Research consistently shows that teacher turnover has negative effects on schools and students. For this reason, education researchers have devoted a great deal of attention to identifying the factors that drive teachers to leave their schools. Several such studies conclude that the quality of a school’s leadership is among the most important predictors of teacher turnover.
Prior studies linking leadership to teacher turnover, however, have not differentiated between high- and low-performing teachers. Differentiating is important because not all teacher turnover is created equal. Principals who implement strategies to retain teachers by giving them teacher-leadership opportunities or recognizing their contributions to the school in other ways presumably focus on strong teachers. For weaker teachers, retention may not be the goal. In fact, an effective principal may be adept at not retaining less effective teachers, either through exercise of administrative means or by “counseling out” teachers to look for a better fit elsewhere.
In a forthcoming study of Tennessee data, Brendan Bartanen and I indeed find evidence that more effective principals are both more likely to retain their best teachers and less likely to retain their lowest-performing teachers, a pattern we refer to as “strategic retention.” To identify more effective principals, we rely primarily on practice ratings given to principals by their supervisors as part of the state’s evaluation system, which we complement with survey-based ratings of leaders from teachers. In schools with higher-rated principals, more effective teachers—measured by both classroom observation ratings and “value added”—are more likely to stay from year-to-year. For example, among the teachers with the highest observation scores (scoring above 4.5 on a five-point scale), the annual turnover rate under a below-average principal is 12.2 percent, compared to 9.6 percent with an above-average principal.
In contrast, we find that teachers who receive the lowest classroom observation scores leave the school at higher rates under an effective principal than an ineffective one. These teachers leave their schools at high rates regardless—the turnover rate among teachers in the bottom 5 percent of observation scores is about 35 percent—but the shift from a below-average principal to an above-average one is associated with an additional 4–5 percentage points in the likelihood that such a teacher moves on.
Importantly, this finding that ineffective teachers leave at higher rates with more effective principals holds only when teachers are measured by observation scores, not student growth. Based on some prior work I did with some other Vanderbilt colleagues, we suspect that this difference occurs because principals collect observation data themselves throughout the year, and they use these observations to learn about teacher performance. In contrast, value-added scores, which are only moderately correlated with observation scores (r = 0.34), are not returned to them until the fall of the next year, meaning that principals cannot take them into account (at least not directly) in making this year’s retention decisions.
We also provide some insight into how strong principals approach removal of less effective teachers. This connection between principal effectiveness and the turnover of teachers with low observation scores holds even among experienced teachers and those whose overall evaluation scores label them as “at expectations.” In other words, the pattern holds even for teachers who are unlikely to be subject to administrative removal or tenure denial, suggesting that counseling out or other informal strategies to encourage teachers to leave are important drivers of the results.
Our analysis also shows that strategic retention patterns are more apparent in schools with stable leadership and in more advantaged schools (i.e., higher-achieving, lower-poverty, suburban). Less advantaged schools may not have a strong pool of teachers waiting to take jobs there, so even effective principals may be less inclined to move out low performers. We also find that ineffective teachers who leave schools with more effective principals overwhelmingly exit the system rather than moving to another school nearby, suggesting that principals are contributing to improvement of overall teacher quality in the district rather than simply engaging in a “dance of the lemons.”
Why do these results matter? First, they highlight an important means through which school leadership can affect schools. Second, they help make an important point about districts’ and states’ huge investments in multiple-measure teacher evaluation systems—arguably the most significant movement in K-12 education policy in the last decade. That point: School principals are the linchpin in determining whether those investments can pay off in terms of reshaping the teacher workforce.
A frequent complaint leveled against new teacher evaluation systems is that, despite all the time and resource costs, teachers are mostly rated highly and no one is ever fired for poor performance. Our results suggest that this conclusion misses some of what is actually going on. The best principals do find ways to release teachers based on what they learn in classroom observations. Less effective principals do this less well. So focusing on building principals’ skills not just to collect high-quality observation data but to make teacher talent management decisions based on what they observe likely is important if states want their evaluation systems to improve the composition of the teacher workforce. Policymakers in most states have given too little attention to principal capacity in the design and implementation of their teacher evaluation systems.[Read more at Brookings.edu] Read More
Superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph led a presentation to a packed audience of educators, media and parents why some 21 Nashville area schools had been added to the state list of “priority” schools – meaning schools that have fallen below minimum standards on testing results and were a priority for improvement and additional state funding. Most of the low performing schools designated as “priority” were linked to problems of students missing too much school–often because of poverty related issues–no adequate health care, no dental care, not enough clothing or food to eat.
