Tag Archives: teachers

State, TEA, SCORE join in ‘teacher engagement’ effort

News release from Tennessee Department of Education:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) announced today a new partnership with Hope Street Group, a national nonprofit organization known for its teacher engagement work. Tennessee Education Association (TEA) and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) join TDOE in partnership supporting Hope Street Group’s efforts to elevate educator voice and improve teacher leadership opportunities through its Hope Street Group Tennessee State Teacher Fellowship.

Hope Street Group will select a cadre of talented teachers this spring to participate in the 12-month fellowship, which will commence in summer 2015. Fellows will be given the opportunity to attend professional development trainings, engage with their colleagues and collect data and feedback from teachers. Ultimately, Teacher Fellows will influence positive change at the local, state and national levels. In the last few years, Tennessee has launched a number of programs to help elevate the teaching profession and educator voice.

“We are happy to welcome Hope Street Group and its fellowship program to Tennessee,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen. “Teachers are the biggest factor in the success of our students, and it is critical that we listen to and learn from our teachers to improve educational opportunities for all students.”

“The Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellows Program exists to amplify teacher engagement and impact. Without the input of teachers, education policy will not reach its full potential. By empowering teachers to offer solutions to classroom and school challenges, we are not only serving the profession of teaching, but improving educator working conditions, something we know is necessary to improve outcomes for students,” said Dan Cruce, Vice President of Education at Hope Street Group.
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Text of Gov. Haslam’s State of the State speech, 2015

Text of Gov. Bill Haslam’s State of the State address as prepared for delivery at the state Capitol in Nashville on Monday (via AP):

Lieutenant Governor Ramsey, Speaker Harwell, Speaker Pro Tem Watson, Speaker Pro Tem Johnson, Members of the 109th General Assembly, Justices, Constitutional Officers, Commissioners, friends, guests and fellow Tennesseans:

First, let me begin by assuring you that I don’t plan on making you listen to me give an address every week. There was the inauguration a couple of weeks ago, Insure Tennessee last Monday, and then tonight. I’m sure some of you are already tired of hearing me, so this will be the shortest State of the State speech yet.

Last week, the decision was made not to move forward with Insure Tennessee. However, that does not mean the issues around health care go away. Too many Tennesseans are still not getting health coverage they need in the right way, in the right place, at the right time. An emergency room is not the place where so many Tennesseans should be going for health care services. It’s not the best health care for them, and it’s costing us a lot more in the long run.

Health care costs are still eating up too much of our state’s budget and impacting the federal deficit and nation’s debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if we maintained health care costs at their current levels, which we know are inflated, for the next eight years — just kept them flat — we’d eliminate the nation’s deficit. To do that, we can’t keep doing what we have been doing.

So, though the special session has ended, I hope we can find a way to work together to address those problems.
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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.
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Teacher organizations say Haslam’s changes don’t go far enough

Leaders of Tennessee teacher advocacy groups say Gov. Bill Haslam’s latest move to change the teacher evaluation systems doesn’t go far enough, according to The Tennessean.

Tennessee Education Association President Barbara Gray applauded many of the changes Haslam proposed in a policy statement earlier this week that addressed academic standards, testing and other issues that affect teachers. She said she appreciates the governor’s new emphasis on teacher input and feedback and called several changes a “step in the right direction.” (Note: Previous post, including Haslam press release, HERE.)

But Gray said the TEA still favors an outright elimination of any use of what is known as value-added data, which compares a student’s end-of-year test results to what was predicted. Tennessee’s version is known as the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

“We still think that the TVAAS should be eliminated from all teacher evaluations,” Gray said. “The more we look into it, the more flaws we are finding with its accuracy. It’s unfair to tie a teacher’s evaluation to an estimation, which doesn’t really measure anything.”

Instead, Haslam this week proposed rolling back the role of value-added data — it currently comprises 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation — to 10 percent of the score beginning in 2016. It would then go back up to 20 percent by 2017 and 35 percent in 2018.

…Tennessee’s other main teacher advocacy group, Professional Educators of Tennessee, also has taken aim at the use of value-added assessments. Executive Director J.C. Bowman said he has pushed the governor in recent talks for a complete delay in using a test-based evaluation system until testing on new academic standards kicks in.

Bowman said that Haslam has proposed a one-year review of the state’s Common Core academic standards that would conclude in 2015. The outcome could potentially change what is taught and what is tested in Tennessee classrooms.

“I’d asked for a delay — a complete stop and delay,” said Bowman, who praised Haslam for at least acknowledging there’s an issue with the current system. “I just think you got to get the car fixed before you start driving it.”

Note: See also a post on a Memphis teacher advocacy blog, HERE, that’s headlined “What’s Missing from Gov. Haslam’s Teacher Support Initiatives?” (H/T Tennessee Education Report)

Haslam offers teacher-friendly proposals, including evaluation revision

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday announced several proposals for Tennessee teachers, including adjusting the way they’re evaluated and creating a Governor’s Teacher Cabinet in which educators could provide ideas.

The Republican governor gave his proposals at the annual conference of Learning Forward, an association devoted to advancing professional learning for student success.

