• TEA’s Membership Down, PET’s Up
    Enrollment to the state’s largest teachers’ union is on the decline after the state OK’d sweeping changes to collective bargaining laws, but a rival educators’ association says their ranks are growing. Professional Educators of Tennessee say their association has seen a 10.6 percent membership uptick in the last year. Meanwhile, several Tennessee Education Association chapters in Middle Tennessee have collectively lost 24 percent of their dues-paying members on automatic payroll deductions, according to statistics first reported by the Tennessean.
  • Short-term solution is now long-term necessity for overcrowded schools
    Some education officials now say Hamilton County has grown too reliant on its aging stock of 110 portables, most of which are at least 30 years old. The district has only purchased about a dozen new portables in the last 35 years, said Assistant Superintendent for Auxiliary Services Gary Waters. “It’s become convenient to have a portable classroom,” said School Board Chairman Mike Evatt. “It is a very short-term fix that has become a long-term problem.”
  • Bill would end ‘social promotion’ for eighth-graders
    If a new bill introduced Wednesday in the state legislature passes, the “social promotion” of unqualified eighth-graders to high school will no longer be allowed. State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) was joined by Sen. Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) in sponsoring Senate Bill 2156. The bill is expected to come up for consideration in the next legislative session, which begins in January.
  • Commissioner Huffman Names New Deputy Commissioner, Head of CTE
    Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman today is pleased to announce Dr. Kathleen Airhart as the department of education’s new deputy commissioner, and Dr. Danielle Mezera as the assistant commissioner of career and technical education.
  • New state education division could manage 10 low-performing Metro schools
    Ten low-performing Metro schools would qualify for a new state cluster led by a governance branch called the Achievement School District, under the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver request issued two weeks ago.
  • Funding, students go to virtual academy: BEP money follows 13 local students to Web-based program
    Concerns about whether the Tennessee Virtual Academy will affect local school districts’ enrollment have become a reality for Jackson-Madison County Schools this year. School officials said since the 2011-12 school year began, at least 13 students have left the district to participate in the K-8 program.
  • Debate anew on unified Memphis-Shelby County schools
    Unified school board member Martavius Jones wants to make sure the school board has a plan to deal with municipal or special districts in the market for school buildings. So next month, the 23-member unified Shelby County Board of Education will decide what the school district’s plan should say, if it needs a policy at all.
  • Barbic to lead forum discussing future of Howard, ASD
    Tennessee Achievement School District Superintendent Chris Barbic is set to address parents, teachers, and members of the community of Howard School of Academics and Technology in a forum scheduled for Thursday night. Barbic said that participants would break off into smaller groups of 20 to 25 members, in order to more thoroughly discuss school issues with an ASD facilitator. Following the group discussion, the group will reconvene and talk over the common themes.
  • School Choice Could Become a Reality for Tennessee
    A most remarkable “year of school choice” may be edging to a close, but the momentum for school choice is far from over. On the heels of Indiana’s success, states like Tennessee are looking to introduce educational options for their students in the upcoming year. Tennessee’s plan would probably begin more modestly than Indiana’s, as Turbeville notes that Tennessee’s “political climate likely will necessitate a smaller program as a starting point.” Nonetheless, the program, if implemented, will be a promising step in the right direction.
  • The Way of the Future: Next Steps at Khan Academy
    Khan Academy has announced next evolutionary steps: 5 new faculty members to extend into the arts and humanities, a crowdsourcing project for videos and blended learning experiments, starting with summer camps in the Summer of 2012.  The O’Sullivan Foundation provided a $5m grant to get these projects underway.
  • Teacher Faction Expands to L.A.
    An organization of young teachers who support overhauling union contracts launched a new chapter in Los Angeles Wednesday, part of a growing faction of groups that have successfully challenged old-guard labor leaders to overhaul the nation’s schools. The New York City-based Educators 4 Excellence said nearly 200 Los Angeles teachers had joined the group and signed a declaration calling for linking teacher evaluations to student test scores and ending policies that allow the least veteran teachers to be laid off first. “When teachers are fully informed and empowered, they hold themselves and their students to high expectations,” said Ama Nyamekye, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter and a former New York City teacher. Educators 4 Excellence, or E4E, is one of a handful of groups working both within and outside existing unions to encourage teachers to become active in reshaping local policies on teacher evaluation, tenure and layoffs. Despite their small numbers, the groups have changed the policy debates in many cities. Teach Plus, for example, which connects groups of teachers to top policy makers in six cities, including Boston, Chicago and Memphis, helped alter the Indianapolis contract to ensure that teacher effectiveness was considered when laying off teachers with less than six years of experience. E4E, which claims about 3,000 members in New York City, helped shape a similar bill in New York that passed the Senate but not the Assembly. Other groups include NewTLA, a caucus within Unified Teachers Los Angeles, the city teachers union, and the New Millennium Initiative, a network of educators in five cities that tries to influence local and state education policies. The groups have mainly attracted those new to the profession, though older teachers have also joined. Many younger educators, who attended school when student testing took hold, feel more comfortable than veteran teachers using data to alter their teaching methods and to judge their performance. They also worry about layoff policies.
