• StudentsFirst.org asks Tennesseans to tell your elected officials to remove red-tape from Tennessee schools!
    Ineffective regulations and red-tape pose challenges for schools and districts everywhere. Unfortunately, our own state of Tennessee is no exception. Thankfully, Governor Haslam has smartly proposed a bill which would end two Tennessee state mandates that currently restrict the ability of school districts and principals to make the best decisions for their students. Please help put the interests of Tennessee students first by showing your support for this bill. First, the bill would maintain current class size caps (no one wants overcrowded classrooms), but would eliminate an unnecessary measure which requires schools to have a class size average that is lower than the class size cap. This confusing measure puts an undue financial burden on schools by forcing them to hire new teachers even when all of their classes are below the maximum number of students allowed. This makes no sense. Second, the bill would eliminate an archaic state law which prohibits districts from rewarding their best teachers or teachers willing to teach in hard-to-staff schools. Current law mandates that all districts pay their teachers according to the state salary schedule which is based solely on teachers’ seniority and degrees attained, rather than performance in the classroom or student needs. Governor Haslam’s measure would give districts the flexibility to make future pay increases in a way that would most benefit the students in that district, while ensuring that all teachers maintain at least their current salary. Please tell your legislators to give schools and districts the flexibility they need to best serve the needs of their students. But proponents of the status quo – which we know has been failing our kids – are coming out in force. They are spreading misinformation in an effort to scare Tennessee away from education reform. Here are some facts to remember:
    Governor Haslam’s proposal maintains current class size caps and therefore would NOT lead to overcrowded classrooms. The bill only eliminates the average class size mandate allowing principals more flexibility to place a great teacher in every classroom and spend resources in a way that most benefits students. Governor Haslam’s proposal guarantees that teachers maintain at least their current salary and would NOT lead to pay cuts for teachers. In fact, some districts may choose to continue to follow the current salary schedule “as is.” But the new measure would give districts the flexibility to make changes, for example rewarding effective teachers or teachers willing to work in hard-to-staff schools, if those changes would help the district ensure a great teacher in every classroom. Please take a minute to tell your legislators that you support measures that help districts ensure a great teacher in every classroom:
  • President’s Budget Request Eliminates Funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program
    The Obama Administration is once again standing with education special interest groups and against low-income children in Washington, D.C. The President’s 2013 budget request zeros out funding for the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which was revived last year thanks to the hard work of Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and the thousands of D.C. families who received scholarships to attend a private school of their choice.
  • Pennsylvania [& Tennessee] makes it too hard to start charter schools
    Pennsylvania’s [or Memphis] charter school law is as absurd as the notion of requiring Burger King to seek approval from McDonald’s before opening another restaurant. Traditionally, local school boards are often unable or unwilling to have fair and impartial processes to vet charter schools.
  • Charter school teachers fear IRS rules change
    A little-noticed proposed change in Internal Revenue Service regulations could have devastating effects for charter school teachers by making them ineligible for state retirement plans, and they could stand to lose much of the money that they already have accrued. The proposed rule, released with little fanfare near the end of last year, would make major changes to the definition of “governmental plans,” the federal standard for who can be considered a government employee for the purposes of participating in state pension systems. The proposed change would establish five criteria for determining eligibility in state retirement plans, the most troublesome of which, from the point of view of whether charter school teachers could participate, is a provision stating that “the governing officers either are appointed by state officials or publicly elected.” Another condition is that a government body must be responsible for all the debt a participating institution accumulates. On the surface, charter schools may not meet either criteria because they are not wholly public institutions.
  • Bills Prod Schools to Hold Back Third-Graders
    Lawmakers in at least four states are considering legislation that would make students repeat third grade if they can’t pass state reading exams, reviving debates about whether retaining students boosts achievement or increases their odds of dropping out. “The goal is not to retain students, but to get parents, teachers and students all working collaboratively to address the literacy problems when they first show up,” said Colorado state Sen. Mike Johnston, a Democrat who is a sponsor of the bill. Iowa, New Mexico and Tennessee also are considering bills on the issue. All the bills, as well as similar ones that passed recently in Oklahoma, Arizona and Indiana, aim to address literacy deficiencies that exist nationwide. Only one-third of U.S. schoolchildren had proficient scores on the most recent national reading exam, and scores have barely budged in two decades. A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that children who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times as likely to drop out of school. Third grade is seen as so important for reading because many other subjects begin in earnest the following school year. Also, third grade is the year that federal law mandates all states must begin testing reading and math. The country has spent billions on failed reading strategies. Now, states are taking a different tack: push individualized reading instruction in the early grades and hold back kids who don’t pass muster by third grade. But the evidence is mixed on whether retention helps or hurts kids.
  • Class size, testing worry Middle TN teachers
    About 100 teachers from Nashville and surrounding areas shared their frustrations at a town hall meeting taped at Nashville Public Television studios Sunday. The event will air on NPT at 9 p.m. Feb. 29.
  • Input sought on schools chief
    MURFREESBORO — Representatives from the Tennessee School Boards Association will be in town Wednesday to seek input from residents on the next director of Rutherford County Schools. A meeting is planned with local elected officials and members of the business community for noon that day at B. McNeel’s restaurant on North Church Street. At 6:30 that evening, TSBA officials will meet with other residents at the district’s central office, 2240 Southpark Blvd.
  • Retracing America’s path away from pluralism
    The difference could not be more striking: in the United States, “public schooling” denotes educational uniformity; in Singapore, Ghana and Switzerland (for instance), “public schooling” indicates educational pluralism. The American settlement of state-controlled educational neutrality in fact settled nothing. Education simply cannot be neutral with respect to beliefs. This is because procedural neutrality always involves an implicit substantive choice about the good, the true, and the permitted.

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