Testing has taken a wrong turn in public education. I have always tried to keep it simple: testing is like your school picture; it is what you look like on that particular day. Kids go in to take a test. Teachers show up to make sure kids are taking their own test. Parents encourage their children to do their best. However, like Ozzie & Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, and the Lone Ranger, those days are gone.

With an infusion of $501 million federal dollars of Race to the Top money we hurried to increase standards by adopting Common Core, which we corrected by moving back to state standards. We also increased testing, changing both format and frequency. Tennessee also adopted new evaluation methods. The teacher union supported the incorporation of TVAAS data into the state’s teacher evaluations, which landed Tennessee $501 million from the federal Race to the Top grant in 2010. Professional Educators of Tennessee did not support the use of that data on teacher evaluations, nor did they sign a support letter on the original grant submission.

Not everything Tennessee tried was damaging, but it is not debatable that thus far the Age of Accountability has failed students, teachers, parents and taxpayers. Since 2012 Tennessee has had one misstep after another in testing. In 2013, our tests were not aligned to our standards. In 2014, the issue was transparency, notably quick scores and test score waivers for final semester grades were the major issue. In 2015, the new TNReady online tests had issues in the post equating formula. In 2016, we fired the vender Measurement, Inc because after the online platform was botched and they were unable to get out a paper version of the test. In 2017, we were again plagued by issues due to scoring discrepancies. This year 2018, we have already had issues related to testing, including the belief by the testing vendor Questar that the Questar data center is under attack from an external source, although it is not believed at this time that any student data was compromised.

At no point since 2012 were any of the testing issues the fault of students or educators. However, for educators they are often the ones who bear the brunt, quite unfairly, of parental anger. Students also suffer, with everything from loss of instruction time to not understanding their educational progress. When we make education decisions on the basis of unreliable or invalid test results, we place students at risk and harm educators professionally. This is especially unfair to the hardworking teachers in our state. To policymakers and stakeholders alike we must ask these questions:

  • Why are we relying so heavily on test scores to make important educational decisions about students, teachers or schools, especially when the process is flawed?
  • If the Questar data center was under attack from an external source, there should be no greater priority by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to identify and prosecute those individuals guilty of this activity and confirm that no student data was compromised.
  • Should we question the reliability, validity, and accuracy of testing in Tennessee since 2013? Especially when shifting between online to paper tests? Note: Reliability relates to the accuracy of their data. Reliability problems in education often arise when researchers overstate the importance of data drawn from too small or too restricted a sample. Validity refers to the essential truthfulness of a piece of data. By asserting validity, does the data actually measure or reflect what is claimed?

In Tennessee we appreciate straight talk and candor. We unquestionably detest hypocrisy. We understand mistakes are made by individuals, by companies and even by our government. We are not pointing fingers; just stating a fact. Clearly there is a problem with testing in Tennessee. It isn’t our students or our educators. It is a flawed testing system.

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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.

JC Bowman will be joining  Sheriff Jim Hammond and other leaders in Hamilton County to discuss School Safety and Security.  Event is open to the public.  Info: https://jcbowmanblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/school-safety-and-security-town-hall/

JC's Blurb 3

Professional Educators of Tennessee Executive Director JC Bowman will be on the Midday Buzz with Emily Beaty in Cleveland, TN – Talk 101.3 FM. Join us online at 12:15.

JC's Blurb 2

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A School Safety and Security Town Hall open to the public will be held Monday at East Hamilton Middle High School to continue a day focused on school safety in Hamilton County.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and Professional Educators of Tennessee are partnering to stage the Town Hall, which will take place 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 16, at the school complex in Ooltewah.

In addition to Sheriff Hammond, Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson, National School Security Expert Michael Yorio, and Dr. J.C. Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, will serve as panelists. Businessman and radio host Weston Wamp will facilitate the Town Hall.

“The Town Hall will give parents, teachers and other stakeholders in public education the chance to offer their views on school safety,” said Sheriff Hammond. “Also, we will be able to share information about the Monday morning discussion with elected and community leaders.”

Dr. Bowman said teachers from counties surrounding Hamilton County will be informed of the timely event. He will also discuss research on school safety which the Professional Educators of Tennessee has completed with its membership.

“We are grateful to join with Sheriff Hammond and other strong leaders in Hamilton County to have timely, orderly discussion about an issue front and center in Hamilton County, the state and the nation,” said Dr. Bowman. “This is a wonderful opportunity for teachers, including our members in Southeast Tennessee.”

