One way that organizations improve is by making strategic decisions about their personnel: hiring good people, placing them where they can be most effective, supporting them, and holding on to them—or not, depending on their fit and their job performance. As two Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) studies highlight, this thinking applies to schools and school districts as well.
First, as we describe in a recent TERA brief, school leadership plays an important role in teacher retention. To investigate this relationship, we merged information about teacher mobility in Tennessee with multiple measures of principal performance, including rubric-based practice ratings assigned to principals in TEAM and teachers’ assessments of leadership in their schools from the Tennessee Educator Survey.
The findings were stark. Tennessee teachers were more likely to “stick” in schools with highly rated leaders. But even more important: the most effective teachers were even more likely to stay under a strong leader, and, in contrast, the least effective teachers were actually more likely to turn over.
In other words, Tennessee’s most effective principals tend to strategically retain teachers. They do a better job of holding on to their best teachers, but they also find ways to remove struggling teachers or teachers who are not a good fit for the school, through “counseling out” or other means.
An interesting additional finding from our analysis is that the evidence of strategic retention was much stronger when measuring teacher effectiveness by classroom observation ratings than by value-added. We suspect that ratings are more informative for teacher retention because principals collect them themselves, and observation rubrics help principals think more specifically about which teachers are excelling and which are struggling.
Unfortunately, we find less evidence of this kind of strategic retention behavior in high-poverty, low-achieving schools—precisely the kinds of schools where exposure to a high-quality teacher can be especially meaningful for student outcomes. Being strategic is more challenging when finding replacement teachers is difficult. But a second TERA analysis points to another reason: districts also face strategic personnel challenges which lead them to place less effective principals in high-needs schools.
In this study, we examine the distribution of principal qualifications and performance measures across measures of school disadvantage (e.g., high poverty). Our clear conclusion is that principal quality is inequitably distributed in Tennessee. Districts tend not to place their most experienced and most effective principals in the highest need schools where they could potentially have the largest impact. Instead, across urban, suburban, and rural schools, we find that the least experienced, least effective principals are in the schools with the lowest achievement and highest concentrations of poverty.
This pattern arises in part because principals in the most disadvantaged schools turn over at higher rates and because districts tend to hire less experienced and less effective leaders into those schools when vacancies arise. For instance, schools with high poverty are much more likely to fill a principal vacancy with someone who has never been a principal before (principals typically are least effective in their first year when first learning the job). Across the state, more than 40 brand-new principals each year take over schools serving a student population that is more than 80 percent low-income.
Strategic personnel management in schools starts with strategic personnel management at the district level. Good teachers stay in schools with good principals. Recruiting and retaining excellent teachers in our highest-needs schools means ensuring that those school have effective leaders. And that means, first, getting strong leaders into high-needs schools a priority, then figuring out what incentives and supports they need to stay.[Read more at SCORE] Read More
Tennessee’s black teachers are more likely to leave their schools than their white peers, but in most cases are not exiting the profession altogether, according to new research.
Data collected from 2011 to 2016 shows that the state’s black teachers, especially males, are transferring to other schools within the same district at a higher rate than white teachers.
The findings are a surprise and defy conventional wisdom about the challenges of achieving a racially diverse teacher workforce. U.S. data suggests that black teachers are leaving the profession just a few years into the job, which is why retaining teachers of color has been central to the national dialogue on this challenge.
“I just assumed that Tennessee would look like the national trend. But in fact, while our mobility rates were high, our exit rates weren’t as high,” said Jason Grissom, the study’s lead researcher and an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University.
The patterns were outlined in a research brief released Thursday by the Tennessee Education Research Alliance, a partnership between Vanderbilt’s Peabody College and the Tennessee Department of Education.
The research is important as Tennessee grapples with how to diversify its teacher workforce at the same time that its classrooms are quickly becoming more diverse. Only about 13 percent of the state’s teachers identify as people of color, compared to about 37 percent of Tennessee students.
“To put these results in context, a growing body of research indicates that students of color are more likely to succeed academically when taught by teachers of color,” said Grissom, “and yet we know that teachers in Tennessee are not representative of the state’s student population.”
There’s also evidence of positive impacts for white students who are exposed to teachers of color. Not only can teachers of color disrupt racial stereotypes, they can share invaluable insights with students who come from different backgrounds.
For any student population, research shows that high teacher turnover tends to diminish student achievement. But the rates of turnover are greater for schools with lower achievement and higher poverty. In Tennessee, about 75 percent of the state’s black teachers work in urban schools where that’s more likely the case.
And that’s the rub.
“Teachers of color are working in precisely the schools where we’d like to have the most stable workforce, yet they have the least stable workforce,” Grissom said.
The reasons for higher rates of mobility among Tennessee teachers of color appear to be twofold, but both can be explained by school environments.
First, more black teachers work in urban schools that are home to greater concentrations of poverty and lower student achievement. These schools tend to face more challenges with resources, parental involvement, discipline, and school leadership.
“There are systematically more challenging environments for teachers to teach in,” Grissom said. “When you account statistically for those factors, you start to see turnover gap between black and white teachers diminish. In other words, if white teachers taught in the kinds of schools that black teachers teach in, you would see much higher turnover rates among white teachers.”
Another big factor is who surrounds black teachers at work. The more racially isolated, the more likely they will transfer to another school. Conversely, as the number of black colleagues increase, the turnover rate tends to go down. Additionally, the race of the principal matters, with black principals retaining black teachers at higher rates than white principals.
“This highlights some of the challenges of diversifying the workforce when people are as residentially segregated as they are in Tennessee,” said Grissom, noting the state’s suburban districts tend to have few teachers of color and many rural ones have none.
