Monthly Archives: May, 2014

The (drum) Beat Goes On

TCAP cartoon


Yet another MSM outlet has called for Kevin “I Voted for Obama” Huffman’s firing.

Following the broadside delivered yesterday by two conservative Republican legislators asking the Comptroller to investigate the TCAP scandal, today’s Pitchfork & Torch award goes to the lead left-of-center columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Pam Strickland pulls no punches in calling out Huffman and his “Mini-Me” (Erin O’Hara) for their roles in the scandal.  In her column, “Late Scores Should Lead To Dismissals”, Strickland states her case:

“[DOE’s Erin] O’Hara indicated in the email that the process would take approximately 10 days. Something that should have been known all along. She suggested delaying grades or giving out temporary grades that could be changed once the final TCAP numbers were in.

“Something tells me that she doesn’t have a 9-year-old, or better yet, a 13-year-old, waiting for that report card.

“But then, magically, the scores were ready. Knox County report cards had already gone out, so it didn’t matter. But someone in Nashville needs to figure out what’s going on.

“In the meantime, I’d like to suggest that O’Hara — who clearly doesn’t know what’s going on in her own department — be dismissed. And that her boss, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, also be shown the door.”

Time to gear up those office pools:  RTP will take Huffman is out in 90 days.  O’Hara in 45.

We will accept no bets on Haslam, as he is already a lame duck.


TCAP Scores “Horrendous.”


RTP sources have notified us that multiple school superintendents and other school officials who have now had a chance to review the TCAP scores that the state DOE inexplicably withheld are stunned by what one school official called “horrendous” test scores.

If this is the case, it would go a long way in explaining why the DOE is so intent on trying to get this issue to go away.  Lousy test scores would not only discredit Kevin “IVFO” Huffman’s education “reform” agenda, but would cause considerable embarassment to elected officials, especially Gov. Haslam.

There is now a growing suspicion that when Huffman saw the scores, he made the decision to withhold them until AFTER the conference he and the governor were hosting for 400 education writers from around the country.  Haslam and Huffman have been relentless in trying to draw attention fo their education policies with a “Hey, look at what Tennessee is doing” meme.  The TCAP scandal threatens to draw attention to their claims in a most unflattering way.

But increasingly, DOE and Huffman are faced with suspicions of a “coverup.”  Already there are calls for investigations and audits which lead us to a comple of conclusions:

1.  This ain’t going away.

2.  No one believes the DOE

3.  Common Core — especially testing — will be back on the legislative agenda next session.

The defeaning silence from Common Core’s proponents speaks volumes about how they see the situation.  Gov. Haslam’s comments consist almost entirelyof his statement last week that  “it is more important to be accurate than rushed.”  He delivered that profound observation just hours before DOE embarrassed him by rushing out the test scores.  Much of legislative leadership have seemed to have disappeared and word is SCORE’s Jamie Woodson is hiding at a “secure, undisclosed location.”

There are so many chickens coming home, we are going to need a bigger roost.

BREAKING: Rep. Spivey, Sen. Bowling ask Comptroller to investigate DOE/TCAP

Rocky Top Politics has learned Rep. Billy Spivey and Sen. Janice Bowling have officialy requested Comptroller Justin Wilson investigate the expenditures and conduct of the Department of Education regarding last week’s “delay” in releasing TCAP scores.

“A visible level of distrust exists between…Directors of Schools and the Department of Education, as well as some members of the General Assembly and the Department,”  said Spivey and Bowling.

“We feel is is paramount that a third party conduct the investigation/audit and provide the results to the members of the General Assembly.

Among the questions the legislators want answered is specifically who was responsible for the decision for the “last minute change.”



ANOTHER Testing Scandal at DOE?

train wreckSources are telling RTP that hot on the heels of the TCAP train wreck may be yet another testing screw-up administered by the state Dept. of Education.  If that is the case, RTP will bring you the news as soon as we can confirm.

In the meantime, the fall-out from last week’s TCAP meltdown continues to reverberate around the state, with some local school systems facing six-figure bills for cleaning up DOE’s mismanagement of the TCAP scores.  Add to that the requests for AG opinions on the legality of the DOE’s actions as well as the prevailing suspicion among superintedents and others that DOE “cooked the numbers” on the TCAP scores and/or timed the release of the scores to avoid  embarrassing the Haslam administration during last week’s Nashville conference with national education writers.

Today’s posts include a news article, a major newspaper editorial and a coherent blog analysis from someone called “Dad Gone Wild.”



