Tag Archives: education

Draft of TN social studies standards cuts references to Islam

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) — Seventh-grade students in Tennessee would no longer spend as much time learning about the history of Islam by 2019 under a proposed draft revision being developed by state educators, a newspaper reports.

A section on Islam currently taught in social studies classes has been removed from the state Board of Education’s draft , which went online for public review Sept. 15, the Kingsport Times-News reported. Most of the sections involving Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions have remained in the draft in some form.

With the proposed deletion of the “Islamic World, 400 A.D./C.E. – 1500s” section, students would no longer be learning about the Quran or the differences between the Sunni and Shiite branches of the religion, the newspaper had reported. Continue reading

TN StudentFirst: New name, same staff & game plan

News release from TennesseeCAN
NASHVILLE, TN- Today, StudentsFirst Tennessee announced the continuation of its statewide education advocacy efforts under the new name and organizational structure of the Tennessee Campaign for Achievement Now (TennesseeCAN).

As part of the transition, TennesseeCAN will now operate as an official member of the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now (50CAN) network. In March 2016, StudentsFirst and 50CAN announced they would merge.

“We are excited to continue our work on behalf of Tennessee students and families,” said state Executive Director Brent Easley. “We have an exciting vision for our priorities in 2017 and we are looking forward to rolling those out in the coming weeks.  Also, we are constantly working to push our operation to improve, and by joining the 50CAN network, this merger represents a great opportunity to combine the strengths of both organizations for an improved and more effective advocacy effort.”

TennesseeCAN will function as a new and autonomous organization whose legislative agenda, policy priorities, staff and underlying mission remains unchanged.

Since 2011, the organization has overseen one of the state’s premier non-profit education policy and advocacy movements focused on broadening student access to great schools and great teachers. During those years, the team has championed many high-profile reform initiatives, including proposed Opportunity Scholarships legislation, expanded charter school authorizing practices, transparent A-F school letter grades, and many other policies to bring quality education to Tennessee families that need it most.

As part of the announcement, TennesseeCAN released its first annual Tennessee Education Snapshot.  The report provides a broad and interactive view of Tennessee’s most essential education statistics.  It includes a comprehensive collection of facts and data ranging from academic achievement measures and student demographics to teacher preparation figures and tax dollar cost distributions, all within the context of larger national comparisons.

In examining the key data points within the Tennessee Education Snapshot, Easley noted, “We have experienced extraordinary growth over the past five years that is due to the hard work of our educators, students, and innovative state policies, and there are still opportunities for our state to improve. This ‘Education Snapshot’ both outlines current data in Tennessee education and informs the work ahead to ensure our state is not only a national model for education policy, but a leader in overall performance as well.”

Note: the ‘Snapshot’ is HERE.

Nashville sues state over education funding

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville is suing the state over what it says is inadequate funding of public education, in violation of the Tennessee Constitution.

Nashville joins Shelby County and a cluster of seven counties that includes Hamilton, which have filed their own lawsuits over the state’s funding of the Basic Education Program, or BEP. That’s the method the state uses to meet its constitutional obligation to provide free K-12 public education.

According to the Nashville lawsuit filed Thursday, lawmakers have not provided enough money for the school system to hire the legally required number of teachers and translators for its English language learners.

Nashville has the highest number of students who come from a non-English language background in the state, according to the lawsuit. They make up about a quarter of total Metro Nashville Public School students and include more than 16,000 Spanish speakers, more than 3,000 Arabic speakers and more than 1,000 Kurdish speakers. Continue reading

Educationally, Haslam says Trump talking ‘bogeyman;’ Clinton going backward

Gov. Bill Haslam says the presidential candidate’s aren’t talking enough about education issues and are off base when they do bring up the issue, reports the Times-Free Press.

“There’s very little conversation about education” by Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat hopeful Hillary Clinton, said Haslam at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.

The Republican governor called education “a really hard problem.” But, he said, that’s not an excuse to “back up” on the issue.

“We won’t fix poverty issues until we address education issues,” said Haslam, who was introduced by former Chattanooga mayor and current U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

In the 25 or more presidential debates so far by both the political parties, there has been “a minute and a half of conversation about education,” Haslam said.

Trump has talked about doing away with Common Core standards and removing federal intervention from local schools, Haslam said. But, he said, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., led efforts to make it unlawful for such intervention in the schools.

“There’s no such thing as Common Core to worry about anymore,” Haslam said. “That’s a boogeyman that has gone.”

Meanwhile, Clinton has taken a step backward on what Haslam said was a bold move by President Barack Obama to make sure teacher evaluations are tied to student assessments, contrary to teacher unions.

“Clinton has basically said ‘I don’t believe that,”‘ the governor said. He said the Democrat nominee has indicated she’s not sure about end-of-the-year assessment.

“Both national parties are not focusing on one of the key issues,” Haslam said.

First statewide TN student mock election set

News release from secretary of state’s office
Nashville, Tennessee – (August 24, 2016) – Tennessee’s first ever statewide Student Mock Election is off to an amazing start. As of today, more than 170 schools across the state are registered to participate, meaning an estimated 76,000 students will do something most kids can’t: vote for president of the United States.

