TCAP Disaster Update:
Kevin Huffman — Scoff-Law?
Legislators and others are now raising questions as to whether education commissioner Kevin “I Voted for Obama” Huffman has the legal authority to grant waivers to schools who were denied access to TCAP scores in time to issue report cards for grades 3-8 this week.
Huffman, who just played host to Obama’s secretary of education, appears to be so enamored with the President’s governing style, that he may be employing a tried and true Obama tactic: Ignore the laws that are inconvenient or that you don’t like.
May work in that cesspool they call DC, Kevin, but not here.
Huffman’s department recommended individual school districts ask for waivers on using the TCAP scores — scores that DOE was required to provide the districts under state statute — and if they would, the waivers would be automatically granted. RTP sources tell us legislative staff are presently scouring the law, looking for where/if it gives Huffman the authority to do what he did. Plus, there is the whole problem of “cooking the numbers.” If Kev and Erin or anyone else at DOE destroy, alter, delete or otherwise screw with the original data, they could be subject to the following statute:
“Anyone found … compromising the integrity of the testing process shall be placed on immediate suspension, and such actions will be grounds for dismissal, including dismissal of tenured employees. Such actions shall be grounds for revocation of State license.”
Huffman and his minion, Erin “Rollerball” O’Hara, may have violated a state law that requires them to be at least suspended for their action. Anyone asked for an AG opinion yet? Why not?
Note to the News Media: It is not a “glitch.”
Huffman’s DOE has not claimed a mechanical, clerical or equipment “glitch” of any kind. Instead, it appears they made a cold, calculated decision meant to hide the TCAP scores until they had time to alter, massage and obfuscate the original results.
It’s not a glitch — it was a conscious decision
Remember: You can play too!
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Ah, Spring is in the air! But it’s not all flowers we smell. No, something is beginning to really stink down at the Department of Education and the rotten smell seems to be wafting upwards towards the governor’s office.
Today’s article by Joey Garrison in the Tennessean on the “delay” in TCAP scores has set the political and education worlds ablaze today. Garrison did not relay any particularly new insight to the controversy. He largely confined himself to regurgitating the jargon-ladened bureaucrat explanations delivered up by the Department of Education. But the excuses offered by the DOE only served to raise even more questions about the motives and reasons behind the non-delivery of TCAP scores to schools across the state. Here are the more salient quotes (emphasis added):
“The unexpected 10-day postponement will mean a four-year-old law designed to give more meaning to standardized tests won’t be applied to many students.”
“State officials decided to complete a process called post-equating before releasing test results this year.
“Normally this happens after early scores are released, but because of changes to the test this year, officials say they decided to do it before releasing scores.
“The test was narrowed to remove portions that don’t align with new Common Core standards. Classrooms across the state have been phasing in the standards for three years, but the state has not switched to a test designed to match those new standards.”
Translation: “Narrowing” sounds like “erasing” certain questions and “post-equating” sounds like their version of “post-dating” a check. Taken together they sound very much like cooking the numbers. By eliminating certain questions after the fact, Huffman & Co. will be able to take out those questions where students consistently got wrong answers, thereby lifting the student’s overall score. The state asserts they made the decision to do this before this week, but they conveniently leave out Who made the decision and WHEN the decision was made. They also do not tell the public who will be making the decisions to “narrow” (i.e., take out) certain questions. Who decides? Pearson consultants? Huffman lackey’s? Who?
So now that we have established a Method, how about a Motive?
Here is where it gets really interesting and raises possibilities of scandal, cover-your-ass politics and even possible criminal activity.
In politics timing is everything. So the question must be asked, WHAT was the reason the state deliberately refused to inform schools about their “new” methods? WHAT was occurring at the precisely the same time the state DOE was making their last-sceond announcement about not delivering TCAP scores? If the unaltered, un-narrowed, un-post-equated TCAP scores were really bad, and were released as required by law earlier this week, what would have been the result? Here is your answer:
“Arne Duncan, Bill Haslam to address education writers at Vanderbilt”
by Joan Brasher
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be featured among a rich menu of panels and presentations from industry innovators at the upcoming Education Writers Association’s annual gathering, May 18-20 at Vanderbilt University.
The governor and Huffman were hosting 400 education writers and the Obama secretary of education in Nashville earlier this week — the exact time TCAP scores were supposed to be delivered to the schools. Can you imagine how embarassing it would have been if 400 education writers from around the country were exposed to horrible test scores from Tennessee’s much-claimed Common Core “success”? The governor and Huffman would look like fools AND liars. And the public may have caught on to their scam. And that, ladies & genetlemen of the jury is what you would need to convict someone of mis-feasance, mal-feasance, stupid-feasance and bend-over-here-it-comes-feasance.