  • Virtual Classrooms: an Exit Strategy from Toxic Public School Culture?
    While public schools are busy accommodating every harebrained fad that comes along, the advent of online options like K12 Inc. are giving educrats fits because suddenly they have to deal with the problem of allowing parents to preview materials. Should government succeed in cutting parents out of that process so that “no one can get between that child and that curricula” — to quote an infamous comment from Dustin Heuston, then-head of Utah’s World Institute of Computer-Assisted Technology then they will have to promote the government line or get out of the tax-supported online system altogether. If, however, government fails to solve the problem of control over parents and curriculum, then the physical public school may well implode on its own, given America’s downward spiral on international scores in substantive subjects coupled to safety issues. The socialization criticism dismisses the fact that socialization is no longer equated with problem-solving or “teamwork.” Its evolution is no longer a selling point with many parents. Instead, the public school culture has morphed into a peer pressure-cooker, both ugly and toxic, owing mostly to educators steeped in child psychology, which basically establishes teachers as buddies and pals, instead of providers of leadership, guidance, and discipline.
  • The achievement gap is a middle class issue
    A recent study (PDF) by Sean Reardon of Stanford University finds that the achievement gap between the upper and middle classes is bigger than the gap between the middle class and the working poor. This should give pause to those who dismiss education reform as something that affects other people. If you’re middle class, you’re on the losing side of the achievement gap. This bolsters the case for an increased focus on early childhood care and education. If the gaps between our children don’t change much after they enter school, we should try to close the gaps as much as possible before they walk in the doors.
  • U.S. Education Department Finds Salary Gap in Poor Schools
    Education experts have long argued that a basic inequity in American schooling is that students in poor neighborhoods are frequently taught by low-paid rookie teachers who move on as they gain experience and rise up the salary scale. Until now, however, researchers lacked nationwide data to prove it. That changed Wednesday when the Department of Education released a 78-page report. Its conclusion:
  • Campers Brave Sub-Freezing Temps For School Choice
    GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. – Parents in South Carolina’s largest school district started requesting school re-assignments for their child starting Thursday as part of the district’s school choice program.
    The re-assignments are given on a first-come, first-serve basis, and are limited to space available at each school. That led some parents to set up impromptu campsites in front of schools as early as last week.
  • Why Public Schools Crumble, and Why Another $30 Billion Won’t Change That
    The Congressional Quarterly reports that Senate Democrats are pushing another $30 billion bailout—this time for public school buildings. By all accounts, many of those buildings are indeed sinking into decrepitude. But as I discovered a couple of years back, public schools are already spending 50% more per pupil than private schools that do manage to maintain their buildings. So what’s the real problem?
  • Teacher evaluations: the good, the bad and the ugly
    In a letter to Haslam earlier this month, State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, who voted against the Tenure Reform Law, encouraged Haslam to review the unintended consequences that have resulted from the law and “to slow down teacher evaluations”. “If we gave our schools a year long ‘practice run’ with the new system — which was a common request in committee (House Education Committee) — we would allow teachers, principals and administrators to feel more comfortable with the changes.”
  • Common Core Standards drive schools off of a cliff
    States across the U.S. have been assembled and are running off of a cliff in the name of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. One would hope that if the entire country were going to unify behind one set of curriculum guidelines, they would be rigorous and prepare American children to compete in the global economy. Not so with the Common Core. Lawmakers across the country should give serious thought to the price they want to pay to implement standards that aren’t internationally competitive and don’t prepare our children for college.
  • Hoover Institution Experts Identify 2011’s Best & Worst Education Events
    o inform the public and shape education reform in the upcoming year, members of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education today released their annual list of the top five best and top five worst events in American education in 2011. Their list indicates that several positive developments led to greater parental choice, system transparency and teacher accountability; however, the worst events indicate that there remains considerable room for improvement. BEST Education Events of 2011:

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