• The NYT Online Learning Smear Campaign
    Last week The New York Times published what can only be described as a “hit piece” against online learning and leading virtual education provider K12 Inc. Light on evidence and heavy on word count, author Stephanie Saul levels allegations of bloated class sizes, underpaid teachers, and unsupervised learning environments. The backlash from the Times is not unlike that from education unions, who view online learning as a direct threat to their power. But while the Times and the National Education Association may lament the growing availability of choice in education, families are fighting for more school choice options, including online learning.
  • Virtual schools booming as states mull warnings
    More schoolchildren than ever are taking their classes online, using technology to avoid long commutes to school, add courses they wouldn’t otherwise be able to take – and save their school districts money. But as states pour money into virtual classrooms, with an estimated 200,000 virtual K-12 students in 40 states from Washington to Wisconsin, educators are raising questions about online learning. States are taking halting steps to increase oversight, but regulation isn’t moving nearly as fast as the virtual school boom. The online school debate pits traditional education backers, often teachers’ unions, against lawmakers tempted by the promise of cheaper online schools and school-choice advocates who believe private companies will apply cutting-edge technology to education. Is online education as good as face-to-face teaching?
  • Schools race teaches states a hard lesson
    Every race has losers, and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education grant competition is proving to be no exception. As nine states await their prize money after coming out on top late last week in the Education Department’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, the rest are left empty-handed, having spent thousands of hours carefully crafting plans that ultimately fell short.
  • Education’s coconut cake problem
    Fryer went to New York City and measured the ingredients. Working with Harvard’s Will Dobbie and a team at the Harvard EdLabs, Fryer collected an unprecedented amount of information from a diverse group of 35 charter schools – everything from test scores and spending per pupil to educational philosophies and videotapes of classroom instruction. Then, using rigorous statistical techniques, he compared differences in student achievement with all the other variables, extracting five principles that the star charters all share. Fryer worked with the superintendent of Houston’s public schools, Terry Grier, to apply the five principles to a group of failing schools. The results have been positive. In just one year, kids in one of their schools went from 40 percent proficient in math on a standardized test to 85 percent proficient; high school seniors were 50 percent more likely to enroll in a four year college. Overall, reading scores have moved up only modestly, but math scores have climbed dramatically and the experiment has only just entered its second year. And all this has been accomplished in ordinary public schools, without converting a single one into a charter school; no students were kicked out. So what is this magic recipe? It turns out to be remarkably straightforward:
  • House Republicans Likely to Write Own NCLB Bill – Politics K-12 – Education Week
    GOP lawmakers on the House education committee are likely to write a Republican-only version of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  • Teacher reviews are still a concern | The Daily News Journal | dnj.com
    MURFREESBORO — When the General Assembly reconvenes next year, it’s likely a resolution urging lawmakers to limit the number of evaluations high-performing teachers must undergo will be introduced.
  • Community strongly divided on HOPE Academy
    Before the Tennessee State Board of Education meets Monday afternoon to determine whether the state’s first suburban charter school application can meet the needs of Blount County’s schoolchildren, the appointed body will first consider the wide spectrum of public opinion. Community members are strongly divided when it comes to HOPE (Hands-On, Progressive Education) Academy.
  • TN bill would force failing eighth-graders to stay behind
    A state lawmaker wants Tennessee schools to stop promoting eighth-graders to the ninth grade when they are not academically ready.
  • An RTT Cookbook With One Recipe
    The long-range danger to the continuation of using the prescriptive TAP characteristics to define effective instruction might be that our students are not adequately prepared to experience the myriad ways instruction happens in post-secondary school and in the world of work.  Some of the teachers and professors who helped me to grow academically would not score very high on the TAP rubric.
  • Education experts meet with Metro
    The panel will give advice on what’s working and what should change, based on what other high-performing districts do. The panel was assembled in 2010 as part of Metro’s $140,000 contract with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, which also evaluates and compiles a report to the district each year.
  • School briefs: See and weigh in on Metro textbooks
    Metro Nashville parents can have a say in how their children learn by giving feedback on new textbooks up for adoption by the school board. The textbooks cover the topics of literature, fine arts, and career and technical education. Once adopted, they will be purchased and used for six years. The choices will be displayed 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays through Jan. 20 at Cohn Adult Learning Center, Room 100, 4805 Park Ave. Hours will be limited to 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and the school will be closed Thursday through Jan. 2.
