collaboration station

KIPP launches collaborative with Memphis charters to improve literacy results

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Monique Cincore (center) is one of 23 educators participating in a new collaborative between local charter schools and KIPP.

When a school adopts a new curriculum, one of the most time-consuming tasks for teachers is figuring out how to bring those new ideas into their classrooms.

This is especially true for charter schools with smaller staffs who are often starting from scratch in designing a curriculum aligned to state standards, said Monique Cincore, principal at Aspire East Academy in Memphis.

The KIPP Foundation, a national charter organization, is giving away its English curriculum, KIPP Wheatley, for free to help lighten other charters’ loads. And for the first time, KIPP has established a  “charter collaborative,” sharing its curriculum and training for it with four Memphis charter organizations with the goal of helping local teachers and leaders figure out how to bring the curriculum into their classrooms.

“The charter world can be so siloed,” said Daniel Sonnier, the director of KIPP Wheatley Achievement, who helped run the first Memphis collaborative session in early October. “Everyone is doing their own thing. But now we have this shared curriculum, and we can learn from one another.”

Eleven elementary and middle schools from four different charter organizations in Memphis adopted the KIPP Wheatley curriculum last year, with Memphis Business Academy joining this year. Starting last week, 23 educators from the schools will meet monthly to try out ideas and receive feedback from KIPP Wheatley experts. KIPP led a two-day session with the educators at the Memphis Education Fund, which donated the space.

“We tend to work within our own buildings, and there’s not as much opportunity like this to practice and hear from other schools,” Cincore said. “Having this curriculum as a starting point cuts through a lot of heavy lifting, and helps me focus on this question: ‘How do I lessen teachers’ loads?’ ”

The participating schools are:

Aspire Public Schools 

  • Aspire Coleman Elementary
  • Aspire Coleman Middle
  • Aspire Hanley Elementary
  • Aspire East Academy

Freedom Preparatory Academy 

  • Freedom Preparatory Academy – Westwood
  • Freedom Preparatory Academy – Whitehaven

Memphis Business Academy 

  • Memphis STEM Academy
  • Memphis Business Academy Middle

KIPP Memphis

  • KIPP Memphis Collegiate Elementary
  • KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle
  • KIPP Memphis Preparatory Middle

One of the main goals of the collaborative is to grow English scores an average of 8 percentage points at the participating schools on the next state test, Sonnier said.

He said they are waiting for charter organizations to report on Wheatley’s effect on their state scores during the first year. Individual school scores for last year’s state TNReady exam haven’t been released yet, but state-level scores for K-8 show most students are lagging in literacy.  

The KIPP curriculum is aligned with the Common Core and while the state of Tennessee moved away from Common Core to Tennessee Academic Standards this year, Sonnier said teachers won’t have much to change.

“Common Core and the Tennessee standards are very similar,” Sonnier said at the collaborative session. “A Common Core curriculum focuses on a close reading of text. For us, text is queen or king. It rules over everything.”

KIPP formed the literacy curriculum five years ago and is using grants from the Charter School Growth Fund and the Schusterman Foundation to spread KIPP Wheatley to cities like Memphis. The curriculum is now being taught to more than 15,000 students across the nation, according to a KIPP blog post.

Sonnier said they have seen positive results from the curriculum at their KIPP New York and KIPP New Jersey schools in particular, with KIPP New Jersey growing by 7 and 10 percentage points respectively in their elementary and middle school literacy scores on state tests last year.

KIPP is hoping to repeat its success in Memphis, with cross-charter collaboration as the key. If the collaborative is successful, KIPP will try a similar approach in other cities like Denver or New York, Sonnier said.

“The opportunity to interact and engage with folks in the way Memphis is able to is refreshing,”  he said. 

Struggling Detroit schools

The list of promises is long: Arts, music, robotics, gifted programs and more. Will Detroit schools be able to deliver?

PHOTO: Detroit Public Television
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti answers questions at a community meeting in Detroit.

Arts. Music. Robotics. Programs for gifted kids. New computers. New textbooks. Dual enrollment programs that let high school students take college classes. International Baccalaureate. Advanced Placement.

They’re all on the list of things that Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a group of community members assembled in a Brightmoor neighborhood church that he would introduce or expand as soon as next school year.

Vitti didn’t get into the specifics of how the main Detroit district would find the money or partnerships needed to deliver on all of those promises, but they’re part of the plan for the future, he said.

The comments came in a question and answer session last month with students, parents and community members following Vitti’s appearance on Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal/One Detroit Roadshow. The discussion was recorded at City Covenant Church. DPTV is one of Chalkbeat’s partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Vitti has been appearing at community events since taking over the Detroit schools last spring. He is scheduled next week to join officials from two of the city’s major charter school authorizers, Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, at a State of the Schools address on October 25.

 

Watch the full Q&A with Vitti below.

Another error

Missing student data means 900 Tennessee teachers could see their growth scores change

PHOTO: TN.gov

Tennessee’s testing problems continue. This time the issue is missing students.

Students’ test scores are used to evaluate teachers, and the failure of a data processing vendor to include scores for thousands of students may have skewed results for some teachers, officials said.

The scores, known as TVAAS, are based on how students improved under a teacher’s watch. The scores affect a teacher’s overall evaluation and in some districts, like Shelby County Schools, determine if a teacher gets a raise.

The error affects 1,700 teachers statewide, or about 9 percent of the 19,000 Tennessee teachers who receive scores. About 900 of those teachers had five or more students missing from their score, which could change their result.

The latest glitch follows a series of mishaps, including test scanning errors, which also affect teacher evaluations. A delay earlier this summer from the Tennessee Department of Education’s testing vendor, Questar, set off a chain of events that resulted in the missing student scores.

To calculate a teacher’s growth score, students and their test scores are assigned to a teacher. About 3 percent of the 1.5 million student-teacher assignments statewide had to be manually submitted in Excel files after Questar experienced software issues and fell behind on releasing raw scores to districts.

RANDA Solutions, a data processing vendor for the state, failed to input all of those Excel files, leading to the teachers’ scores being calculated without their full roster of students, said Sara Gast, a state spokeswoman. The error will not affect school or district TVAAS scores. (District-level TVAAS scores were released in September.)

Gast did not immediately confirm when the state will finalize those teachers’ scores with corrected student rosters. The state sent letters to districts last week informing them of the error and at least one Memphis teacher was told she had more than 80 of her 120 students missing from her score.

In the past, the process for matching students to the right teachers began at the end of the year, “which does not leave much room for adjustments in the case of unexpected delays,” Gast said in an email. The state had already planned to open the process earlier this year. Teachers can begin to verify their rosters next week, she said.