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What wasn’t talked about at yesterday’s education summit: a teacher’s perspective

A teacher at Thursday’s education summit reported two takeaways in an opinion piece for the Tennessee Education Association, of which she is the vice president. The state needs to make testing more transparent for students, teachers and parents, and needs to hold itself more accountable on education issues, she said.

The author of the piece, Beth Brown, is an English teacher at Grundy High School in Coalmont. She was one of forty participants at the forum convened by Gov. Bill Haslam, which included legislators, state Department of Education officials, members of the business community, and members of research groups like SCORE and the Beacon Center.

A commonly voiced concern at the forum was that the test students in the state take for math and language arts, the TCAP, is not aligned with the Common Core State Standards, which are used to determine what skills students should learn in those subjects each year. Candice McQueen, a dean at Lipscomb University’s school of education who presented on assessments, said that having a test not perfectly aligned with the standards teachers are teaching makes it hard for them to know if they are doing their jobs. In her opinion piece, Brown said that wasn’t the only problem:

How would a classroom teacher know if the state test was appropriate and fit what we’ve been told to teach? Once a student takes that state test, teachers never see real results, just numbers. A list of student scores does not tell me what questions students missed or how I can help them master those problems.

Accountability for schools and teachers was also a focus of the forum. The Tennessee Education Association has been a vocal opponent of the state’s teacher evaluation system, which uses student test scores to grade teachers. In her opinion piece, Brown said that not only should teachers and principals be held accountable — state officials should, too. She said not enough attention is being paid to the funding of schools, a factor in lawmakers, not teachers’, control.

Over the course of a four-hour discussion about public education, funding was mentioned one time. One time. How can you gather that many education and policy leaders in a room and not address one of the biggest issues facing our schools? I am proud of the work my colleagues and I are able to do with so little resources, but it is time the governor be held accountable for not appropriately funding our schools.

What do you think the states’ priorities should be in conversations around education? Let us know in the comments.

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