• Speaking Their Language
    In the last three years, Booker has established a collaborative model with other teachers at Knox Central, where he goes into core academic classes with some of his English language learners.
  • Shelby County’s unified school board seeks to delay expansion of charter schools
    Promise Academy, at the corner of Hollywood and Chelsea in North Memphis, has plans to grow, including adding a gym across the street where blighted, boarded-up homes now sit. The prospect rings alarms at the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, led by Memphian Greg Thompson. With the Charter Growth Fund, the two have raised $27.7 million of the $30 million to cover startup costs of opening 40 college-prep charter schools in Memphis and Nashville by 2015. It won’t be able to do so if the newly unified school board convinces legislators in Nashville to stop charter school growth while it works out the details of the school merger.
  • Senate HELP Committee Considers NCLB Overhaul
    If you think No Child Left Behind (NCLB) isn’t working, what Senators Tom Harkin (D–IA) and Mike Enzi (R–WY) have in mind for the nation’s schools is only going to make things worse.
  • Bill and Melinda Gates on Teacher Evaluation
    America’s schoolteachers are some of the most brilliant, driven and highly skilled people working today—exactly the kind of people we want shaping young minds. But they are stuck in a system that doesn’t treat them like professionals. Teachers don’t work in anything like this kind of environment, and they want a new bargain. We know this because they told us so in a recent survey that our foundation undertook with Scholastic. It turns out that teachers don’t like their no-support/low-expectations working conditions any better than we do. The Scholastic project found that teachers are desperate for more support. Three kinds rose to the top: more involvement from parents, more engagement from school leaders and higher quality materials to use in the classroom. The teachers who took the survey were given a list of 15 things that might help to retain the best teachers. Higher salaries ranked 11th on the list, behind benefits like more time for preparation and opportunities for professional development. nother key finding was that teachers are open to being evaluated in a comprehensive way. Eighty-five percent said that “student growth over the course of the academic year” should be a factor in how their performance is measured. Eighty percent said that teacher tenure should be re-evaluated regularly, and as a group they believe that tenure is granted too early in teachers’ careers. The research shows, in short, that teachers want to be treated as professionals. They want to be put in a position to succeed, and they’re open to having their performance measured, as long as the measurement system is fair. Because we have been unable to define effective teaching, we now reward teachers for easy-to-measure proxies like master’s degrees and seniority, even though there is no evidence that these things help students learn. As a result, a tenured teacher with a master’s degree whose students aren’t learning much will always earn more than a recent college graduate whose students are sweeping the academic decathlon. 98% of our school teachers are rated “satisfactory.” Clearly, rating systems that pass pretty much everybody are a fraud. Worse, such pass/fail evaluations don’t give teachers enough feedback for improvement. So why would we ever expect them to get better? Why would anyone who’s called to teach want to work under these conditions?
  • Union County officials mum on superintendent’s suspension
    Union County school officials remained tight lipped on Thursday about why Superintendent Wayne Goforth was suspended this week without pay for 15 days. Brian Oaks, the school board’s chairman, said Thursday the board’s attorney is looking at a couple issues, but wouldn’t elaborate on what they were
  • The Decline of American History in Public Schools
    Furthermore, by reducing the importance of U.S. history in public schools, we deprive American children of an opportunity to learn about their heritage. And in so doing, we fail these students by neglecting to adequately educate them. The study of history — and particularly American history – cultivates an understanding and appreciation for the ideals the nation was founded upon. Thomas Jefferson, for example, believed deeply than an educated citizenry was essential to the preservation of the American experiment. After all, how can one expect posterity to preserve American democratic principles if they cannot define what they are? The purpose of the U.S. education system — and the reason it was established — is primarily to provide students with the requisite knowledge and skills to live more successful lives. Yet, when we perpetually fail to teach American history in schools, we inevitably weaken the nation because our children grow up without any real sense of a national identity.
  • School Leaders Get Lesson From Other Merged District
    School leaders heard from panelists who helped merge Chattanooga/Hamilton County; The panelists offered advice on how to handle negativity from the community; Panelists said the merger was ultimately a good move
  • Germantown studies schools in East Tennessee
    To help get a handle on exactly what they would be taking on by forming a municipal school district, Germantown’s mayor, three of its aldermen and City Administrator Patrick Lawton spent two days last week looking at such cost issues and other details in Oak Ridge and two other city-run school systems in East Tennessee.
  • Montgomery County educators, parents question emphasis on TCAP
    Some Clarksville-Montgomery County parents and legislators are concerned about new state laws that make standardized testing part of a student’s class grades. The new law states the test scores could count toward 25 percent of a student’s grade, but the Clarksville-Montgmery County School System chose to use the low end of the range.
  • Educational success through community inclusion
    Consider the power of this right in the hands of families who have little or no power because they control no resources, no levers of influence over the decision-making process that impacts their children’s education,” he said. “Consider how this power may change the shape of the future for their children. And consider how the absence of this power may mean their children will be trapped in schools that more affluent parents who oppose choice would never tolerate for their own children
  • Educators, advocates, legislators target gaps in No Child Left Behind law
    At least 19 national advocate groups, including the NAACP, argue the proposal to rewrite NCLB doesn’t set specific goals and doesn’t make clear what happens to schools where these students don’t make progress. The 19 groups opposing the bill signed a letter saying it “lacks clear accountability standards needed to boost student achievement and shrink gaps.” “The language says states are expected to show continuous improvement,” Hall said. “That’s not measurable or actionable.” Alexander and Huffman don’t see the trend for closing achievement gaps going away with a revamped measuring system.
  • Official: Principal misused school’s credit
    Former Smyrna Elementary principal Regina Joiner resigned after admitting to making nearly $1,000 in unauthorized purchases on the school’s credit card, a Rutherford County Schools official said Thursday. District spokesman James Evans said in late September Joiner was accused of making $940 in purchases for food, clothing and makeup.
  • Public school leaders fight back over vouchers proposal

