Rise & Shine: Details announced for Tennessee’s school turnaround ‘listening tour’

Good morning!

When Bill Lee campaigned for governor last year, he promised that his administration would look closer at Tennessee's school turnaround work to see if it's on track — and make changes if needed. Yesterday, his education chief announced dates and places for six meetings to solicit public input statewide on that work. Details are here.

Also, like most states, Tennessee uses student test scores to evaluate its teachers. However, those ranks are thinning. Nine states have retreated from the controversial policy since 2015, according to a newly released report. Our national team reports on this important topic.

Finally, people who know I'm a journalist often inquire about the challenges facing my profession, where the number of newsroom employees at U.S. newspapers declined by a staggering 47% in the last decade. I grieve that decline and what it means for coverage of substantive issues, but I love sharing how Chalkbeat is actually growing. Under our nonprofit funding model, our plan is to triple the number of Chalkbeat bureaus across the nation by 2025, an encouraging prospect for education coverage. Co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Green recently laid out Chalkbeat's strategic plan — definitely worth a read if you care about education, journalism, or both.

On to the news!

—Marta W. Aldrich, statehouse correspondent

LISTENING TOUR  As the future of Tennessee’s turnaround district hangs in the balance, the state education department schedules meetings in four cities to get feedback on struggling schools from parents, teachers, and their communities. Chalkbeat

RE-EVALUATION  Fewer states are using student test scores to evaluate teachers, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. Chalkbeat

FIRED TEACHER  A teacher fired from a Memphis charter school sues her former employer for retaliation and wrongful termination after defending her principal during a contentious public meeting. Chalkbeat

ELECTION 2020  State Rep. John DeBerry’s support for an education voucher law affecting Memphis schools will be a campaign issue next year as the Democrat faces opposition again from Torey Harris, director of human resources for Shelby County government. Daily Memphian

Claiming that certain school curriculum amounts to “political indoctrination,” Williamson County Republicans urge new candidates to run for the local board of education. The Tennessean

NONRESIDENT TUITION  The Germantown Municipal School District considers charging tuition for nonresidents living in Shelby County. Daily Memphian

INTERIM INTERIM  The operations chief for Metro Nashville schools will lead the district while interim director Adrienne Battle takes a four-week maternity leave. The Tennessean

FUNDING SCHOOLS  Hamilton County commissioners will consider tomorrow putting a $60 annual “wheel” tax proposal on the next ballot to benefit public schools. Times Free Press

Williamson County’s budget panel unanimously recommends increasing an impact fee on builders to fund school growth. The Tennessean

RELIGION IN SCHOOLS  A prayer led by a Rutherford County public school teacher, which recently ignited a frenzy of support and criticism, is nothing new in Tennessee. Letters provided by the Freedom From Religion Foundation show that the nonprofit organization has filed 52 school prayer-related complaints in in the Volunteer State since 2016. Daily News Journal

What is the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and how active is it in Tennessee? The Tennessean

ACT REBOOT  Starting next September, high schoolers won’t have to repeat the entire college entrance exam to improve their scores. The New York Times

VAPING CRISIS  With school districts nationwide scrambling to reverse the rise of vaping among teenagers, three districts file lawsuits against Juul, the e-cigarette manufacturer. The New York Times

OPINION: VOUCHER MANDATES  Requiring private schools to administer state tests to voucher recipients will reduce the number of high-quality private schools willing to participate, writes the director of school choice for a libertarian group. The Tennessean

OPINION: UNSUNG HEROES  A Knoxville writer and former teacher reflects on the contributions of black high schools in East Tennessee during segregation. Knoxville News Sentinel


The above chart was published recently by the state comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability, a great source for charts, maps, and reports on all kinds of ed topics that are relevant across Tennessee. This salary snapshot is part of a new series called Tennessee Trends.