Takeaways From AERA: Research on Postsecondary Pathways In Texas and Socio-Emotional Learning In California

Knowledge to Action. That was the theme of this year’s American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting. The conference brought approximately 14,000 education researchers and policy experts to San Antonio, Texas, late last month to share the latest findings on what works—and what needs to be done—in improving educational outcomes for all students. The conference subtheme, Achieving the Promise of Equal Educational Opportunity, made plain that effective education policies and practices must rely on using the knowledge generated by strong research. Policy experts on SCORE’s team attended the conference and share these reflections on what they learned—and how we can act on that knowledge here in Tennessee.

Director of Policy and Research Kyle Southern

I was most struck over the weekend by a panel discussion entitled, Strategic Pathways for Improving Access to Higher Education. To frame the discussion, Commissioner Raymund Paredes of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board provided a long list of data on the stark gaps between the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in college-level work and the skills and knowledge the state’s schools provide them through high school. Commissioner Paredes made clear the consequences of watering down standards, not expecting the highest levels of achievement from all students—particularly those from low-income backgrounds and students of color. The consequences include low college completion rates and a citizenry not prepared for productive, healthy adulthoods.

Still, although 26 percent of Texas ACT test-takers score at college-ready levels across all four of the exam’s subject areas, only 20 percent of Tennessee test-takers do. (This rate includes both public and private high school graduates. The public school only rate for Tennessee is 17 percent.) Commissioner Paredes spoke of the challenges of strengthening partnerships across the K-12 and higher education sectors. As someone who thinks a lot about the ultimate goal of getting more students ready to succeed in college and life beyond high school, the commissioner’s remarks made clear to me again that the work we are doing in Tennessee is the right work—insisting on high expectations for all students, pushing for greater equity to empower all teachers and students, and driving collaboration that has real, positive effects on student achievement. This work requires us, as a state, to put what we know from research and experience into action on behalf of Tennessee’s future.

Policy and Research Analyst Indira Dammu

One of the sessions I attended at AERA was titled, Rethinking Accountability: Early Research on California’s CORE Waiver Districts. The CORE (or California Office to Reform Education) districts are a collaborative between eight of California’s largest school districts: Fresno, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Santa Ana. Together, these districts serve more than one million students. I was interested in this session because, in 2013, the CORE districts received an unprecedented waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to set up their own accountability system outside of the state of California’s.

Sixty percent of the CORE districts’ accountability system is based on students’ academic performance—including achievement, growth, and graduation rates. The remaining 40 percent—also known as the Social-Emotional and Culture-Climate Domain—includes chronic absenteeism, suspension/expulsion rates, climate surveys, and social/emotional skills. In many ways, this “index” approach to school accountability was one of the intended goals of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

During the session, researchers and district officials from Fresno shared findings and discussed implications for future work on school accountability. I was especially interested in research presented by Martin West from Harvard University. His team used survey responses of more than 250,000 students in grades 3-12 to determine whether social-emotional skills could predict academic and behavioral outcomes.

West and his team found that self-management and growth mindset were most predictive of English language arts and math performance of students. These data show the effects that “non-academic” indicators such as social and emotional learning can have on student learning. However, since research about social and emotional learning skills is still emerging, it seems too early to hold schools accountable for developing these skills. Despite issues with the use of social and emotional learning skills, I do think that the CORE districts offer an interesting approach to measuring schools using a variety of indicators.

Whether addressing the holistic needs of students or ensuring they have access to the rigorous courses they need to prepare for success beyond high school, the most powerful research shared during AERA could readily translate into action—both to improve policies and practices. Only research-informed action can help make good on the promise of equal educational opportunity for all students.

 

SCORE Announces 2017-18 Tennessee Educator Fellowship

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has announced that 50 educators have been chosen for the 2017-18 class of the Tennessee Educator Fellowship.

“Our fellows bring incredible talents to the table – their expertise inside the classroom, their diverse perspectives, and their relentless focus on students and their academic needs,” SCORE Executive Chairman and CEO Jamie Woodson said. “These traits prove invaluable to state conversations on raising student achievement in Tennessee, as our fellows work both inside and outside of the classroom to prepare all students for success after high school.” 

