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NCLB Outrages

Eight failing Memphis City Schools could be turned over to charter school companies or other nonprofit groups as early as this fall, according the state's 1,100-page Race to the Top application

Ohanian Comment: According to the newspaper subhead, "experts say" Tennessee has a good shot at winning the funds.

Note some of their plan: Local school boards can govern school lunch programs but other decisions would "be up to the commissioner of education or his designee."

Note that the Hyde Family Foundation helped write the RttT application. Go to their website and you will see fulsome praise for: New Leaders for New Schools, Teach For America, The New Teacher Project and Building Excellent Schools.

So, in the named of "aligned leadership," people of Tennessee lose the voice of their school boards.

by Jane Roberts

While the local school board would likely govern the school lunch program and athletics, the length of the school day and specifics related to academic achievement would be up to the commissioner of education or his designee.

"Most functions in those schools would not fall under the local school board," said Rachel Woods, Department of Education spokeswoman.

Tuesday was the deadline for the first round of applications for $4.35 billion in federal money the Obama administration has set aside for education innovations. Thirty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, applied.

In the Mid-South, Arkansas applied; Mississippi did not.

Round one winners will be announced in April. A second round of winners will be announced in September.

While most states have not made their applications public, Tennessee posted its application on the Department of Education Web site, tn.gov/education/.

Of the $502 million it is seeking, the largest portion -- $108.8 million -- would be invested in struggling schools, including managing the worst in a special "achievement district" run by the commissioner of education.

Eight of the 13 schools in that category are in Memphis.

"The achievement district clarifies how the takeover would occur," Woods said, stressing that each school would have its own board and goals. "This will not be cookie-cutter."

If Tennessee is chosen in Round One, money would begin flowing to Nashville and the state's 140 school districts this summer.

Local and national education experts say Tennessee has a good chance of being one of the early funded states based on the strength of its student data system, one of the oldest and strongest in the nation.

Last week, legislators agreed that 35 percent of a teacher's evaluation could be based on the data, a major focus for Obama. Another 15 percent will be based on student achievement but will be measured in other ways.

"One would think that between its value-added data system and its recent teacher evaluation changes that Tennessee would have a compelling application," said Liam Goldrick at the New Teacher Center in Washington.

While he says Tennessee's academic performance is low, he gives it points for beefing up academic standards and being one of 11 states that meet all criteria outlined by the nonprofit Data Quality Campaign for collecting and using student data.

Teresa Sloyan, executive director of the Hyde Family Foundations, helped write the state application.

"We already have a strong data system, which means we can run faster," she said.

But alignment of state leadership, from teachers union to the governor, is most critical, she said.

"The legislation had bipartisan support and has the support of every school district and the teacher's union," she said. "Not every state is going to have that aligned leadership."

— Jane Roberts
Commercial Appeal


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