Rise & Shine: Schwinn floats possible changes to how Tennessee grades schools

Good morning!

For a decade, the guiding principle for Tennessee public schools has been that all students can grow in learning, regardless of out-of-school factors like poverty that might hold them back. “Just grow your kids,” teachers have been told as the state adopted growth-based accountability systems to measure school and teacher quality. But last week, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn floated the idea of revising how the state judges its schools to include a proficiency-based model. That suggestion sparked a behind-the-scenes uprising among reform-minded advocates who have worked for years to make Tennessee a national pioneer in using the growth model. Our featured story explains.

Also, there's been a growing consensus in Memphis that more investments in high-quality early childhood education are needed to help close the achievement gap. But money and collaboration have been lacking. Now a new nonprofit group has emerged to work collectively to fund those services.

Thanks for being a Chalkbeat reader.

—Marta W. Aldrich, statehouse correspondent

ACCOUNTABILITY  Should Tennessee schools be judged by how much students know — or how much they grow? A debate that had appeared to be settled is resurfacing under Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. Chalkbeat

SHUTTERED SCHOOLS  Two historic Memphis schools that were closed could be reborn as a charter school and a small business incubator if school board members agree to the proposal. Chalkbeat

EARLY EDUCATION  Shelby County is coordinating — and paying for — early education initiatives through an unprecedented public and private collaboration being overseen by a new nonprofit organization. Chalkbeat

YMCA  From a mobile library to zumba classes, the YMCA brings its “Y on the Fly” program to a Millington elementary school where youth don’t have access to its programming. Daily Memphian

SCHOOL BUILDINGS  Construction at Nashville’s new Hillwood High School location is nearly ready to begin, even as Mayor David Briley suggests a pause to address inequitable distribution of education resources across Davidson County. The Tennessean

A new middle school under construction in Franklin will proceed after Williamson County commissioners approve an extra $22.3 million for the project. The Tennessean

PRESIDING  Nashville’s school board votes Anna Shepherd its chairman and Amy Frogge as vice chairman. The Tennessean

WOODMORE CRASH  Another family files a civil lawsuit related to the 2016 school bus crash in Chattanooga that killed six elementary school students and injured dozens of others. Times Free Press

BACKSTROKING  A state senator backs off from his earlier comments that getting rid of higher education and its “liberal breeding ground” would “save America.” NBC News, USA Today, The Associated Press, WTVF

MIRROR, MIRROR  Leaders of a Chattanooga high school apologize for having bathroom mirrors painted over because students were spending too much time in front of them and coming late to class. WBTV, WTVC

BULLIED BOY  The same hand-drawn University of Tennessee T-shirt design that a Florida boy was bullied over on collegiate day at his elementary school has since crashed a website with support from Vol Nation. Knoxville News Sentinel

CREATIVE DOODLING  A Blount County middle school art teacher teaches her students that there are no mistakes, just inspirations and opportunities. The Daily Times

POSITIVE GRAFITTI  A nonprofit organization that empower girls paints positive wall art in girls bathrooms in several West Tennessee schools. The Jackson Sun

ETHICS PANEL  Jackson-Madison County’s school board moves forward with its plan to create an ethics committee comprised of non-board members. The Jackson Sun

COLLEGE ADMISSIONS  The College Board says it’s tried to reduce inequity in college admissions. A new book argues it hasn’t. Chalkbeat

WHAT’S WORKING  A new radio series, “The 50 Year Fight: Solutions for Closing the Achievement Gap,” looks at promising ways to improve academic outcomes among students of color and those from low-income families. NPR


Thank you to all who attended our Memphis event this week in partnership with New Memphis. Moderated by Chalkbeat community editor Caroline Bauman, we had a robust discussion about teacher retention, an important topic in Tennessee where one in five educators are new.