“We know there are schools that feel pressure to hire more people of color. But our research suggests that it won’t be enough to keep them if you only have a couple of black teachers,” he said.
Researchers hope the findings will help Tennessee leaders strategize how to increase teacher diversity.
“Recruiting more teachers of color into the profession is a large factor, but the findings also indicate that we should prioritize policies and practices aimed at better supporting teachers of color across the state,” said Erin O’Hara, executive director of the research alliance. “For example, principal training and preparation efforts could incorporate more training and ongoing discussion specific to hiring and, just as critically, to supporting teachers of color.”
A separate report released earlier this month offers perspectives from teachers of color in Tennessee. That report, developed by the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance, includes policy recommendations on how schools and districts can support teachers of color.[Read more at Chalkbeat] Read More
Not long after the last school buses leave Isaac Litton Middle School at the end of the day, the first buses from a dozen other East Nashville schools start to arrive for the after-school enrichment program, Backfield in Motion. Teacher Candra Clariette helps a double handful of boys slowly work through Peggy Kern’s book “No Way Out.” It’s always a tricky task, she said, to find a book that meets the interests, reading level, and curricular needs of middle schoolers from seven different local district and charter schools.
“I know I’m responsible for my students and I’m not in the classroom with them, but I can help their teachers by integrating literacy here,” said Clariette, who is also a literacy specialist at Haynes Middle School in her day job. “It’s kind of a mirror.”
While many after-school teachers across the country work to tailor their programs to students or to align to local curriculum, Clariette has an edge: Backfield in Motion gets detailed data from Nashville public schools on her students’ academic scores, behavior, attendance, and interests—along with the training to use the information to tailor instruction.
Backfield in Motion is one of dozens of groups in the Nashville After Zone Alliance. Known as NAZA, the partnership between the city and the Nashville district launched in 2009 to exchange student data during and outside the school day. The Nashville Public Library, which runs the alliance, coordinates training and support for schools and providers.
“Learning does not stop at 3 p.m., and it does not stop in June when kids are out for summer,” said Abby Cohen, a senior associate for policy and advocacy at the Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit group which advocates for better use of education data and which has studied NAZA.
In a nationwide survey this year, the group found that 86 percent of parents would like their child’s school to share relevant academic information with his or her extracurricular providers.
In exchange for school data on student discipline, attendance, special education needs, and math, reading, and science scores, each after-school group provides data on participating students’ attendance and progress and undergoes an independent evaluation each year.
“This is a whole new way of doing business in after-school programs, and it’s a constant work in progress,” Bela Spooner, the manager of expanded-learning initiatives at the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. “There’s this push and pull: ‘We want after-school to align with school!’ ‘We want school to look more like after-school!’ ”
Community groups and other after-school providers, she said, “are trying to … expand young people’s horizons—but there’s a lot of pressure on after-school providers to improve students’ academic achievement.”
Training for Exchange
The National League of Cities estimates that only about a third of cities that have after-school programs use common data systems with their schools. Nashville was part of the league’s 17-year Next-Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative, which followed more than two-dozen cities attempting to create networks for after-school providers.
Even within those next-generation cities, “Nashville is unique,” said Spooner. “They’ve been able to move their work along faster than in some places because the city has been able to work closely with the school system; there’s often a problem of student-data privacy and trust between big systems,” she said. “Other cities like Denver are doing strategic data-sharing with school districts, but … in most places, it’s still one-sided.” Nashville, she said, is the only one training community groups and school staff to work together.
Although some community groups collected their own data or reached out to schools before NAZA, very few had training in how to collect and analyze data systemically or meet federal and state laws on keeping student data secure. Rather than trying to work around myriad federal and state privacy laws, parents are asked as part of extracurricular enrollment to sign a consent form to allow the school to share attendance, academic, and behavior data with after-school providers.
While it’s voluntary, parents rarely opt out. “They understand if they don’t [approve data sharing], the programs will be just kind of a one-size-fits-all approach, and parents really do want the personalized experience for their students,” said Laura Hansen, Metro Nashville public schools’ director of information management and decision support.
To join the network, providers undergo 12 hours of free training each year on positive youth development, understanding the evaluation system, and digging into data, among other topics. Twice a year, providers join district teachers for “data dives” to look at the needs and progress of students in their programs.
“It’s an excellent tool for after-school programs—12 hours of training every year at no cost to me,” said Micah Kimble, the vice president of Backfield in Motion.
The Nashville-based Dan and Margaret Maddox Charitable Fund supported community after-school programs long before NAZA was launched, but Kaki Friskics-Warren, the fund’s executive director, said the initiative’s required evaluations have helped the fund target its grants.
“So often with data, it can be used to beat someone up—you’re not doing this well or why did this program get more points than you got in a certain area—but NAZA was really about the rising tide floats all boats,” she said. “This is data that would motivate people to improve and would help people see, ‘Oh, this is where we’re putting our energy in one place when we really need to be putting it somewhere else.’ ”
For example, Backfield in Motion has always provided low-income boys in east Nashville with free supper, mentors, and an hour each of academics and sports each day. But Kimble said as a result of its data dives and discussions with schools, the group expanded its sessions to include science and art classes and incorporated more time during academic sessions for students to reflect on what they were learning and what they wanted to study. “We get to see exactly what our kids are interested in, what they love about the program, and what they didn’t,” he said.
While providers are not on planning teams for students with individualized education plans, Kimble said they now receive students’ IEPs and have hired a district special education teacher to help provide supports for students.