Yorio serves as president of SSI Guardian, LLC, and is senior vice president of security for School Specialty, Inc. As he will do in the morning meeting with area leaders, Yorio will bring a national perspective on school safety.

Wamp said the event will be recorded and made available to Professional Educators of Tennessee’s 8,000 members and others. Wamp, a Chattanooga businessman, will facilitate the forum. After brief opening remarks, questions will begin. Partisan, political speech will be stopped from stage, and Wamp urges attendees attending to have prepared, concise questions. Questions will end promptly at 5:30. The theater at East Hamilton has an estimated seating capacity of 300.

About Sheriff Jim Hammond: Sheriff Jim Hammond is the current Sheriff of Hamilton County and has been since August of 2008. His Sheriff’s office personnel consist of 386 full-time and 33 part-time employees. His area of coverage is Hamilton County, which is the fourth largest county in the state of Tennessee. As a Constitutional Elected Official of the State of Tennessee, Sheriff Hammond brings over 54 years of law enforcement experience to his credit, including 15 Years as Chief Deputy. He is also a veteran of the US Navy, an international police instructor, and former adjunct instructor for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

About Professional Educators of Tennessee: Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan statewide professional association whose members come from all aspects of the educational systems in Tennessee. Their 8,000 statewide members include teachers, administrators and non-certified staff from kindergarten to graduate school level, public and private.

About Michael Yorio and SSI Guardian: National School Security Expert Michael A. Yorio is a former defense industry executive who is credited with founding SSI Guardian, the nation’s leading school safety and security firm and wholly owned subsidiary of School Specialty Inc. He has led the 21st Century Safe School initiative addressing institutional safety from an evidence based best practice approach focusing on the social, emotional, mental and physical factors.

About Weston Wamp: Weston Wamp has worked to promote best-practice guidelines for school safety across the country for two years, and he is currently involved in an effort of a national, non-profit organization that will address gaps in modernizing security in 21st century classrooms. He has hosted “The Pitch” on ESPN Chattanooga (105.1 FM) each Saturday morning for the past two years.

East Hamilton Middle High School is a public high school located in Ooltewah, Tennessee. Established and opened in 2009, it is one of the newest schools in the Hamilton County School district.

Address: 2015 Ooltewah Ringgold Rd, Ooltewah, TN 37363
PrincipalGail Chuy

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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. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

JC's Twitter Post 2

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One of the highest priorities we can have in American society is the safety and protection of children – and the men and women who teach them. From February 27 to March 9, 2018 Professional Educators of Tennessee surveyed 1403 educators across Tennessee. Ninety-seven percent listed their role as being a current educator, while 3% reported being retired educators.

When asked if they felt safe at school, 47% stated they felt safe, while 41% stated they felt somewhat safe, 10% felt somewhat unsafe and 2% felt unsafe.  When asked if an armed School Resource Office improved safety, 98% felt that they either improved or somewhat improved the safety of a school climate. While 62% responded that they have an active shooter protocol, only 55% reported that their School Resource Officer carried a side-arm. Conversely, while 1% of respondents stated their school already had metal detectors, 53% felt they were not needed at this time.

When asked about safety regulations already in place at school, 87% percent stated that all visitors are required to have a visitor’s pass but only 34% of schools required students and staff to wear a photo ID at all times. Seventy-five percent of all educators reported an increase on security procedures and awareness and 89% have practiced “lockdown” drills.

We also asked if educators thought that there were enough school counselors available to actually counsel students needing mental health services.  Sixty-three percent of the respondents said there are NOT enough guidance counselors at their school. Thirty-seven percent believed there are enough guidance counselors.

Regarding the hotly debated issue of allowing teachers to be armed in the classroom, an interesting finding of our survey was that 53% percent of educators stated that they personally would be unlikely to carry a firearm in the classroom, but 63% of those surveyed felt that properly trained personnel should be allowed to carry a weapon to school. Although 59% of educators reported owning a firearm, only 37% stated they would be likely or somewhat likely to carry a firearm to school.

