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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. 

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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.

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.

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Jefferson Memorial with Declaration of Independence 

Independence Day is celebrated on July 4th in the United States.  “Ever honored will be the day which gave birth to a nation, and to a System of self-government, making it a new Epoch in the History of Man” according to James Madison.

Thomas Jefferson, known for his expressive writing style, was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.   Ben Franklin reminded delegates of the Continental Congress of the importance of the occasion by telling them: “we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  While we often focus on the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

It is the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence that has always remained a powerful reminder of a promise among the signers of the Declaration to: “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” These men thought liberty was more important than their own lives or their very possessions.  By risking everything, signers of the Declaration of Independence, men of wealth, many of whom the ultimate price—either through loss of life or prosperity.

Ronald Reagan reminded us: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”   What sacrifice would we be willing to make today for freedom?  That is a question we should ask frequently.  Benjamin Franklin would likely respond “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The last letter Thomas Jefferson ever wrote was about the celebration of Independence Day and missing the 50th anniversary of America’s independence.  He was 83 years old and would die within ten days of penning a poorly punctuated letter in 1826, that still contained brilliance within.   It’s good to know he wrote that “our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made.” Jefferson wrote:

“I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

Freedom should never be taken for granted.  Today we are debating the very concept of what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America.  While many citizens are very passionate about our country, others seem disillusioned and some openly hostile.  It is why the Declaration of Independence is such an important document. It expresses what it means to be an American.  We would be wise, as a state and nation, to teach the next generation of Americans what the words of the Declaration of Independence mean.  We must remind ourselves and children that there once lived men who mutually pledged to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for the love of freedom.

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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.

Freedom should never be taken for granted. Today we are debating the very concept of what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America. It is why the Declaration of Independence is such an important document. It expresses what it means to be an American. —JC Bowman, Professional Educators of Tennessee

Supreme-Court

The United States Supreme Court has been busy this week.  I have only been focused on the Janus Case.  The justices ruled 5-4 to prohibit unions from collecting fees in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31. The justices also ruled that workers must affirmatively opt into the union before fees can be taken out of their paychecks.

It will effectively break the cycle where government unions can collect compulsory fees from government workers and then use it to help elect pro-union politicians to achieve and maintain political power — who then empower and enrich the government employee unions.  Think about this for a minute, the unions were arguing in this case: “that government has a duty to financially prop up a private enterprise.”  “In what universe?” the Supreme Court Justices must have thought.  The legal rationale was questionable at best.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in the majority opinion and addressed that directly: “It is hard to estimate how many billions of dollars have been taken from nonmembers and transferred to public-sector unions in violation of the First Amendment. Those unconstitutional exactions cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.”  Justice Alito then added: “We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

The opinion added: “The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”

The Tennessee branch of the National Education Association is already saying the ruling will not impact them.  They have already lost almost 35% of their members in the last five years according to the Education Intelligence Agency.  However, the Janus ruling will have an indirect impact, as the unions will have fewer resources, and will undoubtedly be focused (in the short-term) on simply keeping the members they have. The NEA has projected a loss of some 307,000 members over two years if the Janus decision went against public-employee unions, with an expected $50 million two-year budget cut, or 13 percent.  Today’s decision will ultimately reduce the political activity of public sector unions.

Referenced by the Education Intelligence Agency, former Tennessee Education Association employee and Uniserv Coordinator Chris Brooks wrote about the unions: “Many state associations are run by their staffs. Rarely do they engage in meaningful fights at the school or district level. Annual lobby days mobilize a tiny fraction of members. Teachers and school support staff feel only loosely connected to the union.”  Brooks’s former union bosses cannot be happy with his comments.  However, it proves that educators need more effective voices and other organizations to speak up for their interests.

“The unions will call this tortious interference with their business expectancies. Disinterested people will call it an affirmation of individuals’ constitutional rights” according to Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist George Will.  No American worker should be forced to become or remain a union member. People should be free to join, or not join any organization or union they want, without losing their job or be forced to pay for political agendas with which they disagree based on political or ideological purposes.

The Janus Decision will not create drastic structural changes to unions.  It will simply make them more accountable to their own members.  And in the case of teacher unions, this greater accountability should focus on making the quality of education front and center, help public education rebuild support from the public for issues like raising teacher pay and school funding, and work for the common good of all students and educators. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.  The Supreme Court Decision in the Janus Case was the right thing.

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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.