Tag Archives: research

State Study: In Teaching, Experience Doesn’t Matter

The State Board of Education was told Friday that veteran teachers with multiple degrees do no better at helping Tennessee children learn than those with less experience and education, reports The Tennessean.
Armed with new research showing that teacher effectiveness is related to neither experience nor advanced degrees, the board asked for a plan that would instead tie teacher salaries to student test scores.
“I think we’ve got to ask the department to take a look at this data and come back to us with a better alignment of pay and performance — a pay system that is based more on performance than some of these other factors,” said board Chairman B. Fielding Rolston.
Facing aggressive goals for raising student test scores, the state has been toying for several years with the idea of linking pay to teacher performance. The concept has met fierce resistance from teachers’ unions. Last year, Gov. Bill Haslam supported an unsuccessful bill to pay bonuses to teachers based on merit or for teaching larger classes.
Traditional pay plans reward teachers for earning advanced degrees and for years of experience, but at least 20 of the state’s 136 school districts have been allowed to experiment with their own pay scales.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman stopped short of saying he does not think teachers should be paid more for additional degrees or experience. But Huffman said he does not believe the state should mandate extra pay for factors that do not drive student performance.
The research, conducted by a new internal research team within the Tennessee Department of Education, was based on teacher evaluations for the 2011-12 school year. It used improvement in student test scores as a measure of teacher effectiveness.
On average, teachers with less than five years in the classroom were just as likely to be effective as those with more than 20 years of experience, the researchers’ presentation showed. And teachers with only a bachelor’s degree helped students increase their test scores just as well as teachers holding masters or doctoral degrees.
“The fact that the evidence doesn’t show teachers getting better over time is an indictment of professional development,” Huffman said.
Only 35 percent of the state’s teachers were included in the study because the others do not teach subjects measured by standardized tests.
That’s one of the weaknesses of a pay-for-performance plan, said Gera Summerford, president of the state’s teacher union and largest professional organization.
“Pay for test scores is extremely risky,” she said.

TN 8th in Getting Research Grants; 41st in Jobs They Create

Tennessee ranks eighth among states in the volume of federal grants its research centers receive — pulling in nearly $2.5 billion last year. Yet, it ranks 41st in jobs created from those research dollars, according to a report by the Kauffman Foundation.
From The Tennessean:
Tennessee ranks eighth among states in the volume of federal grants its research centers receive — pulling in nearly $2.5 billion last year.
Yet, it ranks 41st in jobs created from those research dollars, according to a report by the Kauffman Foundation.
“We fall in the rankings every year, so we need to invest more in these types of (entrepreneurial) activities,” said James Stover, former director of operations at the state-funded Tennessee Technology Development Corp., or TTDC, which strives to bridge the gap between scientists in the lab and consumers in the marketplace.
To that end, the TTDC in August will kick off a major initiative called Launch Tennessee to help move innovations to commercialization through tie-ins with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
“You need the talent, the intellectual property and the money,” Stover said.
The Launch Tennessee idea will be presented to the TTDC board in early August, and many of its provisions should be in place by the end of September, said Brad Smith, who took over June 1 as president and chief executive of the organization.

Nashville: An Isolated and Corrupt State Capital?

Researchers who reviewed federal court convictions of state government officials from 1976 through 2002 say that the more isolated a state capitol is from the overall state population, the more corruption. (Note: The period would catch the convictions of Ray Blanton era officials, who were tried after he left office, and the “Rocky Top” scandal but not the 2005 “Tennessee Waltz” scandal.)
From a Los Angeles Times story on the study:
The most corrupt state capitals – Jackson, Miss., Baton Rouge, La., Nashville, Tenn., Pierre, S.D., Springfield, Ill., and Albany, N.Y., for example – are all more isolated than average. Nashville is the least so, being a major city in its own right although distant from other population centers in the state. Springfield and Pierre rank as the two most isolated on the list. The less isolated the capital, the more likely it is to rank low on corruption.
Isolation doesn’t explain everything, of course. Some states, such as Oregon, Washington and Vermont, have unusually low levels of corruption. But the impact of isolation appears strong.
What might cause the relationship between isolation and corruption, the researchers asked. One possibility was that newspapers, which provide most coverage of state governments, may be less likely to cover the capital when it is further from their circulation areas. So they examined the content of 436 U.S. newspapers, searching for references to state government. Sure enough, “in states where the population is more concentrated around the capital,” the study found “more intense media coverage of state politics, and therefore greater accountability.”
For example, they noted, newspapers in Massachusetts, where Boston, is the capital and by far the state’s largest city, cover state government more than do newspapers in New York, where Albany is a relative backwater.
“It stands to reason that when citizens are better able to monitor the performance of public officials and punish those who do misbehave, there will be less scope for the latter to misuse their office for private gain,” the researchers wrote.
The relationship between newspaper coverage and corruption has another troubling implication. In the past decade, the number of reporters covering state capitals has dropped sharply – a reduction of more than 30% between 2003 and 2009, according to a census by the American Journalism Review. If less coverage leads to more corruption, those staff cutbacks should provide plenty of work for prosecutors in years to come.