There is a wealth of information in the nearly 850 comments that educators thoughtfully provided. We appreciate the educators who took the time to provide diverse thoughts and responses. Open-ended responses showed strong support for increased focus on student mental health, and lower school-counselor ratios were mentioned frequently. Comments also frequently mentioned support for increased SRO presence and improved school safety infrastructure (eg. bulletproof glass, door locks, intercoms, panic buttons, use of retired military and law enforcement, and cameras). There was both strong opposition to and support for allowing educators to carry firearms in schools. The entire comments section is available for download here. Comments are unedited except for the removal of  identifying district or school information.

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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. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

JC's Twitter Post 2

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Organizations continue to transform and change.  Part of the reason for the decline of unions has been their reluctance to change and willingness to cling to an outdated system built on an industrial model.  Creating and sustaining a culture of high performance while leading organizational effectiveness is one of most complex challenges facing non-profit and organizational leaders.  An imperative question that any organization should ask is: Do your members trust you?

Organizational leaders must understand the processes necessary to incorporate performance improvement, membership focus, professional learning, and necessary change to achieve a highly effective organization. Organizational members have a world of data at their disposal, but what they truly desire is to be a member of an organization that knows their needs and gives them maximum value for their investment.  For example, our organization is able to keep our dues  under $200 dollars ($189 to be exact), while unions are priced in the $600 dollars plus range.   And many teacher union membership forms now authorize them to charge an unspecified amount of dues in perpetuity.

Organizations that are recognized as exceptional providers of customer service are the ones that have incorporated member-focused behaviors into their daily operations. A vibrant, energized organization is one that interacts with its members across every potential outlet of communication. Members want to know what you can do for them and they will engage your organization in ways you might not have imagined even six-months ago.  You have to work to keep ahead of your membership.

Even with a dynamic plan and an unambiguous vision for implementing high-performance and effective systems, the foremost question members and prospective members may ask is, “Why should we look to you instead of your competitor?”  It’s simple.  As a professional educators need to remain informed as to what is happening in their chosen field.  Educationally, they need to keep current with all developments in the scope of their work.  Learning new models and methods does not stop in college or graduate school. Educators often need benefits that school districts are not providing.  And as we have known for years, educators may need legal assistance—which we provide by our staff attorney who understands education law.  Educators need to know what laws affect them and their profession.   They need to know what legislative initiatives are being considered that have an impact on their field, and what they can do to effectively influence legislation to promote the profession— without the partisanship.

We have discovered that our most devoted members want to have a relationship with us. Just like we want to know who they are, they want us to know who they are as well. They want to identify how our organization can help them. And once they comprehend that your organization understands and has viable solutions to their particular set of problems, as well as a vision for making them successful in their chosen field.  That is how you gain loyalty.

But how do you build that loyalty? By building a relationship with your members based on openness, effective communication, value and trust.

We strive try to engage our members constantly.  Nearly half of our members now utilize our website (www.proedtn.org) on a regular basis.  We believe in being interconnected and actively engaged by keeping membership simple and uncomplicated, focused on an approach that is “bottom up,” not “top down,” and on our core business mission of education.  If you want to be recognized as an outstanding provider of member service, you have to consistently exceed the expectations of your members.  Once you adopt this approach, you will find a growing commitment by members.  But once you connect, how do you build loyalty?  You build this loyalty by building trust.

Organizations must strive to embrace openness and transparency in how they interact with their members.  For us, this includes how we build our legal services and member services and benefits.  It also includes vibrant professional learning and development for our members, based upon needs identified by educators, state and local district.

Consider this simple formula for creating a loyal membership base: Openness drives accountability. Accountability builds trust. Trust is the foundation of a relationship. Every organization must have a relationship with its members if it wants to be sustainable.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee (www.proedtn.org). 

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.  Check out his Blog at www.jcbowman.com.  Follow him on Twitter @jcbowman

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Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! 

With that little phrase, we are off to the races to get to our morning destination—work, school or other location.  I have been driving since I was 13 years old, and legally since I was 16.  I have never seen worse drivers in my lifetime, all across the state and nation.  Every time I get behind the wheel I say a silent prayer, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be run-over by the idiots today and keep me and others safe out there.”

I remember when driving a vehicle was a privilege, first granted to me by my parents and then recognized by those who issued a license.  In fact, driving a car is not a right promised to every person, but rather a privilege granted to people who complete certain requirements. In the legal arena, even the US Supreme Court says that citizens do not have a fundamental “right to drive.” In Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105, 112-16, 97 S.Ct. 1723, 52 L.Ed.2d 172 (1977), the Supreme Court held that a state could summarily suspend or revoke the license of a motorist who had been repeatedly convicted of traffic offenses with due process satisfied by a full administrative hearing available only after the suspension or revocation had taken place. The Court conspicuously did not afford the possession of a driver’s license the weight of a fundamental right.  (See also Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 10, 99 S.Ct. 2612, 61 L.Ed.2d 321 (1979); Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 539, 542-43, 91 S.Ct. 1586, 29 L.Ed.2d 90 (1971).)

