Tag Archives: TEA

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

TEA files lawsuit against state’s teacher evaluation system

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s largest teachers union filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday that challenges how the state uses standardized test scores to evaluate teachers.

The lawsuit filed in Nashville focuses on those teachers whose evaluations are based substantially on standardized test scores of students in subjects they do not teach. That’s more than half of the public school teachers in Tennessee, according to the lawsuit.

“If you’ve got 20 teachers in a school and 10 of them teach tested subjects and the other 10 don’t, the other 10 are going to be evaluated based on how kids do on tests in those first 10 teachers’ classes,” said Rick Colbert, general counsel for the Tennessee Education Association.

The TEA has long argued that the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS data, shouldn’t be relied upon because it’s a statistical estimate and could lead to a flawed evaluation of a teacher.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say their overall evaluation scores dropped as a result of school-wide TVAAS estimates being used to calculate their scores. As a result, one person was allegedly denied a bonus, and another lost eligibility to be recommended for tenure.

The lawsuit states the evaluation practice violates “plaintiffs’ substantive due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

“Educators are not opposed to being evaluated,” said TEA president Barbara Gray. “We just want it to be done in a way that actually reflects the quality of our individual work and contributions to student success.”

Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed legislation that includes adjustments to the way teachers are evaluated. One change would lower the weight on TVAAS in non-tested subjects from 25 to 15 percent.

Currently, 35 percent of an educator’s evaluation is comprised of student achievement data.

The Republican governor told reporters after speaking at a legislative preview session held Thursday by The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association that he didn’t have a comment about the lawsuit. But he said he was aware of teachers’ concerns after talking to a number of them around the state.

“It just felt fair for us on the non-tested subjects to drop that down,” he said.
Continue reading

TEA criticizes Huffman for delay in TCAP scores, emphasis on testing

News release from Tennessee Education Association
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Education informed directors of schools that TCAP scores will not be available before the end of the school year, as is typically the case for calculation of students’ final grades. The state’s decision to delay the release of the scores has serious implications for students, families, teachers and administrators statewide.

“This delay is unacceptable and further illustrates the many consequences of making a one-time standardized test the be-all, end-all for our students and teachers,” said Gera Summerford, TEA president and Sevier County math teacher. “School districts being unable to calculate final grades creates a domino effect of problems for everyone from the local director of schools right down to the students.”

“Test-related anxiety and distrust are already high among students, parents and educators in our state because of Commissioner Huffman’s insistence on placing more and more weight on these tests,” Summerford continued. “The state cites a change in assessments this school year as the reason for the delay. Why are districts just now being informed about something that the department has known about for months?”

“If TCAP was used as a diagnostic tool, rather than as a punitive measure, our schools would not be in the absurd position of deciding whether to send students home without report cards or send home grades that may change once the state chooses to release the scores,” the TEA president said.

“Teachers face a tremendous challenge in providing the best education for all students, particularly when forced to spend so much time focused on standardized tests. The mishandling of this entire situation should be enough to cause legislators and communities to reevaluate, and correct, the ‘reform’ path the commissioner is leading our students down,” Summerford concluded.

TEA files lawsuit over use of test scores in teacher bonus decisions (‘the first of many’)

News release from Tennessee Education Association:
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Education Association recently filed a lawsuit against the Knox County Board of Education for its unconstitutional use of Tennessee Value Added Assessment System estimates in high-stakes bonus decisions.

“Unfortunately, one of our concerns with the high-stakes use of TVAAS estimates has come to fruition,” said Gera Summerford, TEA president. “It is unacceptable for any teacher to be punished financially or otherwise as a result of unreliable, flawed statistical estimates that can vary years after a student was in that teacher’s classroom.”

Knox County teacher Lisa Trout was unfairly denied the district’s APEX bonus after being misled about how her TVAAS estimate would be calculated.

“After being told she would receive the system-wide TVAAS estimate because of her position in an alternative school, a guidance counselor incorrectly claimed 10 of Ms. Trout’s students for her TVAAS score without her knowledge,” said Richard Colbert, TEA general counsel. “As a result, Ms. Trout ultimately received a lower TVAAS estimate than she should have and was denied the APEX bonus she had earned.”