Data in Motion
Sharing data also helps the district respond more quickly to changing needs, Hansen said. In one year, a school administrator alerted the after-school network that new Somali immigrant students were clustered in one large apartment building. The apartment manager agreed to open a ground-floor apartment that year to be used for a short-term English-language-learning after-school program to help boost the students’ proficiency with their new language.
“It had curriculum from the district, had after-school providers looking more at good pedagogy,” Hansen said. “The impact of just that activity was huge for these students.”
Last year at Wright Middle School, Jennifer DeWall, the NAZA site coordinator, worked with 6th grade teachers who noticed a cluster of students struggling in math. DeWall helped the teachers connect their students to a local after-school program that generally provided homework help but was also able to tailor tutoring for the math concepts the teachers had found lacking.
“There’s great value in this [data-sharing] program,” said Sharada Deaton, the executive principal of Wright Middle School. “This is a school where students come in with many needs—high poverty, 34 percent are English-learners, 14 percent are both English-learners and have special needs. We cannot address all those needs during the school day.”
In an early evaluation of NAZA, the American Institutes for Research found “consistent evidence” that higher after-school attendance, particularly of programs rated as high-quality, was associated with small boosts to students’ math and science grades in 2012-13 and fewer discipline problems during the school day.
“The value of data sharing isn’t just about gaining knowledge but about collaboration,” Hansen said. “Data is the magnet that brings people together under a shared understanding of what needs to be done.”
Coverage of after-school learning opportunities is supported in part by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.[Read more at Education Week]
Before Amazon’s announcement earlier this month to bring an operations hub to Nashville, college leaders rallied for months to sell the company on the city’s workforce training.
Belmont University’s Bob Fisher told the tech giant last year that there would be a collective effort from universities throughout Middle Tennessee to train future Amazon workers.
“Vanderbilt, Lipscomb and Tennessee State University are all valuable assets,” Fisher said, adding there are also other numerous colleges dotting the area.
With Amazon bringing thousands of jobs to Nashville, Fisher said the company won’t be able to fill those in a day.
“We will have to help train workers,” he said. “We can fill that need.”
Indeed, for Amazon to find the as many as 5,000 workers to bring to the downtown Nashville Yards development, college leaders will need to figure out how to adjust to, sustain and support the company’s workforce needs now and beyond.
That might mean colleges providing new programs or specialized job training for newly recruited Amazon employees. College leaders are unclear what types of programs they might need to add, but it could include technology and management programs.
Leaders of the area’s largest institutions agree that the influx of jobs — the largest single jobs announcement in state history — presents an exciting challenge for their schools and plenty of opportunity for students.
Each is working to understand its role as Amazon sets up shop within the city in 2019.
“As part of the process and putting together this application, it was not about one single institution, but about working together,” Nashville State Community College President Shanna Jackson said. “We are not just asking what we need as colleges but trying to come to the table as a partner. We want to deliver what Amazon needs.”
Amazon plans to recruit here and abroad
The announcement last week, while a tremendous investment in Nashville and Tennessee, was a third-place prize in the highly watched and competitive process to find Amazon’s new headquarters.
Amazon, based in Seattle, announced in September 2017 it was seeking a second headquarters location. Nashville was a top 20 finalist, but the company split the “HQ2” grand prize between northern Virginia and New York City.
The Nashville operations hub represents a $230 million investment from the company. Amazon plans to recruit jobs that will include management and tech-focused positions, including software developers, with earnings expected to average $150,000 a year.
Amazon is expected to recruit locally and abroad.
A pathway to Amazon
Nashville State, Jackson said, is working on new programs that are geared toward the growing tech industry.
“I want a way to have current Nashvillians find a pathway into Amazon,” Jackson said. “We have an opportunity where we can start right now getting students ready.”
But the city must make headway in training tech workers. The city lags behind other major cities in its concentration of tech workers, falling outside the top 20 in the country, according to a Brookings Institution report.
Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said the investment by the company is one that promises to enhance the energy and spirit of an already thriving city but also signals new possibilities for students.
“We are proud to welcome our new neighbors and look forward to working with the Amazon team to unlock new opportunities and find creative ways to benefit our shared community,” Zeppos said.
And other area schools are ready to do their part.
Middle Tennessee State University was involved in the talks to bring Amazon to the city and President Sidney McPhee said the school’s supply chain management and internet technology programs drew interest. The school is also a large supplier of employees, McPhee said, graduating about 4,000 students a year.
But McPhee said with a growing number of Nashville-area tech jobs, the school must expand its programs. MTSU is considering a technology-focused school with its Data Science Institute as part of the offerings.
“While there is a challenge, MTSU and other area schools are up to meeting the needs of industry,” McPhee said.
Preparing for the unknown
Other college leaders also welcome the challenge.
Lipscomb University’s Susan Galbreath, senior vice president of strategy, said there are still plenty of questions to be answered about what jobs Amazon is bringing to Nashville.
While the school hasn’t had any formal talks with the company, Galbreath said the school is well positioned to meet Amazon’s needs.
Lipscomb’s tech offerings are growing, including its College of Computing and Technology. And the school offers programs in business management.
“It’s a large employment pool, and one university won’t meet all the company’s needs,” Galbreath said. “But we very much will do the best we can.”
Belmont’s Fisher also said he’s unsure what types of jobs Amazon will be looking to hire, but said he can imagine numerous, including management, marketing and public relations. But getting students ready is going to take a village, he said.
“We are in some ways a fragmented group,” Fisher said of the area’s colleges. “There are some large and some small, and we go about problems in a different way. But here is a case where we can get together on the front end and talk about what we are going to do now that we landed this fish.”[Read more at the Tennessean] Read More
The job of a school leader has changed dramatically in recent years, leading many education advocates to a new, heightened focus on principals as instructional leaders and to an increased interest in better supporting principals. Through work that includes supporting teacher growth and creating a strong school culture, school leaders account for up to a quarter of in-school factors that affect student performance.