Tennessee does mandate that in order to get an Intermediate Driver’s License, a minor must have certified 50 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel experience, including 10 hours at night.  The Tennessee Department of Safety only requires students to complete a driver’s education course if they have been convicted of multiple moving violations while they are operating on their intermediate restricted license.  It is time to re-think that policy.  It is currently not a requirement in order for a minor child to obtain a permit or license to successfully complete a driver’s education course.  Nobody disputes that it is an important resource that can help students become responsible and safe drivers.  Should we restrict student access on our school campuses until they can prove to be responsible and safe drivers?   Should driver’s education course be required?  How can we prove or truly verify the supervised behind the behind-the-wheel or night experience?  

From a school safety perspective, school district policy should require a student pass a driver’s education course before being allowed to drive to/from school or park their vehicle on school grounds. This class could also be offered during the summer or through any of the legitimate driving schools across the state. The objective should not be to save parents a few dollars on auto insurance, it must be to improve driving, reduce accidents and injuries and ultimately save lives.  We all benefit by learning defensive driving techniques and other safe driving skills that will last a lifetime.

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The  rules of the road are also shifting. We all face obstacles in an increasingly challenging driving environment, especially with more inexperienced drivers on the roads.  Texting in driving, is one of the most distracting items a driver can do.  Phone use – particularly calling and texting – while driving is one of the most common distractions. New technologies bring even greater challenges with distracted drivers.  New technology in vehicles is not always to our benefit, “infotainment” dashboards GPS maps and other hands-free technology may actually impede smart driving and safety.  Multitasking technology is about convenience, not safety.  Good driving habits require training and repetition.

A driver’s education course is a beneficial choice for drivers of any age and experience levels.  However, it should be required for all minors navigating our roads.  It is time to re-think our policies before the next generation starts their engines.  Lives most certainly will depend on it.

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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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Parents making sense of a diagnosis of Autism can sometimes feel overwhelmed and alone. Candy Alford-Price, my longtime friend, made me aware of just how isolated parents of Autistic children can feel.  Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States.  Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports many children are living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and they need services and support, now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. There is no better activity for an association than to help policymakers understand what our teachers experience on a daily basis and assist them in helping our educators meet the challenges they see and get the resources they need.

For a number of reasons autism prevalence figures are growing. The definition of autism has been expanded along with a better diagnosis of the disorder.  Autism is a spectrum of behaviors, and every autistic person is different in terms of onset, severity, and types of symptoms.  People with autism have issues with non-verbal communication, a wide range of social interactions, and social activities. Autism is a growing global health priority, and April is National Autism Awareness Month.  The objective is to increase knowledge and understanding of autism; recognize the talents and skills of people with autism, and; generate awareness to the needs of all people with autism.

We know boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism.  The CDC released data on the prevalence of autism in the United States. This surveillance study identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) have some form of autism.

Whether this an accurate assessment or not, Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, says by 2025, half the children born in the United States will be diagnosed with autism. If that figure is even partially accurate, society better begin to prepare in earnest.  The Autism Society estimates that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism.  Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average.  More importantly, there is no medical detection or cure for autism.

While significant, the data is more than just numbers, it is about real people, real families and our need as a society to address any challenge we meet head on.  We are improving in identifying autistic people, as well as accepting them.  Imagine the impact we can have on those whose lives are touched by autism every single day. We must recognize that all children are created in the image of God and have potential. However, as a culture, we must make certain the support and resources they need to realize that potential is available to educators and parents.

Autism is treatable. However, children do not “outgrow” autism.  Studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.  The CDC believes we must promote early identification of children with ASD.  That burden is likely to fall on pediatricians, children’s hospitals and ultimately on public schools.   We will need to design services for children and families affected by ASD and increase professional learning and development for the professionals who provide services.  Research will continue to be needed in this emerging field, as well as developing policies that promote and align with improved outcomes in health care and education for individuals with ASD.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Blue is the color.  Light it up Blue!

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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.