Dr. Sharon Gentry, Board Chair, said that many parents of children in her district do not have jobs.
“Until they get a job–a job–we’re going to have challenges. This situation did not get created overnight. We didn’t create it, but it is ours now to own.”
Dr. Joseph asked Dr. Lisa Coons, Executive Director of Schools of Innovation, to explain that “priority schools” were those in the bottom 5% and some of the poor performing schools elsewhere in the state had closed which had the effect of landing some Nashville schools in the bottom 5% of the list. Board Chair Sharon Gentry also said that the Board of Education “was not taking off the table” this tactic–closing down under-enrolled schools while it considers how best to use the $3.6 million dollars in Federal grants and additional state funds towards improving the performance of schools (with adequate enrollments) that are ‘priority’ schools.
Dr. Joseph emphasized that the district’s strategy was successful in moving four of the previous nine schools off the state’s 2015 list. He characterized his approach to improvingschools as “research based” in response to a question from a parent from Tusculum Elementary district as to why Reading Readiness Program and other supports had been stopped.
“I’m a research guy. Some of those programs were not shown to be successful. When it’s not working, we won’t do it. It’s not the program that makes the difference, it’s the people. We need to invest in training, leadership,” Dr. Joseph said. Joseph also said the level of funding coming from the federal grant and state funds were less than the levels he had requested. He said “We’ll still make progress, but it will be slower.”
The strategy that seemed to be most effective was to hire the best teachers, coach teachers, and ensure the curriculum was strong.
“In addition….it was clear that strong community partnerships were significant in helping transform the schools that successfully exited the priority list,” said Dr. Lisa Coons.
MNPS schools that exited priority-designation were Inglewood Elementary School, Napier Elementary School, Pearl-Cohn High School and Whitsitt Elementary School. Of the five remaining schools, two schools – Robert Churchwell Elementary and Buena Vista Elementary – saw growth that moved them off the state priority list but not off the federal-designated Comprehensive Support and Improvement list. The three middle schools remaining on the list faced significant challenges around staffing.
“The increase in priority schools indicates the need for us, as a district, to place more differentiated resources into our neediest schools; it further speaks to us as a collective community to better provide community-based supports to schools to ensure we can accelerate them,” Joseph said. “The question we must ask ourselves is how do we make all of our schools a priority so that they are all successful.”
The meeting included one success story from a school that had come off the priority list. Justin Uppinghouse, principal of Whitsitt Elementary, explained how things improved.
“When I first came to the school in 2014 we were in the bottom 1.6% in the state. The problem was that we believed that 98% were better than us. Our students come to school with great challenges. We are working to change the culture and climate of learning for students, families, parents who want to participate in the change. Parents are now proud to be part of the school. We won a Federal magnet school grant to become a priority STEAM school focused on environmental engineering. I see a level of enthusiasm in the school now.”
The sense of urgency from parents and media who wanted to see speedy changes was tempered by an administration that warns against quick fix programs in favor of changes backed by research and data that verify improvement. Dr. Joseph and Board chair Sharon Gentry both emphasized the need of the community to make education a priority – by funding it adequately to hire the best teachers at adequate salaries, engaging parents and getting partnerships in the community from businesses and non-profits.
Sharon Gentry quoted an African proverb that was more of a warning than the more upbeat “it takes a village to raise a child.” She quoted the proverb “The village that does not support the child will one day see him return to burn it down to feel its warmth.”[Read more at The Tennessee Tribune] Read More
University of North Georgia implementing ‘Momentum Year’ to help freshmen get a taste of their major
For many college students, the toughest part of earning a bachelor’s degree is getting through those first two years of core classes and settling on a major area of study.
To help alleviate this burden, the University of North Georgia (along with other schools in the University System of Georgia) is preparing to launch its “Momentum Year” beginning in the 2019 fall semester, which aims to give freshmen a taste of their chosen degree path before it’s too late.
“Ideally you want to reduce time to graduation, which would reduce the cost to the student,” said Dr. Eugene Van Sickle, associate department head of History, Anthropology and Philosophy at UNG, and the assistant vice president of Strategic Student Success Initiatives. “We’re really ramping up the support services that we have for students to help them stay on track and make progress.”