Nailed it.

Shelbyville Times-Gazette put all other newspapers to shame with their reporting and analysis of the TCAP fiasco.  Read the whole thing at the Times-Gazette.  Here are some excerpts:

Reactions were swift in coming from politicians and others who have been following the TCAP delay issue.

Tennessee Sen. Mae Beavers said she asked the state attorney general on Friday for his opinion of the TCAP delay and the potential changing of test scores. She has not yet heard back.

“I think the law is pretty clear on what they’re supposed to be doing, and anybody who messes with the scores should lose their job,” Beavers, a Mount Juliet Republican, said.

One political consultant/attorney, Steve Gill of Gill Media, also questioned whether the department has the legal authority to waive state law. Tennessee Code Annotated 49-1-617 requires TCAP scores to be included in students’ grades, he said. State law also prohibits changing test scores, he said.

“They have the scores; they don’t like the scores,” he said. “That’s not grounds to change them or to waive the school districts from complying with state law because the commissioner of education doesn’t like the way they turn out.”


J.C. Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a teacher advocacy group, called for an investigation of the TCAP issue. Many of the school districts that did not request a waiver will have to recall teachers this summer to work on grades, at a cost of “thousands of dollars,” he said.

“People make mistakes, and this is understandable. However, this was a real debacle. My initial reaction is that Ms. (Erin) O’Hara needs to answer question before the Tennessee General Assembly on this matter, and the public deserves to know who the external experts involved in this process were, and the cost to the state and districts.”

O’Hara, assistant commissioner for data and research, sent a letter to superintendents last week informing them of the TCAP delay:

“Terrible Scores”

David Cook, a columnist for the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, in a column written prior to release of the scores, called on Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to resign.

“After having months to prepare — our state can’t finalize test scores in time? Our state can’t ship test results back to schools before report cards go home for summer break?” Cook wrote. “It is a bureaucratic collapse, an embarrassment to the look-at-our-Tennessee-miracle narrative that school officials keep trying to tell the rest of America.”

Editorial: Today’s Knoxville News Sentinel

Editorial: Late TCAP results earn failing grade for department

Posted May 27, 2014 at 3 a.m.

Tests administered to students under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program matter.

Until they don’t.

Intentional or not, that was the message the Tennessee Department of Education sent last week to school systems in an 11th-hour notification that it would be tardy in releasing TCAP scores this year. School systems across the state were blindsided by the delay.

State law requires that TCAP scores be included as a portion — between 15 and 25 percent — of the second-semester grades for students in grades 3-8. Report cards were supposed to go home with Knox County students last Wednesday, the last day of classes. Administrators were not notified of the delay until late Tuesday. Because of the delay, final grades could not be calculated in time for report cards to be prepared for grades 3-8. Report cards went out as planned for grades K-2 and 9-12.

Knox County and other similarly affected systems asked for and received waivers from the Department of Education that allow them to calculate grades without using the TCAP results. Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre said the report cards would be sent to parents this week by mail, resulting in a substantial postage outlay that the school system had not anticipated.

Erin O’Hara, the state’s assistant commissioner for data and research, initially told school systems the results would not be ready until the end of this week. But on Friday she sent school systems a memo advising them the results would be released that afternoon.

In the initial notification memo, O’Hara said the delay was caused by additional analysis of the scores after a narrowing of assessments to align them to state standards. In previous years, the analysis was conducted after “quick scores” were sent to school systems for inclusion in the grades calculations.

This year, O’Hara wrote, the process was reversed because state officials wanted to “take appropriate measures to ensure the accuracy of the quick scores.”

O’Hara’s wrote that the analysis of the results of the high school End of Course exams was conducted first so graduation would not be affected, an indication that state officials knew of the timing issue but did not notify superintendents ahead of time.

The Department of Education has spent years hammering home the importance of standardized tests. In addition to contributing to each student’s grades, TCAP results are used in teacher evaluations, in grading the overall performance of individual schools and systems and for other purposes. Failing to get the scores to the school systems on time — after months of planning — is inexcusable and erodes trust in Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and the agency he runs.

Time is an important component of standardized tests. Third-graders in Tennessee have precisely 53 minutes — not a second longer — to finish part 1 of the TCAP Social Studies assessment. The Department of Education should be held to a similar standard. For the Department of Education, turning in this important assignment late is grounds for a failing grade.

“Dad Gone Wild” weighs in…








Dad Gone Wild

BREAKING NEWS: Huffman folds. But will he resign?