The Tennessee Educator Fellowship is a yearlong program that equips educators to advocate for their students and their profession as they continue teaching. Entering its fourth year, the fellowship now accepts not only teachers but also school counselors and librarians. Since 2014, the fellowship has helped nearly 100 teachers to contribute to the discussion about education policy by appearing at public speaking engagements, inviting policymakers into their classrooms, writing about their education experience in state and national publications, creating regional professional networks, and serving on state-level policy committees. 

“Diversity – both in the selection of fellows and in the experiences the fellowship provides our educators – contributes to the program’s success,” said Tennessee Educator Fellowship Coordinator Peter Tang, a fellowship alumnus and former Memphis teacher. “As our educators interact with teachers from different backgrounds, grade levels, subjects, and regions and as they are exposed to a variety of opportunities, our fellows experience a tremendous amount of personal and professional growth.”

The fellows chosen for 2017-18 have combined teaching experience of 583 years, ranging from three years in the classroom to almost 50. These Tennessee Educator Fellows represent elementary, middle, and high schools in 35 districts across East, Middle, and West Tennessee. The members of the cohort teach English language arts, math, science, social studies, visual arts, career and technical education, and special education, and serve as librarians and school counselors in urban, suburban, and rural schools.

This is the fourth year of the Tennessee Educator Fellowship. Past fellows have led new education initiatives including a new summer reading program through Read to be Ready; Project LIT Community, an initiative to eliminate book deserts in Nashville; and professional development and leadership programs for other teachers. Fellows also have informed education conversations at local, state, and national levels through in-person meetings with various stakeholders and op-eds for news and education outlets like The Tennessean, Education Post, and Hechinger Report.

The 2017-18 Tennessee Educator Fellows are:

Daniel Atkeson teaches grades 11-12 mathematics at the Academy at Old Cockrill in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Atkeson has been teaching for seven years.

Katie Austin teaches third-grade English language arts at East End Preparatory School in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Austin has been teaching for five years.

Amy Barbra teaches eighth-grade social studies at Madisonville Middle School in Monroe County Schools. Barbra has been teaching for nine years.

Carrie Bishop teaches eighth-grade English language arts at Hixson Middle School in the Hamilton County Department of Education. Bishop has been teaching for 15 years.

Brooke Britt teaches seventh-grade mathematics at Lexington Middle School in Lexington City Schools. Britt has been teaching for 10 years.

Alice Browder is a school counselor at Roosevelt Elementary School in Kingsport City Schools. Browder has worked in education for six years.

Victoria Burns teaches sixth-grade English language arts at H.Y. Livesay Middle School in Claiborne County Schools. Burns has been teaching for six years.

Sarah Cooper teaches fifth-grade English language arts at Fairview-Marguerite Elementary School in Hamblen County Schools. Cooper has been teaching for six years.

Amy Cox teaches third-grade English language arts at Halls Elementary School in Knox County Schools. Cox has been teaching for 18 years.

Ashley Cox teaches ninth-grade English language arts at The Howard School in the Hamilton County Department of Education. Cox has been teaching for six years.

Austin Crowder teaches grades 10-12 social studies at The Soulsville Charter School in Shelby County Schools. Crowder has been teaching for five years.

Abby Cunningham teaches grades 9-12 career technical education at Stewart County High School in Stewart County Schools. Cunningham has been teaching for five years.

Dr. Carolyn Davis is a high school counselor at Northview Academy in Sevier County Schools. Davis has worked in education for 17 years.

Jenna Davis teaches fourth grade at Glenview Elementary in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Davis has been teaching for 10 years. 

Laura Davis teaches grades 10-11 social studies at West High School in Knox County Schools. Davis has been teaching for four years.

Lindsay Davis teaches grades 9-12 mathematics at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knox County Schools. Davis has been teaching for 12 years.

Shannon Davis teaches second-grade English language arts at Thelma Barker Elementary in the Jackson-Madison County School System. Davis has been teaching for 11 years.

Dr. Eric Ellerbrook teaches eighth-grade science at Dyersburg Middle School in Dyersburg City Schools. Ellerbrook has been teaching for 15 years.

