From the Commercial Appeal:
Approval of revised standards for social studies in Tennessee would mean that all public school kindergartners would be required to know about Elvis. And David Crockett, Sequoyah, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson, Alvin C. York and Wilma Rudolph.
They would have to explain why we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.
High school students would have to wade into the “major ideas of philosophers and their effects on the democratic revolutions in England, the United States, France, and Latin America including but not limited to John Locke, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Simón Bolívar, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and Thomas Jefferson.”
Of course, there’s a lot to learn in between. The proposed revision, the work of a committee of educators led by Jared Myracle, supervisor of 9-12 instruction with the Gibson County Special School District, is highly prescriptive and sweeping in its detail.
The revision was posted Tuesday on the state Department of Education website (tn.gov/education/curriculum) and is scheduled for first reading by the state Board of Education April 19. Public comments will be taken through April 26 on a survey embedded in the Department of Education website (tn.gov/education/curriculum).
It’s part of a wider effort to standardize public school curriculums throughout the state that is most pronounced in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math and English language arts/literacy that Tennessee adopted in 2010 — joining with 45 states and the District of Columbia in a program designed to set clear expectations of what students should know in each grade and subject.
Since January, the Department of Children’s Services has reported that 73 children who were brought to its attention died in 2012, but the state now says the correct number is 105, reports The Tennessean. DCS also miscalculated the number of children who died in 2011. In October, the agency said 47 children had died after having some contact with DCS, but now the state says the correct number for that year is 91.
DCS has now revised upwards the number of such child fatalities at least five times since The Tennessean asked for the data in September, prompting frustration as well as a measure of skepticism from lawmakers reached on Monday.
“Can we rely on these numbers? I don’t know. I hope we can,” said state Sen. Jim Summerville, a Republican from Dickson. “It’s strange to me that a big department with lots of professional help keeps having to change their report. Counting children should not be that hard. Counting dead children is an awful thing, but the department must do it right.”
State Rep. Sherry Jones, a Nashville Democrat, began requesting child fatality data in July. On Monday, Jones — like Summerville — said she still had not received an accurate accounting from DCS, asking that the numbers be read to her over the phone.
“This is unbelievable, unprofessional,” Jones said. “Unless the numbers are being manipulated and no one can keep track, they should know these numbers every day, and I’m surprised they don’t.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A revised proposal that would make cutting some students’ lottery scholarships in half contingent on lottery revenues is advancing in the Senate.
The Republican-backed measure passed the Senate Education Committee 7-2 on Wednesday. The companion bill was to be heard in the House Education Committee later in the day.
The original legislation sought to reduce by 50 percent the award for students who do not meet both standardized testing and high school grade requirements.
Opponents have said the bill is unnecessary because the lottery’s education proceeds have increased 4 percent since 2005, with about $10 million more coming in a year.
Under the new legislation, the lottery scholarship requirements won’t change if the $10 million is sustained through 2015.
On Tuesday, Tennessee Lottery officials announced record sales of $130 million in February. Note: Democrats say the amendment represents a victory, but perhaps doesn’t go far enough. News releases from Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney below.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), October 11, 2011 – State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today announced he will push passage of legislation to give low income students in Shelby, Davidson, Knox, and Hamilton counties an “Equal Opportunity Scholarship” to attend the school of their choice. The education reform measure is the 2nd in a series of announcements by Kelsey in his “12 for ’12” initiative, a list comprised of 12 bills he will introduce for the 2012 session of the Tennessee General Assembly, which begins in January.
“Equal Opportunity Scholarships provide impoverished children with hope for a better education and choice in the school they attend,” said Senator Brian Kelsey. “Children should not be forced to attend a failing school just because they live in a certain neighborhood. Equal Opportunity Scholarships will allow all children to receive the quality education they deserve.”
Senate Bill 2135, filed today, is similar to Sen. Kelsey’s bill that was approved by the State Senate in April. The House Education Subcommittee decided to study the bill further before acting on the bill in January. Kelsey said the main difference in the new bill is the addition of an accountability measure to ensure that schools receiving the scholarships will be measuring academic success. He added this provision in response to suggestions from many community voices.
“The bill is gaining new supporters every day,” said Sen. Kelsey. “I look forward to passing this legislation through the House of Representatives next year.”
Senate Bill 2135 applies to students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch in the four largest counties in the state. For a family of four, that would include students in households with incomes below $42,000 per year. The scholarships would be in the amount of half the money that state and local school systems spend on each child, which amounts to $5,400 per year in Memphis City Schools, $4,200 in Shelby County Schools, $5,400 in Nashville Schools, $4,600 in Chattanooga Schools, and $4,300 in Knoxville Schools. The scholarship money could be used to attend any school that parents choose, including parochial schools, independent schools, or other public schools within the district if space is available.
In the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, students receiving the scholarship graduated at a rate 12-20% higher than those low-income students who lost the lottery to receive a scholarship. Also, twenty-one of the twenty-two empirical studies of the effects of opportunity scholarships on public schools have shown that public school student scores increase 3-15% when opportunity scholarships are offered.
“We now have solid data from other states showing this program works to significantly boost student achievement,” added Sen. Kelsey. “That’s why so many other states are now passing this law.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is set to release his version of the bill for that state later today. A similar bill was enacted in May in Indiana, and huge expansions of the program passed earlier this year in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
“This train is moving. It’s time for Tennesseans to jump on board,” concluded Sen. Kelsey.