The momentum year concept originates from within the Complete College Georgia program, which was established in 2011 to increase the percentage of the state’s population with some level of college education to 60 percent from 42 percent by 2020.
In Georgia’s public colleges and universities, 42 percent of full-time bachelor’s degree students will not graduate within six years, according to a recent report from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. And about 15 percent of freshmen do not return for their sophomore year.
The momentum year, which is tailored to the needs of each institution and its student demographics, includes having freshmen select a “meta-major,” such as in the social or health sciences, for nine credit hours.
Freshman students will also take English and math courses that better align with their “meta-major.”
Students are expected to complete at least 30 credit hours in their first year.
Van Sickle said that because many students are undecided on a major when entering UNG, or change their major along the way, the momentum year is designed to provide “intentional advising” and mentoring to educate students about different degree paths and match their interests with their abilities.
“What momentum year is really about is for institutions like ours to look at all of our processes in terms of how well we coordinate all our resources,” he added.
The momentum year can also improve efficiencies for UNG. After all, there is only so much faculty and class space available.
And time and resources can grow thin when students are “swirling around” and creating a bottleneck by jumping from major to major, Van Sickle said.
“If you do a better job of getting them into the right fit, you can take those resources and put them somewhere else,” he said.
UNG has already “folded in some pieces” of the momentum year within its broader freshman orientation program.
The remaining challenge?
“In terms of bringing this to full implementation, it’s really an issue of staffing,” Van Sickle said.
What is Momentum Year?
- Helping students make a “purposeful choice” when selecting a program of study
- Assisting students in developing an “academic mindset” that promotes academic success
- Clearly sequenced pathways that include in the first year:
- A total of 30 credit hours
- Nine credit hours in “meta-major” focus area
- Core English and math courses
Source: University System of Georgia[Read more at Gainesville Times] Read More
The College System of Tennessee has seen a growth in enrollment and Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect participants, as well as the highest graduation rate recorded.
Enrollment in the College System has grown slightly, with 88,352 students enrolled in community colleges in the system, according to the preliminary numbers.
Numbers were announced at the Board of Regents committee meetings on Thursday. Those numbers could slightly change throughout the semester, but show an increasing enrollment since 2016, according to Executive Vice Chancellor for Policy and Strategy Russ Deaton.
“That downward trend we’ve seen has turned around,” Deaton said, adding that he predicted enrollment would continue to grow.
Nationwide, enrollment in community colleges has been decreasing since 2010, according to a report from Inside Higher Ed. When the Great Recession ended and the national unemployment rate began falling, fewer people were attending two-year colleges.
Highest three-year graduation rate
The College System of Tennessee has also recorded the highest three-year graduation rate in the history of the system. The three-year graduation rate tracks first-time, full-time freshmen through the summer of their third year and counts who graduates.
The graduation rate for the 2015 to 2018 group was 23.7 percent, which is a 10.1 percentage point growth from the 2010 to 2013 rate. Deaton said that while an increased graduation rate is a success, there are still challenges.
Deaton said the graduation rate tracks graduation of first-time, full-time freshman, and many of the students enrolled in community colleges do not fall into that category. He said there is also a gap in the graduation rate when broken down by race “that needs to be addressed.”
With higher enrollment and graduation rates, the system has also seen an 82 percent increase in the number of awards given from 2009 to 2018.
In 2009, there were 8,370 awards (associate’s degrees and certificates) given. In 2018, that had increased to 15,240 awards given.
“This is the product of years and years of hard work,” Deaton said.
Tennessee Promise, Reconnect participants higher this year
According to preliminary enrollment numbers, the College System of Tennessee also has higher numbers of Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise participants this year.
The number of Tennessee Reconnect students outnumber the number of Tennessee Promise students, with almost 14,700 Reconnect participants and over 14,500 Promise participants.
Participants in Tennessee Promise have also become more diverse, according to Amy Moreland, Director of Policy. The number of black, Hispanic and underrepresented minorities participating in Tennessee Promise in the system have all increased since 2015.
“As Promise participation has increased, the makeup has grown slightly more diverse,” Moreland said.
The Board of Regents also formally adopted increased Drive to 55 goals for the system. The new goals were created after conversations with Gov. Bill Haslam about the system’s success with Drive to 55, Deaton said.
The new goals will add 26,667 award recipients by 2025, or an annual increase of 2,963 award recipients for the system. The goals for the system are now 14,895 awards given annually and 134,055 total awards for the time period of 2017-2025.