John Ezell teaches sixth-grade social studies at West View Middle School in Hamblen County Schools. Ezell has been teaching for five years.

Natalia Fallon teaches ninth-grade English language arts at Harpeth High School in Cheatham County Schools. Fallon has been teaching for 12 years.

Dr. Penny Ferguson teaches 11th-grade English language arts at Maryville High School in Maryville City Schools. Ferguson has been teaching for 48 years.

Breanna Fulton teaches fourth-grade English language arts at Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary School in the Achievement School District. Fulton has been teaching for three years.

Amanda Galbraith teaches grades K-5 visual arts at Ellendale Elementary School in Bartlett City Schools. Galbraith has been teaching for 15 years.

Mary Gilbert is an elementary school counselor at College Street Elementary School in Manchester City Schools. Gilbert has worked in education for 35 years.

Laurie Glover teaches fifth-grade English language arts at Gordonsville Elementary in Smith County Schools. Glover has been teaching for 23 years.

Lauren Harper-Lott teaches grades 9-12 science at West Greene High School in Greene County Schools. Harper-Lott has been teaching for 27 years.

Grover Harwell teaches seventh-grade mathematics at Haywood Middle School in Haywood County Schools. Harwell has been teaching for 10 years.

Heather Hayes teaches second-grade English language arts at Park View Elementary in Bradley County Schools. Hayes has been teaching for 10 years.

Kimberly Herring teaches grades 10-12 mathematics at Cumberland County High School in Cumberland County Schools. Herring has been teaching for 27 years.

Dr. Tunisha Hobson teaches grades 10-12 career technical education at Franklin High School in Williamson County Schools. Hobson has been teaching for 11 years.

Lindy Holland teaches fifth-grade English language arts at Liberty Elementary School in Bedford County Schools. Holland has been teaching for 11 years.

Golden Howard teaches seventh-grade mathematics at Ripley Middle School in Lauderdale County Schools. Howard has been teaching for seven years.

Jessica Hubbuch teaches grades 10-12 science at The Howard School in the Hamilton County Department of Education. Hubbuch has been teaching for four years.

Colin Hunt teaches eighth-grade English language arts at Croft Middle Design Center in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Hunt has been teaching for three years.

Sandy Irwin teaches sixth-grade mathematics at Bellevue Middle Prep in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Irwin has been teaching for 29 years.

Sarah Johnson teaches grades 10-12 science at Roane County High School in Roane County Schools. Johnson has been teaching for five years.

Meah King teaches 11th-grade English language arts at East High School in Shelby County Schools. King has been teaching for 15 years.

Tom Loud teaches first grade at Middlesettlements School in Blount County Schools. Loud has been teaching for 10 years.

Katie McGhee teaches first grade at Rock Springs Elementary School in Sullivan County Schools. McGhee has been teaching for nine years.

Christy McManus teaches fifth-grade English language arts at Chester County Middle School in Chester County Schools. McManus has been teaching for 12 years.

Natasha Minor teaches third-grade mathematics at Barkers Mill Elementary School in Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. Minor has been teaching for six years.

Soya Moore teaches eighth-grade mathematics at Raleigh Egypt Middle High in Shelby County Schools. Moore has been teaching for seven years.

Andrea Morris teaches seventh-grade social studies at Tuckers Crossroads Elementary in Wilson County Schools. Morris has been teaching for seven years.

Jessica Peccolo-Donnell is a K-8 librarian at Community Montessori School in the Jackson-Madison County School System. Peccolo-Donnell has worked in education for 14 years.

Amanda Pickett teaches eighth-grade special education at Holston Middle School in Knox County Schools. Pickett has been teaching for four years.

Erika Scissom teaches grades 6-8 English language arts at Swiss Memorial Elementary School in Grundy County Schools. Scissom has been teaching for 11 years.

Robert Sparks teaches eighth-grade English language arts at Decatur County Middle School in Decatur County Schools. Sparks has been teaching for nine years.

Yarielis Torres teaches fifth-grade English language arts at KIPP Memphis Academy Middle in Shelby County Schools. Torres has been teaching for seven years.

