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At Professional Educators of Tennessee we view assessment of students much like a school picture.  It may not be an accurate depiction, but it is what the student looks like on that day.  Our position has always been that the fewer tests administered to students would equal less disruptions for students and teachers. We have worked with the Tennessee Department of Education toward this objective.  We feel like progress has been made and will continue to work with them and the next governor toward this sensible objective.

The 2018 TNReady student assessment results showed mixed results, but state leaders saw encouraging areas of progress, and we celebrate that success.  The majority of the 650,000 students who took the assessment this year did so on paper, but about 300,000 students took the test online.  Students improved most in early grades reading, and narrowed achievement gaps.  In addition, the results show a need for deeper, more sustained work to support improvement.  The release of the results of the latest statewide assessment, while flawed, do provide a data point for educators to consider.  We encourage them to look at the results, take the result seriously and consider the steps they need to take to help all students and schools succeed.

In general, we must always be careful in determining teacher performance based strictly on the test scores of students to whom the teacher is assigned during a school year. The risk of misidentifying and mislabeling teacher performance based on test scores is too high for it to be the major indicator of teacher performance, especially when you look at issues such as student demographic characteristics. A number of states, including Michigan, have since taken steps to lessen the impact test scores have on teacher evaluations, repeatedly mentioning factors outside an educator’s control which can influence a student’s academic performance.  The interaction between teacher and student is the primary determinant of student success.

Moving forward, it is worth noting that Dr. Bill Sanders, the creator of value added assessment, warned of the misuse of TVAAS for individual teacher data because of its volatility.  We would certainly remind policymakers of this detail. In fact, classroom observations by trained personnel, along with teacher and principal input, would likely produce far more consistent and reliable data for assessing the quality of teaching than scores on an annual assessment. Assessment outcomes cannot be viewed as a reliable or significant indicator of Tennessee student proficiency until we have consecutive years of stable test delivery in which students and educators are confident.

We look forward to continuing the dialogue with policymakers and working with all stakeholders toward creating a better framework for both educator evaluation and student assessment in Tennessee.  We have proven as a state that we are willing to be innovative and now we have the opportunity to get it right. We are committed to working with stakeholders to improve implementation of state assessment so that parents, educators, and policymakers can continue to know how our students are faring each year.  As we build on our success, and we need to move forward together.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. 

President Donald Trump’s latest idea is to merge the U.S. Department of Education with the Department of Labor. This reflects his administration’s priority on workforce readiness and career development. Taxpayers understand the need to reduce federal spending, merge duplicate programs, and improve support for retraining and employment. The United States House Committee on Education and the Workforce is an example of the government already combining the two functions under one entity. So, the concept is not that far-fetched.

In their book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa studied twenty-four hundred college students at twenty-four different universities over a four-year period. They reported that critical thinking and other skills such as writing were no longer progressing during college as compared to previous generations of students. This is really no surprise. However, America’s educational competitiveness is still unparalleled. We tend to focus on our weaknesses, rather than leveraging our inimitable strengths.

Society has long cherished the ability to think beyond the ordinary, according to Samuel Greengard. What happens when we lose that ability? Organizational stupidity is a phrase that comes to my mind. Adrian West added: “Developing our abilities to think more clearly, richly, fully—individually and collectively—is absolutely crucial [to solving world problems].”

It is important to note that creativity is a unique talent that cannot be taught straight out of a textbook. We are rapidly losing our ability to think creatively; in addition, music and art are often no longer valued. Grace Fearon of the The Independent suggests: “our society seems capable of praising and glorifying our child intellects, aspiring doctors and academics, yet the value of a student possessing a gift for writing, or music, or art appears demoted in comparison.” In a state like Tennessee, with a cultural legacy like Memphis and Nashville and other places, Music and Art are the business. We cannot lose that edge.

The real question to ask then: Do we think the well-meaning bureaucrats at the Department of Labor, will be more or less inclined to educate the whole child, or would they focus more on developing a productive workforce? There is a vital need for apprenticeship programs, job training programs, and a united focus on keeping the American workforce employed.

Bringing businesses and educators together to ensure high-quality classroom instruction and on-the-job training is a win for everyone, right? Except we are not creating widgets for factories. Many of the jobs our children will have may not even exist now. We cannot possibly provide the training for all the jobs that may exist in the future, we have to teach kids to think, to create, to make. Do you really think the Department of Labor is the vehicle we need spearheading this type of education? We must make sure that those who understand educating the whole child benefits all of us in the long term.

