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VOL. 133 | NO. 78 | Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dries

Bill Dries

Last Word: Failed Test, Trolley Back Story and Violent Crime Down City and County

By Bill Dries

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The state’s third problem with online student achievement testing in three years is gathering political force in Nashville. And that force is aimed for the most part at testing in general and the role it plays in evaluating teachers and students.

In a letter Tuesday morning, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said a cyber attack on the testing vendor Questar was responsible and that Questar has blocked the source from further attacks. She is due Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill in Nashville and it is expected to be rough.

Saying Shelby County Schools board members are not happy about this is an understatement. It also misses the point. The school board wants to look at ways around the state testing.

Kevin Floyd the chairman of the Lakeland School System said the problem has meant two consecutive days of suspended testing for students and teachers.

“For two days, our middle school students have woken up and come to school expecting to demonstrate their learning on tests we are repeatedly told are critical, and then have not had the opportunity to complete the tests as planned. The state continues to rely on these tests to hold our teachers and administrators accountable, yet there appears to be very little accountability on the part of the state officials and their vendors responsible for ensuring that these tests are administered smoothly.”

Floyd is one of the local education officials who want the state to use the ACT suite of tests to assess student achievement and growth. This was something we heard from the leaders of the Germantown and Collierville school systems when TNReady had its first problems.

Tammy Mason, superintendent of Arlington Community Schools, says her school system planned for its high school students to take the test Wednesday.

“We opted out of online testing where available, therefore, grades 2-8 have not been impacted. With this being the inaugural year of online testing for all high schools, we anticipated the potential for difficulties in the statewide implementation, so we did not schedule online tests to begin until Wednesday for safe measure.”

Bartlett City Schools officials reported their students had problems logging in, completing subtests and submitting answers on line. They also had other students testing with paper and pencil who were not affected.

CANDICE MCQUEEN

Democrats in the state House called for McQueen to resign Tuesday evening in Nashville. Chalkbeat reports House Republicans have a different thought on how to react to this. McQueen is probably near the end of her tenure even without this controversy. Gov. Bill Haslam leaves office at the end of the calendar year and members of his cabinet are already starting to find other jobs with the expectation that no matter who wins the election in November, many if not all of these posts will be changing hands.

The first statewide televised debate among most of the major Republican contenders for governor will be Wednesday evening at the Halloran Centre. The Greater Memphis Chamber's Chairman's Circle event will air here on Local 24 and feature U.S. Rep. Diane Black, former Tennessee Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd and Franklin businessman Bill Lee. Among those on the panel for the 7 p.m. event will be Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News.

Black has already indicated the Memphis forum will see her pressing Boyd on his conservative credentials. The two campaigns have been going at each other in some form since last year.

Meanwhile, Black weighed in on the TnReady test problems Tuesday.

Early voting in advance of the May 1 county primary election day in Shelby County is about to crack 10,000.

“For years the state has chosen to force sweeping education reform and more standardized tests into our classrooms and time and time again, the state has failed to keep up their end of the bargain.”

Through Monday, the Shelby County Election Commission logged 9,587 early voters since last week’s start of the voting period in advance of the May 1 county primary election day. That’s 5,346 early voters in the Democratic county primaries and 4,241 in the Republican county primaries. Early voting continues through April 26 – so a week and a day to go. DEMOCRACY

As promised when last we met, here is more on the effort that went into the April 30 restart date for the Main Street trolley line – there is some serious red tape involved in public transportation aside from the whole safety assurances and liability that come from hauling around dozens of people at a time.

The state House voted down $250,000 in state funding for the city’s bicentennial celebration in 2019 and funding for several other city-related line items in the state budget. There was quite the House floor fight over this Tuesday evening before the vote taking the funding out. This is retaliation for the removal of Confederate monuments last December in two city parks.

In the “Is that still a thing” category, The Chattanooga Times Free Press on a bill in Nashville that would end emissions testing in five Tennessee counties nowhere near us including Hamilton and Davidson.

Another attempt at Medicaid expansion by one of the Democratic contenders for Governor goes down in Nashville. So does a bill requiring the disclosure of who is behind political ads on social media. Still alive and kicking near session’s end is a bill to increase the hotel allowance lawmakers get while they are in session.

The two former Memphis Police officers indicted last Friday on state corruption and drug dealing charges were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury. More in the Friday edition on the case of Kevin Coleman and Terrion Bryson and why the DA’s office is reviewing the arrests and stops they made as police officers.

A Q&A with the national sales vice president of ICM Companies about rail congestion in the logistics industry and a shortage of drivers and chassis in particular for the Memphis supply chain.

Part of The Commercial Appeal site sells to an investment firm that has bought other Gannett properties in other cities, but no sale just yet on 495 Union itself.

The new Regions bank branch in Lakeland and its new look.

New crime stats for the city and county covering the first quarter of 2018 show major violent crime is down, property crime is up fueled by an increase in motor vehicle thefts.

The Penny package continues to assemble at the U of M and other items from the notebook from Don Wade.

The new Regions bank branch in Lakeland and its new look.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush died Tuesday evening. And for my money, she was the most politically adept at the art of surrogate campaigning that I have seen come through here in the presidential campaigns. This is a very difficult type of campaigning to pull off. You aren’t the candidate but you are certainly close to the candidate – crucial and integral to the candidate. She was a champ. I watched her three or four times with Vice President and then President Bush and without him. She knew her job was to make those gathered together feel good and feel a part of what can be a very remote concept – a national campaign for the highest elected office in America. And she went right to it – no hesitation or explanation setting up her pitch. At Poplar Plaza, where the local Bush headquarters was one election year, she apparently spotted some local supporters who had been at the CIA when President Bush was the nation’s CIA director and gave them a shout out without naming them or otherwise identifying them. A few looks around the crowd from some of those at the rally before she moved on to the task at hand.

Opening day for Hattie B’s in Cooper-Young is Wednesday. Here’s the Facebook video on Tuesday’s prep by Patrick Lantrip with co-owner Nick Bishop Jr. ROOSTER IN PLACE.

Atop our Memphis Newsmakers segment, Amanda Dunham of the reinvented Grove Grill in Laurelwood on the updated menu and casual atmosphere.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 97 418 8,253
MORTGAGES 112 508 9,293
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 7 32 1,160
BUILDING PERMITS 194 1,059 18,126
BANKRUPTCIES 46 208 5,367
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 125 3,507
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 98 2,366
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 84 1,676