When the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) gathered feedback for the Excellence For All: How Tennessee Can Lift Our Students To Best In The Nation report in 2017, Tennesseans emphasized the critical role principals play in retaining excellent teachers and encouraging and supporting educator growth. In fact, Tennessee higher education leaders, district leaders, and policymakers have spotlighted the need for stronger principal preparation and support.
Since that report was issued in November 2017 with a priority on school leadership, we have seen growing attention on the work to ensure that principals are prepared and supported to lead people and learning.
In May, SCORE released the research brief Why Principals Matter: Exploring The Research On School Leadership and held a SCORE Institute On School Leadership to hear from stakeholders across the state and country about innovations in this work. The four highlights in the report derive from both national and Tennessee-specific research:
- Strong principal leadership is instrumental to improving and maintaining effective schools.
- Many principals do not feel well prepared for the diverse responsibilities of school leadership.
- Inexperienced principals often are placed in Tennessee’s highest-need schools.
- High-quality principal preparation programs use research-based strategies for candidate selection and program design to ensure candidates are ready to make meaningful improvements in student achievement.
A new RAND Corp. report found that the Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative had a successful first year. The effort involved seven higher education institutions that partnered with districts in their state to help redesign principal training programs. As the partnerships continue, it will help provide valuable learning to other states, higher education institutions, and districts for how to strengthen the principal pipeline.
New research from Jason Grissom, a Vanderbilt University associate professor of public policy and education, and Brendan Bartanen, a Vanderbilt University doctoral candidate, found that effective school leaders are skilled at retaining high-performing teachers as well as strategically turning over the low-performing teachers as measured by classroom-observation scores. The study also highlighted the importance of effective principals providing instructional coaching and feedback as well as planning meaningful professional development for the educators in their building. This is vital for ensuring that Tennessee students have access to highly effective teachers.
The Tennessee Department of Education formally launched the Tennessee Rural Principal Network in September. Fifty-two principals make up the inaugural class. The principals will receive funding to attend state-led conferences and training opportunities to help support their work. The network is also one component of Governor Haslam’s Transforming School Leadership Initiative that was launched earlier this year.
A separate study by Vanderbilt University and Mathematica Policy Research, as part of the Wallace Foundation’s Principal Supervisor Initiative, found that shifting the role of district supervisors of principals to emphasize coaching and mentoring instead of operations and administration leads to principals feeling more supported. The findings also suggest that reshaping this role could lead to improving schools by a focus on raising student achievement, strengthening the school culture, and retaining more high-quality teachers.
Tennessee has made progress with a strong focus on developing excellent principals by providing better preparation before they enter school leadership roles and more support during the first years in the role. Great schools are led by great leaders and all Tennessee students deserve to attend an excellent school to prepare them for a lifetime of success.[Read more at SCORE] Read More
Twenty-eight of the 427 students at Two Rivers Middle Prep are experiencing homelessness. Nearly 90 percent of the student body is classified as economically disadvantaged.
Two Rivers is a part of what’s known as the McGavock cluster, which includes 16 other schools. Of the group, Two Rivers has the largest in-school food pantry, and it serves as a food distribution point for low-income members of the community. Food pantries are often agencies of larger food banks — the site at Two Rivers, for example, is supported by Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee.
Community Achieves is a Metro Nashville Public Schools initiative. At Two Rivers, it is site manager Nicole Valentine’s job to coordinate partnerships that personalize learning for students and engage the community and parents. For some of those students, personalized learning means addressing food insecurity.
“There are only two schools within the cluster that have a Community Achieves site manager,” says Valentine, “and that means neighboring schools depend on the support of schools that have a pantry.”
More than 80 percent of students at Two Rivers are bused in from neighborhoods like the Napier public housing community and the apartment complexes along Elm Hill Pike. Valentine says 65 percent of those attending the school are students of color.
“We have students whose families have a place of their own, students that live in a shelter, students that are living in a motel,” says Valentine. “Last school year, there were a couple of families living in the campsite near Opryland.”
Shelly Dunaway, Two Rivers’ principal, says that each month, the in-school food pantry serves anywhere from 80 to 100 students through Community Achieves.
“With our homelessness rate and our students who live in poverty, we want to provide those wraparound services, and we know students who are hungry can’t focus,” says Dunaway. “Their mind is on lunch time, on what’s being served, and we really want to provide our students that safe environment where their focus can be on school. A part of that is providing them with nutritional foods on the weekends, holidays and in the evenings.
“We remained a school that is eligible for free and reduced lunch, but we are 83 percent poverty at the school,” she continues. “That covers most of our kids. We know they eat breakfast and lunch here, but I always worry about whether they are getting meals when we leave.”
The nonprofit hunger-relief group Feeding America reports that on average, 22 million students in the U.S. receive free and reduced-price lunches each year through federal programs. But once the bell sounds and students are sent home, their nutritional needs often go unaddressed. Food pantries like the one at Two Rivers help address those needs — and it isn’t the only school that has faced more issues than federal programs can address.
Last fall, Jennifer Rheinecker and a colleague at Donelson Middle School overheard some students talking about how they wouldn’t have food to eat over the weekend. By the next week, teachers at Donelson Middle had started bringing in nonperishable food items that the students could take home in their backpacks. Pretty soon, there was so much food for students that a dedicated space in the school was allotted. Now there’s a permanent food pantry at Donelson Middle School, where students can get the food they’ll need from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening.