Think RTP is over-stating the case? Check out these recent examples of falsifying, altering and manipulation of standardized test:
“Former Atlanta schools superintendent reports to jail in cheating scandal”
By CNN Staff
updated 10:00 AM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, was among the 35 former educators indicted in an Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. They began turning themselves in at the Fulton County Jail on Tuesday, April 2, 2013.
In 2009, Hall was named the National Superintendent of the Year by the Schools Superintendents Association, which at the time said her “leadership has turned Atlanta into a model of urban school reform.”
According to the indictment, Hall placed unreasonable goals on educators and “protected and rewarded those who achieved targets by cheating.” It also alleges she fired principals who failed to achieve goals and “ignored suspicious” test score gains throughout the school system.
“Why not subpoena everyone in D.C. cheating scandal — Rhee included?”
BY VALERIE STRAUSS
April 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm
(Update: New cheating confirmed in D.C.; AFT President Weingarten calls for new probe and D.C. Council hearings)
Several investigations into suspicions of widespread cheating by educators in D.C. schools on student standardized tests during Michelle Rhee’s tenure as chancellor turned up precious little, but two new developments warrant a new probe — this time by investigators with subpoena powers.
With the indictment of former Atlanta School Superintendent Beverly A. Hall and 34 other public school employees in a massive cheating scandal, the time is right to re-examine other situations of possible illegal behavior by educators. Washington, DC, belongs at the top of that list.
Michelle A. Rhee, America’s most famous school reformer, was fully aware of the extent of the problem when she glossed over what appeared to be widespread cheating during her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC. A long-buried confidential memo from her outside data consultant suggests that the problem was far more serious than kids copying off other kids’ answer sheets. (“191 teachers representing 70 schools”). Twice in just four pages the consultant suggests that Rhee’s own principals, some of whom she had hired, may have been responsible.
Wow, that second example hits very close to Kevin “I Voted for Obama” Huffman Michelle Rhee, the person suspected of involvement in a standardized test cheating scandal, is Huffman’s ex-wife and mother of their two children. Concidence? You decide.
Advice to the folks working for Erin O’Hara Block and Kevin Huffman:
Do not destroy the orginial TCAP results and related materials, memos, etc. To do so might be seen as obstruction of justice. And more than one bureaucrat has gone to prison for less.
Huffman Chin-deep In Testing Disaster
Bredesen holdover at center of debacle.
Less than 24 hours after yesterday’s RTP post about Kevin “I Voted For Obama” Huffman comes the breaking news this morning that TCAP scores would not be ready for students in grades 3-8. Nevermind those scores were to make up 15-20% of a student’s final grade. Nevermind these scores are needed to complete each child’s report card for the year (which in some cases will decide whether or not they advance to the next grade). Nevermind that getting these scores to the school is something the DOE has done for years and is required by law. There will be no report cards that include TCAP scores any time soon, perhaps never.
So what changed about the TCAP test from last year to this year? Answer: Not a damn thing. So why the disaster? Why the delay?
Incompetence, Cover-up, or both?
1. The easy answer would be to pass everything off on a liberal, Democrat holderover from the Bredesen administration just screwing things up. If the Governor and Huffman start feeling increased heat on the issue, that may yet happen. That means a “fall guy” will be necessary.
Meet Erin O’Hara Block:
Ms. O’Hara-Block is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she majored in African American Studies. She received a masters in public policy from Vanderbilt. She appears to be about 37 years old. On her LinkedIn page she brags about directing 30 staffers and spending $50 million in Tennessee tax dollars to implement the new state accountability system (testing). she also bragged about being in charge of “directing accountability” for the “transition to PARCC” [Note to Erin: You need to update your LinkedIn page. The General Assembly stopped you from “implementing” anything for a year and it has not yet been determined if PARCC will even be the new testing vendor — or have you and Kevin already decided that Pearson will win the RFP??]
But here is the most important thing to remember about Ms. O’Hara-Block: she never spent one day as a teacher in the classroom. Instead she took her nose-bleed education and $50 million of our tax dollars and in one fell swoop made the lives of over a million Tennessee teachers, administrators, students and parents absolutely miserable. That leads to the inevitable question:
Why does Erin O’Hara block still have her job?
And why hasn’t her boss, Kevin “IVFO” Huffman been forced to resign?
2. But the more sinister reason why this may be happening is what has set tongues to wagging across the state. This afternoon, RTP sources spoke to numerous superintendents, teachers and legislators, and every single person we talked to voiced concern that the reason these test scores have not been release is that the results were so bad.