TEA’s lawsuit also contests the arbitrariness of TVAAS estimates that use test results of only a small segment of a teacher’s students to estimate her overall effectiveness.

“Ms. Trout’s situation illustrates the fundamental problem with using statistical estimates for high-stakes decisions that affect teacher pay,” Colbert said. “Her case raises great concerns over the constitutionality of such practices.”

TEA expects this to be the first of many TVAAS lawsuits across the state as more and more high-stakes decisions are tied to standardized test scores and TVAAS estimates based on those scores.

Note: A TEA spokeswoman advises that the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court at Knoxville.

TEA hires new executive director (from Denver & Oklahoma)

News release from Tennessee Education Association:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Education Association has named Carolyn Crowder, an experienced education leader, as its new executive director.

Crowder comes to Tennessee from Denver, where she served for the past four years as executive director of the combined Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Denver Association of Education Office Professionals and DCTA-Retired.

She previously served as president of the Oklahoma Education Association and as a member of the executive committee of the National Education Association. In this latter role, she helped set NEA policy and travelled the country providing support to NEA members and affiliates.

Crowder began her career in education as a vocal music and elementary teacher in Oklahoma City and Mustang, Okla. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, OK, and her master’s degree in education from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmund.

TEA, the state’s largest professional association of educators, has over 40,000 members in school districts and on college campuses across Tennessee. As TEA executive director, Crowder will provide leadership to a staff of 54 who work in TEA headquarters in Nashville and in UniServ districts across the state.

Crowder was selected for the top staff position at TEA following a nationwide search. She succeeds Alphonso Mance, who retired in January after 29 years at TEA, and Interim Executive Director Mitchell Johnson.

Tea Party Still Looking for an Alexander Challenger

Tea party groups plan to conduct “auditions” for prospective 2014 challengers to Sen. Lamar Alexander during August and September, reports Andy Sher as part of an overview story on the incumbent Republican’s re-election campaign.
Of course, all things considered, the chances look very good for Alexander’s reelection.
He’s got some $3 million in cash on hand. He’s raising more. And he’s already running ads.
Alexander last week said he thinks things are going well.
“The last public surveys I’ve seen … showed I had a slightly higher approval rating from people aligned with the tea party than I did even with the Republicans,” Alexander said.
He cited a May poll by Vanderbilt University showing him with a 53 percent general job approval rating, with 60 percent support from Republicans and 62 percent from self-identified tea partiers.
The overall poll had a 4 percent margin of error. The margin of error was higher in sub categories.
“I’m just going to do the best I can as a senator and respect the right of everybody else to believe whatever they want,” Alexander said.
He touted the “hundreds of conservative Middle Tennessee Republicans” who attended his rally Saturday.

Tea Party Activists Rally Against Alexander Near Alexander Event

SMYRNA, Tenn. — While Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney acted as master of ceremonies at an event hosted by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s reelection campaign Saturday, tea party activists held an event nearby to denounce the incumbent lawmaker’s voting record.
The contrast may illustrate the split within state Republican ranks now that the party holds a supermajority in the state Legislature, the governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and seven of nine U.S. House seats.
“We’re just sick and tired of the Republican establishment telling us we can’t have an open debate on Lamar Alexander’s record,” said Ben Cunningham, founder of Nashville Tea Party and Tennessee Tax Revolt, who served as master of ceremonies at the “counter-rally” attended by perhaps 200 persons from around the state — including a small group from Alexander’s native Blount County.
He said Devaney “is not supposed to endorse in a primary” but is effectively doing so by boosting Alexander’s re-election campaign toward a “coronation” by “trying to intimidate” prospective opponents.
“There is no primary now,” said Devaney when asked about the comments of Cunningham and others at the tea party gathering.

See also The Tennessean, which includes this paragraph:
Jim Jeffries, a spokesman for Alexander, on Saturday night said that more than 500 people showed up for the Alexander campaign event at the Smyrna Air Center to honor Middle Tennessee Republican Party chairmen.