Haslam received feedback from an academic standards review process, statewide meetings with educators, and an education summit in September. The ideas he presented came from those.

“We are working hard to listen to you because we place such a high value on what you are doing,” Haslam told educators at the conference.

Haslam said he also seeks to provide educators with more information and feedback on state assessments, and improve teacher communication and collaboration.

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

One adjustment the governor wants to make is to have new state assessments in English and math count 10 percent of the overall evaluation in the first year of administration of the new tests in 2016, 20 percent the second year, and 35 percent in year three.

Jim Wrye, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said he appreciates the governor’s effort but still opposes using the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS scores, in the evaluation of teachers.

Wrye said value-added data do not measure all that is valued in education. He said it shouldn’t be relied upon because it could result in a tenured teacher receiving a bad evaluation, which could lead to termination.

“The statistical estimate that is valued-added scores is wholly unreliable for making decisions on teachers’ school effectiveness,” Wrye said.

However, he said he does favor some aspects of the governor’s proposals, such as releasing practice questions prior to administration of tests, and involving teachers in the review and selection of test questions.

“We need more transparency in testing, and we’re hoping that’s what the governor is leaning toward,” he said.

In the area of improved teacher communication and collaboration, Haslam is proposing a Governor’s Teacher Cabinet, which will consist of teachers nominated by local school districts from across the state.

The cabinet is expected to meet quarterly with the governor and the education commissioner to share information from the classroom, advise on policy considerations and provide a direct line of communication to their schools and communities.

Note: The Haslam news release is below.
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TEA seeks 6 percent teacher pay raies; report says salaries not so bad now

The Tennessee Education Association Monday called on Gov. Bill Haslam to include a 6 percent pay raise for teachers in the next year’s budget while the National Council on Teacher Quality, a national advocacy organization, issued a report saying Tennessee teacher is low in actual dollars compared to most other states — but not so bad when cost-of-living factors are taken into account.

From The Tennessean:
(The report) shows it takes teachers in Nashville, Shelby County and dozens of other districts decades to reach the average maximum salary of $75,000 for teachers nationwide.

…Nashville and Shelby County came in near the middle for “lifetime earnings” over the course of the 30-year career: The report estimates a teacher in Shelby County earned about $1.9 million over 30 years, starting with a $42,300 salary and ending with a $72,900 salary. Nashville teachers start lower, at an average of $40,400 a year, and receive about $69,600 after 30 years, accounting for “lifetime earnings” of about $1.8 million, according to the report.

Those Tennessee salaries look considerably better when adjusted for 2013 cost-of-living data, produced by the national Council for Community and Economic Research. Shelby County’s adjusted earnings of $2.2 million, with an adjusted ending salary of $83,500, put the district at seventh out of 125 school districts in the report for districts where teachers “earn the most.”

Nashville teachers also fared much better on the “adjusted” scale: Their $2 million annual earnings and $78,000 annual salary helped the district come in 17th out of the 125 districts examined.

…In a statement Tuesday, the Tennessee Education Association called on Haslam to increase teacher pay by 6 percent during the upcoming legislative session, with additional increases scheduled in the next few years. Union executive director Carolyn Crowder referenced Haslam’s promise in asking the governor for the salary increase.

“This proposal represents an investment in our state’s teachers and their students, but it also represents an investment in communities across Tennessee struggling to meet their budgets. We’re simply asking Governor Haslam to honor his promises and make investing in public schools a priority,” Crowder said in a news release.

Haslam denies that he’s not committed to raising teacher salaries, and has promised to focus on education during his second term. However, he recently said any pay raises this year would also be unlikely: Haslam is asking state agencies to prepare budgets with a 7 percent cut while fending off legislative efforts to repeal or reduce some of the state’s main sources of tax revenue.

The Chattanooga TFP has further comment from Haslam:
“Well obviously, as you know, last year one of my priorities was to fund a pay increase for teachers,” Haslam told reporters after Tuesday’s round of department presentations. “We’d like to do that. We’re asking more of them than ever. They’re producing better results than ever.

“But again,” Haslam cautioned, we’re restricted by budget funds what we can do. It’s too early to say this year what we’ll have funds to do. But I don’t think it’s any secret that funding a pay increase for teachers is one of my priorities.”

He added that “obviously, we’ll have to wait and see and it’ll depend on the revenues.”

Revenues are running about $91 million above projected estimates in the current budget year.

The TEA says teacher salaries have remained flat since 2011, Haslam’s first year in office, when compared with the Consumer Price Index. Factoring in rising insurance premiums, Crowder said, some teachers’ salaries “are worth less now than they were when Haslam took office.”

Ravitch in Nashville: Education reform narrative a hoax

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Education historian Diane Ravitch says a public review process Gov. Bill Haslam has created for Tennessee’s Common Core standards can be effective as long as more weight is given to the input of teachers.

Ravitch, one of the nation’s leading voices against education reforms such as Common Core, was in Nashville on Thursday to speak at a conference of career and technical education professionals.

Her visit comes during the same week Tennessee lawmakers filed measures to do away with the state’s Common Core standards.

