teachers

McQueen to DeVos: Fed education budget cuts will hurt ‘some of your biggest supporters’

In letters to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is opposing the proposed elimination of a federal program for teacher training and retention that sent $38 million to Tennessee last year, reports The Tennessean.

McQueen wrote two letters – the first in June, saying the budget cut would hurt students in public schools across the state, especially in rural areas where President Donald Trump had strong support in the 2016 election. A second letter sent Friday says 42,000 students in private schools would be hurt, too, by the elimination of Title II, part A funds in the upcoming federal budget. DeVos has been an active supporter of charter schools and school voucher programs.

She emphasized her point in an interview Friday with the USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee.

“Our tone here is: We want to make sure you understand, this is going to be very impactful for our rural counties in ways that maybe you haven’t thought through,” McQueen said. “We are at a point where these decisions will probably impact some of your biggest supporters.”

…The state recieved $38 million in Title II funds from the federal government in 2016-17, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. That money also goes to the recruitment and retention of educators.

DeVos’ office responded (to the first letter) by saying that states had not used those funds well in the past, McQueen said.

“We would disagree with that because in Tennessee we don’t believe we have misused that by any stretch of the imagination,” McQueen said in the interview.

Radio ads tout ‘new and improved’ TN testing of school kids

A statewide radio advertising campaign is underway to promote TNReady, the state’s new standardized test that students in grades 3-11 are about to take, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

The one-minute ads, which tout Tennessee’s test as “new and improved,” are voiced by Jolinea Pegues, a Trezevant High School teacher in Shelby County Schools, and Derek Voiles, the state’s 2017 Teacher of the Year from Hamblen County.

The two-week run goes through next week in conjunction with the state’s April 17-May 5 TNReady testing window. Students in grades 3-11 will test to measure their proficiency in math and English language arts.

The campaign was produced and paid for by Expect More, Achieve More, a coalition of more than 100 business, community and education organizations advocating for high K-12 academic standards in Tennessee. The effort was spearheaded by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, a Nashville-based education advocacy group founded by former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist.

This is the second year of TNReady testing, which unraveled last year with the failed rollout of Tennessee’s first online test and led Education Commissioner Candice McQueen eventually to cancel the assessment for grades 3-8. McQueen says students, parents and educators can expect a successful rollout this year under Questar, the state’s new testing company, which this week delivered printed testing materials to schools statewide. Only 25 districts have chosen to take the test online again.

Note: See also a separate Chalkbeat story on TNReady, reporting that state leaders say thing will go well this year but some educators are still anxious after last year’s “testing fiasco.” Excerpt:

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GOP operative trashes TEA school voucher poll

In a memo prepared by the polling firm OnMessage and sent to Republican legislators, veteran GOP political operative Ward Baker seeks to debunk a Tennessee Education Association memo sent to all legislators earlier declaring that its polling shows a majority of Republican voters oppose school vouchers. (The TEA press release is posted HERE.)

The email subject line says “The TEA Poll is Hogwash.” Baker’s introductory remarks:

Like many of you, I had a feeling that the “poll” announced by the teachers union looked sketchy. It is. It’s about as accurate as me saying I have hair like Willie Nelson. (Note: Baker is bald.) The team at OnMessage, Inc., who has a long history of reliable polling in Tennessee and national politics, have put together the attached analysis that explains exactly why it cannot be trusted as a reliable poll. Bottom line: Political scientists, consultants, and polling firms worth their salt know that any poll is useless if you randomly aggregate data over the course of seven months the way that TEA did.

While I was at the NRSC, we used serious pollsters and none of them would sign their name to what the TEA is peddling. They are clearly trying to manipulate legislators for their own agenda with fake polling. The “poll” saying four out of five dentists use Trident is more reliable than this hogwash.

The full memo is available by clicking on this link: tea-memo

 

TEA polling: Most Tennesseans don’t want school vouchers

News release from Tennessee Education Association

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennesseans strongly reject private school vouchers, according to the largest and most comprehensive polling data on the subject. TEA extensively surveyed rural, urban and suburban voters in all three Grand Divisions of the state, with an oversample of highly-likely Republican primary voters. The polls were conducted May through October of 2016.
Of the 6,510 respondents, 59.5 percent rejected private school vouchers, 29 percent approved. The two-to-one negative opinion was consistent across geographic and demographic groups. The polling margin of error is +/- 4 percent.
“I’ve rarely seen such a strong negative opinion. It is clear Tennesseans do not like or want school vouchers,” said Jim Wrye, TEA Government Relations manager. “We are a conservative state that values our local traditions and institutions. Vouchers are a radical idea that attack and weaken the foundation of our communities — our public schools.”

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Teachers protest Alexander’s backing of DeVos, ignored phone calls

About 150 people, many of them teachers, protested outside Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Nashville office Friday in a show of opposition to the Republican senator’s support for Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education, reports The Tennessean.

Educators at the protest said DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and vocal supporter of charter school expansion, is not qualified for the job. Unlike former education secretaries, DeVos has not attended, taught or held a leadership position in public schools.

DeVos, at times, was unable to answer questions about education policy and law at her confirmation hearing Jan. 17. Democrats were on the attack during the meeting, while Republicans defended DeVos, including Alexander, who said she is “on our children’s side.”

Educators said they hope Alexander will reconsider his support of DeVos.

“We’re here because we’re schoolteachers, because we’re parents,” said Jenee Peters, a sixth-grade math teacher in Washington County. “She never went to public school, her children never went to public school. She knows nothing about public school, and that was very clear during her confirmation hearings.”

… Numerous teachers said they’ve called Alexander’s offices to be met only by messages of a full voicemail box.

A spokeswoman for Alexander said in a statement his staff has answered office telephones as fast as possible, but there’s been an overwhelming number of calls, mostly from people with various opinions on President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees.

“Sen. Alexander welcomes all Tennesseans’ comments and keeps them in mind when making decisions,” the statement said.

Supremes back firing of tenured TN teacher without back pay

News release from the Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – In a case involving the dismissal of a tenured teacher, the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that the Court of Appeals’ award to the teacher of partial back pay was not authorized under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act (Tenure Act). It also held that the teacher could not appeal the timeliness of her school board hearing because she did not raise that objection to the school board.

Rogelynn Emory taught French and English in several different high schools in Memphis, Tennessee. For several years, school administrators noted that Ms. Emory exhibited unusual behavior, had difficulty managing her students, and displayed a low level of teaching skill. In late 2005, the city school system notified Ms. Emory that she was being charged with “inefficiency,” that is, teaching below the acceptable standard, and would be discharged. Under the Tenure Act, Ms. Emory demanded a hearing before the city school board.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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