Tag Archives: schools

Common Core is officially no more in TN

State education officials approved new English and math standards Friday, marking the symbolic end of controversial Common Core standards in Tennessee.

Further from the Tennessean report:

Tennessee is the latest state to phase out Common Core, joining Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Like its predecessors, Tennessee’s English and math standards have a new name, but still have roots in Common Core.

Common Core standards ignited a political brawl last year when state lawmakers, who saw the standards as federal overreach, pushed to scrap them. In response to cries for state-specific standards, Gov. Bill Haslam authorized a review of the state’s English and math standards.

The state developed a more rigorous review process to assess the standards, including two online public reviews, educator review and legislative input. The review process took almost two years.

“We started with the current state standards. From there we executed an unprecedented transparent, comprehensive review and replacement process,” State Board of Education Executive Director Sara Heyburn said.

“The results were a set of new, Tennessee-specific standards brought to us by the Standards Recommendation Committee, whose members were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House of Representatives and confirmed by the General Assembly,” Heyburn said.

Standards set grade- and subject-specific goals in the classroom.

The state’s new standards, known as Tennessee Academic Standards, clarify the progression of standards and clarify glossary definitions of math and English standards. In math, additional clarification was added to standards regarding math formulas and several bridge math standards were eliminated to further narrow the course content.

Note: The state Board of Education news release is below. Continue reading

ASD to stop school takeovers for a year

The Achievement School District will not seek to take over more low-performing schools in the 2017-18 school year because of the state’s transition to its new K-12 assessment this year, district leaders said Friday.

Further from Chalkbeat Tennessee:

The decision is consistent with allowances being shown by the State Department of Education over student grades and teacher evaluations due to the failed rollout of TNReady, according to the announcement by Tennessee’s school turnaround district.

“Extending flexibility to priority schools during this transition mirrors the flexibility we have offered to teachers and students,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement released through the ASD. “We remain committed to improving all schools as well as the work being done by the ASD …”

Under the new timetable, the next time the ASD will authorize new school charter operators will be the spring of 2017 for potential charter conversions in 2018-19. However, decisions on new school starts for previously authorized operators, grade expansion and non-academic school actions will continue and be based on operator and school performance.

“This is not a moratorium, it is a hold harmless year based on a new assessment,” the statement says.

Several state lawmakers from Memphis and school boards in both Memphis and Nashville have called for a one-year moratorium on ASD growth. The ASD operates 27 turnaround schools in Memphis and two in Nashville and will add four more in Memphis next school year.

Bathroom bill hits Senate stall; labeled ‘mean-spirited’ by Obama spokesman

By Erik Schelzig & Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The sponsor of a Tennessee transgender bathroom bill told a Senate committee Tuesday that he has to consider a state attorney general’s opinion before going forward. The move came the same day the White House called the proposal “mean-spirited.”

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, told the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee that he wanted another day to consider an opinion that State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued Monday that said federal education funding could be placed at risk if the measure becomes law. A fiscal analysis said the bill could cost the state more than $1.2 billion in federal money for K-12 and higher education.

“I’m still trying to digest and understand the impact of the attorney general’s opinion,” Bell said.

Bell said he wanted to bring the bill back up Wednesday but Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, and the vice chairman of the finance committee, warned that the projected cost of the bill will likely cause it to be placed among unfunded bills to be considered after the budget has passed. Those bills often don’t become law unless sponsors find a way to eliminate the cost or find a source of funding.
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Christians vs. business on transgender bathroom bill?

Family Action Council of Tennessee President David Fowler says Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration may be trying to sabotage the transgender bathroom bill and that legislators should retaliate against businesses that support it, according to the Times-Free Press.

In an “action alert” sent to supporters Thursday, Fowler, a former Republican state senator from Signal Mountain, praised House panel members who voted Wednesday night to haul the bill back from a summer study committee.

“Yesterday was a miracle. House Bill 2414 that protects the privacy of students in the bathrooms and locker rooms of our public schools and colleges was dead as a doornail at 3 p.m., yet at 7 p.m. passed by an 8-4 vote of the House Education Administration and Planning Committee!” Fowler wrote to followers.

Fowler warned though that someone on “one of the Finance Committees” told him Haslam’s Department of Economic and Community Development “appears to be working on creating a fiscal note to the effect that protecting our children will cost the state existing businesses [that might move], future expansions or tourism revenue.”

But ECD spokesman Clint Brewer said the agency “is not working on a fiscal note for this bill.” He said the department has “not worked on the bill in any way” and has not contacted the Fiscal Review Committee.

Haslam is worried that if the bill becomes law, Tennessee’s federal education funding could be affected.

…On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT advocacy group, distributed a letter (Note: Text HERE) from top executives of several major corporations operating in Tennessee, among them Alcoa Inc., which have warned it would hurt recruiting of talented workers and also threatens to harm tourism and business recruitment in the Volunteer State.

In a Thursday posting, Fowler called them all “bullies.” He went on to give some advice and suggested Tennessee Republican leaders, whose party here is built on a coalition of business interests along with social conservatives and others, should engage in some “hardball politics” and threats of their own.