President Trump’s concept lacks significant details and will be difficult to maneuver through a deeply divided Congress. Our guess is that a merger between the U.S. Department of Education with the Department of Labor will not happen. Let’s hope we are correct.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

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We view assessment of students much like a school picture. It may not be an accurate depiction, but it is what the student looks like on that day. Our position at Professional Educators of Tennessee has always been that the fewer tests administered to students would equal less disruptions for students and teachers. We have worked with the Tennessee Department of Education toward this objective. We feel like progress has been made and will continue to work with them and the next governor toward this sensible objective.

The 2018 TNReady student assessment results showed mixed results, but state leaders saw encouraging areas of progress, and we celebrate that success. The majority of the 650,000 students who took the assessment this year did so on paper, but about 300,000 students took the test online. Students improved most in early grades reading, and narrowed achievement gaps. In addition, the results show a need for deeper, more sustained work to support improvement. The release of the results of the latest statewide assessment, while flawed, do provide a data point for educators to consider. We encourage them to look at the results, take the result seriously and consider the steps they need to take to help all students and schools succeed.

In general, we must always be careful in determining teacher performance based strictly on the test scores of students to whom the teacher is assigned during a school year. The risk of misidentifying and mislabeling teacher performance based on test scores is too high for it to be the major indicator of teacher performance, especially when you look at issues such as student demographic characteristics. A number of states, including Michigan, have since taken steps to lessen the impact test scores have on teacher evaluations, repeatedly mentioning factors outside an educator’s control which can influence a student’s academic performance. The interaction between teacher and student is the primary determinant of student success.

Moving forward, it is worth noting that Dr. Bill Sanders, the creator of value added assessment, warned of the misuse of TVAAS for individual teacher data because of its volatility. We would certainly remind policymakers of this detail. In fact, classroom observations by trained personnel, along with teacher and principal input, would likely produce far more consistent and reliable data for assessing the quality of teaching than scores on an annual assessment. Assessment outcomes cannot be viewed as a reliable or significant indicator of Tennessee student proficiency until we have consecutive years of stable test delivery in which students and educators are confident.

We look forward to continuing the dialogue with policymakers and working with all stakeholders toward creating a better framework for both educator evaluation and student assessment in Tennessee. We have proven as a state that we are willing to be innovative and now we have the opportunity to get it right. We are committed to working with stakeholders to improve implementation of state assessment so that parents, educators, and policymakers can continue to know how our students are faring each year. As we build on our success, and we need to move forward together.

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Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

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I recently read a fantastic editorial by political strategist and analyst, Steve Gill, on the National Education Association, The Californication of the Teachers’ Union.  The article sheds much light on the union, the amplified influence by more liberal state affiliates like New York and California of the National Education Association, which makes them “loyal foot soldiers to advance liberal extremism.”  Mr. Gill makes a compelling case, and it is well worth the read.  I would have added:

  1. NEA and its affiliates had money difficulties well before the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. As Mike Antonucci writes: The union “ability to adapt to a new environment depends less on their political and organizing skills and more on their willingness to reform themselves financially.”  So, why are union bosses seeing their salary continue to increase?
  2. Teacher Unions continue to put roadblocks in place to prevent their members from exercising their freedom of association. Often, they will use any legal means at their disposal to combat members who want to resign. Take, for example, the difficulty in terminating automatic drafts to pay membership dues. Unions often place a narrow window of opportunity for employees to drop union membership and escape the requirement of paying union dues or fees. For educators, that date may be limited to summer months and are designed to be inconveniently timed for members. In addition, unions blatantly will contribute to political candidates.
  3. When it comes to a private entity making a killing from public education, the teachers’ unions have the market cornered. The next time you hear a union boss talk about “privatizers” who seek to profit from public education, point out for them that “union leaders neglect to point out that teachers’ unions are themselves de facto corporations, though with a difference: all their income—money they get from teachers, voluntarily or otherwise—is tax-free. No teachers’ union—or any union—pays a penny in taxes.”  As teachers’ union watchdog Mike Antonucci writes, “The NEA sinks lots of money into mutual funds, which invest in big corporations, including “AT&T, Verizon, Target, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, IBM, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Comcast, Coca-Cola, Philip Morris, Microsoft, Boeing, JP Morgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, and Aramark.” The NEA “invests in 9 of the 10 richest corporations in the United States,” added Mr. Antonucci.
  4. Four unions combined to spend more than $1 billion on political activities since 2012, according to federal labor filings. Those four are the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), National Education Association (NEA), and American Federation of Teachers (AFT). This is a conservative estimate on public-sector union spending, since they do not count the spending of local unions or state chapters on such activities. Nearly all of the unions’ federal political contributions went to Democrats or advanced liberal causes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  Stan Greer who analyzed federal labor filings which disclose how much unions spend on political activities at the federal, state, and local level for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) wrote:  “Big labor is increasingly turning its focus away from workplace matters and more and more towards buying political influence.” No surprise.