While she opposes the standards, Ravitch says there’s no harm in getting public input about them, as long as teachers’ input is taken seriously because of their close relationship with students.

Earlier this month, Haslam unveiled a website where Tennesseans can review and comment on the standards.

Further, from the Tennessean:
Diane Ravitch railed on charter schools, teacher evaluations, over-testing and much more Wednesday during a blunt speech in Nashville, delivering a crowd of parents, teachers and a few politicians just what they came out to hear.

It was all part of her trademark takedown of the education reform movement — and she didn’t leave a topic unchecked. Ravitch, one of the nation’s leading voices against charter schools and various new education reforms — many that are in place in Tennessee — told a crowd of 400 or so at Vanderbilt University that the “narrative that the reformers have been constructing is itself a hoax.

“They say that our schools are failing. Again and again it’s on the cover of magazines and in the news media — our schools are broken, our schools are obsolete. “Our test scores are not flat or declining,” she countered. “Today, test scores are the highest for every group than they’ve ever been in history.”

Teachers union chief finds ‘surprising common ground’ with Alexander

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García, visiting Nashville on Monday, said her organization has “some surprising common ground” with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, according to The Tennessean.

She singled out his support of national board certification for teachers as well and opposition to the way Obama has handled No Child Left Behind waivers.

“I think there’s room for us to move on teacher-quality issues and on really the local-control issue,” Eskelsen García said. “Congress, I think, was way out of line in saying, ‘We’re going to act like a super school board for the entire nation.’ ”

Alexander, who is on track to become chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the new Republican-controlled Senate, last year introduced a rewrite of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind bill that he has hailed as transferring “100 percent” of decision-making on items such as Common Core academic standards and other policies to states.

He has dubbed Obama’s No Child Left Behind approach — and the use of giving federal Race to the Top money to encourage other policy changes — a trend toward a “national school board.”

But while Eskelsen García supports a rewrite of No Child Left Behind that would do away with that waiver approach, NEA has long drawn a hard line against school vouchers and charter schools — two areas that Alexander has promoted legislatively.

“The senator seems to be enamored with privatization when the jury is no longer out on that,” she said. “Whether you’re talking about franchised charter schools or vouchers, there’s nowhere in the world where anyone can say, ‘Look, we did it.’ … All the studies show there’s really no difference.”

TN Teachers get praise from Arne Duncan, Haslam (but no pay raise promise)

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday lauded Tennessee’s educators for their extra effort in trying to help students be successful, and Gov. Bill Haslam said he will make it a priority to try to pay teachers more.

Duncan spoke at the Tennessee Educational Leadership Conference, which is being attended by more than 2,000 educators from across the state.

He told a capacity crowd in a ballroom at the Music City Center that over the course of several years the hard work of principals and teachers has resulted in Tennessee students leading the nation in academic improvement. And he noted some educators are going beyond the call of duty.

In a conversation with some principals he had the night before, Duncan said “one principal had taken in one of her students for six or eight weeks because of what wasn’t happening at home.”

“And so the work you’re doing is not just about raising test scores … although that’s real important,” Duncan said. “You guys collectively are trying to give children a chance in life.”

Haslam also spoke Tuesday. He too praised educators and told reporters following his speech that he’s committed to seeing they get more pay.

The Republican governor had planned to give teachers a pay increase this year, but said he wasn’t able to because of budget constraints. However, if state revenues allow for it, he told reporters after his speech that increased pay for teachers will be a priority next year.

“I’ve said that … teacher pay will be at the top of my list,” Haslam said. “But then again, we always have to deal with the reality that we have.”
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Three Monroe school teachers arrested in one month; ethics talks planned

After the arrest of three Monroe County teachers within a month, Monroe County Director of Schools Tim Blankenship has announced plans to discuss ethics, honesty and integrity at an upcoming staff development day, reports the News Sentinel.

Andi McCallie, 43, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Vonore Middle School, was arrested Saturday for failure to appear in Loudon County General Sessions Court on a shoplifting charge, according to the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office.

McCallie did not show for court Oct. 8 in connection with a June 2014 arrest for an alleged theft of less than $500 in goods from a Food City in Loudon, records state.

On Monday, she was placed on administrative leave without pay and will be subject to “additional conditions for continued employment” when she returns to work, according to a statement released by Blankenship.

The news follows the Oct. 17 arrest of Kelly Jenkins Robinson, 46, a media specialist and technology instructor at Vonore Middle School. Robinson was charged with DUI following a traffic stop in Madisonville. She allegedly had a blood alcohol content of 0.229 percent. State law presumes intoxication at 0.08 percent.

Robinson returned to work Friday, Oct. 24, after three days’ administrative leave without pay. She, too, is now subject to additional conditions of employment.

And Emily Pennington, 29, a first-grade teacher at Vonore Elementary School, remains on unpaid leave following her Sept. 25 arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia.

School officials said Pennington already was on unpaid leave when she was stopped for suspicion of DUI while allegedly speeding in a school zone. She allegedly had two hypodermic needles that she told authorities she had just used to ingest Opana.