Changing the rules for teacher tenure, accompanied by recognizing and rewarding teacher performance, makes all kinds of sense. We've had good tools in place for quite some time - we were the first state to adopt a value-added assessment system (TVAAS), which allows you to see what schools, or individual teachers, contribute to the academic advancement of their students. Value-added assessment is also the central pillar in the state's Race to the Top plan - if we take full advantage of what's there, we have a firm foundation to address issues like tenure and rewards for performance.
There's more information on assessing teacher quality at http://www.education-consumers.org/research.htm and plenty on value-added assessment at http://www.education-consumers.org/tnproject/tnabout.htm.
It's good to see Tennessee's schools of education starting to look at improving their results. They pretty much have to, given the fact that their results lag behind those of non-university programs like Teach for America (see last year's results at http://www.education-consumers.org/THE.htm; new results to be posted soon), which cost less money and take less time to complete. I'll be more encouraged when I hear that these schools of education are embracing, and preparing their students to leverage, the state's value-added assessment system - something that has yet to happen.
I have to say, Tennessee seems to be doing a lot of things right. RTTT brought us a solid focus on value-added assessment; the new strategy includes early reading improvement as a core goal. This is exactly where we need to be looking. There's more on early reading, value-added and school comparisons at www.education-consumers.org.
These are strong gains in achievement, but we shouldn't break out the champagne just yet. People should remember that these year-over-year increases are not the same as value-added gains (those come out in the fall), so we can't say for sure whether this is driven by teaching/learning gains or some other factor. This also likely reflects teachers getting familiar with the new tests and prepping better; that's ok, it's normal, but it shouldn't be confused with increased learning, and it's not something you'll see year after year. There's more background info on Tennessee education, especially on value-added assessment, at www.education-consumers.org.
The governor is right - teacher quality, specifically teacher effectiveness, is far more important than class size. And Tennessee has one of the longest-running and arguably most sophisticated tools for identifying teacher performance: TVAAS (the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System). There's more information on assessing teacher quality at http://www.education-consumers.org/research.htm and plenty on value-added assessment at http://www.education-consumers.org/tnproject/tnabout.htm.
This is a very positive development - third grade is something of a gateway. It's the point at which they're supposed ot shift from "learning to read" to "reading to learn". If a child hasn't learned to read by this point, they'll have a very difficult time going forward. For more on this subject and the implications, see http://www.education-consumers.org/prek.htm.
ACT scores are down about a point across the state, as noted in the article. One thing people haven't discussed is how value-added performance plays into all this. Some schools are doing better than others at advancing student achievement - see the growth vs achievement chart from the Education Consumers Foundation at http://www.education-consumers.org/birdshot/high2010/index.php. You can pull up individual schools or entire districts.
This year's report card reflects a big change in reporting; under the old reporting standards, Tennessee received an "F" in Truth in Advertising from the US Chamber, and the current stats are a fairer reflection of how students are doing. So that's a plus. Now that we have more accurate information, the question has to be - why are we performing so poorly, and what can we do to improve? And that's where we need to look at things like teacher preparation, effective instructional models, and value-added reporting. People can get a start on all three areas at www.education-consumers.org.
I'm sure the reporting changes are going to shake people up in the short term, but it's really the best thing that could happen. For too long, Tennessee has papered over its challenges by inflating student proficiency rates. In 2007, the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP), a more rigorous national sampling of students, said that just 29% of Tennessee 4th graders were proficient or advanced in math; in contrast, the TCAP said that 89% were proficient/advanced!
Now that reporting is going to better reflect the reality of the situation, we can get on with the business of improving schooling, and Tennessee is moving in the right direction with this correction, Race to the Top, and its value-added assessment system. There's more on this at www.education-consumers.org for those who are interested.