Categories
Press Releases

New Comptroller Report Looks at TN Education Administration Spending

Press release from the Office of Tennessee’s Comptroller of the Treasury; August 15, 2014:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) has found that school districts with higher rates of administrative spending are more likely to be very small or very large districts, and to be municipal or special school districts rather than county districts.

Based on spending data from the 2012-13 school year, school districts in Tennessee spent 10.5 percent of their day-to-day expenditures (not including capital or debt service spending) on administration, which includes local school boards, central district offices including the directors of schools, and principal offices at each school. Tennessee administrative spending has increased over the past five years in relation to total spending (from 9.8 percent to 10.5 percent), but was below administrative spending rates for school districts in the Southeast and across the nation. The majority of districts’ administrative spending (57 percent) is at the school level for expenditures in the principals’ offices.

Individual district expenditures on administration ranged from between 6 and 17 percent of total current spending. About one-fourth of districts (33) spent more than the statewide rate of 10.5 percent on administration in 2012-13.

  • Seventy percent of these higher administrative spending districts are city or special school districts, which tend to be smaller than county districts and are likely to have additional sources of local tax revenue.
  • About two-thirds of the higher-spending districts fall into the bottom fifth or the top fifth of districts ranked by enrollment size.
  • Seventy percent of the higher spending districts had central office administrator-to-student ratios above the statewide median of 4.4 administrators per 1,000 students enrolled.

The report did not analyze the cost-effectiveness of districts’ spending, where district or school outcomes–like student academic achievement and graduation rates–would be compared in relation to administrative expenditures. Without further analysis of such outcomes, identification of above-average administrative spending by itself cannot be evaluated as appropriate or inappropriate.

OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.

To view the full report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/

Categories
Press Releases

OREA Report Examines Effectiveness of Extended School Hours on Learning

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, Feb. 6, 2014:

Many schools across Tennessee are increasing their classroom hours, but it’s difficult to measure what effect that’s having on student achievement, a new report from the Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) indicates.

The report, which was released today, examines common practices, funding and effectiveness of extended learning time and profiles Tennessee schools that are using it.

Extending the length of the school day or increasing the number of school days are strategies low-performing schools sometimes use in an effort to boost student achievement. That may increase students’ time in school anywhere from 90 to 300 additional hours per year.

OREA’s report found that 79 traditional schools in 38 districts in Tennessee were using some level of extended learning time in 2012-13 school year. In addition to the traditional schools, 49 charter schools – which typically offer extended learning time as part of their education models – were operating in Tennessee that year. This year, 15 more traditional schools and numerous charter schools have implemented extended learning time.

Because extended school hours are often implemented in conjunction with other education reforms such as improving the quality of instruction, using existing time effectively and developing data to pinpoint student needs, the effect of extended learning time on student achievement is difficult to isolate. Researchers have yet to establish a strong link between extended hours and student achievement.

Research has indicated, however, that academic benefits are most likely to come from additional time that is structured and focused with students fully engaged in learning. Disadvantaged students are most likely to benefit.

Many schools currently implementing extended learning time are doing so through the use of federal school improvement grants. These grants – intended to help the lowest performing school improve academic achievement – require numerous reforms, including extended school schedules.

OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/

Categories
Press Releases

Comptroller Report on TN Meth Production Questions Effectiveness of Pseudoephedrine Tracking, Prescriptions

Press release from Office of the Comptroller; January 10, 2013:

The illicit production of methamphetamine remains a serious public health, safety and fiscal issue in Tennessee, yet two of the most popular methods aimed at curbing meth production have shown inconclusive results. These are among the key findings of an updated study of meth production released today by the Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (OREA).

The study updates a report issued by OREA last year. (Click here for 2013 Comptroller Report.)

Meth is a highly addictive recreational drug that can be illegally produced from household ingredients and certain types of cold and allergy medicines – primarily pseudoephedrine. Federal and state laws limit the amount of these medications, referred to as “precursors,” that individuals can purchase.

One method for limiting meth production is electronic tracking of purchases of cold medicines commonly used to produce meth. Tennessee and 28 other states have adopted the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), a real-time electronic tracking system. However, the study shows that the number of meth lab incidents reported by law enforcement has not decreased substantially since Tennessee began using NPLEx in 2012.

In two states, Mississippi and Oregon, individuals must have a prescription to purchase precursors. The number of reported meth lab incidents declined in these two states following passage of a prescription-only law, but some other nearby states without such laws have followed similar trends.

OREA is an agency within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public.

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/

Categories
Press Releases

Dunn: Claims of Pre-K Effectiveness Possibly ‘the Largest Hoax Ever Perpetrated on the People of Tennessee’

Press Release from the House Republican Caucus, June 7, 2011:

House Education Committee Member, Representative Bill Dunn, Points to Dismal Findings in Recent Comptroller Report

(NASHVILLE, June 7, 2011) – Last Friday, the Office of the Comptroller released the details of a long-awaited final, summary report on the impact of pre-kindergarten in Tennessee classrooms.

The study was conducted by Strategic Research Group to investigate the short- and long-term effects of state-funded Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) participation on academic outcomes in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade through an examination of existing school records. The evaluation was structured to take place over a multi-year timeframe and in a series of reporting stages.