“At this point, Reconnecters outnumber Tennessee Promise, which is quite extraordinary,” Deaton said.
The full Board of Regents is scheduled to meet on Friday at 10:30 a.m. EST at Dyersburg State Community College. The meeting will be live-streamed on the system’s website.[Read more at Knoxville News Sentinel]
America’s Achievement Gap — Made, Not Born? What a Study of 30,000 Students Reveals About Lowered Expectations and Poorer-Quality Instruction for Kids of Color
Students of color consistently receive less challenging instruction and schoolwork than do their white and more affluent classmates, a new study has found, often leaving them unprepared for college even if they have received top grades.
The report used extensive surveying of students, who wore vibrating watches that prompted them to take surveys during class. Their responses suggest that the failure to challenge young people from low-income and minority families in middle and high school helps explain why the rise in high school graduation rates in recent years has not translated to better college outcomes.
“While many students do have barriers to overcome to succeed in school, some of the biggest barriers are created by decisions very much within our control,” said the advocacy nonprofit TNTP, which released its report, “The Opportunity Myth,” on Tuesday.
“As a field, we’ve covered up the racist, classist, and just plain unfair choices we’ve made by telling parents and students — particularly students of color — that they are doing fine, when all the evidence from their classroom work and their exam scores suggests that they are not,” the report says.
TNTP said it surveyed 30,000 students between grades 6 and 12, analyzed 20,000 student work samples, and observed 1,000 lessons in five school districts, primarily during the 2016-17 school year. It did not name the districts but described them as “rural and urban, district and charter.” It said charter “district” referred to a charter network.
Perhaps most strikingly, the report found that most students in these districts were typically given below-grade-level class assignments designed for students several years younger, often because teachers did not believe they could succeed at a higher level.
They completed the assignments successfully more than two-thirds of the time. With little opportunity to tackle appropriate material, however, they submitted work that met grade-level standards only 17 percent of the time.
TNPT said ability was not an obstacle. In classrooms with more grade-level work, students gained about two months of learning compared with their peers.
College readiness “a myth”
The report said more than 90 percent of students it surveyed in each district planned to go to college, a nearly identical figure across different groups. Adding a cri de coeur, it described remediation rates in four-year colleges for black students at 66 percent and Latinos at 53 percent as a broken promise made by a society that oversells the value of a high school diploma.
Students interviewed by TNTP believe that “showing up, doing the work, and meeting their teachers’ expectations will prepare them for what’s next,” the report says. “They believe that for good reason. We’ve been telling them so. Unfortunately, it’s a myth.”
TNTP determined that college struggles are rooted in inequities in four overlapping areas: middle and high school assignments that reflect grade-level standards; teaching that demands deep thinking; student engagement, described as a “cognitive and emotional investment” in schoolwork; and high expectations by teachers.
Racial differences cut across each of these. White students had a 65 percent success rate on grade-level work, while students of color had a 56 percent rate. But 4 out of 10 classrooms where students of color were the majority, or 40 percent, never received any grade-level assignments, compared with 12 percent of mostly white classrooms.
Teachers in mostly white and higher-income classrooms offered three and a half to five times as many of what TNTP called “strong instructional practices” that forced students to come up with answers rather than have them watch passively. Greater levels of engagement and expectations were also reported in classrooms with mostly white students.
The biggest variations in these areas were within, not across, districts, the report said.
Accomplished teaching and grade-level assignments were in short supply for everyone in the districts: TNTP calculated that students received strong instruction for just 29 of 180 hours over the course of a year in a core subject, and spent 133 of 280 hours on assignments that were inappropriate for their grades.
All students benefited from better practice, but students who started the year behind grade level made outsize gains, the report said. Access to stronger instruction and on-grade assignments added the equivalent of six and seven months of learning, respectively.
“The ‘achievement gap’ is not inevitable,” the report says. “It’s baked into a system where some students get more than others.”
Vibrating watch means it’s survey time
TNTP recommended that districts undertake “equity audits” of their schools, incorporate student experience into school decision-making, commit to diversity in hiring — the report finds that teachers have higher expectations of students of the same race — and make grade-appropriate assignments “an urgent priority for all students.”
While visiting participating schools at different times in the school year, TNTP surveyed students in grades 6 through 12 over the course of the day about their school activities.
