Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kevin Huffman out as education commissioner

 I just learned that Kevin Huffman, state education commissioner in Tennessee, is leaving his position effective the end of this year due to, rumor has it, bullsh*t internal Republican politics (it's not just Democrats who have to get their house in order on this issue – the resistance to ed reform is very powerful in both blue states and red ones!). I can't think of anyone who made more bold changes faster than Huffman, all the while enduring endless slings and arrows from both the far right and the far left – which raises the question of the day: which party's extremists are crazier – those that don't believe in evolution, or those that believe that pouring more money into the broken system will fix it???
The real losers, of course (as always), are the children of Tennessee – and their parents, who want no more than what all parents want for their children: a good education so they can have a fair shot in life. It sounds so simple, but as a nation we're systematically denying this to millions of children, mostly poor black and brown ones (it goes without saying, to anyone with an ounce of common sense, that if large numbers of white kids were forced to attend chronically failing schools, the problem would be fixed in no time). It's an outrage.
Below is an article with more details about Huffman and his departure – here's an excerpt:
Huffman also led the establishment of the Achievement School District, a state-run district empowered to take over the bottom 5 percent of Tennessee schools, the vast majority of which are in Memphis. The ASD can either run the schools directly or hand them over to charter school operators. The district's results, so far, have been mixed.
Last year, the state had some of the nation's highest gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which Huffman and Haslam attributed to increased standards and school choice.
"Commissioner Huffman is a strong, courageous leader with an unwavering belief in Tennessee's students," said ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic in a statement Thursday. "The greatest testament to his leadership is student achievement. … we're the fastest-improving state in the country and our kids are much better off today than they were three years ago."
And here's a statement by Chiefs for Change:

For Immediate Release: 
November 13, 2014 

Gary Larson
(415) 722-0127 

Chiefs for Change Statement on Kevin Huffman's Departure

WASHINGTON - In response to the departure of Kevin Huffman from the Tennessee Department of Education, Hanna Skandera, Chair of Chiefs for Change and New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary, released the following statement:

"Kevin Huffman joined Chiefs for Change shortly after he became the Tennessee Education Commissioner in April 2011.  

"As Commissioner, Kevin set out to be a champion for children in Tennessee. Based on his vast experience in the teaching realm, he was determined to improve teaching quality in Tennessee by building new systems that would measure teacher progress and identify ways in which teachers could be more successful with all kids, especially children of color and those who suffer great disadvantages.  Kevin has always stood against those who say kids couldn't succeed because of their background or zip code. His effort to build teacher quality and insistence on advancing educational outcomes for all led to Tennessee students being the fastest improving in the nation in 2013.  

"Tennessee's results, measured by the National Assessment for Educational Progress, are directly tied to countless teachers and students who do the work in the classroom, as well as the policies that Kevin and Governor Haslam identified, fought for and implemented. It is one thing to have an idea of what to do to improve a large, disconnected bureaucracy, including multiple underperforming school districts, but it is another thing to implement that idea, impact that bureaucracy and have the remarkable results that Kevin's leadership produced.

"In addition to leading change in Tennessee, Kevin, as a member of Chiefs for Change, became a national voice for making real policy and practice changes to an antiquated education system that is often virulent in resisting efforts to improve outcomes for all children.  He was a consistent voice for Chiefs for Change in the national landscape, along with the other courageous state education leaders.

"We wish Kevin all the best in his next position and look forward to his continued involvement in Chiefs for Change."

Kevin Huffman out as education commissioner

He became a lightning rod for anger over major policy changes

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