterpreted student test scores for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and Bedford County Schools, setting the wheels in motion for the districts to be taken over by the state under the federal No Child Left Behind education law, though the matter never reached that point.

“The departure of Dan Long and Stan Curtis had nothing to do with the 2007 calculation error, they are two completely separate issues,” spokesman Kelli Gauthier said in an email to TNReport.

Long directed the education department’s Assessment, Evaluation and Research Division. His annual salary was $82,752. Curtis, who started in 2010, was assistant director and made $81,000 a year.

Gauthier said No Child Left Behind standards were changed in 2007, allowing the state to dock a school district for failing to improve in either reading or math two years in a row, a benchmark called “adequate yearly progress” under the law. But before and after 2007, schools could only be flagged if they failed to make progress in successive years in the same subject area.

Metro schools, for example, missed the mark on reading test scores in 2006, improved in reading in 2007 but fell behind in math, and so the system was downgraded.

“Metro, along with Bedford County, kind of got caught in that weird interim period and got put on the list,” she said.

The Department of Education didn’t investigate or correct the record until this year, according to Gauthier, who said the state has since reset the school districts’ standing under No Child Left Behind.

The state is awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Education as to whether it can throw out the No Child Left Behind standards and measure its academic progress using state-created benchmarks instead.

Gauthier declined to comment on why the two officials left the department. Attempts to reach Long and Curtis for comment were unsuccessful. The state has launched a nationwide search for their replacements.

Categories
NewsTracker

Video Gallery: Arne Duncan Talks TN Education Reforms

When U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan swung through Nashville last week to chat about his recent push to give states an out from the No Child Left Behind Act, he spent plenty of time talking about moving the needle on student performance in Tennessee.

“I just love what I see here,” he told reporters. “What I see here is courageous leadership at the top, I see a governor who’s walking the walk.”

TNReport shot lots of video, including the entire panel discussion that included him, Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, Tennessee Education Association President Gera Summerford, State Collaborative on Reforming Education CEO Jamie Woodson, and Chris Barbic, superintendent of the newly-created Achievement School District.

Part 1 of the panel discussion at West End Middle School includes opening comments from the governor and Duncan as well as introductions of all the session’s participants. The panelists each offer their take on the biggest challenges to sustaining momentum on education reform, thoughts about the new teacher evaluation process and the disconnect between governors promising reforms and actually delivering them.

Part 2 includes questions from the audience, like what the structure and operation of the state’s new “Achievement School District” will look like, the role of school counselors in promoting emotional and educational development, the Volunteer State’s chances of opting out of the No Child Left Behind education law, thoughts about the state banning teachers unions from traditional contract negotiations, what the state is doing to recruit high-quality teachers and whether loosening up charter school restrictions helped Tennessee win the federal Race to the Top contest.

Part 3 includes more audience questions, such as how to get parents more involved in their children’s education and whether it’s possible for officials at all levels of government to embrace the belief that all children are capable of learning. Haslam wrapped up the session.

In this video, Duncan tells reporters he will exempt states from No Child Left Behind standards if they can show they’re working to improve education and are being brutally honest about their results.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” said Haslam, who added that compensation may not be the most important thing that motivates teachers, but it is important nonetheless.

Haslam and Duncan weighed in on the ongoing debate over the effectiveness of state-funded pre-K programs. Haslam says the public should expect incremental growth in the state’s program as it collects more in tax revenues. Duncan added that the key is a quality pre-K program, not “bonafide babysitters.”

Duncan talks with reporters specifically about what he thinks of Tennessee’s education reforms and the push-back it is getting from teachers.

Categories
Education Featured

U.S. Education Secretary Praises Tennessee’s Reform Efforts

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan did everything Wednesday but come out and say Tennessee will get the waiver it seeks from the No Child Left Behind law, and he had glowing things to say about the state’s education reform efforts.

“I just love what I see here,” Duncan said. “What I see here is courageous leadership at the top.

“I see a governor who is walking the walk. I see he is building a fantastic leadership team. I think he’s uniting the state behind this effort.”

Duncan appeared with Gov. Bill Haslam at a panel discussion at West End Middle School in Nashville and again at a roundtable discussion with rural educators and business leaders hosted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, also in Nashville. Both men met with reporters following each event.

