Roy Exum: McQueen & Her TVAAS

Thursday, September 21, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

If I am reading my Ouija Board right, I suspect the Hamilton County School Board will vote to allow a controversial “partnership” to be formed with the state Board of Education tonight at its monthly meeting. State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has said she will demand the one-sided partnership to take over the operation of five at-risk schools in Hamilton County and, if the school board balks, she will add two more iZone schools to the list and her dreaded Achievement School District will totally operate all seven after dismissing every teacher.

This pirate is not a nice woman. Right now she’s demanding Shelby County (Memphis) and the Metro Nashville school boards to provide the state with student contact information and both steadfastly refuse. Oh? She is threatening to withhold state money! I say let her try it. Memphis and Nashville should call her bluff.

I don’t believe she’s got any power to withhold money. I wish the Hamilton County School Board could find the courage to tell McQueen ‘No!’ after her Achievement School District has failed horribly in Memphis and has little hope here. Yet she is proposing an outrageous partnership to be approved immediately and not one of our state representatives is challenging a folly that will cost the taxpayers (voters) millions in reckless spending.

McQueen has promised $1.5 million to trigger the launch of the partnership next fall. This year will be a “planning year” and McQueen’s term as Education Commissioner will end next December, which will create a hurricane of uncertainty after more wasteful spending that is the earmark of McQueen’s tenure. The woman has spent millions with no apparent success and the entire partnership promises to be more of the same.

The new partnership will have a separate school board that will be appointed instead of elected. (This is illegal in Tennessee … until legislators Todd Gardenhire and Bo Watson assure they can get the law amended.) McQueen’s board will have four “state” representatives and three “county” representatives, who are believed to be HCDE superintendent Bryan Johnson and two members of the elected school board, Tiffanie Robinson and Karitsa Jones, who represent the schools being rather blatantly stolen. (Legal alert: Can an elected official, being paid by the county, also sit on a different school board in the same county without a conflict of interest? Ethically?)

The partnership will have its own superintendent and will totally act without any oversight from Hamilton County mayors, judges, school officials or anyone else. The take-over is obscene in a democracy and flies in the very face of the county’s revival in education with Supt. Johnson now aboard. And tonight’s vote comes in the bitter wake of the Tennessee Value Added Assessment Scores (TVAAS) that determined Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga schools are the lowest of the low.

It has since been determined the TVAAS is hogwash. Two elementary schools on Signal Mountain mirror one another but Thrasher got the highest rating “5” while Nolan got the lowest “1.” One explanation is that the lowest includes ‘special ed’ students and is therefore unfairly penalized. Thrasher has no ‘special ed’ children. Not only is this grossly unfair, somebody needs to call the Department of Justice.

Here’s how an expert in elementary education explains what just happened:

* * *

“Nolan is a larger school and has a larger special education population.  Under TVAAS if a school reaches a certain number of ‘special ed’ students, or free and reduced lunch students, or minority students, etc. then that group becomes what is known as a 'subgroup’ for test results.  In turn, the subgroup's test scores are then compared to the whole-school population's test scores.  If there is a significant gap between the subgroup and the whole-school scores, then the 1-5 scale is strongly impacted. 

“As I understand it, Nolan has enough ‘special ed’ students for a subgroup and Thrasher does not.  With Nolan's high raw test scores, there is bound to be a large gap between the school scores and the ‘special ed’ subgroup's scores.  If the ‘special ed’ students had similar high scores they wouldn't be in ‘special ed’ classes.

* * *

Here’s one you are going to like even better. TVAAS is the brainchild of Dr. William Sanders, who was a statistician in UT’s School of Agriculture. TVAAS was originally used as a method for the genetic breeding of cows. Seriously. Sanders soon devised a way he could number children’s achievement on the same 5-to-1 scale, thus evaluate the worth of different teachers. He described what he did was like “double linear algebraic equation with around 100 parts."

Amazingly, he sold then-Governor Ned McWherter on the program. The professor – who died earlier this year -- then got the legislature (guys like Gardenhire and Watson) to believe “Using mixed model equations, TVAAS uses the covariance matrix from this multivariate, longitudinal data set to evaluate the impact of the educational system on student progress in comparison to national norms, with data reports at the district, school, and teacher levels."

There’s more. Our stealthy prof even wrote the law into the Tennessee Code. Since no one can possibly understand how you can rate a kid the same way you rate a cow, how can Candice McQueen and the state of Tennessee actually base day-to-day decisions on TVAAS? A bigger mystery is how can any legislator watch as the state pays millions of dollars for it! It’s so obvious – the Professor croaked with a giggle in his heart and a steamboat roll in his pocket. Follow the money …

Never mind that dozens of sources, from the RAND Institute to the Economic Policy Institute, have determined TVAAS is a big batch of hocus-pocus; if it’s good enough for a cow breeder to be successful, its good enough to enrage the entire state with misleading and biased numbers.

The take-home lesson? McQueen can use it like a laser-saber to bash inner-city schools. In a Tuesday email to state principals, according to Chalkbeat.com, McQueen pledged that “the state would analyze the latest data to determine ‘critical next steps,’ especially for priority schools, which also are located in high-poverty communities,” the Chalkbeat story read.

“My message to the leaders of Priority schools,” she added, “is that this level of growth will never get kids back on track, so we have to double-down on what works – strong instruction and engagement, every day, with no excuses.”

I’m all over it … cattle and kids … rate either of ‘em 1-to-5 … “no excuses.”
“Double down.”

Roy Exum: "Miss Mary Frances"

It's All About Competence

Roy Exum: A Fair Trial


I have written dozens of obituaries in my life and eulogized many people. I am not ashamed to admit I think I am good at it and I am flattered when a friend’s family approaches me to ask for ... (click for more)

Joe Biden’s answer to no COVID test kits during the December 2021 surge was, “I wish I had thought about ordering 500 million tests two months ago” (ABC News, Dec 22, 2021). Move ahead to ... (click for more)

I have undergone more surgeries than anyone I know. I am also among those who are lucky enough to have discovered that the hero nurses become your best friend when things go sour. Because of ... (click for more)



Opinion

Roy Exum: "Miss Mary Frances"

I have written dozens of obituaries in my life and eulogized many people. I am not ashamed to admit I think I am good at it and I am flattered when a friend’s family approaches me to ask for my help. I have written a number of obituaries on those who are still alive who want to “proof-read” what will be turned into the funeral home and I have honored death-bed requests that this ... (click for more)

It's All About Competence

Joe Biden’s answer to no COVID test kits during the December 2021 surge was, “I wish I had thought about ordering 500 million tests two months ago” (ABC News, Dec 22, 2021). Move ahead to 2022. Joe’s answer, “If we’d been better mind readers, I guess we could have,” when asked if his team could have acted sooner to address drastic shortages of baby formula. (CNN, MJ Lee & ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Coppinger's Last Budget Does Not Include Tax Increase; County Revenues Are Up $11.1 Million

Outgoing County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Tuesday morning that his final budget to the County Commission does not include a property tax increase. He noted that the county schools did not ask for a tax hike, and he said county general government will not either. Spending in the current fiscal year is at $833 million. The county fund balance (rainy day fund) is at $130 million. ... (click for more)

New DA Will Have Lot Of Spots To Fill; Prosecutor Andrew Coyle Is 1st To Depart

The new Hamilton County District Attorney (either John Allen Brooks or Coty Wamp) will have a lot of room to refashion the office with many experienced prosecutors and staff choosing to either go elsewhere or retire with the change of administration. The first to go after the recent election defeat of District Attorney Neal Pinkston is Division I supervisor Andrew Coyle, whose ... (click for more)

Sports

"I Just Want To Travel" - Pare Pene On To Big Things

The swishing of nets, the squeaking of sneakers, the bouncing of a basketball, the applause of the crowd and Pareunuora ‘Pare’ Pene’s voice echoing through McKenzie Arena. If anyone decided to put together a “soundtrack” of UTC women’s basketball over the last four years, those would be the essential elements. Pene’s cheers of joy and encouragement through the highs and lows ... (click for more)

Dan Fleser: Vols And Lady Vols Recruiting Has Changed

Used to be when someone like five-star prospect Julian Phillips signed with Tennessee basketball, the news would’ve been hailed as a rare achievement for the Vols. Not anymore. Likewise, the thought of Tennessee women’s basketball adding four transfers in one incoming class would’ve been unthinkable in years past. Times have changed. The recruiting of both Tennessee ... (click for more)