Within the last hour, DOE bureaucrat Erin O’Hara sent out a release announcing that the department has backtracked (somewhat) and agreed to release the test scores sometime today.  But O’Hara’s announcement doesn’t address the central problems with DOE’s and Huffman’s conduct and raises several more questions in the process.

From the DOE:

“We are releasing quick scores this afternoon, after hearing back from external experts who signed off on the accuaracy and validity of the results.”

Oh, well, that answers everything.  We feel so much better now.

Which “experts” are you referring too, Erin?  Pearson?  Aren’t they the same ones who are trying to sell the state new, expensive Common Core textbooks?  Won’t they be bidding on the new testing RFP, worth millions on top of their $150 million TCAP contract?  Give us a break.

“We are relieved that the post-equating process, led and verified by outside experts, showed that the tests are fair, accurate…”  yada, yada, yada.

Nice try, guys.  By “relieved” you are obviously trying to transfer blame and responsibility onto someone else.  Got a news flash for you, Erin:  YOU and your boss Kevin are the ones responsible.  There are not enough “outside experts” in the world to take this monkey off your backs.

It ain’t the crime, sweetheart.  It’s the cover-up.

And once again, Kevin “I Voted for Obama” Huffman thinks he can govern like Obama.  Releasing test scores late Friday before a holiday weekend?  Who does he think he’s fooling?  Every time the Obama administration has bad news to deliver, that is the day and time they try to deliver it.

Well too damn bad. Kevin.  This issue is far from going away.  There are still major questions to be asked and answered about whether the numbers were “massaged” (Erin’s little email did not address that, did it?).  And why schools were not told about this before it happened, even though your department apparently had known it was going to happen for days, weeks, maybe months.  And then there is the whole issue of who is going to pay for your little “mistake.”  Are you going to reimburse the schools who, if they want to incorporate the TCAP scores into the final report cards, are going to have to pay through the nose to do so?  Williamson County alone estimates it would take $100,000 or more to call teachers back to accomplish the task.

Are you going to write a personal check to cover their costs, Kev?  Maybe Jamie Woodson — AKA Bill Frist- – will stroke a big honking check for the moeny your little mistake has already cost the taxpayers.

Have a nice weekend, Kev.  It starts all over again come Tuesday.

RTP ALERT: Sen. Beavers requests AG TCAP opinion

RTP has learned that earlier this afternoon, Sen. Mae Beavers, former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has formally requested a legal opinion from Attorney General Bob Cooper regarding the growing TCAP testing controversy.

According to our sources, Sen. Beavers is asking if Huffman can legally refuse to release the original, unaltered TCAP scores and if his granting of waivers to school districts who were denied timely test scores is allowed under Tennessee law.

Buckle up, Kevin.


The Drumbeat Begins…

Chattanooga Times Free Press columnist calls for Huffman’s resignation.

RTP was the first to call for Huffman to lose his job over the missing TCAP scores, but it was Times Free Press columnist David Cook who succinctly voiced what teachers, students, parents and legislators are feeling these days.  You should read the whole thing, but in the interim here are a few excerpts:

Kevin Huffman should resign over missing TCAP scores

by David Cook

May 23, 2014

And now — after having months to prepare — our state can’t finalize test scores in time? Our state can’t ship test results back to schools before report cards go home for summer break?

It is a bureaucratic collapse, an embarrassment to the look-at-our-Tennessee-miracle narrative that school officials keep trying to tell the rest of America.

It strips the Department of Education of its legitimacy, of whatever moral authority it once possessed.

Huffman is responsible for the TCAP collapse in the same way that Sebelius — the former Health and Human Services secretary — was for the layered, online mess of the Affordable Care Act.

When will Pearson, the global corporation responsible for the creation of TCAP, issue its refund?

“Post-equating allows the department, our psychometric staff and our TAC [Technical Advisory Committee], to review the data more thoroughly before finalizing quick scores and given the number of changes made this year, we want to do this before releasing scores,” emailed one education official.

Make sense? Of course not. Wade through the psychometric hogwash and you’ll see this: They want more time before releasing scores.

You don’t do that when things go smoothly. You don’t do that if scores are peachy.

I think this year’s TCAP had multiple mistakes on it, and as state officials gasp in growing horror at low TCAP scores, they’re backpedaling, waiver-giving and post-equating their way into a bureaucratic nightmare.

Tell me I’m wrong. In fact, prove it.

Release a copy of the TCAP to the public.