The NEA’s unification policy, which means all members are forced to pay dues to the national association, effectively killed the independence of the local and state associations.  While national union bosses thought it would be a media coup to highlight their most recent convention online.  In reality, people got to see a group of very angry people often focused on issues completely unrelated to public education, mad that they lost compulsory unionism. Mickey Kaus, a blogger and the author of “The End of Equality,” and former Democratic candidate for U.S. senator from California, wrote: “the answer of most union leaders to the failure of 1950’s unionism has been more 1950’s unionism.” Most educators are not buying into a more militant, progressive labor movement beholden to the far left.

Educators nationally often spend hundreds, or sometimes even thousands of dollars per year on union dues.  There are much more cost-effective alternatives, like Professional Educators of Tennessee.   That is what makes groups like Professional Educators of Tennessee different.  We offer a modern approach to educator representation, legal protection and unmatched educational advocacy, as well as promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda.  There are non-union alternatives for educators in other states as well.  Nobody wants to return the 1950’s.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech to those assembled at the conclusion of the march from Selma to Montgomery.   He told the audience “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” Then he added, “no lie can live forever.”  King also reminded the crowd: “because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The driving force of Martin Luther King’s philosophy was the certain idea that Jesus is the truth. He believed that and he spoke of it in most of his public speeches.  King wasn’t a politician arousing a crowd with inferences to God, he was a minister evoking Christ to connect to issues facing the world.  Whether or not you agree with his worldview, he was who he was—a believer in Jesus Christ.

Like Dr. King, I don’t pretend to be anything I am not.  I have lived a full life and made mistakes.  I am comforted by my own faith in Christ.  I see the moral and earthly struggles faced by others and understand but by the Grace of God, there goes I.  It shows up in my work as executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  It shows up in my drive to make our organization the best association for educators in Tennessee. I have compassion for our members and the difficult job they do, and have the empathy that educators need.  But it is a two-way street.  So many teachers and administrators call and encourage me.  They appreciate our work for them and they share their success stories in education.  It cannot help but inspire me, as well as others.  Educators see miracles every single day.

Too many in our state and nation believe the lie that public education is failing.  Do we have failures?  Yes, there are things that go wrong every single day.  But looking at the big picture, the arc of the universe, as King may say, it is a beautiful success story.  Children are dropped off at a school, unable to read and write, growing up in some of the worst conditions possible.  They come from crime riddled neighborhoods, drug infested homes, often being raised by single parents and some, with no parents.  Many have no responsible adults in the picture.  Food and shelter are uncertain.  Yet teachers, some who may be unconnected themselves, make an impact that helps that child survive for a day, a week, a month and then a year.  Somehow, those children grow up.  Then the miracle they see is that the child becomes a productive citizen capable of thinking for themselves.  They didn’t become a statistic.  They didn’t die.

We all get angry.  Even God repeatedly describes himself in Scripture as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”  However, too often anger produces in us, “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” It also produces “enmity, strife . . . fits of anger [i.e. tantrums], rivalries, dissensions, [and] divisions.” We must balance that personally and professionally.  We must avoid the negative.  There is no perfect anger.  We should allow mercy to triumph over judgment for others, and we must remain committed to love.

When I deal with angry teachers I am reminded frequently of another lie, that anger solves problems.   We see that manifested when administrators are angry at teachers or vice-versa.  We see it on full display from teacher unions.  They really believe dissension and division resolves issues; it doesn’t. That is why we see hostility, anger, slander and gossip on frequent display from them.  I have been subjected to regular attacks personally, often based on little or no truth by paid union stalkers.  Because of my faith, I am able to persevere.  I get to witness the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice.  Truth will eventually prevail.   It is a beautiful reminder that no lie can live forever.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

img_20180422_212449-1394880902.jpgAs professionals, our members are committed to supporting quality public education and the professional rights and obligations of the education community. Our members set the policy and priorities of  our association to meet the needs of Tennessee educators. Working in partnership with parents, business, community and government, we provide the programs and services that enable educators and schoolchildren to achieve their highest potential.  Professional Educators of Tennessee was created by Tennessee educators for Tennessee educators.  Our focus is the state of Tennessee.      

From professional development to information on the latest education trends, we offer a myriad of resources to help you in and out of the classroom. For over 39 years, Professional Educators of Tennessee has been serving great teachers across the state of Tennessee.  Our members have often been  at the forefront of education in the state.

As the fastest growing teacher association in the state, we know that our members can be catalysts for innovative solutions to the many challenges facing education.  We look forward to creating mutually beneficial partnerships to rethink curriculum, offer professional development, develop sound policy and improve educational environments and outcomes for students across Tennessee.  We have great legal services and member benefits as well!

