TEA's number one priority is always improving public education for Tennessee students and teachers. We are a member-driven organization which fights for the issues our members tell us are important to them. That is why TEA is leading the fight for a significant pay increase to attract and retain the best teachers, to reduce the state's over-reliance on testing and increase respect for the voice of Tennessee educators.
TEA has formed a partnership with the HOPE Street Group around teacher leadership. Teachers will have the opportunity to apply to be a part of a cadre of Teacher Fellows who gather information on policy issues approved by the partnership. These partnerships have been successful in other states in making teacher-driven policy changes. Each state partnership is made up of the largest teacher organization in the state (in Tennessee, that is TEA); the most active public policy voice (SCORE in our state) and the State Department of Education.
We agreed to the partnership based on the understanding that the three entities had to agree before an issue was researched by the Fellows. There is no money being given to TEA from the HOPE Street Group and no money from TEA is going to them. The research is based on surveys and focus groups with teachers who have shown an interest in the chosen topics. It is giving our organization an opportunity to determine which topics are sent out in surveys and focus groups to Tennessee teachers (which helps us make sure the issues our members have identified are actually discussed). The partnership provides our members another opportunity to have their voices heard. Our members will have the opportunity to become one of the Fellows and/or respond to the research.
The unique part of this partnership is that the State Department has to agree to work on implementation regarding the priorities that are identified through this process. It is a way to insert our members’ voices into a system that does not always take action on the ideas of the real experts - our Tennessee teachers.
This will in no way replace our own methods of interacting with our members and representing their interests in shaping public policy, but it could supplement our efforts in an important way. If the three entities agree on a topic that we know our members want to be heard on -- and the information that comes back verifies that our members want certain changes or verifies that our members DO NOT want certain changes that affect their practice -- results gathered by the third party will bring extra credibility to the policy issues TEA is already advocating.
- TEA isn't receiving any money or paying any money for this arrangement. We are so glad to hear that! We knew National Education Association has received money from Bill Gates in the past (click HERE to see all those grants), so we're glad that the state level isn't being manipulated with Gates' money.
- Carolyn Crowder called SCORE, "the most active public policy voice in our state." Really? SCORE doesn't represent our students, SCORE represents their donors. We didn't elect SCORE. SCORE is here because of money from Bill Gates. (Click HERE for our previous blogs on SCORE). In fact, SCORE's latest golden egg from Gates was just last year for nearly $1 million dollars paid over 22 months to "amplify voices on reforms" in TN.
- So, that's 2 out of 3 organizations in this arrangement who depend on Bill Gates' philanthropy for their paychecks. SCORE and Hope Street Group are both signed up for the Gates Meal Plan, so why would those organizations ever bite the hand that feeds it? Why would they tell the Emperor he has no clothes on when the money flows into their bank accounts if they keep telling him how dashing he looks in his reformy underpants?
- This partnership has an "understanding" that all 3 organizations must agree to an issue before it is researched by the Fellows, and the TDOE has agreed to work on whatever issues are brought forth from this partnership. Read the above bullet point again. What issues are the other 2 organizations firm on? Teacher evaluations using standardized testing, charter schools, privatization of public education, high stakes testing, Teach for America teachers, Common Core, etc. Basically, the same things TEA is battling against.
- Carolyn Crowder wrote that Hope Street Group has had "successful partnerships" in other states, but she didn't mention the states. It is important to know that this "partnership in states" is a pretty new concept for them (even though they have a National Teacher Fellowship to influence national policy). Their website says, "Hope Street Group’s state teacher fellowship program was launched in Kentucky in 2013 and in Hawaii in 2014 in partnership with teacher associations." Um, that is more like 1 and a half state partnerships so far. Let's look at those 2 states:
- Hawaii: They've barely had time since 2014 to go through the teacher selection process, training over the summer, and a full legislative session (Hawaii's starts the 3rd week of January). So in actuality, the Hope Street Group hasn't done a darn thing yet in Hawaii to influence policy or laws. We wouldn't call that "successful."
- Kentucky: That leaves Kentucky. ONE state that has had ONE year of this partnership between their Education Association and Hope Street Group. We did find out that Kentucky teacher evaluations are now using student surveys as part of their evaluations. Ugh... TN teachers have experienced the biased surveys (and parents, too), and have plenty to say negative about that. We asked Carolyn Crowder to give us an example of something positive that has come from the Kentucky Education Association partnering with Hope Street Group, but she couldn't tell us even one thing. She did say she would ask them and let us know. We'd be happy to publish details if she responds.
TEA is clearly outnumbered in this Gates-funded conversation. Despite TEA having a larger membership than SCORE's well-paid staff and Hope Street's army of lobbyists, TEA will be the minority. Gates' money will dominate the conversation, as they intend to do, and will dominate the outcome, as they fully intend to do. And, honestly, can anyone think of ANY organization funded by Gates that doesn't push for his reforms? Anyone??? Nope. Because there isn't one. He's deliberate and strategic in who he funds for a reason.
