• Washington’s Halloween Tricks for Education
    On the K-12 front, Senators Tom Harkin (D–IA) and Mike Enzi (R–WY) have been busy creating a monster 1,000-page proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Rather than sending the failed ESEA/NCLB to the graveyard, where it belongs, they are trying to grow the dead hand of big-government education. After eight authorizations of ESEA—and trillions in taxpayer dollars—we have little to show in terms of student achievement or attainment. Particularly troubling with the proposed plan is that it gives Washington stronger control over the nation’s classrooms by requiring states to adopt “college- and career-ready” standards. Requiring states to adopt these national standards as a condition of receiving Title I funds represents a significant federal overreach into the content taught in local schools.
  • Education commissioner defends evaluation system
    Looking to ease educators’ concerns, state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman met with Sumner teachers and principals this past week to defend the state’s new teacher evaluation system, while conceding the program is not without flaws. Huffman said the system “has real potential to positively improve educational outcomes in Tennessee,” noting the evaluation component was a key factor in Tennessee winning a competitive $500 million federal Race to the Top grant. The decision to award the grant was based largely on the changes lawmakers were willing to make in partnership with teachers across the state.
  • Blount charter school passes financial hurdle
    Innovation Education Partnership Inc. is a step closer to establishing HOPE Academy, the state’s first suburban charter school, in Blount County. Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr. has ruled that establishing the school would not have a substantial negative fiscal impact on Blount County Schools. The decision lets IEP proceed to ask the state to overturn the Blount County Board of Education’s Sept. 8 denial of an amended application for the school.
  • School board to discuss, vote on two charter school applications
    Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has recommended the school board reject two applications to start charter schools in Knox County. The district received applications from entities identifying themselves as the Booker T. Washington Academy and the New Consortium of Law and Business. The district’s evaluation committee recommended the applications be denied based on “deficiencies” in each proposal. Each of the schools will have 15 days to amend and resubmit their applications for a second review. The school board meets in its work session Tuesday, followed by its voting meeting Wednesday. Both meetings begin at 5 p.m.
  • No Child Left Behind Arne Duncan
    Illinois’ latest school report cards are dismal. Of 666 public high schools, only eight — that’s not a misprint, eight — met federal standards for reading and math. Scores declined to a record low. Elementary and middle schools fared better than the high schools, but six in 10 still missed the mark. Some educators want to blame the tests — not the schools or the principals or the teachers — for this performance. They say the Illinois Standards Achievement Test taken by elementary school students is too easy and the Prairie State Achievement Examination taken by high school juniors is too hard. We’d say that’s half right.
  • Rethinking education reform
    There was a time when American students could underperform in school and still land a reasonably well-paid job. The rise of the hypercompetitive global economy changed that. Many of the current 49 million public school students will graduate – if they graduate – ill-equipped for the cognitive-heavy work comprising most of the American job market. The future prosperity of our nation hinges on school reform. If policymakers strengthen our teacher corps, we’ll save not only wasteful spending but also the shame of handicapping young Americans with a poor education. We tried spending vast sums of money. Now, in today’s budget environment, it’s time to focus spending on more cost effective ways to provide an education to all students.
  • Education Union Lobbyists Game the System in Illinois
    The Tribune reports that based on his salary, Preckwinkle “could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.” Furthermore, “over the course of their lifetimes, both men stand to receive more than a million dollars each from a state pension fund that has less than half of the assets it needs to cover promises made to tens of thousands of public school teachers.” While a story like Preckwinkle and Piccioli’s may be rare, it represents the self-interest of unions that far too often stands in the way of the needs of teachers and students.
  • Nevada Develops ‘Comprehensive’ Student Progress Tracking System
    Nevada is implementing a new data system to track student progress over time and pinpoint the state’s best and worst teaching practices and teachers. Measuring student academic growth through successive grades and classes differs from measuring “proficiency” in one subject at one point in time. State educators and lawmakers hope to use the Nevada Growth Model of Achievement (NGMA) to learn more about which educational practices work best and for what students, and to inform future policy decisions.
  • Former principal tests schools’ spending policy
    A Rutherford County Schools official said internal controls helped to easily identify unauthorized purchases by a former principal on a school credit card.
  • Lifting Student Achievement by Weeding Out Harmful Teachers
    Teacher effectiveness here is placed in simple terms – how much do students learn with a given teacher.  Considerable research has gone into separating the impact of teachers on achievement from that of families, neighborhoods, and school peers.  This research has produced extraordinarily consistent and similar results.  From one perspective, a very good teacher can get a year and a half of student gain in learning over a school year, while a poor teacher gets half a year – a huge difference that leaves some students permanently harmed.
  • Jeffery White on the Challenges of Reforming Big-City Schools
    My lived experiences lead me to believe the real test of one’s unconditional commitment to urban school reform involves answering the question “ as an urban school reformer, are you willing to question the policies and practices that impede academic achievement knowing the superintendent holds the power and the support of the school board to remove you?”  While it feels good earning a salary by improving high school graduation rates, decreasing expulsion rates of at-risk students, and receiving notes from former students thanking you for believing in their abilities; it only takes a recommendation from the superintendent and a majority vote from the school board to take you from a bread winner to a crumb snatcher. Before emailing me your replies, questions, and answers, think long and hard about your willingness to do “what is in the best interest of students?”
  • Heartland Institute 2011 November School Reform News
    The November issue of School Reform News reports the Obama administration has released long-promised criteria stats must meet to receive a waiver of No Child Left Behind requirements. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said the move “is an overstep of authority that undermines existing law and violates the constitutional separation of powers.” Also in this issue:
  • Guest column: Grading teachers vital to education
    Tennessee recognizes the importance of high-quality teachers and has implemented a system of meaningful annual teacher evaluations based on verifiable data. This is not a punitive measure but rather intended to help teachers and principals improve.
  • State Treasurer signs off on Hope Academy application
    The Hope Academy founding board in Blount County is a step closer to creating the state’s first suburban charter STEM school. State Treasurer David Lillard Jr. ruled on Thursday that the board’s appeal on forming the school could go forward. The Blount County school board on Sept. 9 denied the Hope Academy’s application to start the school and, by law, the group appealed to the Tennessee Board of Education.
  • Designers pursue downtown magnet elementary school
    The Nashville Civic Design Center wants the school on vacant lots near Fourth Avenue South and Peabody Street. The nation’s healthiest cities have 2 percent of the population living downtown, their designers say, and families add a component of friendliness and safety, plus breed new amenities such as playgrounds, day cares and grocery stores.
    But Metro Nashville Public School planners say funding for new schools doesn’t come before the need is there.
  • Memphis schools grapple with maintaining Gates reforms after money runs out
    Two years into work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher effectiveness, city school officials have determined that the financial outlook has changed so much that the effort will be unsustainable without a major retooling. By revamping teacher salaries — paying for test results instead of degrees or years of service — Memphis City Schools leaders hope to find a big chunk of the $34 million a year it will take to keep going when the Gates money stops in 2015. It is paying The Parthenon Group in Boston $250,000 to analyze options and run the numbers.
  • ‘Occupying’ The Classrooms
    What’s happening here is dereliction of duty and indoctrination at the expense of education. Based on its outcome in test scores, teaching these days is a failed profession. The fact that teachers have wholeheartedly embraced these Occupy protests is evidence enough.

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