News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 21, 2014) – Parents and teachers across the state have just been informed that the Department of Education has failed to prepare student test scores in time for the release of final grades. As a result, schools may be forced to bring teachers back after the summer break to issue new grades, resulting in higher costs for school districts.
“We have heard for years now from Commissioner Huffman and his corporate special interest friends about how important all of these standardized tests are to a child’s education,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson. “If they are so important, why have they continuously failed to implement them in a way that causes the least amount of disruption? Instead, teachers have had to jump hurdle after hurdle resulting from the epic and avoidable failures by the Huffman administration.”
Under Kevin Huffman’s leadership of the Department of Education, school districts, teachers and students have been mired in problems caused by the Commissioner’s push for more standardized testing without the proper infrastructure.
Schools saw a massive failure when the Department of Education rolled out the online writing assessment, resulting in thousands of students losing their work when servers crashed. Teachers have expressed great frustration during the PARCC pilot testing when logistical problems made it clear that even the most advanced schools were not fully prepared to deal with the new tests. And now, with the failure to properly grade TCAP tests, school districts, teachers and parents are left in limbo trying to figure out how to grade students without these state mandated test scores.
“While Commissioner Huffman has pushed for more and more accountability for our teachers, his own Department has yet to be called to account for their own failures,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “Parents and students should not be inconvenienced because the Department of Education failed to plan for this scenario. Commissioner Huffman has gotten too many passes already; it’s time for the Governor to get control of the situation.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee says he’s “stunned and dismayed” to learn that DNA tests revealed he is not the father of a woman he thought was his daughter.
Cohen issued a statement Thursday after CNN reported that DNA tests showed Victoria Brink isn’t his daughter.
In February, after Twitter messages he sent to the 24-year-old Texas woman during the president’s State of the Union address received media attention, Cohen revealed that he was Brink’s father. He said he learned about the relationship three years ago and was overjoyed.
In Thursday’s statement, he said he still loves Brink and hopes to remain in her life.
Cohen says he was “stunned and dismayed when DNA tests disproved what Victoria and I believed about our relationship.”
A bill granting teachers extra time to take mandated competency tests has won final passage under sponsorship of Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville. The Senate and House approved the measure (SB268) on Thursday.
For freshman Johnson, the measure is the first she has shepherded to passage and is a matter of personal interest. In subcommittee, Johnson said she is one of about 40 Knox County teachers who had trouble meeting the original deadline for taking the tests in areas they teach. The bill extends the original deadline from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2014.
In Johnson’s case, as a special-education teacher giving instruction in several areas, she has to take six tests and, along with other teachers, did not learn about the requirement until last August, she said.
The tests cost around $200 each, she said, and often require some additional study. For example, she must take a test in geometry, which she does teach, that includes sections on precalculus and trigonometry, which she does not teach and needs to review.
During hearings, legislators expressed sympathy for both the time and expense involved in the testing. Johnson said she thought they were a good idea, but an extension of time was appropriate. The bill passed the House unanimously and got just one negative vote in the Senate.
The school district websites for Memphis, Jackson-Madison County and Sevier County flunked a nonprofit group’s review on financial transparency, says TNReport.
A lack of online budget and contracting information or reports on academic progress contributed to those school district’s ‘F’ grades from Sunshine Review, a group that promotes government transparency. For its report card scores, the group checked websites for information like current and former budgets, phone numbers and email addresses for board members, and audits.
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — The GED is changing and state education officials say those who haven’t completed the test need to go ahead and do so.
A new, more difficult and more expensive test will be in place starting January 2014.
Anyone who has completed some parts of the test, but not all of it, at that time will have to start over from the beginning.
The test for a General Educational Development certificate is updated occasionally, but the current update is the biggest since the program began in 1942.
The new test will be more rigorous overall and require a higher level of math proficiency. The idea is to align the test more closely with the common core standards for math and English now adopted by 46 states, including Tennessee. The standards are meant to ensure every student graduates prepared for college or the workforce.
The new test also will be computer-based, and the cost will increase from an average of $65 to a minimum of $120.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Rep. Curry Todd, who faces drunken driving and gun charges following an arrest last year, on Thursday skipped a House vote on a bill to give judges the ability to compel blood tests for drivers who refuse to give breath alcohol tests when they are arrested.
The Collierville Republican voted in favor of two earlier bills seeking to tighten drunken driving laws, and was in attendance for most of the debate over the implied consent bill. But Todd left shortly before a vote on the bill that ultimately passed on a 52-33 — just two votes more than the minimum needed to clear the chamber.
Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville announced after the vote that Todd had been excused, and a spokeswoman said Todd had been feeling ill.
Todd, a retired Memphis police officer, announced this week that he had been diagnosed with cancer, but that he was not yet experiencing any symptoms or undergoing treatment. He was the main architect of a state law allowing handgun carry permit holders to be armed in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
Todd was arrested on charges of drunken driving and carrying a loaded handgun while intoxicated when police stopped his vehicle in a neighborhood near Vanderbilt and Belmont universities in October. He was also charged with violating Tennessee’s implied consent law by refusing to submit to a breath-alcohol test.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Tony Shipley of Kingsport passed despite concerns raised by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that the bill would violate constitutional protections against self-incrimination.
Eight Democrats joined 44 Republicans to pass the bill. The companion bill is expecting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.
Knox County’s information technology department Wednesday seized a computer belonging to a Trustee’s Office employee who county officials say may have taken state-administered tests on behalf of his co-workers, reports Mike Donila.
Information about the allegation has been turned over to authorities for a possible criminal investigation.
“We have it (the computer) locked up in our cage where we keep things like that, and I’ll wait for instruction,” said Dick Moran, head of the county’s IT department.
Moran said Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols called him Wednesday and asked him to secure a specific Dell desktop computer inside the Trustee’s Office. He said he’ll meet with Nichols today to find out what he wants done with it.
Knox County Commissioner R. Larry Smith said he initially received a tip that an employee was taking a test for other workers in the office. He also said he was told that someone in the office either destroyed computer files or attempted to cover up evidence of the activity.
He said he got the information “from a credible source — someone who has no grudges or political aspirations, whatsoever.”
State Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, tells the Bristol Herald-Courier that he’ll try again next year to win passage of a bill requiring drug tests for those receiving welfare, food stames or public housing.
It’s currently being reviewed by the legal department, but Representative Ford says he thinks it will pass. Ford says the first time he introduced the bill questions came up about whether it violated people’s constitutional rights. Since Florida and other states have now implemented it, he doesn’t see a problem legally.
Representative David Hawk also supports such a law. he says drug testing would cut back on people who don’t obey the law from abusing government services.
“If they get assistance through either state or federal means, they should follow a certain set of guidelines and staying with the letter of the law is part of that,” Hawk said.
Hawk says Tennessee made a small step toward a drug testing law this past year. Lawmakers passed a measure stating if someone is convicted of a second drug related offense, they cannot receive funding from the family’s first program.
News release from state Department of Education:
NASHVILLE, TN- The Tennessee Department of Education today released district-level 2010-2011 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test results. Now available online, the statewide and district-by-district breakdown shows how each school district performed in advancing student growth in all subject areas and grade levels three through eight.
“Tennessee educators deserve immense credit for their hard work this year in helping our students achieve marked improvements and success,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. “We want to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and the cornerstone of that effort is a great education system. I’m very encouraged by these latest results, and we’re all committed to continuing to work together to improve the classroom experience for every student across the state.”
Across the state, Tennessee students scored higher in all subject areas and grade levels in grades three through eight on this year’s TCAP achievement tests by comparison to 2009-2010 results. Student math scores grew by 7% and reading scores grew by 3.7%. These improvements show student success with the heightened academic standards implemented last year. An extended version of the statewide press conference is available online.
For the first time, TCAP achievement test results are being made publicly available on the department’s website in a district-by-district breakdown that shows the percentage of students who scored at the below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced levels in grades three through eight. High school end of course results and AYP determinations are not finalized and will likely be released in the coming weeks.
“Our prompt release of student achievement data demonstrates the department’s commitment to transparency,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “We must measure our progress by how much our students accomplish, and both educators and the public need timely access to comprehensive student achievement data to accurately measure our progress.”
Students in Grades 3-8 take the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test each spring. The Achievement Test is a timed, multiple choice assessment that measures skills in Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. Student results are reported to parents, teachers and administrators. To view the 2010-2011 TCAP results, visit the Tennessee Department of Education website homepage at http://tn.gov/education.
By Lucas Johnson
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday applauded the state’s improved standardized test scores but acknowledged more work has to be done to meet federal regulations.
Preliminary results from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program showed math scores in third- through eighth-grade improved by 7 percent this year over last year and reading scores improved by 3.7 percent.
In 18 school systems, student scores improved by 20 percent or more.
Despite the improvement, the state is only 41 percent proficient in math for those grades, and 48.5 percent in reading. Under guidelines of No Child Left Behind, the nation’s governing education law, the state is required to be 60 percent proficient in math next year, 66 percent in reading, and 100 percent in both subjects by 2014.