We have some major questions about this partnership, and we found some alarming information about Hope Street Group. Stay with us, readers...
There is a application process, including: narrative questions, recommendations, and an interview.
But who gets to narrow down candidates, interview, and pick the fellows?
If a teacher doesn't agree with common core and/or merit-based pay, will their application be quietly discarded or do they have a real chance?
Does TEA have any input whatsoever on this process, interviewing, or selection of teacher fellows? Does SCORE??
We asked the Carolyn Crowder those questions, but were surprised to learn that she didn't know the answer to any of them. She did say that "TEA requested to be invited to the training." Um, that doesn't sound like TEA will have any control over which teachers will be picked or what they will be trained to do as citizen lobbyists. Hope Street Group obviously has a plan; the process is already on their website for teachers to apply. So, it appears that TEA doesn't get a say in that Fellowship process. Are you surprised? We're not.
Grab a bucket to puke in, because we found some sickening stuff about Hope Street Group you need to know about:
"Hope Street Group assisted the U.S. Department of Education in designing Race to the Top (RTTT) in 2009. Since then, the organization has partnered with multiple states including the first two Race to the Top winners, Delaware and Tennessee, working on new ways to engage practitioners, complement work efforts and support work product."
Oh, my, we have opened the can of worms with this one...
Nobody. Nobody. Nobody likes Race to the Top in Tennessee!!! So, we're going to allow an organization that assisted the USDOE in designing that horrible RttT program, AND who worked with teachers to get us to the horrible, horrible evaluation system we have now, TO HAVE CONTROL OVER THE CONVERSATION?
Hope Street Group got us into this mess. They need to leave TN. Just go away. Don't use our teacher voices to further your donor's agenda. Don't use our children to profit your investors and yourself. Don't influence our legislators. Just go back to your own little cushy offices and leave us alone. Tennessee can control our own education thankyouverymuch!
Wait, it gets worse... this isn't a worm, this is a monster!
Look at this publication from Hope Street Group that we found on their website (image below). It appears to be a two-page advertisement of sorts for politicians and state leaders to tell them what Hope Street has done in other states and can do for their state:
Note: this has been deleted from their website now after we sent it to TEA and TEA asked them about it. Their first priority now says that student achievement must be "a major component." Hmmm... Sounds like they watered down the wording because the percentage was offending some people. Even so, "a major component" is still "major."
Here's the thing, we Momma Bears don't want our children's test scores evaluating any teacher or school. That burden should not be on any child's shoulders. There is no fair way to do it. Momma Bears oppose this.
Wendy Kopp from TFA? Sir Michael Barber?? All those politicians and charter school investors???
Momma Bears think it is shameful how an out-of-state organization gets a say in our state's public education simply because they have a ton of money. This is America, for goodness sakes! Because of money, Bill Gates and special interest groups have bought their way into Tennessee with plans to control the conversation and outcome regarding our children's educations. This is not okay.
We're just a group of concerned Moms volunteering our time to research and advocate for students, teachers, and strong public schools. TEA can brush off our little blog and all these facts we've shared, but they can't say they didn't know. We kindly gave them all this evidence last week before this blog was published. The staff and board of TEA know exactly who and what they are dealing with and their motives. TEA's leaders don't need to explain why they decided to partner with these shady organizations to Momma Bears, but TEA members who give up part of their already small paychecks for TEA membership dues might just want an explanation why TEA is giving so much power to these underhanded organizations.
This message that TEA's Executive Director sent us over the weekend might help, or it might not:
TEA leads the fight against privatization, defeating vouchers last year. TEA leads the fight for the teaching profession, getting the General Assembly to make basing teacher licenses on TVAAS illegal. TEA leads the fight for fair evaluation, filing lawsuits on the unfairness of value added scores. TEA leads the fight on testing, on funding, on class size, on so many issues critical for teachers, students, and parents. TEA has earned the trust of members and persons who care about schools.
We are engaged in the fight right now. With so many threats to public schools, students, and teachers, everyone who cares about education needs to be focused on those fights, not spending time on ancillary stuff.
This weekend, after seeing that the HOPE Street Group (1) responded to our call to drop a support statement that stated 50% of a teacher's evaluation should be based on student achievement and (2) accepted our partnership statement that said we would not engage in any issue that went against our mission and core values, the TEA Board of Directors turned their attention to important issues such as the fight for school funding solutions and state standards that are appropriate for all students regardless of age, ability or zip code.
HOPE Street Group can help with the fight to include authentic teacher voices in the debate around education policy. If they do not, TEA will stop working with them. Now, how about joining with TEA as we get back to the real fight?
TEA politely partnered with these Gates-funded organizations because they say, "It is a way to insert our members’ voices into a system that does not always take action on the ideas of the real experts - our Tennessee teachers." TEA may have been invited to the Mad Hatter's "tea" party, but the sloshing and spinning of Bill Gates' teacups will not get them where they need to go.