Dawn Rutledge, MNPS spokesperson, says schools in the district put together food pantries on the basis of the individual needs of the student body.
“We have several schools that do food pantries that allow people to bring in food donations for students and families,” Rutledge says. “That’s something individual schools have tackled, and each school kind of decides how that works. We still have quite a number of students that need to have that support, and that’s always going to be something we have to look at.”
In Davidson County, 80,000 residents depend on SNAP and other nutritional-assistance programs, and federal initiatives like the Community Eligibility Program help address some of the nutritional-assistance needs, but even with in-school programs like CEP and the Backpack Program (through Feeding America), Rheinecker says there are still gaps that need filling.
“Those programs help, but that still leaves big gaps during non-school hours,” she says. “And we know students who are hungry can’t learn — children listening to rumbling stomachs can’t hear anything else that happens in school. We have food drives a few times a year, and teachers and staff supplement with needed items too. The pantry is available for any student who says they need food, and if we have an extended break ahead or anticipate possible snow days, we always give them extra.”
Rheinecker says now, a year after the Donelson Middle pantry was created, the administration is seeing about 15 students use the pantry each week. By the end of the year, they expect that number to have quadrupled.
Rosemary Hunter, assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, says Rheinecker’s sentiments are supported by research — the stress that comes from not knowing where your next meal is coming from is overwhelming to young people, and often has lasting effects.
“[Food-insecure students] have been shown to have symptoms of depression and anxiety, and behavior problems do increase as their food insecurity increases,” Hunter says. “So much of what happens is in a group setting, so they need to be able to be engaged and participate and cooperate with their peers. [Studies] have shown that children who are hungry have limitations in skill acquisition compared to children that are food secure. It ends up holding them back over time.”
For Dunaway and others managing the food pantries, that hits close to home.
“My husband and I raised four boys, and now I have four school-age grandchildren,” says Dunaway. “We are blessed that there is food on our table, but when I sit down with my family and we’re about to enjoy a meal together and we are saying the blessing, I think about my kids here at Two Rivers. I wonder about if they’re OK. Everybody in this building is working to help these kids have what they need to be successful at school — when they walk in the door, we don’t want them to be worried about how they don’t have a coat or a meal for dinner.
“We want them to be able to come to school, breathe a sigh of relief if they need to, and know they’re in a caring environment where they can just do what they need to do as students.”[Read more at the Nashville Scene] Read More
Nashville and Tennessee business leaders are urging the state’s newly elected leaders to focus on education and infrastructure to best support business communities statewide.
Bill Lee, owner of a heating and air company, won the governor’s race Tuesday; U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn won a senate seat and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper was re-elected to represent Nashville in the House of Representatives.
Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Ralph Schulz urged Lee to build on Gov. Bill Haslam’s initiatives aimed at boosting college graduation rates and adding skill sets among adults. He also emphasized the need for focusing on kindergarten through 12th grade schools and for an improved testing system.
“Workforce is the biggest challenge everywhere in Tennessee and really across the nation,” Schulz said. “These things that have been done to make post-secondary education available are really important and we need to continue to focus on things to improve our ability to build that workforce.”
On the federal level, he said he hoped Blackburn and national leaders will pass immigration reform that establishes clear policy and will expand benefits to the uninsured in Tennessee, given the impact on rural hospitals.
“We see hospitals closing in rural areas,” Schulz said. “Those are both economic centers and health centers.”
Nashville Health Care Council President Hayley Hovious emphasized the impact of the health care sector on the state’s economy, but declined to speak on specific health care policy positions regarding the Affordable Care Act.
“Certainty is always helpful for business,” she said. “They haven’t had a lot of that in recent years.”
Bradley Jackson, CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, said while all candidates — Lee, his Democratic opponent Karl Dean, Blackburn and Democratic candidate for Senate and former Governor Phil Bredesen — were receptive to business issues, the chamber was pleased with the results as they did not represent significant change to the state. Jackson commended Lee’s experience with workforce challenges and his vision on technical and vocational solutions and said he hopes Lee will build on Haslam’s Drive to 55 program.
Jackson said he would like to see requirements for new Tennessee businesses be streamlined on a local, state and federal level and to see adjustments on business taxes.
“We don’t mind regulation,” Jackson said. “We just ask they be fairly applied and that they are easy to comply with.”
Jackson also emphasized the need for Blackburn to address infrastructure needs, including water, sewers, airports and roads across the state. Regarding trade policies with China, he said Tennessee businesses sought consistency and stability.
“We need to know what the rules are going to be going forward,” Jackson said. “‘We don’t like things to change and shift around. We hope it’s positive overall.”
Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Visitors & Convention Corp., urged Lee to continue Haslam’s support for the state’s tourism sector, what he describes as the “best support this industry has ever had” in terms of funding, leadership and statewide collaboration.
“It paid off,” Spyridon said. ” To his credit, it’s the first time in my career here that from southwest from northeast we all were around the table and we stayed around the table.”
He also encouraged Lee to steer clear of discriminatory policies that make the state less welcoming and impedes its ability to conduct business. In 2016, the visitors corporation and several other area businesses spoke out against legislation mandating bathrooms for transgender individuals.
For both Lee and Blackburn, Spyridon also emphasized the need for supporting infrastructure, especially related to transportation.[Read more at the Tennessean] Read More
The nursing students at Missoula College wield their medical syringes with life-and-death intensity, even though they’re only practicing on fruit.
This bright, high-ceilinged classroom overlooking the Clark Fork River buzzes with enthusiasm born of not only the knowledge that such work is important, but also that registered nursing is among the highest-demand occupations in Montana.
It’s not just an assumption based on this state’s aging population — nearly a fifth of Montanans are 65 and older, according to the Census Bureau — and a looming wave of retirements among nurses who will have to be replaced. It’s a scientific projection using data from employers and state agencies to help determine which subjects colleges should and shouldn’t teach and steer students to the highest-paying occupations that the state most needs to fill.
If this sounds like an obvious way to close the gap between workforce demand and the supply of qualified graduates — and to maximize the benefits to students of an increasingly expensive higher education — it’s rarely undertaken in the way Montana has embraced it.
“Why haven’t we been doing this all across the country?” asked Gov. Steve Bullock, who is also chairman of the National Governors Association. “It seems like common sense, but not enough states have done it.”
Instead, many colleges and universities rely on outdated federal government data about employer needs, continue offering majors whose graduates can’t get work, take years to create new courses in subjects for which businesses have immediate openings, or ignore altogether the question of whether their programs are training students for jobs.
“There’s a disconnect at times, unfortunately, between state government, the business community and higher education,” Bullock said in an interview at his office in the state capitol building in Helena. “There’s often been sort of the separation of, ‘We’re higher education, we do what we do.’ ‘We’re state government, we do what we do.’ ‘We’re business, we do what we do.’”
Geographically huge, but with a comparatively tiny population of people with personal or professional connections — just a small town with very, very long roads, as one government official put it —Montana has managed to bring these groups together in a collaboration among its university system, Department of Labor and Industry, the State Workforce Innovation Board, private colleges and others.
It matched lists of graduates with payroll records to see what jobs they held and how much they were making. Even the self-employed, who are hard to track because they don’t show up in corporate payroll records, were included in the data, thanks to income tax returns provided by the Department of Revenue.
Many states collect this information, according to the National Skills Organization and other groups, which have held up the initiative as a national model. But few use it in the way Montana has, to determine on an institution-by-institution basis what programs should be added, expanded or eliminated by its universities and colleges, and to tell its students where the most in-demand and highest-paying jobs are.
“We’re laying it out: Here’s what we need, here’s what you can earn, here’s what your likely outcome is. You make the call,” said Labor and Industry Commissioner Galen Holenbaugh. “Use this information to help you make your own decision. Whether it’s a business wanting to grow or for a worker: These are the best choices you can make.”
The data show, for instance, that the state was producing too few teaching assistants, paralegals, human resources specialists, dental assistants, lab technologists, purchasing agents, occupational therapists, optometrists, data scientists and veterinarians for the projected need — but too many web developers, civil and mechanical engineers, social workers, teachers, financial managers and physical therapists. State officials said they also found falling demand for workers in the alternative energy sector.
So Montana Tech has added certificate and bachelor’s degree programs in data science. Rocky Mountain College in Billings will add a doctorate in occupational therapy in January. Missoula College has put a moratorium on its energy technology program. (“It’s one of the really, really difficult things as we go through this process,” said Tom Gallagher, associate dean. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t bring it back out when there’s an opportunity for that.”)
The process also found that some students were spending time and money getting degrees that don’t pay off.
While it identified big shortages in fields such as customer relations and culinary arts, for example, the data also showed that students with associate or bachelor’s degrees in those occupations generally could have earned just as much with only a high school diploma and some work experience. Bachelor’s degree holders in public safety, engineering technologies and allied health could have made more, five years after graduating, with just associate degrees in the same fields.
The largest program at most of the state’s community colleges, general studies, also offered little return — even for students who planned to use it as a first step to a bachelor’s degree; only 40 percent of them, it turned out, ever get one.
Information like that could have helped many of the 18 students in the nursing class at Missoula College, at least seven of whom had already earned bachelor’s degrees and were back at a community college because they couldn’t find jobs they wanted.
One, Mark Olson, has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He worked for the federal Bureau of Land Management as a forester and wildland firefighter, but that was not enough to pay the bills when twins came.
Olson saw the data showing that it was hard to get a teaching job — his other choice — so, at 47, signed up to become a nurse.
When he read up on the program, he said, “The main thing that stuck out to me that I remember is that, upon graduation, like 96 or 98 percent of the nursing school graduates get jobs within the first month.” (The number has ranged between 94 percent and 97 percent over the last three years.)
That kind of information “really does help us to more accurately help and steer our students,” said Dylan Rogness, an advisor at Missoula College. “Are there programs that are in higher demand than what they originally came to school for?”
It also reinforces that not everyone needs to get a bachelor’s degree, Rogness said. Credentials from community colleges like his, he said, citing the state data, lead to jobs that sometimes pay more.
“Nationally the reaction to a two-year education is becoming more and more positive, because [graduates] go right into the workforce and they make an impact immediately, rather than someone coming out with a psychology degree and having to go on for a master’s or a doctorate while they work at Subway.”
Morgan Hill drifted through college and the Marine Corps, and “still didn’t know” what she wanted to do for a living, she said. Then she learned about demand for workers in the construction industry, and cashed in her GI Bill benefits to get an associate degree in sustainable construction.
After two years of study, she graduated in the spring and is now “making as much as [someone who attended] a four-year school,” Hill, 26, said cheerfully on a construction site in Missoula. “And we get to work outside all the time instead of sitting in a classroom all day.”
Seeing colleges turn out more graduates who have the skills he needs is encouraging, said Bill Fritz, Hill’s boss and operations manager for the Jackson Contractor Group.
“You can see the demand, the amount of construction that’s going on across the country actually right now, and trying to find qualified and good people that want to work in the industry is super tough,” he said.
He sees other students majoring in subjects that may not lead to jobs in such demand, said Fritz, who got a bachelor’s degree from Montana State University.
