constitutionbeeOn Saturday April 28th at 9-12 PM Central at the Williamson County Administration Building (1320 W. Main St., Franklin, TN 37064).  Be There!  

The Grand Champion prize package has been expanded to include a $3000 scholarship – and that’s in addition to the trip for two to Washington, D.C.!

The Bee is designed to focus on student knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the same way as the National Spelling Bee and the National Geography Bee.

In addition to the Grand Prize winning champion, the top performing student at each grade level (8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th) will receive a prize package and be featured in profiles at The Tennessee Star.

Registration is still open.  Visit http://tennesseestar.com/2017/09/06/registration-is-open-for-the-tennessee-star-constitution-bee/ to read more and to sign up!

The Tennessee Star Constitution Bee is presented by The Polk Foundation. Read more at http://polkfdn.com.

hellios

According to the Greek Mythology, the god, Helios, would put the Sun in a chariot and drive it through the sky each day.  That is how the Sun would rise and set.  Today, we would scoff at such a notion and understand that such a feat would be impossible.  We would think that people who would believe such a notion probably were not very intelligent and extremely gullible.  Such is the story of modern day lobbyists and advocates.

Frank R. Baumgartner, a Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says there is no consistent correlation between money spent on lobbying and outcomes.  In his book, Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why, Baumgartner effectively proves that lobbyists are far less influential than political rhetoric suggests and that they fail to change policy despite millions of dollars spent trying. As to the why?  He points to an “entrenched system” with an enormous “bias in favor of the status quo.”

I have been on the forefront of policy change for over a quarter of a century, advocating for education.  It means that I have witnessed much the last three decades in Tennessee. I have seen policymakers come and go.  I have seen lobbyists come and go.  Next year, in 2019, we will see a new US Senator, a new Governor and perhaps as many as 35 new state legislators.  Campaign contributions, as important as those may be to the candidate, mean very little in the current system.  Money no longer “buys” votes, and it should never have done so in the first place.  Politicians now often receive contributions from interests on both sides of any issue.

It is amazing with the vast array of people lobbying on an issue that anyone or any group should take credit for the passage of any legislation.  The truth is that it is always a coalition of stakeholders building a compelling case on a political issue.  In the end, only the legislator votes.  So, any person or group who claims credit for a passage of legislation needs to be reminded of that truth.

In the end, we build coalitions work together, educate legislators on issues and count votes.  The legislator is the decisionmaker.  Advocates have three numbers you have to reach – 50, 17 and one:  50 votes in the House of Representatives, 17 in the Senate, and one from the Governor.  Only the Tennessee General Assembly deserves credit or blame for the passage of legislation.  In all the years that I have worked with legislators, I truthfully have found most to be honest, hard working people who want to do the right thing for their constituents.  I have also seen some who really do not listen, and these usually do not last long in the political arena.

The key to effective advocacy is relationships, which must be developed and also sustained.  Building relationships with lawmakers and other stakeholders means getting to know them, their personal interests and histories, and even their families. Having a relationship never guarantees support, but it does help to ensure that others will listen to you.  We must build networks and coalitions, around the objective of helping those you serve.  Stakeholders know what is likely to be taken serious by policymakers, sometimes just by whom introduces it, or who carries the legislation for the lobbyists.  We must also know how to correctly draft legislation to assist lawmakers who are overwhelmed during session.  We frequently see people try to put things in the wrong part of the code or use the wrong terminology. Advocates must identify people who support changing a policy and are willing to testify.  Those who advocate or lobby have to be taken seriously at the Capitol.  Then there is media coverage, which is a whole separate issue.  The media will cover an issue if they think voters or their audience are interested in the subject.

In advocacy, we have to be honest and transparent.  We have to tell the truth.  People can spot a snake-oil salesman a mile away.  A Cheshire cat grin and a fake tan will only take you so far.  Legislators do not like being lectured to when you testify.  The biggest mistake I see is when a know-it-all goes before a committee arrogantly and moralizes and lectures legislators.  People talk.  Just answer the question when asked, and don’t pontificate to hear your own voice by expounding on unrelated issues.  Conceit, excessive pride, combined with arrogance is called hubris.

When we engage in grassroots and direct advocacy with policymakers and key influencers around the state on behalf of public education policies, it reminds us that we live for a far greater purpose than just ourselves. Our impact is immeasurable and transforming.  It not only matters to the profession and our educators, it also matters to children and families across Tennessee.

Our experience here in Tennessee ensures our members’ concerns are heard at the Tennessee General Assembly and by other stakeholder groups. It also means we work with other groups on goals we want to achieve: some long-term, some short-term.  By doing this, we witness and help facilitate minor and major shifts in education policies and observe and work with changing political leaders.  And we must remember, these new education policies can have a positive or negative impact on educators or children.  We work the entire year focused on the priorities of our organization and our members.  However, we do not do it alone.  We accomplish our goals by working with others and through elected officials.