Now the Secretary of State’s office is also rolling out an essay contest to encourage students to be actively engaged citizens. Essays topics will be about voting and length requirements vary by grade level. Schools may submit two essays at each grade level. Winners from each level will receive a TNStars 529 College Savings Program scholarship worth $100, $250 or $500 in addition to a trip to the State Capitol. Continue reading

TN commentary on transgender bathroom ruling

A federal judge in Texas today blocked the Obama administration’s order that requires public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. And, naturally, Tennesseans on both sides of the issue are promptly providing media with press releases giving their perspective — just like folks in the rest of the nation.

Here’s a sampler: Continue reading

Mismanagement prompts Dept. of Ed takeover at ASD

Tennessee Department of Education officials have been quietly taken over because of inept handling of fiscal affairs, according to a Comptroller’s audit outlined to legislators Wednesday. The actions included dismissal of the entire financial management staff at ASD. The audit reported troubles ranging from a $2,500 expenditure for a party where liquor was served to generally loose oversight of money.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

The intervention, which began last fall, only came to light Wednesday — the result of the public release of a blistering state comptroller performance audit that represented the watchdog agency’s first comprehensive look at the district’s internal controls since it was created in 2010.

Many of the findings don’t look good for the agency created to help low-performing schools. (Note: Full audit HERE)
Continue reading

For TN students, taking civics test is mandatory; passing it is not

In a “guidance” message sent to public school system directors last week, the state Department of Education declares – contrary to some suggestions – a new law requiring high school students to take a civics test does not require they get a passing grade for graduation.

“All public high school students, including the class of 2017, are expected to participate in the civics test; however, a passing grade is not a requirement for graduation,” said the guidance sent by email on Thursday.

As reported by the Kingsport Times-News, there has been confusion over whether passage of the test was required for a high school student to graduate under the law, which was approved in the Legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last year, though it doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2017. Continue reading

On education PAC money in Memphis legislative races

Start of a Chalkbeat Tennessee report on campaign financing in Memphis area legislative races:

In Memphis, where efforts to improve schools are helping to reshape the city, at least six candidates running in contested races for the Tennessee House of Representatives are attracting money from groups and individuals with education policy goals.

The candidates, all of whom are running in the Democratic primary election on Thursday, received tens of thousands of dollars from political action committees attached to advocacy organizations including Tennessee Federation for Children and the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, according to campaign finance disclosure reports released late last week by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.

And one candidate, Tami Sawyer, has attracted the financial support of high-profile individuals including Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

Keith Williams, a pastor who testified this year at the state Capitol in favor of school vouchers, is running for the District 85 seat against incumbent Johnnie Turner, a former Memphis teacher who has voted against vouchers.

In District 90, which stretches from Frayser and North Memphis to South Memphis, Teach For America community organizer Tami Sawyer is running against incumbent John DeBerry, perhaps the legislature’s most vocal proponent of vouchers. Sawyer, who has called for “comprehensive public education reform,” said she does not have a position on vouchers at this time.

And in District 98, Johnnie Hatten, a leader with the parent group called Memphis Lift, which is tied to the Achievement School District, is facing off against Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a vocal critic of the state-run school turnaround district who has advocated for stemming its expansion. The district includes Raleigh and parts of Bartlett and North Memphis.

Williams, Hatten and DeBerry all have the backing of political action committees attached to advocacy groups including the Tennessee Federation for Children and StudentsFirst Tennessee, which aim to increase school choice options across the state, particularly in the form of vouchers. Williams also has received $5,000 from his employer, Campaign for School Equity, formerly known as the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Those candidates also have benefitted from thousands of dollars worth of mailers and advertisements paid for by those group. Tennessee Federation for Children, for example, has spent about $27,000 on materials supporting DeBerry, $15,000 on materials supporting Williams, $17,000 on materials opposing Turner, Williams’ opponent.

In separate statements, Tennessee Federation for Children and StudentsFirst said they chose to support candidates based on their qualifications in education, deep ties to the community, and openness to school choice policies, including vouchers, that the organizations believe will improve educational opportunities in Memphis. A proposal to offer private school tuition vouchers to low-income students has divided the legislature for almost a decade and this year advanced the farthest it’s ever come before fizzling on the House floor.

On the other hand, Turner and Parkinson have received relatively small amounts from the state teacher union’s political action committee in recognition of their stances against vouchers and their cautious approach to expanding the ASD.

Sawyer hasn’t garnered support from education advocacy organizations, but she has received small donations from individuals involved in Memphis education such as Hopson.

Note: Commercial Appeal columnist David Waters lives in state Rep. Antonio Parkinson’s district and is not impressed with the direct mail pieces he’s been getting from special interest PACs. An interesting read, HERE.

State accepting IEA voucher applications; TEA fretting

Press release from state Department of Education
NASHVILLE— The Tennessee Department of Education announced today the launch of applications for its new Individualized Education Account (IEA) Program that provides the opportunity for parents of eligible students with disabilities to access public education funds to choose the education opportunities that best meet their child’s own unique needs.

“The Tennessee Department of Education strives to ensure that every Tennessee student has access to the tools they need to maximize learning,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “We believe this program is a unique opportunity to empower families to make decisions for their individual children as we continue our commitment to supporting all students as one of our five transformative priorities under under Tennessee Succeeds.”

The department is now accepting applications online for the program, which was sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Representative Debra Moody, R-Covington, and adopted by the General Assembly in 2015. Continue reading