Keep in mind it was only a couple of weeks ago that Huffman, in trying to explain why that NAEP scores for Tennessee high schoolers were so low, said that it was because high school students “had not been exposed to Common Core” curriculums as had been the 3-8 graders. So if the 3-8 TCAP scores tanked, then that would blow a hole the size of Chuck Cagle in Huffman’s argument. Many suspect the DOE is buying time to either “cook the numbers” or to delay them until a more opportune time to deliver the bad news (like, say 2:00am on July 4th).
The other part of this suspicion is that Huffman & Co. will pass off the bad scores as a further excuse to institute the PARCC (Pearson) testing that the legislature delayed for at least a year. The rationale they would present was that the students were being taught to Common Core standards but were being tested by the “inferior” old TCAPs.
That line of reasoning, of course, would be complete and total crap. And it would conveniently set up a situation where the only way to prove they are right is to use PARCC to test next time and “then, by golly, you’ll see those test scores go way up!” Of course, by that time they would have run through tens of millions more of our tax dollars while cementing the controversial Common Core into place.
Yep. They really think we are that stupid.
So just where was Kevin “IVFO” Huffman while the gang back at education HQs was busy screwing up the lives of educators and families across the entire state? Huffman was schmoozing with Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan. Did Kevin ask Arne to send his regards to his favorite president? Did he praise him about how well Obama is handling the VA scandal? Did they share a laugh about the fools in Tennessee who continue to give them money to sell their snake oil edcuation schemes? Have another drink, Arne, ol’ buddy. Erin is holding down the fort back at the office.
RTP understands there are some job openings coming up at the VA in Washington.
These idiots would be perfect for the job.
Hey, gang. What time is it?
Is a modicum of competence too much to ask? Especially since these are the same damn people who are asking us to trust them to implement Common Core? Huffman pissed and moaned about delaying Common Core testing for a year. Considering he couldn’t even deliver test results for which his department had been responsible for years, it only stands to reason it will take these morons longer than that to implement an entirely new testing system. A one year delay is not nearly enough time for people as incompetent as this. And does anyone believe the RFP for vendors for the Common Core test will go smoothly – or fairly?
So what time is it?
Time for an Audit.
Time for some Resignations.
And it is past time that legislators demand Bill Haslam answer some very hard questions about his liberal, Democrat, Obama-voting commissioner of education and his team of liberal Democrat education bureaucrats.
Okay, the above photo is a little confusing. Neither of these buttheads need to keep their jobs, but in this instance we are referring to the guy in the black tux.
In an astonishing display of chutzpah, Kevin “I voted for Obama” Huffman had the unmitigated gall to say Tennessee taxpayers need to cough up more money to pay for his expensive education “reforms.” This after he blew through $500 million in Race to The Top Funds to give his cronies jobs (yeah, Chris Barbic, we’re talking about you) and his business partners no-bid contracts!
Millions for his cronies. Not a dime for teachers.
We say “chutzpah” and “gall” because Huffman was one of the leaders in the decision to deny teachers even a measley cost-of-living raise this year. For you see, in Kevin World, teachers don’t need more money. According to Huffman, they just need to “work harder.” What an ass.
The real goal is to make as much money for him and his friends as possible before the rubes catch on.
Long past time for an Audit.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, of the $500 million in RTTP funds that were spent ostensibly on our students, about $250 million went to one-time state expenditures . That means upwards of $250 million went to individuals school districts to, among other things, establish on-going programs that now need an influx of taxpayer cash. So far, the Haslam administration and his Dept. of Education have resisted an independent, detailed audit of just where the money was spent. What would such an audit find? Well, we already know of the $12 million in no-bid contracts to Huffman’s former employer, Teach for America (TFA). Then there were the “field trips” to communist schools in China to teach Tennessee educators how to teach the “China way.” How about we start there?
And where is our feckles governor? He repeated Huffman’s call for more, more, more spending. And this in the midst of a serious revenue shortfall — the same shortfall they used as an excuse for not giving teachers a small raise.
This issue is just heating up. RTP will not rest until Huffman is fired. We just hope that time comes before all the money is gone.
The Nashville Business Journal did the fluffiest of fluff-piece interviews a few days ago with the governor’s paid-under-the-table lobbyist, Tom Ingram. There was precious little new information to come out of the article, with most commenters focused on Ingram’s depiction of his two clients, Lamar Alexander and Bill Haslam. For the uninitiated, RTP offers the following interpretation of Ingram’s pronouncements:
Lamar: Smart, conniving. Uses lots of “strategery.”