  • Tennessee Gov. Haslam appoints panel to study school voucher program
    Kelsey did not return a reporter’s telephone calls but issued a statement saying he is “pleased that the governor feels that this bill is important enough to perfect through meaningful discussion.” Dunn said he is disappointed there will be no legislative action for another year, but is glad that Haslam recognizes the importance of the issue and presumably will present a plan he can back in 2013. Ramsey was vocal on the subject during a news conference before the governor’s announcement. “I am for a system, on a limited basis to see how this works, that these kids trapped in these failing schools will have the opportunity to take the money and go somewhere else,” Ramsey said.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says school vouchers need year of study
    “Now,” Ramsey said, “why should a parent — a good single mother that has this child who she wants to do better in life — be trapped in that school where she knows every one of her teachers are 1s [lowest evaluation], while somebody who lives somewhere else has the opportunity to send theirs somewhere else? And that is just wrong.” He said he backs the vouchers “on a limited basis … to see how this works.” While the original proposal, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, applied to all students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch programs, Ramsey wanted to limit it to failing schools.
  • Haslam appoints task force to examine school voucher programs
    An expected debate on making school vouchers available to lower-income students in Tennessee’s largest school systems won’t be happening in the state legislature this year. Gov. Bill Haslam, who had indicated he would take a position on “opportunity scholarships” toward the end of this year, announced Thursday the formation of a task force that will examine how vouchers might fit in with Tennessee’s efforts to reform education and report back to the governor in August. The move makes it highly unlikely that the issue will be brought up for discussion during the 2012 legislative session.
  • Volunteers Forego Vouchers in Favor of Governor’s Task Force
    Well, it looks like students in the Volunteer State may have to wait another year. Governor Bill Haslam says he isn’t ready to bring vouchers to the state, but instead will set up a task force to study how vouchers would work in Tennessee. The task force will have nine members, including Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Collierville)—one of the original sponsors of school choice legislation earlier this year—Richard Montgomery (R-Sevierville), chairman of the House Education Committee and opponent to vouchers, former Senator Jamie Woodson of Knoxville, and State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, who will chair the committee. To save the task force some time—and so they can get right to work on creating real educational options for disadvantaged students today—we thought we’d get a head start on what vouchers could mean for Tennessee:
  • Research & Commentary: The Parent Trigger, One Year Later
    California passed the first Parent Trigger law in January 2010, taking until September 2011 to confirm permanent regulations governing it. In the meantime, Connecticut, Mississippi, and Texas passed their own versions of the law, and in 2011 14 state legislatures also considered Parent Triggers. The Parent Trigger allows parents at a school deemed failing, often by No Child Left Behind standards, to petition one of several turnaround measures take place. If a majority of parents sign the petitions, the school district must take action. Turnaround measures vary by state, but they typically include options also specified under NCLB, such as school closure, converting to a charter school, or replacing a significant portion of school staff. The following documents offer more information about the Parent Trigger.
  • School voucher legislation put off a year; Haslam creates study group
    Gov. Bill Haslam moved Thursday to block action in the 2012 legislative session on a bill to create a voucher system for school systems in Tennessee’s four biggest counties. Instead, Haslam announced he is setting up a task force to study the issue until fall 2012 and make recommendations on what form any “equal opportunity scholarships” would take.
  • Lots of Moving Parts to Metro Schools Reform Process
    Nashville’s school system is a pressure cooker of change these days. The district’s 30 million dollar cut of Race to the Top money is paying for a massive brainstorming effort. The goal is to improve test scores in a city that has consistently lagged behind average–even for a state that itself is near the bottom of the nation.
  • KIPP’s no-brainer move yields expansion grant
    The braintrust at KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools learned last March that the Charter School Growth Fund was coming to Tennessee in March. So, KIPP did a smart thing, applying right away and not waiting for an invitation. The Charter School Growth Fund (CSGF) had a rigorous application process, asking for each applicant’s academic and strategic business plan. The grantors wanted proof of each potential awardee’s ability to operate and support their existing charter school. On Tuesday, KIPP received news that it had been granted $3 million to create eight additional KIPP schools. All eight schools will be in operation by 2016. There now are two KIPP schools in Memphis.

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