Tennessee, pointing to unreachable expectations in the federal No Child Left Behind law, has publicly sought a waiver from current demands in the law, and Duncan is revamping the system to accommodate waivers. The waiver framework, expected to help many states, is not expected to be finalized until September, but Duncan left little doubt at each stop Wednesday that Tennessee will get what it wants.

When Dr. James Jones, director of schools in Polk County, asked Haslam at the roundtable, “How do you think your request regarding No Child Left Behind has been received?” it was Duncan who gave the answer.

“Very well,” Duncan said, which drew laughter.

The secretary’s visit blended in with what has been a sustained momentum of attention to education changes in the state. Haslam readily acknowledged Wednesday he took the baton of education reform from the previous administration of Gov. Phil Bredesen, who guided the state to its $501 million victory last year in the federal Race to the Top competition.

The state has enacted reforms that include raising standards to get a more accurate read on student progress and making for a more seamless transition from community colleges to four-year schools in higher education. The state is implementing a new teacher evaluation process, based largely on student performance, and has opened the door for more charter schools. The reform movement sprang from a special session of the Legislature in 2010, a key effort in the Race to the Top victory, but continued this year with controversial changes in teacher tenure and in the collective bargaining status of the teachers’ union.

When a question was raised at the panel discussion about the role of the teachers union, Duncan said teachers should be at the table.

“We cannot have a great education system in Tennessee or anyplace else if we don’t have everyone at the table working hard on this, whether it’s unions, whether it’s the business community, the philanthropic community, this has to be a statewide effort — parents, teachers, everyone at the table,” Duncan said. “I think the voice of teachers, the voice of unions, is critical to where we need to go.

“If we’re talking about long-term systemic change, I don’t see how you get there without having teachers at the table helping to shape that.”

Tennessee went to a “collaborative conferencing” system of teacher negotiations this year that legislators say will give all teachers equal access and not be dominated by the state’s large teachers union.

Duncan has seen the state’s efforts across two administrations. It was Duncan who announced the big victory for Bredesen and his team in the first round of Race to the Top. But he commended Tennessee’s leadership at every turn on Wednesday.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the collective commitment to transforming education than here in Tennessee,” Duncan told the audience at West End Middle School. “The investments we made in Race to the Top and other things, those are not gifts. Those are investments.”

But Duncan warned about how far the state has to go to improve. He noted that the state has about 16,000 fewer 12th graders than 9th graders, a sign of a high school drop-out rate and a reminder that the state needs a well-educated workforce if it is to compete for jobs and boost its economy.

“My challenge to you, and my hope is, that Tennessee can be the fastest improving state in the country,” Duncan said. “There are lots of reasons why that’s possible. It might not be the highest performing state, but it can be the fastest improving state.”

Haslam pointed to the need to maintain recent efforts.

“I’m the beneficiary of a lot of work done by people before I came to office,” Haslam said. “I fully intend not just to keep that momentum going but to pick up the pace.”

Duncan would not say outright that Tennessee will get its waiver, but he told reporters, “I have every reason to be hopeful about Tennessee’s submission.”

Duncan called the No Child Left Behind law, enacted under President George W. Bush, “very, very punitive.” A national trend has developed where states are saying the expectations have become so unrealistic that changes must be made, and Congress has been slow to revamp the statute.

Duncan recently said teachers should be paid $60,000-$150,000 a year. Haslam and Duncan talked about that concept in the car as they made their way from West End Middle School to the SCORE headquarters at the John Seigenthaler First Amendment Center several blocks away.

The governor, facing heavy budgetary issues like all governors, didn’t dismiss the item and used it as a way to say the system may need fundamental changes.

“The issue is how do we attract the best and brightest to teach,” Haslam said. “While most teachers say pay is not the most significant factor in deciding whether to teach or not, let’s don’t kid ourselves. Obviously, how we get compensated impacts how attracted we are to a profession.

“I have no clue in our current budget situation how we do that. But I think it probably involves a fundamental restructuring, everything from looking at class size to how long we go to school. My guess is that 20 years from now the equation of how we do education will look very different.”

Duncan also mentioned the concept of public boarding schools as a possibility, saying he saw one in Washington D.C. a few years ago.

“What works for the wealthy probably works for poor folks as well,” he said. “We’ve had private boarding schools in this country. The elite, who can afford it, their children seem to do pretty well, and it’s just something to think about.