The study shows that gains a Pre-K child makes are very short lived. In fact, in some areas the children without Pre-K ended up doing better than those in the state program. To quote directly from page six of the study, “For students in grades 3-5, analyses have found either no significant effect of Pre-K participation on assessment scores, or, in some cases, have found that students that attended Pre-K, on average, score lower than their non-Pre-K counterparts on some assessments.”

After reviewing the details of the study, Representative Bill Dunn (R—Knoxville) pointed to the results as proof that the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on the program may have been better used elsewhere in education.”We have teachers who need raises and children who need books and the Tennessee Pre-K program is gobbling up and wasting valuable resources,” said Rep. Dunn.

“This report should serve as a revelation for individuals who still believe Pre-K is some sort of answer for long-term achievement in education,” continued Dunn. “The fact is, it just isn’t. It may be the largest hoax ever perpetrated on the people of Tennessee.”

The full report is available on the Comptroller’s OREA website at the following address:

http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/OREA

Categories
Education News

Senate, House Taking Up Haslam’s Teacher Tenure Initiative

In debates over education reform this year, Gov. Bill Haslam’s push to make it harder for teachers to earn and keep tenure hasn’t been as starkly polarizing as other Republican-backed legislation.

But it is nonetheless provoking resistance from the Tennessee Education Association, the union that represents more than 50,000 of the state’s public school employees.

Eight Republicans and one Democrat in the House Education Subcommittee voted Wednesday to approve Haslam’s tenure reforms. Four Democrats voted against the bill. The full Senate is expected to vote on its version of the legislation Thursday morning. (UPDATE: the Senate bill passed 21-12)

The tenure measure would require new teachers to spend five instead of three years in the classroom before earning tenure, which generally offers job protection. A series of evaluations would determine whether an educator could be put on probation or have her tenure revoked.

The legislation would not affect teachers who currently have tenure. If passed into law, teachers who have tenure as of the next school year would continue to use the current system while those who have yet to receive tenure will be subject to the new rules.

The proposal is a centerpiece to Haslam’s education-reform agenda, which also calls for lifting restrictions on charter schools and allowing students to use lottery scholarships for summer courses.

The governor says it is currently difficult to get rid of public school teachers who aren’t performing at a level of proficiency deemed adequate by their superiors.

According to a 2008 Legislative Brief from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability (pdf):

The number of annual teacher dismissals and cost per dismissal hearing cannot be calculated with any precision. The Tennessee Department of Education retains no records of the number of dismissals. Despite a lack of concrete data, the estimated number of dismissal cases is fewer than 50 per year – less than one-tenth of a percent of Tennessee’s total teaching force – according to the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) and the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA), with the majority of hearings occurring in the state’s largest school systems. Although only an estimate, this number suggests a very small percentage of Tennessee’s teachers are ultimately dismissed from their teaching duties.

Haslam said Wednesday that OREA’s report — issued when John G. Morgan, now chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, was the state’s comptroller — reveals why tenure reform is necessary.

“I think that does show that maybe the way it’s set up now, it’s too hard to replace teachers who aren’t effective,” said the governor. “I think way more of our teachers in Tennessee are good than are bad. I want to be really clear about that. But we need to have the mechanism to replace teachers who aren’t working well.”

Given the bundle of bills that more directly aim to pare the influence of the TEA — banning collective bargaining, eliminating payroll deductions of union dues, doing away with TEA’s ability to select members of the state retirement board — the prospect of curbed tenure protection has provoked relatively little controversy. When about 3,000 union demonstrators marched on Capitol Hill Saturday to protest the mainly Republican-driven education reforms, tenure was hardly mentioned.

But the TEA is by no means unconcerned with Haslam’s plan — as evidenced by a strong showing of union members sitting in on Wednesday’s hearing and the fact that most of the House subcommittee’s Democrats opposed the bill.

Union leaders worry that the plan will base teachers’ probationary period on a set of largely untested measures. The system will leave holes for teachers who can’t be measured by standardized test scores, known as Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System or TVASS, and may leave other teachers continually in a “probationary” status, TEA President Gera Summerford said.

“Not every student can be an ‘A’ student. And not every teacher can be a top-level teacher,” Summerford said. “It depends on so many conditions, the students that you teach, the environment in which you teach, the community in which you teach.”

She said the TEA is willing to look at some aspects of the tenure law, but wants to make sure teachers still have rights to challenge potential dismissals.

Democrats are too, said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. But they’d like to put off some of the bill’s changes until the state can thoroughly vet the new teacher evaluation system.

Studies in other states show it’s both difficult and expensive to give failing teachers the boot. In Illinois, which is home to some 95,000 tenured teachers, only one or two are fired each year for poor performance, according to one analysis.

Memphis Rep. John DeBerry, the lone Democrat who joined with House Education Committee Republicans in voting for the tenure bill Wednesday, said TEA needs to accept that when they signed on to reforms as part of the state’s desire to win $500 million in Race to the Top education funds last year, they were agreeing to an all-out education overhaul.

“Part of Race to the Top was changing tenure and changing education as we know it,” said DeBerry.