Firm Says Haslam TRA Bill Could Cause Problems for TN Utilities

A national firm that that advises investors says Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed overhaul of the state’s utility regulating agency could mean lower earnings for the state’s utilities.
“We lower our assessment of Tennessee regulation to generally constructive/declining, due to concerns regarding pending legislation, which would alter the Tennessee Regulatory Authority’s (TRA) ability to adequately regulate the state’s utilities,” says a report issued by Baird Equity Research on Tuesday.
David E. Parker, senior utility analyst for the Baird, said in a telephone interview that “generally constructive” is the rating assigned to regulatory agencies deemed “average or slightly above average.” The report means the basic rating of the TRA is not yet changed, he said, but if the Haslam bill is enacted, it could be lowered to the next step down.
Baird Equity Research, an arm of Robert W. Baird & Co., routinely evaluates state regulatory agencies as part of its efforts in advising investors, Parker said.
The governor said today he sees nothing in the report that would change his mind about the need for passage of the legislation, (SB2247),which is up for a vote on the Senate floor later today.
The bill would increase the TRA’s board from four members to five, but make the new positions part-time. It also calls for creating a new fulltime position of executive director of the TRA.
“We do not believe that a part-tie commission serves the best interest of utilities operating in the state or consumers,” says the report. “This change likely makes it difficult to attract qualified commissioners and could increase regulatory lag pressuring earned returns.”
“That’s a real stretch,” Haslam said after reading the Baird memo. “If you follow that reasoning, you’d have to downgrade all the Fortune 500 companies because they have part-time boards, too.”
The governor, asked about the matter at a breakfast gathering for legislators at his office, questioned how a “regulatory lag” could be caused by the legislation and wondered if Baird knew the TRA had only 19 rate cases in the past five years. If aware of that, he said, “maybe they would be comfortable.”
To see the Baird report, click on this link: -UT_-_12862074[1].pdf

Poll Finds Santorum Leading in Tennessee GOP Presidential Primary

An American Research Group, Inc. poll of Tennessee voters finds Rick Santorum — who has had no organized campaign going in the state — leads the three candidates who have had campaigns going at varying as a prelude to the March 6 presidential preference primary.
From the company’s website:
Rick Santorum leads the Tennessee Republican presidential primary with 34%. Santorum is followed by Mitt Romney with 27%, Newt Gingrich with 16%, and Ron Paul with 13%.
Santorum leads Romney 36% to 28% among self-identified Republicans, followed by Gingrich with 21% and Paul with 5%. Among self-identified independents and Democrats, Paul leads with 31%, followed by Santorum with 28%, Romney with 25%, and Gingrich with 3%.
Santorum leads Romney 33% to 26% among likely Republican primary voters saying they will definitely vote in the March 6 primary, followed by Gingrich with 18% and Paul with 13%. Santorum leads Romney 36% to 32% among those saying they will probably vote.
Santorum leads with 40% among likely Republican primary voters saying they are supporters of the Tea Party, followed by Gingrich with 21%, Romney with 17%, and Paul with 11%. Among likely primary voters saying they are not supporters of the Tea Party or are undecided about the Tea Party, Romney leads with 34%, followed by Santorum with 29%, Paul with 14%, and Gingrich with 12%.
Santorum leads Romney 30% to 23% among men, followed by Gingrich with 18% and Paul with 16%. Santorum leads Romney 37% to 31% among women, followed by Gingrich with 13% and Paul with 9%.

There’s Now a Bredesen Building at UT

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee has named a new energy sciences graduate center after former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Meeting in Knoxville on Friday, the UT board adopted the name the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education for the joint project between UT and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Bredesen pushed to strengthen the partnership between the university and the lab.
The center admitted its first class of 19 doctoral candidates in August. It has attracted top students in science and engineering and plans to recruit another 20 to 30 doctoral students each year.
Chancellor Jimmy Cheek made the request to name the center after Bredesen, noting the former governor’s creation of the governor’s chair program to recruit for research faculty.

More on Vouchers, Michelle Rhee & the TN Legislature

Andrea Zelinski has collected commentary from Tennessee legislators attending the Southern Legislative Council meeting in Memphis on school vouchers, strongly endorsed earlier in a speech to the SLC from Michelle Rhee.
The TNReport article says Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, sponsor of a voucher bill that passed the Senate earlier this year but stalled in the House, is “teaming up” with Rhee, “a controversial and vocal education reformer who won her claim to fame by putting in place a tougher evaluation system and firing dozens of teachers who didn’t meet standards while chancellor of the D.C. public schools.”
The conference also heard about some voucher research.
Vouchers are the most contentious aspects of the school choice debate, said Margaret Raymond, director of the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University.
A lot of the disagreement is over whether taxpayer dollars should be used to support private schools, 80 percent of which nationally are religiously based, according to Raymond.
Another point of contention is giving families free reign to leave traditional public schools in favor of charter schools which will shift government funding from one part of the district to another.
After examining charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia, Raymond’s office found that 17 percent of them performed better than public schools. Another 46 percent reported the same academic achievement as their public school counterparts, while 37 percent were worse.
States that kept failing charter schools open longer were worse off than those that closed schools faster, according to the study.
“You have to think about the fact that in states where the results are really bad, it’s because there are schools that are open for years and years and years that do not have high performance and are not being addressed,” Raymond said.
Raymond is running numbers on Tennessee schools, but that data won’t be available for another six months, she said.

TCRP’s Pork Picks for 2010

In its sixth annual “pork report,’ the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has once again put together a listing of governmental spending deemed wasteful.
This year’s listing (covering 2010) includes such things as $140 million given to Electrolux for building a plant in Memphis (a big chunk of the $371 million total), grants from the Tennessee Solar Institute, a rebate for purchase of electric cars and $6.8 million to purchase land for conservation purposes.
From the TCPR news release (available HERE):
“Yet again, state and local governments failed to live up to taxpayers’ expectations by wasting their hard-earned money,” said Justin Owen, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “With our economy in dire straits, the last thing government officials should be doing is offering handouts to corporations, dreaming up whimsical environmental programs, and using taxpayer money for their personal use. It’s time for them to become better stewards of Tennesseans’ money.”
The full “pork report” is available HERE.
UPDATE: For a different perspective on the pork report, see Cup of Joe Powell’s post on the matter.