education

UT to accept ACT test scores despite administrative foul-up

Press release from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally

Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced the University of Tennessee has agreed to accept scores from the October 17 mis-administered ACT tests at Bearden High School and Alvin C. York Institute in Jamestown. The University’s decision was delivered to Lt. Governor McNally by University of Tennessee Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick.  Continue reading

DeVos in TN speech: ‘I’m just getting started!’

Speaking in Nashville at the National Summit on Education Reform, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rallied education leaders to expand “school choice,” took swipes at teachers unions and Democrats, and put in a good word for her boss’s campaign to overhaul the nation’s tax structure.

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Alexander keeping U.S. Department of Education on a ‘tight leash’

First paragraphs of a Politico report:

Several months ago, Sen. Lamar Alexander phoned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with a message: Back off.

Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, was furious that a top DeVos aide was circumventing a new law aimed at reducing the federal government’s role in K-12 education. He contended that the agency was out of bounds by challenging state officials, for instance, about whether they were setting sufficiently ambitious goals for their students.

DeVos’ agency quickly yielded to his interpretation of the law — and she “thanked me for it,” Alexander told POLITICO.

Alexander’s heavy hand raises questions about who’s calling some of the shots at the Education Department, an agency he once headed — and to which DeVos came with virtually no expertise in running government bureaucracies.

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Lawsuit contends state owes fired TNReady contractor $25.3M

The company fired last year by the state Department of Education after major problems came up in trying to implement a then-new student testing system has filed a legal claim contending the state wrongfully broke the contract. State officials won’t comment on the matter, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee, but the company’s president will.

Henry Scherich says Tennessee owes Measurement Inc. $25.3 million for services associated with TNReady, the state’s new standardized test for its public schools. That’s nearly a quarter of the company’s five-year, $108 million contract with the state, which Tennessee officials canceled after technical problems roiled the test’s 2016 rollout.

So far, the state has paid the Durham, North Carolina-based company about $545,000 for its services, representing about 2 percent of the total bill, according to a claim recently obtained by Chalkbeat.

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McQueen seeks $73 million increase in state education budget, not counting anticipated teacher pay raise

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen wants a third consecutive annual teacher pay raise included in the state budget next year for and new funding to help local school districts pay for Tennessee’s required but unfunded intervention program aimed at keeping struggling students from falling through the cracks, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

McQueen presented her wish list to the governor during budget hearings Tuesday at the State Capitol.

Tennessee is projecting a slowdown in the growth of tax revenue next fiscal year — about $350 million compared to $1 billion this year — but Haslam says that investing in teacher pay continues to be a priority of his two-term administration.

“We want to continue to fund teacher salaries the best we can,” he said following Tuesday’s budget presentations.

McQueen offered up $73 million in specific requests, the bulk of which would cover growth and inflationary costs associated with the state’s funding formula known as the Basic Education Program, or BEP.  The list also includes $10 million for school improvement grants for “priority schools” in the state’s bottom 5 percent, another $6 million to help charter schools pay for facilities for a second year in a row, and almost $4.5 million for the state’s reading initiative in its third year.

But she did not attach dollar amounts for her big-ticket requests like teacher pay and the unfunded program known as Response to Instruction and Intervention, or RTI. She told reporters later that her department will pound out those important details with Haslam’s administration during the months ahead before the governor presents his final spending proposal to lawmakers in February.

Shelby School Board joins Nashville board in defying state order to give student data to charter schoos

The Shelby County School board voted Tuesday night to defy an order from state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen requiring that student contact information be turned over to charter schools, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

The board’s action means Tennessee’s largest district more than likely will be sued by the state of Tennessee. On Oct. 18, the state sued Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools after its board declined to hand over information to three state-run charter schools.

A spokeswoman for Tennessee’s Department of Education said the state will evaluate its options in the wake of the board’s vote.

“We are disappointed by this decision from the Shelby County Schools Board of Education as we in good faith provided the district with additional time to comply,” said spokeswoman Chandler Hopper.

The vote came after members discussed their legal options with the district’s top lawyer during a closed executive session. At issue: Whether to stick by the board’s earlier resolution to be in solidarity with Nashville’s board, or to turn over the information after giving parents the chance to opt out. (About 7,700 Memphis families met this week’s opt-out deadline set by Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.)

Board member Chris Caldwell offered up an amendment stating that the Memphis board will not comply with Green Dot’s request. The vote was unanimous, with two members absent.

Haslam: TNReady flap overblown; McQueen tells legislators latest problem fixed

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that controversy over TNReady testing of students is overblown while  Education Commissioner Candice McQueen and a vendor sought to reassure state legislators that the latest problem has been fixed and won’t happen again, reports the Times Free Press. The most recent troubles involved reporting the wrong scores for 9,400 students statewide.

“While we reported 99 percent of our scoring accurately, that’s not good enough,” McQueen told a joint meeting of the House Education Instruction & Programs and Education Administration & Planning committees. “We expect — we required — 100 percent, and that’s our commitment.”

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Education lobbyist group rates legislators — seven get ‘A+,’ two graded ‘F’

In its first rating of state legislators, Tennesseans for Student Success today gave “A+” scores to seven members of the General Assembly while only two got ‘F’ grades and eight got ‘D’ grades.

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State suing Nashville schools to force turnover of student data, but probably not Memphis schools

While the state Department of Education has filed a lawsuit to force Metro Nashville schools to turn over student information to charter school operators, the Memphis school system has taken a different approach to data release and may avoid a lawsuit, according to Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Leaders of Nashville’s school district have repeatedly defied an order from Tennessee’s Education Commissioner Candice McQueen to share student addresses, phone numbers, and other information with the state’s controversial turnaround district, as required by a new state law. The state filed a lawsuit this week in Davidson County Chancery Court to force release of the information.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Memphis district have spoken out about the rule — but are preparing to comply. The district has given parents until Sunday, Oct. 22 to opt out of sharing their contact information with charter schools.

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Nashville school board votes to join Shelby County in school funding lawsuit

The Metro Nashville Public Schools board voted Tuesday night to join Shelby County’s schools in a lawsuit seeking more state education funds, reports The Tennessean.

The motion to join Shelby County Schools in the district’s ongoing litigation for increased education funds passed with a 7-0 vote by the Nashville school board. Two board members were absent — Sharon Gentry and Mary Pierce.

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