Published February 5, 2021
Hamilton County, TN – Hamilton County Schools community engagement during COVID-19, has been praised in national report published by TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project.
TNTP is a revenue-generating nonprofit organization in New York, NY that states their mission is “ensuring that poor and minority students get equal access to effective teachers.”
During the Summer of 2020, TNTP selected HCS as one of four school districts to partner with them to “strengthen community engagement strategies in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In a piece entitled “TNTP Making Big Bucks from the Destroy Public Education (DPE) Movement,” former high school math and physics teacher, Thomas Ultican calls out TNTP for their alleged role in undermining Public Education.
“When TNTP comes to town, public school is targeted for education disruption,” Ultican writes.
Ultican states that School Districts are, “bamboozled into adopting the theories of neophytes that would never bite the hand of their paymasters.”
Ultican goes on to say that TNTP produces papers that undermine teacher professionalism, works to circumvent proven teacher training and narrows student curriculum.
Diane Ravitch, education historian, writer and scholar recently stated that, “Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, has become a scholar of the privatization movement.”
The TNTP report, “Rising Together: How Four Districts Are Building Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” explores Hamilton County School’s COVID-19 response and highlights it as exemplary, recommending the work for school districts across the country.
Specifically, the report highlights the HCS School Reopening Task Force and community involvement.
The report states that by the end of the 2019-20 school year, the district brought together a multifaceted collection on nonprofits, businesses, after-school centers, healthcare providers, school leaders, teachers and parents.
“Their primary focus was to ensure that when schools reopened in the Fall, there were not only clear guidelines in place to keep the district’s students and staff as safe as possible, but also a plan to mitigate the impact of these new policies and procedures on student learning and the well-being of the HCS community,” the report said.
Regarding the Task Force, Superintendent Bryan Johnson said, “The Task Force will take what we have learned as our teachers and students have responded remarkably during this COVID-19 pandemic and reimagine every aspect of what we do to be an even better school district when we are able to provide a safe return to classrooms across Hamilton County.”
“Engaging our community has never been more important than it is right now,” said Johnson, “Our families and our community are important partners in our work to educate students, and they have stepped up in a major way over the last 11 months to ensure our students’ needs are being met.
By the end of Summer 2020, the district, in concert with the United Way and Chattanooga 2.0 had established 21 full-time and 16 hybrid Virtual Learning Centers.
According to the report, the Virtual Learning Centers throughout Hamilton County were hosted by a variety of community partners including the YMCA, Chattanooga Zoo, churches and museums.
Molly Blankenship, Executive Director of Chattanooga 2.0 said, “The way faith-based organizations, nonprofits, and employers have come alongside our school system to respond to COVID-19’s impact on children and families is inspiring.”
She went on to say that, “Our collaborative COVID-19 response will lay the foundation for future partnership and momentum toward meeting the needs of every student both inside and outside of school.”
It is unclear how much of the structure of Hamilton County School’s Reopening Task Force and Reopening Plan came from the involvement with TNTP but one can assume the partnership with the New York-based organization didn’t come for free.
The majority of TNTP’s funding comes from contracts with districts and states to supply their services.
Additional funding for new program development and research is provided by donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and grants from the Walton Family Foundation, New School Venture Fund, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
TNTP has also received funding from the U.S. Department of Education in the amount of $7.8 million dollars.
TNTP focuses primarily on four areas: advising, data collection, designing new systems, and execution of new systems.
Their advising focuses on providing leaders with support in areas such as negotiations and engaging community members.
The data collection focuses on collecting data from observations and surveys and interpreting this data.
The design focuses on providing action to problems discovered during the data collection process such as designing new curriculum or teacher pay models.
Lastly, execution focuses on implementation of the programs that were designed by TNTP.