Protecting your career is just as important as protecting any other life investment. That’s why we provide eligible members a superior protection package to protect you in the classroom with $2 million worth of liability insurance with access to our attorney’s that are available by phone, e-mail or fax during normal business hours.  In fact, we will gladly compare liability policies with any education organization serving teachers in the state. You can join for $189 a year, not over $600 like a union, with a national agenda.  Keep in mind we do not endorse or contribute to political parties or candidates with your dues. We are not a union.  

We work year-round as a professional, positive voice focused on uniting educators in support of an exemplary public education for every student in Tennessee.  We know vitriol and anger only hurts public education and never solves problems.  We understand in order to create a more effective system that provides the basic academic skills necessary for success in life for our students, that we must all work together. Education is a parental right, a state and local responsibility, and a national strategic interest.

It would be our honor to serve you.  Check Professional Educators of Tennessee out at www.proedtn.org

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We know without a doubt that teachers are the number one in-school influence on student achievement. Data indicates that in the last 20 years, teacher attrition has nearly doubled. In fact, 16–30% of teachers leave the teaching profession each year. It is estimated by some that school districts now spend $1B to $2.2B per year nationally replacing teachers. The average cost to replace a teacher is about $20,000 each in many districts. One-third of today’s teachers will retire in the next five years.

In Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It by Desiree Carver-Thomas and Linda Darling-Hammond the authors maintain: “When students return to school this year, many will enter one of the more than 100,000 classrooms across the country staffed by an instructor who is not fully qualified to teach. This is because many districts, facing ongoing teacher shortages, are hiring underqualified candidates to fill vacancies.

When discussing why they leave, 18% of teachers see leadership as a key factor in whether or not they stay on the job. Leadership at the district level and building level is critical. Lack of collaboration time and sporadic Professional Development were other factors influencing teacher departure. An astounding statistic is that 90% of open teaching positions are created by teachers who left the profession. Other key influences Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond identified on turnover include “a lack of administrative support, working in districts with lower salaries, dissatisfactions with testing and accountability pressures, lack of opportunities for advancement, and dissatisfaction with working conditions.”

Experience in the classroom matters. Effectiveness increases substantially for the first 12 years a teacher is on the job. As teachers gain experience, their student absenteeism rates decline. Students with a highly effective teacher three years in a row can score 50 percentile points higher on achievement tests than students who have a less effective teacher three years in a row. “Turnover rates are highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast, where states tend to offer higher pay, support smaller class sizes, and make greater investments in education. Shortages also persist in specific areas: mathematics, science, special education, English language development, and foreign languages. Turnover rates are 50% higher in Title I schools, which serve more low-income students. Turnover rates are also 70% higher for teachers in schools serving the largest concentrations of students of color” added Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond.

Teacher turnover will eventually lead to a teacher shortage if the supply of new teachers via traditional or alternative routes cannot keep up with the demand. It appears we are heading in that direction. If we continue down that path, nationally and across the state, many underqualified candidates will eventually fill those vacancies. Research indicates that high rates of turnover harm student achievement in schools and districts. “In high-turnover schools, the inexperienced and underqualified teachers often hired to fill empty spots also have a negative impact on student learning” according to Carver-Thomas and Darling-Hammond.

To improve teacher retention, districts and schools must build strong leadership teams aligned to common goals. Schools should provide teachers with common planning time each week. Schools and districts should create a teacher mentorship program, partnering new teachers with veteran teachers. Districts must give teachers and administrators a choice in their professional development’s content and delivery method. There cannot be a one size fits all approach to PD, which too many districts try to mandate. For example, Professional Educators of Tennessee offers their members access to a state-of-the-art online learning portal so educators can get credits to renew their Tennessee Teacher’s License and learn about new and innovative teaching strategies. Educators are able to take the courses when and where it is convenient for them. Many of their offerings are TASL accredited classes as well. In addition, districts should focus on compensation, teacher preparation and support, and teaching conditions.

We need to keep our most effective educators in the classroom and in public education. Our federal, state, and district policymakers must take this issue serious. We are losing too many good educators, and it is time we address the issue.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

Special education teachers face more challenges today then ever before…..

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Provisional Endorsements for Special Education

As a reminder, last year the State Board of Education approved an additional pathway for educators seeking to add a special education endorsement to their license. Click here for more information on how educators may attain a provisional endorsement for special education.

“Special Education Teachers in Tennessee are hard to find, even harder to keep.”  —JC Bowman

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Note:  Advisory Council for Children with Disabilities

The next Advisory Council for Children with Disabilities meeting is scheduled for July 16 at 10 a.m. central. All interested persons are invited to attend the council meetings. This meeting will be held in Nashville at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in the Laskey Building, Great Hall meeting room. Please contact Kristen.B.McKeever@tn.gov for additional information.