ROUNDUP: Waiver alters schools measure, teachers honored, Bartlett mulls muni schools

Another Tuesday, another bounty of information about schools and education in your morning newspaper. The biggest news comes from Jane Roberts explaining the state's formal request for a waiver from the controversial No Child Left Behind federal law. Essentially, Tennessee is asking for more straightforward gauges of measuring whether a school or schools are making adequate progress in raising proficiency levels in students for math and reading.

Tennessee is asking for measures that would call for raising proficiency levels three to five percent each year, as well as heightened attention to the achievement gap between students of different demographic backgrounds. Additional resources would be aimed at schools where it is demonstrated the most help is needed. Dept. of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman explains it all in this op-ed piece. An accompanying graphic (PDF here) shows how differently the schools' performances would look using the revised measurements. From the news article:
... schools would be divided into three categories based on their test scores and graduation rates but in some nontraditional areas as well, including how much progress students are making. That puts schools like Booker T. Washington High, long on the state's priority list, at the top of pack, joining the ranks with Robert R. Church Elementary and a handful of high-ranking charter schools in the city.

Conversely, Memphis schools such as White Station High and Peabody and Idlewild elementary schools would rank low due to the large size of their achievement gaps between students. "You can't ride the coattails of high-achieving students," Cash said. "You won't be a great school until all children in all subgroups are achieving at high levels."
Also from Jane Roberts -- an Memphis City Schools ceremony honoring some of the district's top teachers at the first My Favorite Educator Golden Apple Awards.
One hundred and five teachers made the finalist cut from 1,200 nominations; 21 received plaques with golden apples and $100 checks, complements of the Memphis Education Association, while fans on two levels of the performance hall clapped and cheered.

Meah King from East High took the top honors for high school English teachers and smiled and shook hands most of the way back to her seat. "Teaching is not a profession, it's a ministry," she said. "My work is not in vain."
In Bartlett, residents gathered to talk about creating municipal schools for the fast-growing suburb. Mayor Keith McDonald captured the energy and enthusiasm for moving in that direction and away from what would be a huge 150,000-student unified county school district saying that, "In politics you have to be careful on which sword you are willing to die on. I'm willing to die on this one." But Clay Bailey reports there was little in the way of new clarifying information.
In some instances, there were details about the proposed city school system, but most specifics were tempered by caveats of the unknown, from the increase in taxes to the cost of acquiring the school buildings in Bartlett. In addition to the lack of firm figures on cost, there also is the question of whether the idea can survive expected legal challenges if outlying Shelby County cities decide to separate from the combined school system.

All six Shelby County suburbs have hired Southern Educational Strategies, a consulting firm, to study the feasibility of starting their own municipal systems. The reports are expected in mid-January. Bartlett city officials really don't have any new figures on the cost of the idea. In March, the suburb's research showed 11 public schools within Bartlett borders. Of those, six are elementary schools, four are middle schools, along with Bartlett High.
One of the biggest questions, one that may require a judge's interpretation of laws and precedent, involves exisiting school facilities.
But a major question facing a future municipal system from a facilities and funding standpoint is what happens to those county school buildings in Bartlett that will fall under a unified school system. According to a study done for Bartlett in February, the net book value of those 11 school buildings, plus the equipment and land, is about $65 million.

While there is resistance to proposals that the county give school buildings to suburban municipal school districts, leaders such as McDonald point out that Memphis has taken over schools in annexations without having to pay for them under the reasoning that the newly annexed residents paid county taxes before annexation to cover those costs.

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