Continue reading

Rand Paul Hasn’t Endorsed Lamar Alexander

Aides to Sen. Rand Paul said the Kentucky Republican’s participation in Sen. Lamar Alexander’s campaign ad should not be construed as an endorsement for a third term in the Senate, reports Chris Carroll.
Paul, a tea party favorite who praises Alexander in the Volunteer State Republican’s statewide ads, said through a spokesman his remarks should be viewed in a very narrow context.
“The footage that Sen. Alexander’s campaign is using is from a public press conference in regards to a bill they both cosponsored,” spokesman Sergio Gor said. “At this time Senator Paul has not made an endorsement in this race.”
Viewed in a broader light, Paul’s actions belie his statement in the ad that “Nobody wants to say no to Lamar Alexander.
In fact, Paul opposed Alexander on three recent, high-profile votes: the “fiscal cliff” measure, an Internet sales tax bill and immigration reform.
Alexander voted for all three, angering some tea party activists.
Gor and Paul chief of staff Doug Stafford said the former Bowling Green ophthalmologist has not decided whether he’ll endorse Alexander or anyone in Tennessee’s 2014 Senate race.
To date, Alexander has not drawn a GOP primary challenger. But conservative opposition groups, including one called “Beat Lamar,” have sprung up across Tennessee. Lately, they’ve cited Alexander’s immigration vote as a reason to bring him home from Washington.
Initial reports about the ad, which deals with a bill fighting fishing restrictions, highlighted Paul’s presence and its effect on Alexander’s political future. An article in The Hill newspaper cites an unnamed Alexander campaign aide saying, “Paul’s inclusion in the video is designed to boost Alexander’s credibility among the grassroots Tea Party activists.”
But in a Friday phone interview, Alexander himself cautioned against “making more or less of the ad than there is.”
“I know how to run an endorsement ad, and this was not an endorsement ad,” Alexander said. “I’ve run into several people who saw the ad, liked it and understood it was about fishing.”

Ramsey, Campfield Shun Entreaties to Oppose Alexander

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state Sen. Stacey Campfield both say they are being urged to run against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in next year’s Republican primary, but have no intention of doing so.
“I’m not exaggerating, I get a dozen emails a week asking me to run,” Ramsey told reporters. “The tea party groups are out there looking for an opponent and I think they’ll have a hard time finding one against Lamar.”
The Senate speaker said he doesn’t even want the job.
“Why would I want to step down and be a United States senator?” Ramsey said. “He’s one of one hundred. I’m one of one.”
Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he has also received frequent entreaties from conservatives urging him to challenge Alexander, but tells them he is “happy being a state senator.” Campfield is up for re-election to his seat next year and already has Richard Briggs, a Knox County commissioner and physician, running against him.
“I’ve had people ask me, but short of them coming up with millions of dollars to get the message out about how wonderful I am, no, I’m not running,” he said.
Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, stirred a flurry of interest recently when a tea party blog reported he canceled an appearance at an Alexander event because he was upset with the incumbent’s vote on an immigration bill. But a spokeswoman told the Tennessean that Green and Alexander are friends and he missed the event for family reasons.
Ramsey said he talked with Green, counseling him against opposing Alexander because “I know what it’s like” to be hugely outspent in a campaign — a reference to his unsuccessful run against Bill Haslam for governor in 2010 — and “I think he’s doing too good a job in the state Senate.”

Tennessee Republican Testified in Congress’ Tea Party Probe

The former chair of the Williamson County Republican Party was one of half a dozen to testify in Washington about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, reports WPLN.
Kevin Kookogey founded Linchpins of Liberty in 2011. He says wants help children learn about the Founding Fathers and other political philosophers. But the group has been inactive for almost two years.
He says he’s been waiting just as long to receive 501c3 non profit status from the IRS. Like other Tea Party groups, he says he’s been stonewalled. He painted a picture of the invasive questions he’s been asked by the agency. He asked the committee, “can you imagine the reaction the students’ parents were I to turn the names of their children over to the IRS?”
Kookogey says he isn’t mentoring any children right now, because he doesn’t want to run afoul of the federal government.