Stacey Travis teaches grades 10-12 mathematics at Maryville High School in Maryville City Schools. Travis has been teaching for 11 years.

Kevin Winters teaches sixth-grade science at Athens City Middle School in Athens City Schools. Winters has been teaching for nine years. 

The new fellows will meet as a group for the first time in July. Throughout the upcoming year, the educator fellows will learn through in-person and online seminars and will serve as liaisons between their colleagues, their communities, and policymakers as Tennessee continues the work of improving educational outcomes for all students.

Woodson: ESSA Plan Builds on ‘Tennessee Way’ for Increasing Student Achievement

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has released this statement from Executive Chairman and CEO Jamie Woodson about the Every Student Succeeds Act plan that the Tennessee Department of Education has submitted for federal review:

As Tennessee has climbed in national rankings of academic performance, many people from elsewhere have asked why the state has made so much progress. The answer is not just what was done but how it was done. The Tennessee way of addressing education improvement began in 2009 with A Roadmap for Student Success that outlined Tennessee-specific solutions to meet the needs of Tennessee students. The Tennessee Department of Education plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues this successful approach.

SCORE reviewed the ESSA plan in depth and gave extensive feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education, and many other education advocates have engaged and offered comments as well. We know of no other state that has so fully embraced the concept that a better plan could be developed with wide-ranging public review and input. A commitment to transparency and engagement is integral to the Tennessee way.

The foundation of the Tennessee way is a firm belief that all students can achieve at high levels when education policies and practices are centered on students and their academic needs. Under the flexibility ESSA offers, Tennessee’s plan is advancing student-focused solutions in some vital ways:

• The plan takes accountability to the school level and will give parents, educators, and the community deeper insight into how well a school is serving the many different types of students enrolled there. Achievement gaps are a persistent problem in Tennessee, and they hamper the state’s work to be among the best of the best for academic performance. The Tennessee ESSA plan is emphasizing using a broad set of indicators to measure academic success for rural students, students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners.

• The plan lays out a clearer and more comprehensive approach to turning around longtime low-performing schools. First, it gives districts more opportunities to develop their own plans for school improvement plus it provides support from the state to carry out those plans. Second, if those efforts are not successful, the state-run Achievement School District will step in with a plan to better serve the students.

• The new “ready graduate” indicator is an innovative way to clearly connect K-12 accountability to Tennessee’s Drive to 55 goal. In addition to graduation rates, high schools will be measured by how many of their students are ready for postsecondary education by either achieving an ACT score of 21 or completing four early-postsecondary opportunity (EPSO) courses, such as Advanced Placement and career/technical education classes, or earning industry certification and completing two EPSO courses.

A decade ago, citizens across Tennessee resolved to do better for the state’s students and stepped up to deal with engrained and daunting education problems. With educators in the lead, Tennessee has shown courage and creativity in tackling the complicated problems holding back schools and students. Following the Tennessee way, this ESSA plan takes another step toward the goal of preparing every student for success after high school.

Download a copy of the Tennessee ESSA plan.

State of Education Report Identifies Top Three Tennessee Education Priorities for 2017

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) today released a list of the top three education priorities for continuing the state’s recent unprecedented student achievement gains in a new report, 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee.

AR 2017 cover vertical borderSCORE, a nonpartisan education research and advocacy nonprofit organization founded by Senator Bill Frist, MD, each year compiles the State of Education report to examine recent successes in K-12 public education and identify opportunities for continued improvement in academic achievement. The 2017 report outlines an agenda to keep Tennessee on track to remain among the fastest-improving states for student achievement, to close achievement gaps for historically underserved students, and to prepare all students for postsecondary education and the workforce.

“Tennessee has come far in a short period of time, showing the entire country what can be accomplished when policies and practices are focused on what is best for students and their learning,” SCORE Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Woodson said. “Reaching our goals for our students, however, will require continued effort and dedication. The list of priorities for 2017 crystallizes what must happen this year in order for Tennessee’s academic progress to continue.”