Bill: Stubborn. Not as smart as Lamar.
But one important tidbit that Ingram did let slip was how he views the Republican legislative caucus:
“He [Haslam] has to stay on his toes just as much sorting out between moderate and conservative Republicans as you would between Republicans and Democrats of years ago.
“The differences within his own party are sometimes even greater than the differences between Republicans and Democrats.”
So there you have it. Ingram has now defined the Haslam administration’s ideological construct of the Republican legislative caucuses. In his mind, the Republicans of yesteryear are now the “conservative” Republicans, and “moderate” Republicans are what used to be called Democrats and/or liberal Republicans (yes, youngsters, there really was something called “liberal Republicans” back in the day. Somewhere around the Pleistocene Era).
And whadaya want to bet the governor’s office has a list of legislators marked “friend” or “foe” based on Ingram’s assessment? They will need it. According to RTP’s sources, the conservative Republicans have an exhaustive, very detailed caucus list of their own. The first time they used it was in the Common Core vote in the House that shook the governor and leadership to their core (pun intended).
Only 11 more steps to go Tom. Hang in there.
Knoxville’s MetroPulse has submitted their entry in the Paranoia Sweepstakes by declaring they have figured out who is behind Rocky Top Politics.
Employing the “Harry Reid Political Compulsion Theorem,” MetroPulse has decided that the culprits behind Rocky Top are none other than – wait for it — the Koch Brothers!
MetroPulse opines that because we listed Americans for Prosperity as a “Winner” in our legislative round-up, that they must be funding Rocky Top Politics. Of course, using their lame-brain analysis, anyone appearing on the “Winners” list could equally be accused of being behind Rocky Top Politics. For example, the Democrat majority leader Craig Fitzhugh was also on that list.
Sorry to burst your bubble, MetroPulse, but Rocky Top Politics does not receive any funding of any kind from AFP, the Koch brothers or anyone affiliated with their organizations. Not one cent, directly or indirectly. Admittedly, the hot chick in our group is kind of addicted to Diet Coke, but that’s about as close as we get. To make it more clear for you, none of the principles in Rocky Top Politics have even met the local AFP dude, Andrew Ogles.
Call Fitzhugh. He’s been skulking around more than usual lately. RTP promises to send you a copy of the next check he uses to pay us. We’ll put it right up there with our checks from AFP and the Easter Bunny.
An UPDATE to the RTP article about the Tennessean’s Frank Daniels III’s column on judicial retention elections (“Schizophrenic Frank,” 5-6-2014).
In that article, Frank The Third tried to dazzle us with his expansive knowledge of all things political and offered up this little gem:
“Under the current rules, Haslam would appoint new justices to replace those not retained. In addition, he has already appointed Holly Kirby to replace Janice Holder and is considering whom to pick when William Koch retires at the end of August.”
Uh, Frank, we don’t know how to break this to you, but Haslam did name a successor to Justice Koch over a month ago. His name is Jeff Bivins. You can read all about the appointment in the Tennessean:
Jeff Bivins named to Tennessee Supreme Court
Chas Sisk, firstname.lastname@example.org
April 3, 2014
We know the Gannett bean counters up in corporate have been cracking down, Frank, but did you fire all the fact checkers at the paper? No wonder the circulation numbers are down. Apparently you don’t read the Tennessean either.
PS: Frank, tell the guys down in political they need to get cracking on that story about a high official allegedly involved in some serious misconduct (RTP: “Spiked Story?” 5/6/2014).
Time’s running out.
“Governor may endorse Campfield’s opponent”
To hell with exit polls. And it doesn’t matter what you think about Stacey “Choo-choo” Campfield. The only data point one needs here is that Gov. Bill Haslam has delivered the coveted “Kiss of Death” to Campfield’s primary opponent, Dr. Richard Briggs.
As reported by the Dean, on Wednesday, after months of stamping his feet and refusing to negotiate or budge even an inch on the issue, Gov. Haslam had to suck it up and sign the legislation delaying PARCC testing for a year. It’s amazing what an 82-11 vote in the House (that included a solid majority of the GOP caucus) against your program will do to help you pick up that pen, grit your teeth and sign into law even a delay. But the governor’s education commissioner, Kevin “I voted for Obama” Huffman, took less than 24 hours after the signing to publicly whine about the fact, bemoaning the delay as “a terrible, terrible decision.”
Huffman, possibly the most reviled education commissioner in state history (especially among teachers) has been known to deliver millions in no-bid contracts to his cronies at his old company, Teach for America (see RTP, 3-26-2014: “Crony Capitalism at the DOE: Huffman learns from his pal Obama”).