“If we’re serious about ending cycles of poverty and social failure, I think our school days have to be a lot longer — 10, 12, 14-hour days. Maybe some children you need 24/7.”

The roundtable discussion at SCORE focusing on challenges facing rural schools followed a rural summit by SCORE a few weeks ago. SCORE is the reform group formed by Dr. Bill Frist, the former U.S. Senate majority leader. Frist was not at Wednesday’s event. He is abroad in Somalia, where there is a famine.

SCORE’s president, Jamie Woodson, appeared on the panel at West End Middle School, with state Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, superintendent Chris Barbic of the state’s Achievement School District, which is charged with turning around the state’s lowest performing schools, and Tennessee Education Association President Gera Summerford.

 TNReport.com is an independent, nonprofit news organization supported by generous donors like you!

 

Categories
Press Releases

Haslam Administration Hopeful Feds Will Issue NCLB Waiver

Statement from Gov. Bill Haslam Spokesman David Smith regarding No Child Left Behind Exemptions; Aug. 8, 2011: 

“No Child Left Behind has been valuable in raising standards and expectations since it became law, but this is encouraging news. Tennessee is making significant progress in education, implementing meaningful reforms and leading the country in the amount of data we collect. Gov. Haslam believes the federal government should trust states such as Tennessee – which has proven in its Race to the Top application that it has the data, performance and strategy to get where it needs to go – to know how best to improve.”

Categories
Education NewsTracker

Bredesen on Watered-Down Achievement Standards

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen said Tennessee’s lax testing standards had misled students into believing they had mastered subjects, speaking about how he tried to address the problem in a CNN series on America’s schools.

For example, the state at one point reported that 83 percent or 84 percent of students were proficient in 8th-grade math, when in reality only 22 percent were, Bredesen said in the report that aired Sunday.

“You may feel good for a minute if you think that, but you’re not doing these kids any favor by lying to them like that,” Bredesen said. The former Democratic governor said he believed a lot of states had watered down achievement standards in response to the rigorous reporting requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush almost a decade ago.

The CNN report spotlights Bredesen initiatives to beef up the state’s math and science curriculum and toughen graduation requirements. The series follows three students from around the country preparing for a national robotics competition, including a teen from Seymour, Tenn. The students are among the few who are excelling in math and science, while overall the country is not turning out enough workers prepared to enter those high-skilled fields, the report says.

Check out the CNN series, “Don’t Fail Me: Education in America,” at the links below.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Categories
Education Featured News

Frist: To the Top

Tenure reform for teachers has passed both houses of the Legislature, but in the eyes of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, what’s going at the Capitol is part of a much bigger picture.

On Thursday, Frist and his education reform organization SCORE — the State Collaborative on Reforming Education — released a list of marching orders it sees as vital to the effort to transform education in Tennessee. The report on the state of education in Tennessee keeps the pressure on state officials even as some of the organization’s recommended reforms are already gaining ground in the Legislature.

Frist expressed support for Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to reform teacher tenure in an interview with TNReport, and he described education reform in broad, sweeping terms that lend insight into why the transplant surgeon, also formerly one of the most powerful politicians in America, is so involved in education nowadays.

“Within education, you can do Pre-K and do higher education, but then if I have to ask myself based on these experiences of having done a lot of health care and a lot of policy and a lot of legislation, how can you best spend your time, it comes by K-12 education,” he said.

“If you win there, if you can be productive there, you can literally change the course of the history of the United States of America. That’s why I’m there, and not there for a month, not there for a year, but for many years and as far as the future I can see now.”

Frist served two terms in the Senate. He was at one point considered a potential presidential candidate. Frist contemplated running for governor at a time when he basically needed only to announce his candidacy and otherwise potentially serious contenders would have stood aside.

But he chose instead to focus on curing Tennessee’s education ills. The reason, he said, was because that one issue touches so many others — among them jobs, workforce training, rising health care costs, and U.S. global competitiveness — “big problems that really hit the greatness of America.”

Frist said he contemplated how he could have best have an impact. His conclusion: “It all — all — comes back to education.”

Education & Jobs

The SCORE report said Haslam and other leaders must keep education reform at the top of their agenda by emphasizing the connection between education and jobs (pdf). It said Tennessee should focus on developing a pipeline of district and school leaders, saying research has shown that the quality of the leader has a large impact on how much students learn.