A plan aimed at giving every child the same opportunities could leave Metro Nashville Public Schools with a serious math problem. School districts are fighting back against the proposal to offer thousands of dollars to students to attend private schools. State lawmakers have introduced the plan, which would allow free and reduced lunch students in the four largest school districts to receive state money to go to the school of their choice, be it public, charter or private. In Nashville, that would be $5,400 to a student to use.

A tragedy of American politics is that civil rights groups like the NAACP oppose education reform, even as reform’s main beneficiaries are poor and minority students in places like Harlem and New Orleans. The latest evidence comes in a study showing that black students in charter schools outperform their peers in traditional public schools. The California Charter Schools Association looked at the state’s Academic Performance Index (API), which runs on a scale from 200 to 1000, and found that the average black charter student outscored the average black traditional school student by an average of 18 points over the last four years of publicly available data. The report also found that charters are disproportionately among California’s best schools in educating black students. Though charters account for only 9% of California schools, they represent 39% of those in which African-American API scores exceed 800 and English and math proficiency exceed 65%. Charters serving African-American students are also less likely than traditional public schools to have low academic status coupled with low academic progress. Crucially, the data show that charters’ success isn’t attributable to attracting students who are better equipped to learn from the start. “The African American populations in charter public and traditional public schools are very similar,” notes the report, with the same level of parental education, similar household income and nearly identical attrition rates. The real difference is that charter schools are free of the traditional school system’s union contracts and bureaucratic rules, which shorten the school day, stifle innovation and protect ineffective teachers. This autonomy doesn’t guarantee charter success, but it allows the schools—and their students—to benefit from creativity, competition and accountability. Minority parents increasingly understand this, which is why they work so hard to get their kids into charters. The report finds that 9% of California charter school students are African-American, compared to 6% of students in traditional schools. Believe it or not, some people read this data not as an endorsement of better schools but as an indictment of reform and a sign of cultural imperialism. “We are concerned about the overrepresentation of charter schools in low-income and predominantly minority communities,” wrote the NAACP, the National Action Network, the National Urban League, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and others in a statement last year. So more good schools in poor neighborhoods are a problem? Such statements show that the NAACP is still fighting the last civil-rights war, refusing to break with its teachers union allies from the 1960s even as another generation of black children is doomed to less equal educational opportunity. The education achievement gap remains enormous—even in charter schools, black kids in California are almost 150 API points behind their white peers. But the gap won’t get any narrower as long as civil-rights leaders oppose the reforms that are doing the most to bridge it.
In a major course correction, a Senate panel on Thursday proposed taking nearly decade of school reform in a new direction by largely dismantling a controversial accountability system set up by the 2002 No Child Left Behind law. The proposed new law retains a historic federal requirement that schools test students annually in math and reading – and publish the results of those tests, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and poverty. But it ends a federal requirement that schools demonstrate “adequate yearly progress” or proficiency for all students in math and reading by 2014 – a goal that now appears unattainable. Instead, it calls for states to adopt “college- and career-ready standards,” with no federal timeline on the pace or scope of those standards.
  • Amid pushback, new teacher evaluation system has ally in Jesse Register
    A quarter of the way into the school year, one item is dominating chatter among Tennessee teachers, principals and even some state politicians –– a narrative fully captured and advanced through the media: The state’s controversial new teacher evaluation system, ushered in to bring accountability to classroom instructors, has predictably caused its share of angst among the teachers it measures.Teachers may squirm and push back amid the changes, but at the top of Metro Nashville Public Schools –– the state’s second-largest school district –– the evaluation system has found an ally in Director of Schools Jesse Register.
  • Teacher evaluation system discussed
    At their Oct. 11 meeting, the White County Board of Education heard a presentation, outlining the new teacher evaluation system as required under Tennessee’s First to the Top Act.

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