Notes from meeting with Drew Sutton 1/7/16
I am providing the following summary because people have requested a recap of the discussion on education legislation last Thursday night. All of this text is based on notes I took at that meeting. The web links are for sites that I found while confirming and digging more deeply into issues that were discussed.
I hope that this resource is helpful. If I can provide any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Beta Sigma Chapter
The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International
220 bills concerning education were filed in the fall session of the General Assembly in TN. More bills will be filed in the new session which starts on January 12. Here is a site I found that tracks education legislation in TN:
At least three lawsuits have been filed by local school boards against the State of TN claiming that the state does not provide adequate funding for schools. Here is a news article concerning these suits:
One of the most important issues to understand in TN Education is BEP (Basic Education Plan). The BEP is a complex formula that determines what amount of funding the state must provide to a school system and what portion of funding local government must provide. There are many variables that are plugged in to this formula, including taxes coming in to the local government. BEP is also greatly affected by the number of students enrolled in and attending public schools. The BEP formula determines how many positions of all types the state will fund (classroom teachers, special education teachers, administrators, ESL teachers, etc.) as well as the distribution of technology and other funds.
In 2012, 50 million was allocated for technology improvements statewide. We are due for another technology upgrade.
A hint for effective lobbying with legislators: Never assume the legislator has any idea what is going on in schools/ school systems.
Another big issue that we need to take up with legislators is testing, over testing, and the impact of testing. Testing is big money for corporations that create the tests. One recent contract for testing was 105 million dollars. We need to ask legislators to begin to deemphasize and eliminate testing.
In this first year of TN Ready testing, students will not be held responsible for scores because the test is so new. However, teachers will be held responsible for results in that results will count for 10% of a teacher’s evaluation. In the next two years, this percentage will increase. There has been no field test nor pilot program for the new TN Ready test.
In federal legislation, Sen. Lamar Alexander sponsored ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), which has replaced No Child Left Behind.
The significance of the passage of ESSA is that federal accountability mandates have been removed, so states can redefine what effective teaching looks like. Educators, parents, and other stakeholders in education (who is not???) can re-engage with legislators to help decide what is best. Now the federal government cannot hold testing requirements over our heads. Because of the efforts of Sen. Alexander, Tennessee would be a prime candidate to serve as a pilot for education reform.
Other big issues are testing transparency- are you aware that almost always no one is allowed to see what questions are on the actual test after the test is over? Teachers cannot see nor discuss questions.
Also, schools are in general very unequipped in terms of the technology necessary to deliver the online TN Ready testing. Are students able to use computer technology effectively to type essays and enter mathematical equations? Are we really testing students’ academic abilities or their ability to interact with a computer? How many of our low income students have access to a computer outside of school to learn how to use one? How much time do our students have in school to learn to effectively use a computer for testing?
If you have a sense of humor and like sarcasm and satire, you may enjoy the John Oliver clip found at the end of this article:
However, a word of warning, John Oliver is a late night show host, and the language/ ideas in a few instances are a bit course. Though presented through comedy, the issues that Oliver presents are legitimate and well documented. The TVAAS formula for relating student test scores to teacher effectiveness was originally a formula used in livestock production, and yes, the Pearson testing company is still hiring essay grading personnel on Craig’s list.
last updated 01/2018