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Best education quotes of 2015

Stanford-bound student Dellarontay Readus stands in the hallway of Memphis Melrose High School during his senior year.
Stanford-bound student Dellarontay Readus stands in the hallway of Memphis Melrose High School during his senior year.
Daarel Burnette

From the review of Common Core to the rollout of TNReady, hot topics in education generated lively discussion this year across the state. Here are 14 quotes that defined Tennessee’s education debate:

  • “There is nothing more important to our state than getting education right.” —Gov. Bill Haslam, during his State of the State address in February
  • “Common Core: the two words giving everyone heartburn.” —Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg), talking to reporters in March after scrapping House Bill 3, in part due to the cost
  • “This is what I think. The people that drive the buses, cook the food, help the teachers, count the money – are the most important. They’re the bubblegum that holds us all together.” —Tommy Clouse, interim Unicoi County Schools director last March, on why the district’s paraprofessional personnel should join educators in receiving a bonus
  • “I was able to get to where I am today because I kept trying. I kept asking to see if I could be in more classes, better classes.” —Dellarontay Readus, a 2015 graduate of Memphis Melrose High School now attending Stanford University on a full scholarship
  • “I’m sorry to get emotional, but this is darn right important!” —Trousdale County Schools Superintendent Clint Satterfield, addressing a legislative panel in March on why students should be required to take the ACT
  • “As a parent, I am hurting.” —Patience Maxwell, whose son was a student at Lincoln Elementary, one of three Memphis schools closed in 2015 by cash-strapped Shelby County Schools
  • “Not everyone is cut out for this work.” —Chris Barbic, superintendent of the state’s Achievement School District, on Houston-based charter network YES Prep’s decision to pull out of Memphis, five months before it was to open its first school there
  • “If anyone ever questions whether or not government works, this is testimony that it does.” —Andrew Ogle, state director of Americans for Prosperity, on the Tennessee legislature’s approval in April of a Common Core “repeal” bill shaped partly by the advocacy group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers
  • “Whether you’re talking about a county in Upper East Tennessee, or a county in West Tennessee, or a county in rural Middle Tennessee, the problem is the same: schools are underfunded.” —Scott Bennett, attorney for the Hamilton County Board of Education, asking a judge in September for class-action status in its funding lawsuit against the state
  • “I don’t care how computer-savvy you are. You’re taking a test and your computer freezes up, you freak out.” —Maury County teacher Tracy Franklin, on her students’ experience taking the state’s new online exam during this fall’s rollout of TNReady
  • “I don’t see any need to reexamine standards now, because we’ve done it and done it. People I’ve talked to have said, ‘Stop changing it around.’ It’s like a constitutional convention. Once you get started, you never know what’s going to happen.” —Mark Finchum, a teacher at Jefferson County High School and president of the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies, on the state’s upcoming social studies standards review
  • “This is a true ethical and moral dilemma. Reading allows students to see the world through books, through texts, through information they would otherwise not have access to.” —Education Commissioner Candice McQueen on the state’s lagging reading scores the state’s new literacy initiative
  • “We’re told, ‘Don’t teach to the test! We want our classes to be vibrant places!’ But the reality is, your evaluation is based on those test scores. That’s a double message.” —Nashville teacher Amanda Kail, on how Tennessee teachers are caught in the middle of competing changes left behind by the federal Race to the Top competition
  • “I challenged Tennessee to become a fast-improving state in the nation. Tennessee made me look smart because they’ve actually done that, going from the bottom of the pack to the middle. So I think the challenge going forward over the next five or six years is can Tennessee go from the bottom to the top 10 nationally? That should be the goal.” —Outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan during his final visit to Tennessee as the nation’s ed chief

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