“It’s false hope for them. They’re getting degrees in disciplines that no longer exist.”
Construction workers in Missoula start at $22 an hour, Fritz said, and many work while they’re still in school. “They can make money while they learn,” he said, “and when they leave they’re not graduating with $40,000 in debt.”
With unemployment at 3.7 percent nationally, Montana is among several states facing worker shortages. Its Department of Labor and Industry in 2016 forecast 120,000 baby boomer retirements through 2026, and a supply of only half as many workers as will be needed.
“Right off the bat you have a numbers problem,” said Seth Bodnar, president of the University of Montana and a former General Electric executive who once taught economics.
“Nearly all of the jobs that will be created over the coming decade will require at least some degree of education beyond high school,” Bodnar said. “So it’s very important for the economic growth, the well-being of this state, that we as institutions of higher education understand what are those employer needs.”
Meanwhile, he said, “It’s fair for [students] to say, ‘Hey, how is this an investment in my future?’ It’s fair of them to say, ‘Hey, how will I pay off my student loans?’ These reports help us to more effectively do that.”
Bodnar’s is among some voices that warn against turning universities into trade schools, however.
“If I’m preparing them only to be vocationally prepared in a skills-centric fashion for the jobs employers say they need right now, I’m doing them a disservice when they’re expecting to come here and be prepared for a 40-year career,” he said.
To plan their offerings, many colleges outside Montana typically rely not on information about their own graduates, but on other sources, including local employer advisory boards. Those boards often benefit the businesses that show up, rather than providing scientific projections of demand, said Kelly Marinelli, a human resources consultant in Colorado.
In general, “We can see across the chasm” between what colleges offer and what employers need, said Andy Hannah, who teaches entrepreneurship and analytics at the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration and is CEO of Othot, which helps colleges use information analytics. “But what actually builds that bridge across is data. That’s how you can tell if your program is generating the right kind of workers.”
The next step will be to drill down into what makes a particular graduate successful, “and why they’re getting those jobs,” Hannah said. “And then you can take that data and go out to the rest of the student population and say, ‘Hey if you’re interested in this job, here’s the five things that will improve the probability that you’re going to get it.’ ”
What’s gotten started in Montana, he said, “is a glimpse of what’s to come.”HechringerReport.org]
Earlier this year, Governor Bill Haslam shared what has motivated his administration’s tireless work on behalf of students, “I do believe in, as much as possible, trying to level the starting line, and the best way to level the starting line is education.” This thought succinctly encompasses the mission our state has set forth: to provide all Tennessee students with a clear, attainable pathway to economic prosperity through education. Not only does a well-educated workforce benefit our state as a whole, but it also ensures that year by year, more Tennesseans will have the ability to support themselves and their families through quality jobs.
Over the last decade, Tennessee has taken bold, purposeful steps to improve the quality of education students are receiving and to support their overall success. After years of progress– and with a change in state leadership forthcoming—we must set our sights on the path ahead, as our next steps will be some of the most important yet. To do that, we need to remember where we have been and evaluate what challenges still lie ahead.
High Expectations and Accountability Laid the Foundation
In 2007, Tennessee received failing marks from the US Chamber of Commerce for “truth in advertising” related to student proficiency results. This became a galvanizing moment for our state, a chance to raise expectations around education in our communities. Tennesseans came together to create and adopt rigorous K-12 standards and addressed tough issues like mandatory assessments and teacher evaluations.
By implementing high standards— and holding our teachers, schools, and students accountable to them— Tennessee has become one of the fastest improving states in the nation and stands out among our Southern peers for student growth.
Although there is much work still to be done, Tennessee has laid a formidable foundation to improve student outcomes and to increase the number of well-prepared students sent on to college and career pathways. We cannot continue this improvement unless we maintain our commitment to high standards and the continual assessment of student learning.
Post-Secondary Education Opportunities are Key to Economic Success
While 87 percent of high school students say they want to go to college, 34 percent of Tennessee’s students forgo higher education to enter the workforce immediately after high school. Without any post-secondary training, these students can expect an annual salary of $10,880— not nearly enough to live on or to raise a family. It is also important to note that at least 55 percent of jobs in our state will require some form of higher education credential by 2025.
All students deserve a bright future, a life that includes a steady job and a living wage, no matter the path they choose to take after high school. For this reason, the stakes are high for our students. The question is no longer, “How do we get students to graduation day?”; but “How can we ensure high school is an on-ramp to college and career?”
Next Step: Building a College-Going Culture
Tennessee is implementing innovative programs and approaches to increase readiness and to create seamless pathways from K-12 to postsecondary certificate or degree attainment after high school.
- As a state, we have set a goal to improve participation rates and performance on the ACT, a key metric of high school students’ college readiness. In 2018, more Tennessee students took the test than ever before and scores are improving.
- Through the Tennessee Promise and Reconnect programs, now any Tennessean has the opportunity to attend two years of community or technical college tuition-free. As a result, our state leads the nation in FAFSA applications; and postsecondary enrollment is up.
- Early Post-Secondary Opportunities and Career and Technical Education programs at our high schools are helping to give students more exposure to potential postsecondary options and equip them with the tools and skills they need to be successful on their chosen path.
- The Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support (SAILS) Program has helped thousands of students get face-to-face instruction time in high school to catch them up and avoid remedial coursework in college. Since launching statewide in 2013, the program reduced the percentage of students needing math remediation by 15 percent.
- The Labor and Education Alignment Program (LEAP) brings together business and education to identify and address high-need skills gaps in a region. LEAP grants created opportunity for students to participate in dual enrollment, work-based learning and career exploration programs for high-demand jobs.