“During the entire week of our second and third site visits, all students with parental consent were provided a vibrating watch and a survey at the beginning of class,” the report says. “At six points during class, a handful of watches would vibrate. When a student’s watch vibrated, it was his or her signal to complete the survey about their current activity and perceptions.”
It continued: “We could capture experiences throughout class instead of at one distinct point in time.”
As to the surprisingly variable quality of lessons in districts with strong standards — four of the five use the Common Core — TNTP’s CEO Daniel Weisberg said, “Just signing on to a set of standards or adopting a curriculum doesn’t ensure that students are receiving grade-level assignments.
“That’s why it’s so important for district leaders to do what we’ve done here: take a close look at what students are really experiencing day in and day out. If you don’t know exactly how much time students spend on work that’s aligned with the standards you’ve chosen, chances are you’re letting a lot of inconsistency and inequity slip through the cracks.”[Read more at The 74] Read More
The number of Nashville schools on the Tennessee Department of Education’s list of the lowest performing in the state spiked over the last three years from 15 to 21.
In 2012, there were six schools on the list, and the new list indicates a worsening trend for the number of low performing schools in Nashville.
The state priority schools list represents the bottom 5 percent of schools based on standardized test results.
Because of testing issues last school year, those test results were not factored in. A school qualified for the list if it was in the bottom 5 percent in testing for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, or if it failed to generate a graduation rate of at least 66 percent.
Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph said any determination based on a single metric can be problematic, but his administration has identified the schools on the new list as needing improvement.
Joseph said that while there is a negative connotation attached to schools on the list, there is also a benefit. Landing on the list means extra resources, and his administration has identified an aggressive four-part plan to help move schools off the priority list.
Asked to predict how many of the 21 schools would remain on the state’s next priority list in three years, Joseph was unequivocal. “None,” he said.
The increase in priority schools offers another challenge for Joseph, who is navigating a school board that is bitterly divided over his job performance. In a 5-4 vote largely about his leadership, Sharon Gentry, who backs Joseph, was elected chair of the board.
“Under Dr. Joseph’s leadership we are going in the opposite direction of the district’s vision, which is to be the fastest improving urban school district in the nation,” said school board member Jill Speering, who has been critical of Joseph.
Nashville Mayor David Briley said the bump in priority schools indicates that thousands of students “are not getting the education they deserve, particularly low-income students and students of color. This is unacceptable.”
Briley said his vision is to be a city that supports all of its residents.
“As an immediate measure, we must learn from schools that are closing achievement gaps for students here in Nashville and share what is working with the rest of the district,” Briley said. “I will also be working with city leaders, school officials and the state to reach actionable conclusions and move swiftly to address these disparities.”
Metro Nashville Public Schools moves 4 schools off priority list
Nashville has demonstrated some success moving schools completely off the priority list. Four schools tabbed as priority schools in 2015 improved and are no longer on the list.
Two of the 15 schools from three years ago are now run by the state’s Achievement School District, one is operated by the charter school group KIPP, one was combined with another traditional public school, and another was converted to an early learning center.
“Priority school designation means that the schools are going to have more resources to really target the needs of the school to accelerate growth,” Joseph said in an interview with The Tennessean. “This is an opportunity for these schools and these teachers who have been working hard to really get the resources they need.
“With this priority designation, we’re optimistic our schools will get better faster,” he said. “They won’t get worse, and that’s a commitment.”
Landing on the priority list opens up the opportunity for extra state and federal funding. The most recent state budget allocated $10 million for grants to priority schools.
MNPS strategy for supporting priority schools
Joseph said his administration will zero in on four areas to improve schools: school leadership, effective instruction, growing talent, and student and family support systems.
The last area of emphasis includes partnering with community groups to address specific areas of need.
For example, Lisa Coons, executive director of MNPS’ Schools of Innovation, pointed to a community-based program to donate coats and clothes for needy students who were missing school on cold days. That program paid off, Coons said.
“We tailor the programs to the specific needs of the school,” Coons said.
The Nashville schools on the priority list typically have high percentages of poor students and students who are chronically absent. The schools also have lower percentages of students achieving the growth projection for literacy.
Warner Elementary, in East Nashville, has 88.11 percent of its 227 students meeting the economically disadvantaged designation and just 35 percent meeting the growth projections for literacy.
At two high schools on the list — Maplewood and Whites Creek — chronic absentee rates are at 42 percent. Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more than 10 percent of the school days in a given year.
