KINGSPORT – Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Timothy Webb, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Dr. Charles Manning and Dr. William Sanders, creator of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, outlined powerful changes coming to the K-12-Higher Education arena during the first day of the Straight to the Top Conference.

I would like to give you an architects view of what Race to the Top, First to the Top, is supposed to be about, Webb said. I begin with what if in 4 years every child that engages the public education system has the benefit of, privilege and civil right of being instructed by highly qualified teachers in every classroom.

To build these effective organizations, led by highly qualified principals and administrators, Tennessee is rapidly embracing a system in place since 1992 – TVAAS, which Webb called the the most robust education data system in the world.

Simply put, TVASS measures actual gains in knowledge year-over-year, regardless of what point the child falls on the achievement scale.

I go to bed every night with a spider in my bed, and that spider is, what if we dont, Webb said. But failure is simply not an option. Being nearly proficient in math or writing is simply not an option.

In addition to harnessing the power of TVASS to both measure knowledge gain and predict future results, Webb added that the Tennessee Board of Education is about to make the most important decision that body ever made in terms of setting new, higher standards of proficiency later this week.
There are tough times ahead there will be a little bit of chaos, but we will come out of this stronger with high school graduates who are truly ready for college and able to compete on an international basis with graduates from China and India.

At the same time, Webb pledged that the $500 million Race to the Top award would not be spent in a way that leaves the burden for local government to fund when the grant expires in four years.

Meanwhile, Manning commended Kingsport and Sullivan County for being ahead of the game in recognizing that K-12 must build a seamless bridge to higher education.

This really is a remarkable community in what is had done and it has now been recognized by an icon of education in the (Harvard University) Innovations in American Government Award, Manning said. You all have really made the connection between K-12, higher education and building a stronger workforce and you recognized that it is the C and B students who are going to stay right here.

In his term at the podium, Dr. Sanders outlined three critical issues in the use of Value-Added data.

First, K-12 administrators should never allow a student to be placed in a classroom led by a weak teacher for two years in a row. Second, the predictive data provided once three years of information are available on a student are proven valid when it comes to determining students who are failing, students who are achieving and students who need to challenged even more with harder classes. And Sanders insisted that school systems must work to ensure that top teaching talent is equitably distributed throughout the system, not just dumping all of the weaker teachers in a single school building.

At the same time, Sanders contended that existing resources are sufficient if teachers will pull individual student data regularly to adjust mid-course to those kids who are either struggling or not sufficiently challenged.

Although working with Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and other states, Sanders said teachers are yet to seize on the ability of TVASS to truly measure progress and predict future student outcomes.

We have to use the predictive aspects to maximize the chance this kid has to get to the new higher standards that are being rolled out, Sanders said. At the same time, as we push these kids up, you going to have more STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) graduates by continuing to place the kids who are ready in these more challenge classes at an earlier point.

Since Tennessee adopted the TVASS system 18 years ago, Sanders said his system has been attacked early and often by educators and statisticians alike, and has been proven valid every single time.

Nobody has developed a better, more accurate value-added longitudinal analysis than what undergirds TVASS, and we need our educators to trust the information so they can make better education decisions in the classroom and at the principal level, he said. And weve got to do a better job of tracking the kids who are not coming from households with college graduates to encourage them to stay on a higher track.

Day 2 of the Straight to the Top conference at MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center will feature presentations by former Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, who is the William H. Bloomberg Lecturer in Public Management at the Harvard Kennedy School, a roundtable discussion on Great Teachers and Great Leaders and presentations by Will Pinkston with the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), and a keynote address by Governor Phil Bredesen and Eastman Chemical Co. CEO Jim Rogers on the critical connection between academic excellence and economic success.