The report said the state must place a “relentless focus” on improving instruction, saying that even with debates in the Legislature over tenure, collective bargaining and teacher evaluations, it’s easy to forget the quality of instruction in the individual classroom.

The report then puts the heat on the Tennessee Department of Education and its incoming commissioner, Kevin Huffman, due to take the job in April. The report said the department must change from a “compliance-oriented” organization to a “service-oriented” operation.

Despite his obvious prominence in the Republican Party, Frist asserts that SCORE is “religiously nonpartisan.”

“Education is a nonpartisan issue,” he said. Frist sees Haslam, a Republican, as picking up where Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen left off.

“What Gov. Bredesen was able to accomplish was getting rid of the hypocrisy of false standards and putting in accurate standards,” said Frist. “What Gov. Haslam is doing is taking the same concept, the same philosophy, to the next step.”

‘Probably Not a Lot’ of Bad Teachers: Frist

The state has been through a lot since the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Tennessee an “F” in education in 2007. It has adopted the Tennessee Diploma Project meant to update standards. It adopted a “First to the Top” reform package in a special legislative session that resulted in, among other things, teacher evaluations being based on student achievement. That package was passed in order to apply for federal “Race to the Top” federal stimulus funds, and Tennessee won $501 million. Half of those funds were allotted to local districts, and half were designated for the state level.

Now, the Legislature is embroiled in an effort to remove the teachers’ union’s collective bargaining power, SB113, an issue Haslam has only recently spoken up on. The governor has sided more with a compromise measure in the House than the hard-line effort in the Senate.

Tenure reform and dramatic changes for charter schools have been high on Haslam’s priorities and have so far seen much smoother sailing in the Legislature.

Frist said he likes the tenure proposal and has made his own video backing the effort. He was asked Thursday if there are too many bad teachers who should be shown the door.

“Probably not a lot,” he said. But if a teacher, year after year, on average leaves students less educated than when they entered the class, the teacher probably should not be teaching, he said.

On collective bargaining, Frist said, “It’s very important for teachers to have an appropriate voice. When that voice becomes so ingrained it hurts students, for example, restricts the number of days a student can be in a classroom — at a time other countries are going in the opposite direction — the system needs to be reformed.”

He said he is “very supportive” of Haslam’s charter school proposals. Haslam has called for lifting the cap on charter schools and allowing a state-run achievement school district to establish charters, rather than just local school boards. A $40 million public/private partnership to expand charter schools was recently announced.

Frist worked on the federal No Child Left Behind law while in Washington and has called for updates in the law, which is up for re-authorization.

“I think it was reasonably successful,” he said. “But what it clearly did is set the stage for what we’re doing in Tennessee today.”

Categories
NewsTracker

State of Education in the Volunteer State

Tennessee students’ academic progress slipped in the 2009-10 school year compared to the year before, but graduation rates increased, according to the Tennessee Report Card, an annual snapshot of student achievement which was released today.

In the subject areas of math, reading and language, social studies and science, students in kindergarten through 8th grade went from scoring all Cs in 2008-09 to three Ds and a C in the last school year, according to a measure of value-added academic growth. Statewide, graduation rates went from 83.2 percent in 2009 to 86.1 percent in 2010.

To search by school or district, or see more results statewide, go to the portal on the Department of Education’s website.

Here are some other perspectives from across the state:

The Knoxville News-Sentinel says Knox County school system increased its graduation rates but lost ground in academic achievement. The paper also gives a good summary of the outlook statewide.

The Tennessean live-blogged the press announcements and reports that the state’s education commissioner says the standardized test scores weren’t as bad as expected.

The City Paper highlights Metro Nashville Public Schools’ failure to meet benchmarks under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The Chattanooga Times Free-Press rounds up results for Hamilton County schools, which included a double-digit increase in graduation rates.

The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reports that the Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools superintendent was touting the system’s results compared with other districts.

The Jackson Sun reports that Jackson-Madison County Schools moved into good standing with the state this year, though some individual schools have not.

The Daily News Journal reports that only one Rutherford County school, Rock Springs Middle, was classified as needing improvement. Murfreesboro City Schools are classified as a high-priority school district because of poor achievement among English as a second language students.