Joseph already got the ball rolling to aid troubled schools by shifting more federal Title I funds to schools with the highest percentages of poor students.
“Whether or not these schools were on a state list, they were on my list for schools that need to improve,” Joseph said.
2017-18 tests not factored
After problems with the 2017-18 TNReady tests, the legislature passed a law this year blocking the Education Department from using those results to put a school on the list.
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said a school could be removed from the list, however, if it had positive results on the 2017-18 test.
Identifying schools in need of help and providing additional resources to them have been part of the state’s larger effort to make accountability a pillar of its education policy.
“We believe accountability is a key element that has contributed to student growth in Tennessee and has been a foundation to our improvements in the last several years,” McQueen said.
In addition to the priority list, the state also released its rewards school list, which shows the top performing schools in the state. The rewards list was determined using a new formula that calculated overall testing results, student improvement, ACT scores and graduation rates.
Nashville had 22 schools on that list. In addition to the 21 schools overseen by Metro Nashville Public Schools, two charter schools operated by LEAD Academy and overseen by the Achievement School District are on the state’s priority list.
The Nashville schools on the priority list of the bottom 5 percent in the state
Alex Green Elementary
Jere Baxter Middle
Moses McKissack Middle
Robert E. Lilliard Elementary
The Cohn Learning Center
Tom Joy Elementary
Whites Creek High
The conversations surrounding our city’s public school system are persistent, and at times emotionally charged.
The four of us wanted to take this moment to express that we are committed to working together in support of one another while ensuring Nashville becomes the highest achieving urban school district in the country.
This goal is ambitious. Some might find it unrealistic in light of certain metrics which are far from satisfactory.
For example, recently released data shows that MNPS is moving faster than the state and nation on third through eighth grade reading, but despite those gains, we are still far from where we want to be.
And, certainly the news on Friday that we now have six more schools on the state’s Priority Schools List(those performing in the bottom 5 percent in the state) — from 15 to 21 — is deeply disappointing.
We can – and must – do better.
Strong public-private partnerships are essential
While those headlines are deflating, we cannot settle for quick fixes where the performance is fleeting. There is too much at stake.
What we are seeking is a transformation of learning in every classroom in every school for the benefit of every student entrusted to us by their parents through a covenant we are not willing to compromise.
But we will only succeed if we find a way to bicker less and instead work together to equitably address historic challenges of underfunding of our public schools.
In the same way that we have come together around early literacy – resourced the need and forged strong public/private partnerships to fasten the pace of the work, we must now do that more broadly to accelerate progress in underperforming schools.
Results will not materialize overnight. But, much work is already underway, successes are revealed every day, and the groundwork is in place on many fronts for the reversal of results that are unsatisfactory by anyone’s standards.
This includes the extraordinary work by teachers and principals across the district who work tirelessly every day to help their students achieve their full potential.
Indeed, amidst the bad news we often read are stories of great success – schools and teachers getting terrific results for kids. We must learn more about those bright spots and help share and scale their lessons learned citywide.
Debating school improvement is productive
We appreciate that no issue facing our city is the singular domain of one institution.
Rather, matters such as public education are a concern for the entire community.
Debating matters about how to improve our schools is productive, but only when it is grounded in mutual respect, and an appreciation for joint creativity. When it comes to investing in the future of the City’s youth, we believe that our signing this guest column is an important signal to Nashville — a signal that we are prepared to be supportive of one another in pursuit of our schools being safe places where students flourish.
And, it is a signal that we all share a tremendous sense of urgency to accelerate improvement.
We love Nashville, and are committed to getting this right for our children. Our city has a long history of coming together in extraordinary ways for the good of the community. This is one of those moments when we must showcase the best Nashville has to offer and lean in, together, to do what’s right for students and families.
David Briley is the eighth mayor of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Dr. Sharon Gentry is the chair of the MNPS Board of Education, Dr. Shawn Joseph is the superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Jim Shulman is the recently elected vice mayor.
[Read more at The Tennessean]Read More
Nashville schools asked to dedicate $432,000 for childhood trauma practices, reducing disciplinary issues
A state grant that funds Nashville public schools’ trauma-informed practices will end this year, threatening to stall work that has shown to reduce the need for discipline in the classroom.
Trauma-informed schools work to focus on the reducing the impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences, which can hurt brain development of children and cause behavioral issues.