But the whole Common Core/PARCC (Pearson) testing scam offers Huffman access to an even bigger buttload of money to dole out to favored companies. Now before everyone starts to hyperventilate, RTP is not saying Huffman is on the take. At least not now. But Huffman ain’t from Tennessee, and when he leaves/resigns/gets fired as education commissioner, no one expects him to stick around the Volunteer State and settle down on a little piece of land in Fentress County or start a river rafting business in Maynardville. No, Huffman knows which end of his bread the taxpayers have been buttering the last few years. He is likely to end up as a “consultant” for somebody like Pearson, or head up an education “think tank” funded by somebody like Pearson or even become the CEO of a Pearson subsidiary. Or change his name to Kevin Pearson.
But cut us some slack, Kevin. Sometimes “terrible, terrible things” just happen. Like the time Obama got re-elected with the help of your vote. Or the time Bill Haslam made a “terrible, terrible” decision on who to put in charge of educating our children.
But not to worry, Kev, you’ll be all right. Just ask Pearson.
Feud, you say? What feud?
Only those not paying attention the last few weeks, much less that last four years, can fail see what has been a growing, simmering rivalry between the Governor and the Lt. Gov. Credit both with keeping the public disagreements to date on the non-personal “policy level.” But while Ron Ramsey and Bill Haslam are both members of the same party, that is just one similarity in the midst of a sea of divergent agendas, styles, ideology and personal backgrounds.
The judicial retention debate is only the latest in a string of Ramsey slap-downs aimed directly at Haslam. So the gang at RTP delved into the archives to see if we could track down the moment this “feud” began. Our best guess is that it happened on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 and was duly reported by “Action” Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
NASHVILLE — Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey attacked Republican gubernatorial rival Bill Haslam’s conservative credentials Tuesday, saying, “Tennesseans are smart enough to see through his fluffy commercials and realize he’s not the ‘real deal’ at all.”
The lieutenant governor charged in his news release that Mr. Haslam “counts liberals” such as former Vice President Al Gore and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., as “supporters” and also noted Mr. Haslam has contributed to them in the past.
He also said Mr. Haslam “helped lead one of the country’s most radical gun groups — Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Guns — until 2008 when it became politically expedient to withdraw.”
Can’t be much more clear than that, eh? The funny thing about campaigns, what is frequently passed off later as just “heated campaign rhetoric” is more often than not one of the few candid moments in a politician’s public life. Ramsey said what he did four years ago because he believed it to be true.
What Ramsey saw that day was someone running as a Republican who, when at a time when Ronald Reagan was still president, gave $1,000 to replace him with Al Gore. Al Gore?
And in 2002, when Republicans were struggling to keep their majority in Congress, Bill Haslam gave $1,000 to Jim Cooper to keep his seat safe for the Dems. Ramsey was (and is) certainly not the only Republican who gets heartburn over little things like that. Ramsey believed (as do others now) that Haslam did not have the courage of the conservative political principles he was spouting or he was victim to the old saying: “he’s got more money than brains.” It doesn’t appear Ramsey resents Haslam’s wealth (like Zach Wamp so obviously did), but he is acutely aware of the lack of commonality.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So does Sen. Ramsey. A wishy-washy governor whose main consistency is his indecisiveness, is obviously frustrating to a take-charge kind of guy like Ramsey. Haslam’s propensity to publicly debate himself on everything from Medicare expansion to state healthcare exchanges does more than make Haslam a source of frustration to conservatives in the legislature – it makes him dangerous. Ramsey instinctively knows this and has sought opportunities to oppose and tweak Haslam with relish.
Look for Ramsey to further distance himself from the governor. And as members come to realize the emporer has no clothes, look for that rebellion to spread in the caucus ranks.
Ramsey and Haslam’s divergent personal backgrounds also make it difficult to respect one another’s positions. The governor grew up with great wealth, and thanks to his father and older brother, has enjoyed the advantages of even greater wealth since entering public office. Ramsey on the other hand is at heart a country boy auctioneer. If anything, his personal net worth (probably less than 1% of that of the governor) has likely suffered from the enormous amount of time he has dedicated to his public office. That makes a difference in the way both men approach an issue and approach each other
But, hey, other than that, they’re the best of buddies.
[Editor’s note: We would have included Speaker Beth Harwell in this political equation, but she has been totally missing from the judicial retention debate. Harwell’s reluctance to counter Haslam stems primarily from the fact that Haslam money and assistance has been key to her entire political career. Remember that, legislators, the next time she asks you “not to embarrass the governor.”]