5 Wishes for Teachers and Students in 2018

5 Wishes for Teachers and Students in 2018

2017 is almost in the books, and it has been a whirlwind in the state of Tennessee.  Students are continuing to show growth, so much so that the eyes of the country are fixed on the Volunteer State.  In districts from Memphis to Maryville, phrases such as “bridge to postsecondary”, “personalized learning”, and “all means all” are contributing to vertically aligned learning communities committed to providing a relevant and demanding education for all students.

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Stop Adding Value and Save the Teaching Profession

Stop Adding Value and Save the Teaching Profession

My Level 1 rating is insulting and infuriating, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. I know other teachers who have expressed to me their exasperation with their low ratings--to the point of wanting to leave the profession. Clearly, something needs to be done. TDOE’s issues with TNReady is part of the problem, and I hope that they will remedy those soon. The other part of this problem is how teacher’s evaluation scores are determined. It’s beyond time for this state to stop using the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS).

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Celebrating Our Hard Work

Celebrating Our Hard Work

Despite the fact that Tennessee teachers can’t unionize, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) has spent the past 151 years staunchly fighting for better working conditions. They have consistently stood up to school boards and school districts when policies are passed that hurt teachers.

One such example of this came a little over a month ago when TEA stood up to the State Board of Education when they attempted to enact a measure that would allow them easier access to punish teachers and revoke their teaching licenses. By law, the retention and dismissal of teachers is a decision made by the local school board and director of schools. The State Board of Education wants to substantially muddy the waters by putting that power into their hands as well. Steve McCloud, TEA assistant executive director for legal services recently said, “A teacher’s license is their most valuable possession, allowing them a livelihood doing what they love to do. Having ambiguous, confusing, and contradictory rules on how a license can be suspended or revoked would be unacceptable for any profession. We certainly won’t allow it for the teaching profession.”

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The GOP's Misguided Approach to Sex

The GOP's Misguided Approach to Sex

As a father of two young girls, this issue is important to me. I will exercise my right to teach them about various forms of birth control, which will include, but not be limited to, abstinence. Not all children are so lucky to have adults in the house to properly advise them, and it is imperative that Tennessee lead the way of conservative states who are willing to take a realistic approach to this issue. Teaching children various ways to prevent pregnancy doesn’t encourage them to have sex; it simply increases their toolbox and the likelihood that they can prevent pregnancy until they’re actually ready.

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Tennessee, You're the Best "D" I See

Tennessee, You're the Best "D" I See

U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, recently spoke at ALEC’s 44th annual meeting. In case you’re wondering who ALEC is, their website states that they are “America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.” Coincidentally, the tenets of limited government, free markets, and federalism align perfectly with the Republican Party, which makes it baffling how ALEC successfully advertises itself as a nonpartisan organization.

In any case, DeVos made several superficially common-sense statements during her seventeen minute speech that were unfortunately interwoven with gross inaccuracies.

At the beginning of her speech, she made the inarguable point that there needs to be more local control of public education. “Leaders in each state are better able to understand their own circumstances. They are more able to devise solutions than someone perched in Washington, D.C.” The reason why this point is inarguable is because it is not open for debate. Secretary DeVos apparently fails to understand the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed last year so that states could have more autonomy over their own education systems.

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Land of the Free

Land of the Free

During this July 4th holiday, I hope that my fellow Tennesseans and our Attorney General Herbert Slatery take some time to reflect on its historical significance. Because they were unable to practice Protestantism (specifically Calvinism) in their homeland, 104 Brits risked their lives emigrating to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 so they could get a fresh start. Only thirty-eight of them survived the winter. Every year, we simultaneously celebrate this country’s independence from England as well as our own pride in transforming from a nation of immigrants into a thriving country where we are free to pursue the American Dream.

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When Equality Isn't Equal

When Equality Isn't Equal

The longer I teach, the more I realize that there is an ever-increasing disconnect between what school offers and what students actually need. I attribute this, at least in part, to the growing number of students who come from homes that are at or near the poverty line. In fact, for the first time ever, a majority of students in the southern states come from these types of homes. This change in the student clientele necessitates a shift in the daily operations of how a school operates and further requires that each school building have the flexibility to meet the individual needs of its students.

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Changing the Culture: or Spring Break 2017

Changing the Culture: or Spring Break 2017

On the Tuesday of my Spring Break last week, I participated in Tennessee Education Association’s annual “Civication,” when they invite their members to come to capitol hill in Nashville and sit in on House Education Committee meetings and meet some elected officials. As an educator who is deeply fascinated with education policy, I loved it. A persistent anti-public school culture is pervasive across the political sphere--especially in deeply “red” states where misleading terminology like “school choice” and “opportunity scholarships” leads to legislation that strives to steal money from public institutions and put it in the hands of private school entrepreneurs.

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