With the grant ending, a group advocating for the practices in schools is asking Metro Nashville Public Schools to put local funds into the initiative — and increase the scope of the work overall.
ACE (All Children Excel) Nashville is asking Nashville public schools officials dedicate $432,000 toward the programs.
“We are grateful for the support by the district of trauma-informed schools, but we would love for the district to have some skin in the game and integrate (money) into their own budget,” said Kristen Rector, the president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee.
The district uses a $200,000 grant provided by Building Strong Brains Tennessee to fund trauma-informed practices in 10 schools. That is slated to end this year. The money goes toward a district and school coordinator.
ACE Nashville is asking the district to fund those two positions but also for increased funding to create four positions to help schools in the different areas of Nashville.
Trauma-informed practices are meant to help students feel safe and connected, which in turn increases their overall focus in the classroom. Classroom teachers, coaches and principals are on the front line of helping students through those issues, Rector said.
The increased support for students has helped almost every school see a reduction in office discipline referrals, helping keep kids in the classroom.
“It’s an often invisible issue,” said Kinika Young, Tennessee Justice Center children’s health director. “Teachers may have a problem child in a classroom but not really understand what is driving that behavior.
Young said nearly half of all U.S. children have experienced an adverse childhood experience, a quarter have experienced three or more and six percent have experienced more than four. Four or more is usually a tipping point, Young said.
“We think it is important to institute and provide that buffer for toxic stress and create safe and nurturing spaces,” Young said. “The impact is not restricted to those that are experiencing the stress. The other kids are experiencing the teacher struggle and trying to regulate their own behavior.”
Mary Crnobori, Nashville schools trauma-informed schools coordinator, said the work has seen strong results in reducing discipline cases overall at schools.
She said at Fall Hamilton Elementary School, which is the first school to take on the practices, has seen the most promising results, with a 97-percent reduction in discipline referrals.
Syrai Alexander finishes a writing assignment at her desk at Fall Hamilton Elementary Thursday Sept. 13, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Larry McCormack / tennessean)
“This work isn’t about just individual students who know trauma, it is in the interest of all students,” she said.
Nashville schools board Vice Chair Christiane Buggs said she believes funding the positions to continue trauma-informed schools is worth consideration, although noted that the district has many areas of need.
“It’s something that will give us exponential dividends in the end,” she said.
Reducing student discipline
Metro Nashville Public Schools uses a $200,000 Building Strong Brains grant to fund a trauma-informed coordinator and a school coordinator. The grant ends after this school year.
The 10 schools, along with their overall decrease in office discipline referrals, are:
- Fall-Hamilton Elementary — 97 percent reduction in year one and a 53 percent reduction in year two over the previous year.
- Eakin Elementary — 73 percent reduction.
- Waverly Belmont Elementary — 29 percent reduction.
- Napier Elementary — 15 percent reduction.
- Hermitage Elementary — 60 percent reduction.
- Inglewood Elementary — One percent reduction.
- Tulip Grove Elementary — 52 percent reduction.
- Meigs Magnet Middle Prep — 37 percent reduction.
Source: ACE Nashville[Read more at The Tennessean] Read More
Educators from Middle Tennessee met with Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen to discuss the difficulties of TNReady testing last week.
The gathering was held at Freedom Middle School in Franklin and included educators from Nashville, the Franklin Special School District and Dickson, Maury, Hickman, Marshall, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson counties. The participants were nominated by their superintendents.
A group of visitors were also in attendance which included House Speaker Beth Harwell, Republican Sens. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin, Jack Johnson of Franklin and Mark Pody of Lebanon, and Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna. The visitors were not permitted to engage in the discussion.
During the meeting, educators discussed access to technology and the online portion of the test, with half of the educators in attendance stating they would rather see paper-and-pencil versions of the exam.
All present during the meeting emphasized the need for both students and educators to approach the end-of-year examinations seriously and for the state to build trust with educators, parents and students.
The TNReady listening tour includes six stops statewide for district teachers and administrators, as well as school technology and assessment coordinators, to hold a dialogue on the recent issues with the annual standardized examination of the state’s students.
The first meeting at Halls Elementary School in Knoxville was met with criticism by a local school board member for being scheduled on a Friday afternoon. Haslam told journalists there that the timing wasn’t intended as a way to shut teachers out.
A report from the tour will be released by the department at the end of the month.
