The scoop

City will spend $1.5M to extend judging of teachers via test scores

The Department of Education created videos to explain the reports.
PHOTO: G.Tatter
The Department of Education created videos to explain the reports. View them ##

The Department of Education is moving to extend a program that judges teachers based on their students’ test scores — and it plans to start paying for the project with taxpayer dollars, at a projected cost of $1.5 million over the next three years. A formal request for vendor proposals released today indicates officials are also mulling an expansion of the program to more teachers.

The program, called the Teacher Data Initiative, launched quietly this school year after causing a politically explosive fight between the DOE and the teachers union the year before. The reports allow principals to track the “value” teachers add to students by looking at student test scores from one year to the next. The teachers union here has gone along with programs to judge entire schools based on test scores, but it drew the line at measuring individual teachers’ performance, arguing that so-called “value-added” models risk unfairly misjudging teachers. (Many academic researchers make this claim as well.)

After news of the effort surfaced, the union fought back by ushering a bill into state law that made it illegal for the city to use test scores when making decisions about job security. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein decried the bill (Bloomberg called it a “special interest protection”), which the legislature passed with no public debate, and the data reports went out as planned.

About 12,000 teachers received the reports this year, all of whom who teach fourth-through-eighth-graders and either English or math (the most-tested subjects in the city). The reports grade teachers based on how much progress their students made on tests last year and give extra credit to those who made progress despite limitations such as students’ race, poverty, and class size.

I’ve spoken to some educators who think the reports are a great first step toward helping teachers think carefully about how to improve their work. The executive director of Teaching Matters, Lynette Guastaferro, called New York “a thought leader” for creating the reports. Others have been wary, including a teacher who wrote about his experience anonymously at the union activist Norm Scott’s blog, reporting that his principal is threatening to use the reports to determine which teachers remain at the school when it phases out. (Asked about the teacher’s allegations, Forte said she hadn’t heard of them but that the city has clarified procedures for teachers to follow if reports are misused.)

The Carnegie Foundation has been financing the reports so far this year, but the grant is about to run out, so the DOE issued a request today seeking a vendor that would keep up the work on the taxpayer dime. The vendor would publish the reports and manage any future expansions. You can see the full Request for Proposals below.

A technology company called the Battelle Memorial Institute has been working on the project until now, Ann Forte, a school spokeswoman, said.

Read the full RFP (which an earlier version of this post said was not available, but now is):

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What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.