Through the programs above, Tennessee is redefining what it means to go to college. By offering students both financial and educational support, our state is ensuring that Tennessee students have more onramp opportunities for postsecondary education and then stay on track to complete a degree or credential. Technical colleges, community colleges, certification programs and 4-year universities are all producing the certifications, degrees and credentials that the workforce of today and tomorrow will require; our students should view each of these options as a powerful pathway to prosperity.
Tennessee will welcome new state leadership in the coming year. Our new governor, in tandem with our state legislators, will have a prime opportunity to shape education policy in ways that will have lasting impact on our workforce and economy. These leaders should focus on accelerating our progress by building upon education policies and reforms that have been shown to work, and finding innovative solutions to persistent challenges.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed the ways in which our students can benefit when elected officials from both parties join forces with education, business and community leaders. If we encourage the leaders of our state to dedicate themselves to expanding the programs that are working well, enabling more students to exit K-12 well-prepared for their next steps in life, we could forever change what it means to live and work in Tennessee.Read More
A political novice, Republican businessman Bill Lee has defied conventional wisdom to become Tennessee’s next governor. Now he’ll have to show that he can govern, too, over a state that has pioneered education reforms for a decade and climbed national rankings on student achievement.
Lee touted his outsider and business background in cruising to victory Tuesday over former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
A native of tony Williamson County, south of Nashville, he has run a 1,200-employee company there with annual revenues of $250 million.
But as the state’s chief executive, he’ll become the top boss to half as many full-time workers in the Education Department alone. He’ll oversee a $37 billion budget, including more than $6 billion to fund schools. And his administration will cast the vision for policies that will affect about a million public school students, a third of whom come from low-income families.
He’ll also appoint members to a state policy-making board that governs everything from school bus safety to cafeteria nutrition standards to teacher licensure requirements.
While Lee won’t take office until Jan. 19, the transition to his new administration will start immediately. On Wednesday morning, a joint press conference is scheduled at the state Capitol with outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam, a fellow Republican who has championed education during his eight years in office.
As Lee prepares to take the handoff, his critical early decisions will include picking his education commissioner, developing his first budget for schools, and mapping out a legislative strategy for policy priorities affecting school communities statewide. Having never served in public office before, he will need good people around him.
Job One will be to assemble his own staff in the governor’s office, including policy advisers on K-12 and higher education, and eventually to appoint an education chief to execute his priorities for students. But among cabinet picks, Lee likely will hire his commissioner of finance and administration first. After all, the governor-elect will only have a few months before he must propose his first spending plan to the General Assembly, which is required by law to pass a balanced budget before adjourning next spring.
Fortunately, the state is in good financial condition, and the Haslam administration has been preparing a budget framework to get Lee started. The outgoing governor told reporters recently that the spending plan will be about 90 percent complete when he exits, leaving discretionary items up to the new governor and his advisers because those are “fundamental policy issues.”
How Lee fills in the budgetary blanks — for instance, whether he proposes to raise teacher pay as discussed on the campaign trail, invest more in school security as Haslam did this year, or allocate more money for school and testing technology as outlined during a recent education “listening tour” — will say a lot about the new governor’s priorities.
The next General Assembly already will have convened by the time Lee takes office, but he’ll want to begin figuring out soon how to work with lawmakers on policy matters. On the campaign trail, Lee spoke passionately about the need to elevate career and technical education and frequently referenced the trade school operated by his own Franklin-based electrical, plumbing, and HVAC business.
A product of public schools who chose a mix of public, private, and homeschooling for his own kids, Lee also talked about giving parents more choices for their children. He bolstered that talk — and raised eyebrows among traditional public education diehards — with his pick of Tony Niknejad as policy director for his campaign. Niknejad is the former state director of the American Federation for Children, a pro-school voucher group once chaired by former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Still, Lee offered few outright promises or details on such policies during his months of campaigning.
“On most issues, he has been relatively circumspect. I think a lot remains to be seen,” said Gini Pupo-Walker, senior director of policy and programs of Conexión Américas, a nonprofit advocacy group for Latino families in Nashville.
Some uncertainty is inherent in any transition of power. One thing that’s for sure, however, is that Lee and his team will be inundated quickly with requests for meetings with stakeholders invested in Tennessee public education.
“On Nov. 7, regardless of the outcome, we will be reaching out to our governor-elect to begin initiating conversations and to begin establishing a relationship,” said Beth Brown, president of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers organization.
While TEA’s political action committee endorsed Dean for governor, Brown says her group’s expertise transcends party affiliation, especially as the state seeks to address problems with testing and teacher evaluation programs, among other things.
“Teacher confidence in our state is at a low point,” she said. “We are an organization of practitioners, and we are in a unique place to connect state leadership with teachers everywhere.”
The governor’s office, meanwhile, has been working on transition plans for months. Teams in every department have been generating reports, data, and analyses to pass on to the next administration, and the Education Department has been especially prolific. Among its reviews are the status and impact of reforms launched beginning in 2010 under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat whose administration raised academic standards and initiated new systems for measuring student achievement and holding students, educators, schools, and districts accountable for results. Haslam has stood by that overhaul.
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said her team’s transition reports delve into everything from reading and school safety initiatives to shifting the state’s testing program to one or more new companies beginning next fall. The Haslam administration also is recommending continued increases for teacher pay.
“That’s just good stewardship of the resources we’ve already put into initiatives,” McQueen said of the reports. “We’re saying this is what’s worked and needs to move forward, and these are things where you’ll want to step back and see if that’s the right direction to move.”
She added: “We want a seamless transition.”[Read more at Chalkbeat]