Leaders also need mountains to climb.  We and they also realize that they cannot solve every problem on our own. Leadership is about giving.  Great leaders understand that leading others means serving others.  The one question leaders must ask themselves: are you interested in finding solutions for today’s challenges? Then learn to work with others to benefit those you serve, without worrying about who gets credit.  It is a hard lesson to learn for some.  The sun will still come up, even if you don’t get the recognition.

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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.

overworked teacher

It is becoming tough to keep special education teachers in the field beyond two or three years.  We already have a shortage and it is likely to get worse in the future.  Teaching is demanding enough, but special education teachers must cope with even more challenges.  Professional learning is rarely aligned to special education teachers’ needs. Special education teachers face more parental interaction, longer hours, potential lawsuits, additional paperwork, while their students need more attention.  The slogan “work more, same pay” is not exactly a great selling point in teacher recruitment.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires that every student have what’s known as an IEP — Individualized Education Program.  The IEP involves hours and hours of filling out forms and writing reports documenting each student’s progress.  Recently the Tennessee State Board of Education, in the name of greater transparency, has proposed a rule that may actually create more problems for Special Education Teachers.

The Proposed Rule:  The LEA must notify the parents of a child with a disability at least ten (10) days before an IEP meeting to ensure that a parent will have an opportunity to attend. A meeting conducted pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §300.530(e) may be conducted on at least twenty-four (24) hours’ notice to the parents. If the LEA prepares a draft IEP prior to the IEP meeting, a copy shall be provided to the parent(s) of the child at least twenty-four (24) hours prior to the scheduled meeting time. The copy of the draft IEP shall become the property of the parent(s). If the LEA prepares a draft IEP prior to the IEP team meeting, the LEA shall make it clear to the parents at the outset of the meeting that the services proposed by the LEA are preliminary recommendations for review and discussion with the parents. It is not permissible for the LEA to have the final IEP completed before an IEP Team meeting begins.

Many, but not all, districts provide parents with a draft prior to the IEP meeting, if requested, and with a reasonable timeline.  However, it would not be appropriate or reasonable to mandate that districts provide a draft prior to all IEP meetings.  Here are a few of the concerns, suggestions and questions that have been put forth by our members:

  • May discourage LEAs from creating drafts, which would lead to longer, less structured IEP meetings and may increase the likelihood of procedural errors.
  • May result in LEAs having to hold separate IEP meetings, which could delay initial services up to 30 days after initial eligibility, in order to give time to have a draft ready.
  • Currently, there is no means of documenting LEAs’ compliance as drafts are removed from EasyIEP system after 30 days or when final IEP is created
  • Places undue paperwork burden on already paperwork-heavy sped teachers.
  • May send information that is confusing to parents without having immediate access to professionals who can help interpret or give meaning to info in IEP.
  • May result in fewer parents attending IEP meetings as perception would be that IEP is already completed and their attendance is not necessary.
  • May lead to meetings starting with an adversarial tone.
  • Not all IEP team members are staffed at the same school, making it impossible for them to convene with the other IEP team members to collaborate on the draft 24 hours prior to the meeting.

Looking at the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and new regulations, an LEA should provide the parents with a copy of its draft proposals, if the LEA has developed them, prior to the IEP team meeting.  Parents deserve an opportunity to review any recommendations prior to the IEP team meeting, in order that they may be better able to engage in a full discussion of the proposals for their child.  It is already not permissible for an LEA to have a final IEP completed before an IEP meeting.  Parents should be able to request a copy of any draft documents prior to an IEP team meeting. However, it is critical to be reminded that not all IEP team members are staffed at the same school, and it may be impossible for them to convene with the other IEP team members to collaborate on the draft 24 hours prior to the meeting.  This creates twice the work for teachers.

Which brings us back full circle.  We subscribe to the philosophy of “All Means All” in public education, which means we educate each and every one of our students to the highest level possible.  If we continue to overwhelm special education teachers when we already have a special education teacher shortage by adding to their workload, recruitment and retention challenges will only escalate.  Then students with disabilities will never attain their full academic potential especially if teachers with no special education background are placed in their classroom.  The proposed IEP policy, as currently being suggested needs work.  This may well be a legislative item in 2019.

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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.

Respected teacher leaders and presenters from across the state of Tennessee lead professional development  at Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Register here:  http://www.proedtn.org/page/LeaderU2018 

JC's Twitter Post 5

 

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

Sheriff-and-Bowman-East-Hamilton

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