• Huffman balks at calls to delay teacher evaluation
    Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is opposing calls by some teachers and state lawmakers to delay using new evaluation scores to gauge educators’ effectiveness. “We have a system that is better than what we had before. Why would we not be excited to use something that is better?” Huffman said. He said any problems with the classroom-observation component can be solved through minor “tweaks.”
  • More Money to the Parents; More Power to the People
    As an education governance question, most of the debate has centered around “parent involvement,” a tired phrase that has been all too frequently abused by schools not wanting to shoulder responsibility for educating children: if we just had better parents.  In fact, as David Matthews of the Kettering Foundation has chronicled (Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming our Demcracy), educators don’t much like parents (or are afraid of them) and there has been little real effort to engage them in the educational improvement effort.  Journalist Katherine Boo (in a 1992 Washington Monthly piece) described the education reform movement of the 70s and 80s as something that “didn’t normally involve parents, let alone community members.” She said it was made up of people “paying lip service to the notion of citizen participation” while working “doggedly to keep the masses from messing with their plans.”
  • Tale of a Broken System: A Student’s Perspective (Guest Post by Jay Chisley)
    No child should have to go through what I went through before we find equitable education. Every child deserves to be equally educated, regardless of zip code, race, political connections,or  standardized test score and no student should ever be pushed aside like a broken piece of equipment.  No child should ever be told that they are defective, special, or remedial and no teacher should ever lack so much morale that they feel the need to encourage that. It’s that behavior that causes stagnation in education and leaves children behind in academic promise and ultimately leads to a system that’s left in dire despair.
  • 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.
  • The best way to prevent school bullying and violence
    Tragically, around the same time the anti-bullying hotline was announced, the same union was helping organize pickets against charter schools in the city — pickets designed to frighten, harass and intimidate parents who opted to attend alternative public schools. Between the argument and the technique, it was a double whammy of a mixed message. Indeed, these groups are doing exactly what they claim to despise: bullying.
    While most every other service in life has gotten faster, better, and cheaper, one of the most important things we buy — education — has remained completely stagnant, unchanged since we started measuring it in 1970. Why no improvement? Because K-12 education is a government monopoly and monopolies don’t improve.
  • Putnam County Board sets policy on Virtual Academy
    Putnam County students will not be able to leave Putnam County Schools mid-school year to enroll in the for-profit online school known as Tennessee Virtual Academy. In its regular November meeting, the Putnam County School Board amended its policy on home schools to include Tennessee Virtual Academy. That policy requires notice of intent to enroll in a home school, and now Tennessee Virtual Academy, prior to the beginning of the school year.
  • Tennessee voucher debate: Private school bailout or much-needed choice
    Dr. Kenneth Whalum, a Shelby County school board member who dissented from the board’s majority vote opposing the bill, told the legislators that denying vouchers to poor students was the equivalent of denying lifeboats to passengers on the Titanic, or saying, “let’s let all our children drown rather than save any of them.”
  • Merger of Memphis and County School Districts Revives Challenges
    Now, as the overwhelmingly black Memphis school district is being dissolved into the majority-white Shelby County schools, Mr. Clayton is on the new combined 23-member school board overseeing the marriage. And he warns that the pattern of white flight could repeat itself, with the suburban towns trying to secede and start their own districts. “There’s the same element of fear,” said Mr. Clayton, 79. “In the 1970s, it was a physical, personal fear. Today the fear is about the academic decline of the Shelby schools.”
  • The Harkin-Enzi bill won’t fix No Child Left Behind’s flaws
    The congressional overhaul of No Child Left Behind is four years overdue, but now that a bipartisan bill has passed the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee, we wish it would go away. Instead of replacing rigid goals with more sensible ones, it would do away with almost all goals for the vast majority of schools. With the vast majority of the nation’s schools on target to be declared failures, even though many were falling short in very minor ways, the accountability movement was on the verge of collapsing. And if the Harkin-Enzi bill becomes law without the addition of some meaningful standards, that’s more or less what will happen.
  • Small Elections Drawing Big Money In Some States
    Just this year, there have been high stakes local-level elections in Colorado, Texas and New Jersey. In all of these races, there are important issues at stake like school vouchers, evolution and school assignment. Those issues are making little elections very important, says William Howell, the Sidney Stein Professor in American politics at the University of Chicago.
  • Overhaul of school policy in jeopardy
    Key lawmakers and educators are growing increasingly pessimistic that a massive overhaul of federal school policy can get through Congress before the 2012 election-year battles could doom the hopes for major bipartisan legislation.
  • AFT Union Spreading Wealth around the Globe
    In the midst of all the wreckage, one group has emerged completely unscathed: the leaders of the American Federation of Teachers. The fat cats at the AFT are living large – dare I say like the 1%? But there are thousands of teachers across the country who have no choice but to financially support the union as a condition of their employment. They are just the “host” that the parasitic union leadership feeds off of. The “peons” can labor in the classroom, while Weingarten and her ilk live large in Vegas.
  • Are Public School Teachers Underpaid?
    Teachers should be paid fair market wages, but the current system prevents teachers from being rewarded based on their performance. Research shows that teacher quality is one of the most important factors in increasing student achievement. Effective teachers should be handsomely rewarded for the impact they are having on a child’s education. By reforming compensation policies in a way that accounts for the abilities of great teachers to improve student outcomes, we will ensure excellent teachers are richly compensated, and mediocre teachers have a strong incentive to improve.
  • Non-Union Teacher Groups Grow as NEA Numbers Shrink
    The National Education Association’s active membership decreased by approximately 100,000 members in the 2011-2012 school year. While the NEA remains the most visible and powerful teachers union, over the past few years several new efforts have emerged nationally, giving teachers an alternative voice in policy while educating them about professional, non-union options. When able, many teachers choose an alternative organization with national membership, such as the Association of American Educators. “In order for the teaching profession to really be elevated to an academic profession, it is going to have to embrace some different reforms.
  • Voucher system would democratize Tennessee schools
    In the four Tennessee school districts where students would get vouchers, one in five students does not graduate from high school. At most, half the students in any grade and any subject rate “proficient” on state tests, on average, and this has been true for years. And comparing Tennessee achievement tests with the independent National Assessment of Educational Progress, the measure of “proficiency” actually ranks “below basic.” It’s hard to imagine taxpayers really want to continue funding expensive public schools when they could get better results for less money.
  • Nation’s Report Card shows state has long way to go to improve education
    “We have an educational emergency,” Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “These results underline the urgency of pressing forward with the necessary reforms. If we’re going to ensure the future economic prosperity of our state, we can’t go back — we have to step up.”
  • Memphis, Shelby County schools collaborate ahead of merger
    Although MCS and SCS remain separate districts operating autonomously for this school year and next, they are already identifying areas where it makes sense to combine efforts. With the impending merger, MCS and SCS put together a committee and agreed on a protocol for joint textbook adoption.
  • Where Are the Parent Power Activists, Senator Harkin?
    Given the lack of real effort on this front, Harkin and Enzi could at least  used the hearing as an opportunity to open up this conversation and even consider adding such provisions on the Senate floor whenever the law finally is brought before the full body. Hopefully, by the end of today, their staffs will put at least Parent Power activist on the testimony list. If it doesn’t happen, the silence of these voices will speak volumes — and not in a good way.

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