Future of Teaching

Shelby County Schools continues to hire teachers, job fair planned later this week

With just three weeks before the school year begins, Shelby County Schools administrators continue to rapidly hire dozens of laid-off teachers.

Nearly 300 laid-off teachers have been rehired in less than a month, leaving just 75 teachers who were laid off last spring who have yet to find a job. Originally 1,000 teachers were displaced after the district closed 10 schools and lost thousands of students to the Achievement School District, charter schools and six newly-formed municipalities last school year. The district gave displaced teachers until June 30 to find a new job or lose their salaries and benefits.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II has said the district’s goal is to ensure that every classroom has a high-quality teacher. The majority of the teachers laid off by the district who hadn’t found jobs by June 24 failed to meet the district’s minimal state standards, administrators said.

How teachers are hired this year has been topic of public debate during Shelby County School Board meetings and prompted a lawsuit filed by five displaced tenured teachers who disagreed with the district’s hiring practices. They argue laid off tenure teachers should be guaranteed a job rather than have to search for one.

Sheila Redick, head of teacher hiring for the district, said her office is working to ensure teachers get exposure to principals looking to fill vacant positions. “We want to ensure that they’ve had a chance,” Redick said.

School officials need to fill 100 to 150 vacancies before teacher training begins on July 28.  Redick said the district is on target to have 300 to 400 open positions by the end of month.

Shelby County Schools will continue the hiring frenzy with another job fair tentatively scheduled for Friday or Saturday, Redick said.  The district also held a hiring fair on June 30, which was the last day for affected teachers to secure employment before being added to the wait list on July 1.

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at [email protected] and (901) 730-4013.

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Struggling Detroit schools

The list of promises is long: Arts, music, robotics, gifted programs and more. Will Detroit schools be able to deliver?

PHOTO: Detroit Public Television
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti answers questions at a community meeting in Detroit.

Arts. Music. Robotics. Programs for gifted kids. New computers. New textbooks. Dual enrollment programs that let high school students take college classes. International Baccalaureate. Advanced Placement.

They’re all on the list of things that Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a group of community members assembled in a Brightmoor neighborhood church that he would introduce or expand as soon as next school year.

Vitti didn’t get into the specifics of how the main Detroit district would find the money or partnerships needed to deliver on all of those promises, but they’re part of the plan for the future, he said.

The comments came in a question and answer session last month with students, parents and community members following Vitti’s appearance on Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal/One Detroit Roadshow. The discussion was recorded at City Covenant Church. DPTV is one of Chalkbeat’s partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Vitti has been appearing at community events since taking over the Detroit schools last spring. He is scheduled next week to join officials from two of the city’s major charter school authorizers, Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, at a State of the Schools address on October 25.

 

Watch the full Q&A with Vitti below.

Another error

Missing student data means 900 Tennessee teachers could see their growth scores change

PHOTO: TN.gov

Tennessee’s testing problems continue. This time the issue is missing students.

Students’ test scores are used to evaluate teachers, and the failure of a data processing vendor to include scores for thousands of students may have skewed results for some teachers, officials said.

The scores, known as TVAAS, are based on how students improved under a teacher’s watch. The scores affect a teacher’s overall evaluation and in some districts, like Shelby County Schools, determine if a teacher gets a raise.

The error affects 1,700 teachers statewide, or about 9 percent of the 19,000 Tennessee teachers who receive scores. About 900 of those teachers had five or more students missing from their score, which could change their result.

The latest glitch follows a series of mishaps, including test scanning errors, which also affect teacher evaluations. A delay earlier this summer from the Tennessee Department of Education’s testing vendor, Questar, set off a chain of events that resulted in the missing student scores.

To calculate a teacher’s growth score, students and their test scores are assigned to a teacher. About 3 percent of the 1.5 million student-teacher assignments statewide had to be manually submitted in Excel files after Questar experienced software issues and fell behind on releasing raw scores to districts.

RANDA Solutions, a data processing vendor for the state, failed to input all of those Excel files, leading to the teachers’ scores being calculated without their full roster of students, said Sara Gast, a state spokeswoman. The error will not affect school or district TVAAS scores. (District-level TVAAS scores were released in September.)

Gast did not immediately confirm when the state will finalize those teachers’ scores with corrected student rosters. The state sent letters to districts last week informing them of the error and at least one Memphis teacher was told she had more than 80 of her 120 students missing from her score.

In the past, the process for matching students to the right teachers began at the end of the year, “which does not leave much room for adjustments in the case of unexpected delays,” Gast said in an email. The state had already planned to open the process earlier this year. Teachers can begin to verify their rosters next week, she said.