“Republican leadership could call every business that signs a letter threatening the state into their offices and tell them that every bill that their business or industry is interested in for the next year or two is dead on arrival,” Fowler wrote. “Period. End of the debate. You can return to your corporate headquarters now. It’s the conversation every lobbyist dreads if they push legislators too hard.”</em

TN student testing hours to be cut next year

After weeks of hard conversations prompted by the rocky debut of Tennessee’s new assessment, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Monday that the state will reduce the number of hours that students spend taking TNReady in its second year.

Further from Chalkbeat Tennessee:

Beginning in 2016-17, the State Department of Education plans to scrap TNReady Part I in math and streamline the English portion of Part I, she said. Department officials will determine how many hours of testing the changes will save students in the coming weeks.

On average, third-graders this year will have spent 11.2 hours taking TNReady end-of-course tests; seventh-graders, 11.7 hours; and high school students, 12.3 hours. Educators, parents and students alike have said that that’s simply too many hours devoted to testing, especially considering the hours that students spend taking practice tests and screeners through the state’s 2-year-old Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI-squared) program.

“We’ve always maintained we had two goals: strengthen content and reduce testing time,” McQueen told reporters during a conference call.

The changes were announced before even the completion of the first year of TNReady testing and amid widespread criticism of the rollout of the state’s new standardized test,which was marred by technical problems and delays, as well as growing concerns about overtesting in Tennessee.

In addition to revising next year’s test to reduce testing time, McQueen said the department is working to ensure smoother administration of TNReady Part II this spring. The state is pre-printing tests to include students’ names and other identifying information. She said tests will be shipped to schools before the testing window begins on April 25.

The time spent testing in Tennessee classrooms has been at the center of the state’s nascent opt-out movement, as well as calls from districts to ditch TNReady altogether in favor of the ACT suite of tests, which take less time overall.

Legislature lets private schools make gun decisions

A bill authorizing private schools and universities establish their own handgun policy is headed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk, reports The Tennessean.

The measure (SB1599), sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown, received approval in the House on Thursday in a 79-12 vote. It passed the Senate earlier, 29-4.)

Proponents of the legislation argued it would give private K-12 schools and higher education institutions the ability to decide whether to allow valid permit holders to carry their weapons in school buildings.

Because the legislation makes no changes for the state’s public schools, where weapons are banned, opponents have argued it establishes a separate system for private schools.

Transgender bathroom bill making a comeback?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Senate is advancing a bill to require transgender students to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth, while House members are seeking to revive the measure that was defeated earlier in the week.

The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday voted 7-3 in favor of the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Jim Coley of Bartlett told the House Education Administration and Planning Committee that he will seek to have the committee reconsider its decision to study the measure after the Legislature adjourns for the year.

Religious conservatives are pushing the legislation, but Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has raised concerns it could endanger federal education funding and says that he wants to leave the issue to local school districts to decide.

Note: Further from The Tennessean:
Although the House Education Administration and Planning Committee voted against the bill on Tuesday, when the committee reconvened on Wednesday, Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, made a motion to force the committee to reconsider its action.

Coley later admitted it was an attempt to bring back bills the committee has previously taken action on, including the controversial bathroom bill, which was unanimously sent to summer study by the committee.

After the voice vote, four committee members — Reps. Harry Brooks, Kevin Brooks, Debra Moody and Kevin Dunlap — recorded votes against the motion to send it to summer study.

Although the committee is technically done meeting, Harry Brooks, the committee’s chairman, said the group of lawmakers will meet Tuesday to reconsider their action.

Transgender bathroom bill fails in House sub

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill that would require transgender students to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth has failed.

The bill died in a House Education Administration and Planning Committee meeting Tuesday that was packed with transgender youth who opposed the measure.

Transgender students who testified before the committee were elated and said they felt like sharing their personal stories had impacted the vote.
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School bathroom bill clears first committee

A House education subcommittee on Tuesday approved a controversial bill aimed at requiring students to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth, reports The Tennessean.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, would “require that a student use student restroom and locker room facilities that are assigned for use by persons of the same sex as the sex indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.”

The bill was debated for nearly an hour, in front of a room filled with both proponents and opponents of the measure (HB2414).

Those speaking against the bill said it would be harmful to transgender students and could potentially put the state at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in Title IX funding, a point that has recently been reiterated by Gov. Bill Haslam.

…Although the bill’s fiscal note found no significant impact on state and local government, the state Department of Education put a fiscal flag on the legislation because of the Title IX concerns.

…”Right now we’re handing that on a local basis, and I think they’re dealing it with on an incident-by-incident situation,” Haslam told reporters last week. “I actually trust our teachers and local school boards to figure out how to make those accommodations in those situations.”

Speaking in favor of the bill were Matt Sharp, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, and Kevin Carr, whose daughter attends McGavock High School.

Sharp argued the issue basically comes down to Constitutional rights, saying, “Opening boys and girls restrooms and locker rooms to members of the opposite sex would directly violate this privacy right.”

Schools to get letter grades under approved bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill to assign letter grades to public schools in Tennessee is headed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

Supporters say the current system of rating schools on a scale of one to five can confuse parents who may not know that the lower numbers are worse scores. Under the bill (SB300) sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin and fellow Republican Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville, schools would receive grades A through F.

The Senate voted 30-0 to agree with a House provision that would have the executive branch to develop the grading system. The Senate bill had originally assigned that task to the State Board of Education.