The 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee identifies the top priorities as:

1. Accelerate support for Tennessee’s educators. The report recommends improving teacher compensation, strengthening teacher preparation, building school leadership pipelines, and maintaining the commitment to the multiple-measure teacher evaluation system as a tool for improving instruction.

2. Drive toward excellence and equity for all Tennessee students — especially underserved students. The State of Education report calls for expanding access to highly effective and diverse teachers. Tennessee should continue pushing forward with a new plan for an accountability system that serves all students and give all students rigorous early postsecondary and career opportunities in high school, the report says.

3. Stand firm on Tennessee’s policies that have led to historic gains while seizing opportunities to advance innovation. The report points to the link between Tennessee’s student achievement gains and its policies for academic standards, assessment, and accountability, and it emphasizes that teachers and students need stability in those systems. The report also calls for Tennessee totake advantage of opportunities to spur additional improvements in student achievement through innovation, specifically related to professional development and scaling up high-quality instructional strategies and materials.

“The list of priorities reflects an agenda not just for SCORE but for the entire state of Tennessee. Inside the 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee, are specific, detailed calls to action – and every education partner in the state can find at least one to work on this year,” Woodson said.

SCORE presented the report findings to educators, policymakers, and community and civic leaders during an event at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. Speakers included educator Lindsey Hagan, an assistant principal in Hamilton County and member of the SCORE Steering Committee; advocate Tosha Downey, director of advocacy for the Memphis Education Fund; and business executive Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T Tennessee and a member of the SCORE Board of Directors.

The 2016-17 State of Education in Tennessee is the eighth annual report from SCORE. Over its history, the report’s priority lists have helped advance student achievement efforts in Tennessee:

• A 2010 priority called for building public support for higher expectations in the classroom. Later that year, the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition was founded.

• A 2012 priority urged Tennessee to provide excellent professional development to help teachers use higher math and English standards to accelerate learning. Tennessee went on to train more than 60,000 teachers.

• A 2016 priority recommended elevating teacher voice. Now the Tennessee Teacher Leadership Collaborative is building a statewide network to expand teacher leadership opportunities.

In compiling the report and identifying the priorities, SCORE analyzed Tennessee student achievement data and current education research and held conversations with more than 150 Tennessee teachers, education leaders at the local and state levels, and national education partners.

Download the report.

Woodson: Education a Top Priority in State of the State Speech

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has released this statement from Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Woodson about the State of the State speech delivered Monday night by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam:

The State of the State address reflects a continued commitment to education as Tennessee’s top priority. Additional funding for high-needs students is important to providing equity and excellence for all students. There are achievement gaps all across Tennessee, and the state cannot rise to the best of the best until we narrow and close these gaps. In addition, Tennessee’s recent academic success would not have been possible without the hard work of our educators. To keep our great teachers and recruit more great teachers, Tennessee must continue to improve compensation — and empower school district leaders to use these resources as needed in their schools.

Importantly, Governor Haslam has also proposed investments that will directly support increasing the number of Tennesseans with education beyond high school. Investing in career and technical education makes clear to employers that our students — the employees of the future — will be able to do the jobs of the future. Finally, Governor Haslam’s proposal to offer all Tennesseans the chance to attend community college free of tuition and fees, and the commitment to the education of those in the National Guard, is a bold step that continues Tennessee’s leadership in education.

Additional details on Governor Haslam’s proposals.

Statement from David Mansouri on Tennessee’s ESSA Plan

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education has released this statement from President David Mansouri on Tennessee’s draft implementation plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Tennessee has an opportunity with the Every Student Succeeds Act to create a unique, Tennessee-specific approach that will build upon the work already underway to support our students in greater and faster academic growth. The Tennessee Department of Education has taken a thoughtful, inclusive approach to writing the draft plan, engaging thousands of Tennesseans in the development process.

SCORE will review the draft from the student-focused perspective of how quickly it will move Tennessee toward the goal of preparing all graduates to be ready for education beyond high school and for work. Our review will pay particular attention to school accountability, school improvement, and delivering excellent and equitable outcomes for students of all backgrounds because of the impact these issues can have on student achievement. We will offer detailed feedback to the department, and we encourage education partners across Tennessee to review this plan through the same lens and offer feedback as well.