The information will be used in the state’s search for a new testing vendor. Bids for the contract are expected to go out in October. For the coming testing season, the state will remain with its current vendor, Questar.
In August, the board for Maury County Public Schools voted 10-1 to send a letter calling for the halt of TNReady testing.
The letter, penned by Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Chris Marczak, asks the state to end TNReady testing, requests schools be held harmless in the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVASS) and calls for the ACT to be made the standardized testing tool for high school juniors and seniors by the year 2020.
Marczak previously said the changes would allow students to spend their careers preparing for the betterment of their future and complement the district’s “Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness.” Launched in January 2016, the “Keys” initiative is intended to implement the community’s expectations for its students, collected in the months prior, into a measurable goal and standard.
The superintendent called the vote an answer to an ongoing rally cry in Maury County. The Maury County Education Association, which represents more than 450 local educators and employees in the school district of 12,800 students, supports the board’s decision.
In the past three years, the annual examinations for students in grades 3 through 12 have experienced major issues. The problems have resulted in a shutdown of testing and state legislators making last-minute deals to ensure the tests will not be held against students, teachers and public school districts.
In April, state education officials said they believed there was “a deliberate attack” on the TNReady testing system, halting the initial day of testing. In June, the state revealed that the issue instead originated with an unauthorized change made by the state’s vendor to its systems. The state also decided it would pay $2.5 million less to Questar, which holds a $30 million, two-year contract with the state. Despite the issues, both McQueen and Haslam have committed to the testing process.
Following deliberations, the Tennessee General Assembly decided that it will ensure students, teachers and districts are held harmless for this year’s TNReady results.
Despite the testing issues, the Tennessee Education Association says students are improving, with more graduating on time and prepared to attend college and enter the workplace.
In 2016, the state’s former testing vendor, Measurement Inc., experienced severe statewide problems resulting in its cancellation.
Responding to a similar protest from Shelby County Schools Director Dorsey Hopson and Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph, McQueen said standardized testing was a state and federal requirement, following an ongoing stance to continue moving forward with the examinations.
“Statewide assessment is the critical backbone to ensuring we are all accountable for the success of every single student in our state,” she said.
According to the Associated Press, the state has already begun to take steps to prevent some of the same issues with testing this school year. One of the biggest changes is that only high school students in grades 9-12 and those taking science — which is in a field-testing, non-punitive stage — will take their assessments online.[Read more at The Daily Herald] Read More
Tennessee’s campaign to help its children read better is seeing encouraging results from investments in school-based summer camps for youngsters at risk of regressing during school breaks.
First-, second-, and third-graders who participated in the state’s Read to be Ready summer program showed gains in reading comprehension and accuracy skills for a third straight year, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Education Department.
And the last two summers generated statistically significant improvements in those skills, based on assessments given in the early and last days of the camps.
This summer, more than 7,700 children took part in 250 reading camps across the state. The free programs provided four hours daily of literacy-based enrichment activities for four weeks and matched every five youngsters with one teacher. High-quality books, field trips, and teacher trainings were part of the mix.
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen called the impact “powerful” in building basic learning skills, especially for children from low-income families who are most likely to experience summer slide and fall academically behind their more affluent peers.
But Tennessee has a long way to go to reach its goal of having at least 75 percent of third-graders reading on grade level by 2025. Despite an encouraging uptick on the most recent state tests, only 37 percent of third-graders scored proficient in reading. And on national test results released this spring, fourth-graders’ reading performance remained mostly flat compared to 2013, when scores spiked for both reading and math.
Tennessee declared war on its reading problem in 2016, as McQueen joined Gov. Bill Haslam and his literacy-minded first lady, Chrissy, to launch Read to be Ready. The initiative’s centerpiece is the development of a cadre of literacy coaches to improve educator expertise.
The campaign also piloted a dozen camps that first summer with a $1 million gift from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The results were promising enough to expand the program last year with $30 million allotted over three years from the state Department of Human Services.
School districts host their own camps using state grants awarded based on their applications. This year, more than three-fourths of Tennessee’s 147 school systems took advantage of the funding.
Those districts sent teachers who staff their camps to state trainings on literacy instruction. While the first two summers focused on integrating authentic reading and texts into the camps, this year’s trainings prioritized writing skills and increasing student interest and stamina for the written word.
The grants also provided each student with an average of 25 books for their home library this summer — sending more than 193,000 books home in all.
You can read the state’s full report here.[Read more at Chalkbeat] Read More