Win a counselor

These 30 Tennessee schools are getting new college counselors, courtesy of the governor’s office

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder

Students at Overton High School in Memphis are in luck this year: One guidance counselor will focus just on helping them navigate the tricky path to college.

The school is one of 30 across Tennessee getting a college counselor through a $2.5 million initiative called Advise TN, Gov. Bill Haslam’s office announced Monday. The initiative pays for a counselor dedicated to the college process — a luxury at schools where guidance counselors juggle social work, scheduling, and test administration.

More than 100 schools applied for the extra funds after Haslam announced the program this spring. Only schools with a college-going rate lower than the state’s average, about 60 percent, were eligible.

Though 30 eligible schools were in Memphis, Overton is the only area school getting the extra help. According to one metric, how well students do on the ACT exam, just 2 percent of Overton seniors were college-ready last year

The extra resources are temporary. This year, the state set aside about $82,000 per school for the program, which could fund up to two years of the extra position.  After that money is spent, the partner schools are expected to come up with their own funds to keep the extra counselors. Tennessee currently gives schools money for one counselor per 350 high school students — 100 students more than the American School Counselor Association recommends.

Here’s the full list of schools getting the extra funds:

County School
Cheatham Cheatham County Central High School
Davidson Hunters Lane High School
Dickson Dickson County High School
Dyer Dyer County High School
Franklin Franklin County High School
Gibson Humboldt Junior and Senior High School
Greene Chuckey-Doak High School
Greene North Greene High School
Grundy Grundy County High School
Hamilton Brainerd High School
Henry Henry County High School
Hickman East Hickman High School
Hickman Hickman County High School
Jefferson Jefferson County High School
Knox Fulton High School
Knox Austin East High School
Lake Lake County High School
Lauderdale Halls High School
Lincoln Lincoln County High School
Loudon Lenoir City High School
Madison Liberty Technology Magnet High School
Monroe Sequoyah High School
Montgomery Kenwood High School
Montgomery Northwest High School
Overton Livingston Academy
Rutherford LaVergne High School
Shelby Overton High School
Warren Warren County High School
Washington David Crockett High School
White White County High School

 

newark notes

In Newark, a study about school changes rings true — and raises questions — for people who lived them

PHOTO: Naomi Nix
Park Elementary principal Sylvia Esteves.

A few years ago, Park Elementary School Principal Sylvia Esteves found herself fielding questions from angst-ridden parents and teachers.

Park was expecting an influx of new students because Newark’s new enrollment system allowed parents to choose a K-8 school for their child outside of their neighborhood. That enrollment overhaul was one of many reforms education leaders have made to Newark Public Schools since 2011 in an effort to expand school choice and raise student achievement.

“What’s it going to mean for overcrowding? Will our classes get so large that we won’t have the kind of success for our students that we want to have?” Esteves recalls educators and families asking.

Park’s enrollment did grow, by about 200 students, and class sizes swelled along with it, Esteves said. But for the last two years, the share of students passing state math and English tests has risen, too.

Esteves was one of several Newark principals, teachers, and parents who told Chalkbeat they are not surprised about the results of a recent study that found test scores dropped sharply in the years immediately following the changes but then bounced back. By 2016, it found Newark students were making greater gains on English tests than they were in 2011.

Funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and conducted by Harvard researchers, the study also found the reforms had no impact on student math scores.

And while many Newark families and school leaders agree with the study’s conclusion — that students are making more progress now — they had very different ideas about what may have caused the initial declines, and why English growth was more obvious than math.

Supported by $200 million in private philanthropy, former superintendent Cami Anderson and other New Jersey officials in 2011 sought to make significant changes to the education landscape in Newark, where one third of more than 50,000 students attend privately managed charter schools. Their headline-grabbing reforms included a new teachers union contract with merit-based bonuses; the universal enrollment system; closing some schools; expanding charter schools; hiring new principals; requiring some teachers to reapply for their jobs; and lengthening the day at some struggling schools.

Brad Haggerty, the district’s chief academic officer, said the initial drop in student performance coincided with the district’s introduction of a host of changes: new training materials, evaluations, and curricula aligned to the Common Core standards but not yet assessed by the state’s annual test. That was initially a lot for educators to handle at once, he said, but teacher have adjusted to the changes and new standards.

“Over time our teaching cadre, our faculty across the entire district got stronger,” said Haggerty, who arrived as a special assistant to the superintendent in 2011.

But some in Newark think the district’s changes have had longer-lasting negative consequences.

“We’ve had a lot of casualties. We lost great administrators, teachers,” said Bashir Akinyele, a Weequahic High School history teacher. “There have been some improvements but there were so many costs.”

Those costs included the loss of veteran teachers who were driven out by officials’ attempts to change teacher evaluations and make changes to schools’ personnel at the same time, according to Sheila Montague, a former school board candidate who spent two decades teaching in Newark Public Schools before losing her position during the changes.

“You started to see experienced, veteran teachers disappearing,” said Montague, who left the school system after being placed in the district’s pool of educators without a job in a school. “In many instances, there were substitute teachers in the room. Of course, the delivery of instruction wasn’t going to even be comparable.”

The district said it retains about 95 percent of its highly-rated teachers.

As for why the study found that Newark’s schools were seeing more success improving English skills than math, it’s a pattern that Esteves, the Park Elementary principal, says she saw firsthand.

While the share of students who passed the state English exam at Park rose 13 percentage points between the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, the share of students who were proficient in math only rose 3 percentage points in that time frame.

“[Math is] where we felt we were creeping up every year, but not having a really strong year,” she said. “I felt like there was something missing in what we were doing that could really propel the children forward.”

To improve Park students’ math skills, Esteves asked teachers to assign “math exemplars,” twice-a-month assignments that probed students’ understanding of concepts. Last year, Park’s passing rate on the state math test jumped 12 percentage points, to 48 percent.

While Newark students have made progress, families and school leaders said they want to the district to make even more gains.

Test scores in Newark “have improved, but they are still not where they are supposed to be,” said Demetrisha Barnes, whose niece attends KIPP Seek Academy. “Are they on grade level? No.”

Chalkbeat is expanding to Newark, and we’re looking for a reporter to lead our efforts there. Think it should be you? Apply here.  

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below: