Tennessee Department of Education Received Over 1,300 Public Comments Submitted on Potential School Funding

The Tennessee Department of Education announced over 1,300 public comments have been collected on a potential new school funding formula. The department made the statements available to the public and can be seen here. The statement said comments came from “hundreds of parents, educators, superintendents, elected officials, business and community leaders, and citizens from across the state.”

“Tennesseans recognize what a historic moment in time this is for education in our state, and I want to thank those who submitted public comments as part of our engagement process on a potential new funding formula for Tennessee’s public schools,” Commissioner Penny Schwinn said.“As has been shared in subcommittee meetings, at town halls, on social media, and at local meetings, a new public education funding formula for Tennessee must be centered around our students so that we can ensure our children can thrive in the classroom and be successful after high school.”  

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State Department of Education and Metro Nashville School District to Hold Town Hall

The Metro Nashville School District and the State Department of Education is set to hold a town hall meeting Wednesday night at 6:30pm. Parents, students, teachers, and community members are encouraged to share their thoughts on state education funding. The meeting is scheduled to last an hour.

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Tennessee Lawmaker Concerned New School Funding Formula Could Lead to ‘Administrative Bloat’

As Tennessee officials get closer to presenting a new state funding proposal for K-12 public education, at least one state senator is concerned about the costs of record-keeping in the new plan.

“The way the bill is going to read, the state is going to give a capitated rate per student to the district and then, for rural schools or economically disadvantaged schools or schools with high amounts of English as a second language, they give bonuses basically,” said Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, a member of the Rural and Small District Subcommittee – one of 18 subcommittees under a steering committee involved in reviewing the state’s school funding formula. “Extra money for these extra things that you do.

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Zero Percent of Tennessee School Leaders Want to Keep Current Funding Formula, New Poll Says

The local officials who lead public schools throughout Tennessee said in a new poll that they want state officials to overhaul the state’s current school funding framework. This, according to a poll that the Nashville-based TennesseeCAN released this week. Members of TennesseeCAN, according to the group’s website, prioritize “K-12 education policies that put children first.”

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Tennessee High School Graduation Rates Down for Second Year in a Row

The Tennessee Department of Education released the graduation rate for the 2020-21 school year and data shows that 88.7% of students graduated on time this year compared to 89.6% last year. According to a press release, 37 districts improved their graduation rates, and 37 districts graduated 95% or more of their cohorts.

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Tennessee Department of Education Launches Site for Public Education Information

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) has launched a dashboard aimed at transparency and information about the goings on in the state’s public school districts. 

“This interactive dashboard filters data from the Tennessee Department of Education’s Annual Statistical Report (ASR) to provide information about Tennessee public education at the state and district levels,” the state comptroller’s website says. 

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Pumping Even More Money into Tennessee’s Public Schools Won’t Resolve Lingering Issues, State Senator Says

People who attended regional town halls this fall to discuss Tennessee’s public education funding strategy want legislators to pump even more money into public schools, but one state legislator said that’s not a remedy for improvement. Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) said Wednesday that the state’s funding formula should change but it needs to recognize how many teachers and principals are needed.

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Moms for Liberty Critical Race Theory Complaint Against Williamson County Schools Rejected by Tennessee Department of Education

Moms for Liberty tee shirt

After a new bill was signed into law prohibiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Tennessee Schools, an activist group’s complaint against the Williamson County Schools was tossed out by the head of the Tennessee Department of Education (DOE). 

A letter signed by Robin E. Steenman, Chairman of the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty and addressed to DOE Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn accuses the school district of teaching the tenets of CRT to seven and eight-year-olds, in violation of the new law. 

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Tennessee Textbook Commission Member Laurie Cardoza-Moore Discusses Tennessee Department of Education Progressive New Hire Rachael Maves

Friday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Tennessee Textbook and Instruction Materials Quality Commission member Laurie Cardoza-Moore to the newsmakers line to discuss the hiring of progressive Rachael Maves to the DOE.

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Tennessee Official Wants Legislators to Investigate Hiring of State Education Official

A member of Tennessee’s Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, has sounded an alarm on a new Tennessee Department of Education official and her reported advocacy of math equity. Math Equity is the concept that working to answer a question correctly constitutes racism and white supremacy.

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Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn Holds Third Town Hall in Pulaski to Discuss Public School Budget

The Tennessee Department of Education held its third Town Hall meeting on November 1, 2021, at the University of Tennessee Southern’s Curry Athletic Complex. The meeting was also live-streamed on their FaceBook page.

Similar to the first town hall held in Hendersonville, a representative from the Tennessee Department of Education announced that the discussion at the meeting was not intended to replace the current Basic Education Plan, or BEP, until a new funding plan was passed by the General Assembly. 

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Tennessee Department of Education Hosts Town Hall Meeting

HENDERSONVILLE, Tennessee – The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) hosted a town hall meeting Wednesday night to discuss a student-centered public school funding strategy. The majority of the attendees that spoke were either current or former teachers, along with a few parents. Commissioner Penny Schwinn spoke at the event and said that she was happy to see so many people and students at the meeting.

“We want to make sure that everyone is heard. Whether you can come out here in person, whether you’re live streaming, whether you want to submit something on your phone,” Schwinn said. “This is really about a needs assessment. What do we want to be true for public education in this state?”

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Tennessee Education Officials Schedule Eight Town Halls to Offer Input on Public Education Funding

Staff at the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) have invited all state residents to eight regional public town halls later this month and throughout next month to discuss the state’s public education funding strategy.“These public town halls will spark localized conversations about student-based funding for public education in Tennessee and how to create a new strategy to best serve our students and ensure they are prepared for future success,” according to a TDOE press release.

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Tennessee Department of Education Ready for Online Student Assessment Tests, Despite Warnings in New Comptrollers’ Report

Tennessee Comptrollers Jason Mumpower this week released a report warning Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) officials to take additional steps to make sure they can recover assessment tests that students take online. But TDOE officials told The Tennessee Star on Tuesday that they have already addressed the Comptrollers’ concerns.

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During COVID-19, Tennessee Teachers Say In-Person Learning Poses Fewer Challenges Than Remote Learning

Some of the Tennessee’s educators said in a new survey that they worried about students missing class time during the time of COVID-19. Officials with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) and the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) on Sunday released what they said were key findings and responses from the 2021 Tennessee Educator Survey from 40,000 educators.

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Former Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen Named President of Lipscomb University

Dr. Candice McQueen

Lipscomb University announced on Friday that Dr. Candice McQueen, former commissioner of education for Tennessee, will serve as the school’s new president.

McQueen, who previously served as the school’s dean of the university’s College of Education, will be the first woman to lead the 130-year-old institution.

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Tennessee Department of Education Awarded $830 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) awarded Tennessee $830 million in funds to reopen and secure schools. The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) earned these funds based on their American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Plan (ESSER). All states may submit an ARP ESSER plan. So far, ED reports that 40 states have submitted one.

According to the ED press release, this latest funding brings Tennessee’s total ARP funds to nearly $2.5 billion.

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Tennessee Education Commissioner $8 Million Contract with Company Where Husband Works Has CEO That Supports Critical Race Theory, ‘Anti-Racist’ Teaching

DAN WEISBERG

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn awarded an $8.06 million contract to a company whose CEO supports Critical Race Theory and anti-racism in classrooms. As The Tennessee Star reported previously, Schwinn’s husband works at The New Teacher Project (TNTP) as well.

TNTP CEO Dan Weisberg has posted frequently about his support for critical race theory and anti-racist teaching. Weisberg tweeted articles showing his support for the two ideologies five times in the last month, as of this publication.

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Another No-Bid Contract Under Tennessee’s Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn

Tennessee’s Education Commissioner, Penny Schwinn, wants to award another no-bid contract – this time, $7.5 million in federal funds over 3 years for a variety of services from NCS Pearson. These services would entail a K-3 Early Grade Universal Screening and Monitoring System (EGUSMS), which would include universal screening for literacy and math, dyslexia screening, mental health screening, progress monitoring, and data organization. Pearson’s EGUSMS would also provide the online reporting tools, training resources, and technical support for educators implementing the EGUSMS tools. If all options to renew are exercised for a 5-year term, then the cost would total $12.5 million.

Schwinn justified the decision to make NCS Pearson the sole source by claiming that none of the other vendors met the state’s minimum requirements. Schwinn added that the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) hadn’t put forth a complete request for proposal (RFP) out due to the short notice and prompt need for schools to obtain these services.

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Moms for Liberty Williamson County Lays Bare Evidence of Critical Race Theory, Suicide Ideation, Violence, and More in Curriculum Across 33 Counties

  FRANKLIN, Tennessee – After around 1200 hours of investigation, a parent-led deep dive team uncovered how a widely-used English curriculum in Tennessee pushes narratives on history and introduces K-5 students to a range of concepts such as Critical Race Theory, suicide ideation, gender fluidity, alcoholism, promiscuity, torture, cannibalism, and more.…

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Tennessee Education Commissioner to Publish Guidance on Critical Race Theory Ban Compliance by August 1

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn promised to publish educator guidance on the state’s critical race theory ban by August 1. The ban was first proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly by State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge). The law itself doesn’t mention critical race theory by name, but it does address the theory’s tenets and practices at length.

Schwinn revealed the plan to issue guidance in an exclusive interview with Chalkbeat on Wednesday. The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) guidance will also address the question of how the commissioner would uphold the ban, including a complaint evaluation process and financial penalty system. Ragan’s amendment noted that the commissioner would determine how much state funding to withhold for violations.

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Tennessee Investing $4.2 Billion in K-12 Public Schools Using Federal Funds

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) announced that it will invest an additional $4.2 billion for K-12 schools. The federal funds will be allocated to Tennessee schools over the next 4 years, according to the TDOE press release. The funding is a combination of different types of federal emergency relief funding.

TDOE clarified that the funding will be allotted to specific programs and initiatives. $120.7 million will go toward the Tennessee Literacy Success Act and Reading 360, $170.5 million for the Tennessee Learning Loss and Student Acceleration Act, $35 million for the 2022-23 math textbook adoption process, $32 million for online resources, $32.6 million for Innovating High Schools and Advanced Courses, $17.8 million for mental health supports, $56.5 million for K-12 open-source readiness coursework and statewide professional development, and $21 million to support the educator pipeline.

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Rep. Mark White Discusses Critical Race Theory Federal Grants in Tennessee for Public Schools and Why Division in Soceity Does Not Make Things Equal

Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed State Rep. Mark White of Memphis to the newsmakers line to weigh in on the Department of Education’s usurpation of power and federal grants used to push critical race theory in states public education.

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Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn Gave $8 Million Contract to Company That Employs Her Husband

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s husband works for the company that benefited from an $8.06 million reading initiative contract.

Apparently, Commissioner Schwinn keeps it all in the family. As The Tennessee Star reported last fall, sources claimed that Schwinn imported former colleagues from Texas when she assumed her role within TDOE. They also claimed that they were subjected to hiring freezes and pressure to slash budgets, though Schwinn had no problem with maintaining the six-figure salaries for her imports.

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Tennessee Legislature Entertaining Expansion of Black History and Culture Education for Fifth and Eighth Grades

Legislators are looking to standardize Black history curriculum in grades 5 and 8, and have the state provide additional resources by 2025. The bill in question specified that fifth and eighth-grade students would learn about Black heritage, culture, experience, and the “ultimate destiny of all social, ethnic, gender and national groups and individuals, and that such are represented as interdependent, interactive, and complementary.” It also specified that the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) would provide internet resources and materials for K-12 instruction in the subject.

State Senator Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) first introduced the bill, followed with a companion bill filed by State Representative Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga). Senate committees recommended the bill for passage with amendments. Although senators applauded the basis for the idea, they expressed concern over the fiscal impact of the bill. They also questioned the reality of schools’ ability to craft a new curriculum of that magnitude by this fall, as the bill required originally.

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Tennessee Department of Education Faced Lawsuit over Textbook Bias Allegedly Perpetrated by Commissioner Penny Schwinn

A lawsuit alleged that Commissioner Penny Schwinn favored certain textbook vendors without merit at the expense of more qualified vendors. Textbook and educational materials publishing company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) filed the suit against the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) in November of 2019. Consequently, HMH noted that the sale of all other grade levels of reading materials offered by HMH were jeopardized, since they are designed to be implemented together from K-12 curriculum.

The Tennessee State Board of Education acted on the recommendation of an advisory panel appointed by the Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission to not adopt HMH’s third grade reading material. HMH claimed that the advisory panel’s process was disrupted after Schwinn appointed Dr. Lisa Coons as TDOE Assistant Commissioner for Standards and Materials. Thereafter, HMH claimed that the panel re-reviewed and failed HMH’s material, while TDOE adopted programs offered by competitors that also received failing grades.

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Tennessee Department of Education Gives $1 Million to Left-Leaning PBS

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Education announced late last week that they will give $1 million of taxpayer money to Tennessee’s six PBS stations to help educate students throughout the state. As reported last year, several organizations, including the Family Research Council, have faulted PBS’ educational materials for what they call a left-leaning bias.

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COVID-19, Spending Cuts Focus of Tennessee Education Budget Discussions

Teacher raises, vacant positions and funding for school districts with decreased enrollment this school year were some of the topics discussed Tuesday as the chiefs of Tennessee’s education agencies presented their proposed budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.

Gov. Bill Lee is hearing budget presentations from each of his state agencies over the course of the week, preparing to put together a state budget proposal Lee will present to the Tennessee Legislature in his State of the State address next year.

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Lawmakers, Superintendents Blindsided by Tennessee Department of Education Learning Loss Projections

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s announcement of COVID-19-related learning loss projections for Tennessee students took state lawmakers and school superintendents by surprise.

In a joint news conference with Gov. Bill Lee last week, Schwinn announced Tennessee students are expected to face learning loss of 50% in English and 65% in math, stressing the importance of in-person learning. Projections were based on national research and early results of beginning-of-year student checkpoint assessments in Tennessee.

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Tennessee’s High School Graduation Rate Declines, New Data Reveals

Tennessee’s graduation rate among public school students has declined for the first time since 2015, according to data on the Tennessee Department of Education’s website.

A total of just 89.6 percent of the state’s high school students graduated in 2020, the TDOE’s website reported.

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Former TDOE Employees Warn That Penny Schwinn Jeopardizes Tennessee’s Public Schools As Well As Bill Lee’s Reelection Chances

Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s leadership problems could trickle down to the state’s public schools, and parents are right to worry.

Additionally, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who appointed Schwinn, should worry that she could cost him reelection in 2022.

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Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn Has Created ‘a Fairly Abysmal’ Work Environment, Former Employees Allege

Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) Commissioner Penny Schwinn and her leadership skills have created a toxic work environment and driven too many talented state workers away and into the private sector, said three former TDOE employees.

These are the same three sources who criticized Schwinn in an article that The Tennessee Star published Wednesday. Those sources spoke on condition of anonymity. They said the problems within the department started when Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee appointed Schwinn. And the sources also said the difficulties began not despite Schwinn — but because of her.

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Tennessee Launches School District-Level COVID-19 Data Dashboard

The Tennessee Department of Education launched a new dashboard Wednesday to report COVID-19 case data on a school district level.

A majority of school districts have submitted information for the dashboard, but it does not reflect full reporting across all districts. The department said it expects data from every school district to be reported and included on the dashboard by Sept. 22. Data will be updated on a weekly basis.

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Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s Leadership Polarizing Many, According to Some Educators

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn may have lost the confidence of some influential people in Tennessee, at least according to a new editorial that the Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) published this week.

The Nashville-based PET is a statewide professional association of educators, according to its website.

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Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles Blasts Department of Education’s ‘Child Wellbeing’ Checkup Program, Says It’s Time for Penny Schwinn to Go

Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles to the show to discuss the Tennessee Department of Education’s new “wellness liaisons” that can check up on children at schools and at their homes.

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People Speak Out Against Big Brother Style Child Wellbeing Check Run by Tennessee Department of Education

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles says, “NO!!!” to Gov. Bill Lee’s Big Brother-style child wellbeing program that plans to send government officials to families’ homes to do welfare checks of children.

The Tennessee Department of Education says it released a toolkit on child wellbeing checks to ensure the needs of children are being met during and after extended periods away from school. It is promoted as protecting children.

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State Department of Education Will Provide $15 Million in Grants for Student Internet Access

Tennessee’s Department of Education has announced $15 million in matching grants to help school districts provide MiFi devices and data coverage for 100,000 student households without internet access. MiFi devices access the internet over the cellular network using a procedure commonly referred to as “tethering.”

Funds will go to school districts as a matching grant to provide an estimated 100,000 households with internet access for distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. Priority will be given to households most in need.

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Gov. Lee Shares His ‘Child Wellbeing Plan’ With First Lady Melania Trump

Gov. Bill Lee spoke by phone Wednesday with First Lady Melania Trump on a new task force to address children’s mental and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The White House said Penny Schwinn, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, also participated.

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Tennessee Students Still Struggle After Common Core ‘Rebranded’

  Students attending K-12 public schools in Tennessee are struggling to perform above average on national standardized tests. Partially adopted in 2010 and fully implemented by the 2013-14 school year, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) failed to produce the academic results expected. The Tennessee Department of Education and Governor Bill…

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Ruth, a Local Teacher, Calls in to The Tennessee Star Report and Explains the Difference Between a Lesson Plan and a Calendar

On Friday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – the team discussed how Williamson County Schools failed to follow Tennessee State law by submitting a calendar for the academic year instead…

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Mark Levin’s TV Program Spends Full Half Hour on ‘White Privilege’ Videos from Williamson County Schools Obtained by The Tennessee Star

  On Wednesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill and Leahy held a special discussion after Mark Levin featured the WCS boards in service training modules on…

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WCS Superintendent Looney and TN Dept. of Education Fail to Produce Evidence ‘White Privilege’ Training Is Legally Authorized

By Tennessee law, the Williamson County School Board is required to approve In-service training plans for teachers. As reported, this year’s In-service training of Williamson County Schools teachers for the academic year 2018-2019 includes a “Cultural Competency” video series that preached “white privilege.” At present, there is no evidence that…

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The Tennessee Star Report’s Gill and Leahy Discuss WCS Superintendent Mike Looney and the ‘Unresponsive’ Williamson County School Board

On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill and Leahy discussed the legal implications of Williamson County schools Superintendent Mike Looney who has allegedly gone rogue and…

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Williamson County School Board Members Dodge Questions About Whether They Gave the OK to ‘White Privilege’ Training

By Tennessee law, members of the Williamson County School Board must adopt the In-Service training for teachers before Superintendent Mike Looney files it with the Tennessee Department of Education. Again, it’s state law. The Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE) website says so. Here is exactly what Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-6-3004,…

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Williamson County Schools Teacher on ‘White Privilege’ Training: ‘They Basically Are Telling White Teachers That We Are Racist. It is Super Offensive.’

A Williamson County Schools teacher who was forced to sit through the Williamson County Schools Competency Training Series video on “white privilege” contacted The Tennessee Star on Wednesday and delivered a searing critique of the in-service training created and mandated by Williamson County Schools superintendent Mike Looney. “Please investigate this as…

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Williamson County Schools Spending 22 Percent More on In-Service Training for Teachers This Academic Year

The Williamson County School System is serious about prioritizing its In-Service teacher training, so much so administrators spent 22 percent more on it for this 2018-19 school year versus the prior one. According to the school system’s budget, administrators spent $689,989 on their In-Service/Staff Development training this school year. For…

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