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Successful Tennessee Business Owners Stand Up for Public Education page 9

40% Published by the TENNESSEE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION September 2013  Vol. 45, No. 2 

of Tennessee’s teachers with a valid teaching license may

renew their license for 10 more years by March 2014. page 5


Beth Brown page 3

Visit to learn more about the great things happening in your local public schools.

Speaking out with you Gera Summerford, President

Mitchell Johnson, Interim Executive Director

Assessments Can’t Measure Student Potential Licensure + Test Scores = Misguided Reform Congratulations are in order to many of our colleagues for their outstanding work in 2012-13! According to the State Department of Education this past month, 169 schools in 52 districts were recognized as Reward Schools for student achievement and student growth last year. In these schools across our state, students, parents, teachers and school leaders have worked together to improve results on TCAP and other state assessments. State test scores do provide relevant information about schools and students, generating data that is helpful in assessing strengths and planning for school improvement. Parents and community leaders are proud to know their schools are meeting goals and providing opportunities for students. The dedicated educators who work in these schools know their efforts have not gone unnoticed, their countless hours of preparation are not without reward. The significant amount of time teachers and school leaders spend in analyzing results and designing curricula can ensure positive testing outcomes and measurable advances. Yet all educators know that test results alone are insufficient measures of student success. Parents and teachers alike know that the skills our students need for the future include much more than the ability to perform well on standardized tests. We know how important it is to educate children for citizenship in addition to academics; we want them to develop appreciation for the arts along with athletics; and they need to be skillful in communication and collaboration as well as in reading and math. While recognizing the successes of the Reward Schools, let’s keep in mind the myriad of other expectations we have for today’s students that aren’t reflected in test scores. At this time of year, every teacher sees a wide range of abilities among students entering a classroom. Some are ready and eager to learn, while others need support in social and behavioral development. In kindergarten, the early reader walks in alongside the child who struggles to hold a pencil; at the high school, an accomplished scholar gets off the bus just behind the one who has challenges with self-esteem. Educators in every school welcome these students and strive to provide for each of them the best possible learning opportunities. The various assessments mandated by the state cannot measure the whole child. The data produced by these assessments can offer estimates and comparisons, but not a full profile of each student’s talent and potential. Professionally trained and experienced educators bring a variety of teaching methods and strategies to their classrooms every day so that every child can strive for personal success. And everyone with an eye on public education must recognize that success is much more complex than what can be measured with multiple-choice questions. It is unique to each student, and depends upon many factors beyond what happens at school. When we recognize those schools where measured achievement is improving, let’s remind ourselves to honor the multiple ways public schools provide growth opportunities for every child. As every educator knows, students – as well as schools and teachers – are much more than test scores.

The current administration takes pride in saying that Tennessee is a leader in education reform. Let’s consider what kind of reform is being pursued. This State Department of Education is quick to pull the trigger on imposing punitive measures on everyone from classroom teachers to local school boards. The swift action to enact measures that strip a teaching license and, thus, the ability to pursue a teaching career is far from the kind of education reform Tennessee needs. One bad idea after another is being promoted by the Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman and passed by Tennessee’s State Board of Education. At the most recent conference-call meeting of the board, the Commissioner recommended tying teaching licenses to student test scores. Never before has a single proposal placed the careers of thousands of teachers at such risk. This proposal is particularly troublesome because: 1) student test scores are expected to initially drop in the very near future as Tennessee implements changes in state and national testing due to Common Core; and 2) the student test scores reflected in TVAAS are “estimates” (not hard data) and can fluctuate dramatically over a five-year period of time. TEA took the lead in calling these factors to the attention of members of the State Board of Education before their August vote. In addition to a news conference, President Summerford made individual contacts with board members to explain how the proposal represented a misuse of TVAAS data which could end a teaching career based on a volatile system not designed for this purpose and providing only an estimate—or range— of a teacher’s “effectiveness.” Members of TEA’s State Board Contact Team also contacted board members and pointed out that the proposal did not require a teacher at risk of losing her license to be provided with professional development on “best practices.” TEA and the state Advisory Council on Teacher Education and Certification emphasized that the Commissioner’s proposal did not contain an appeals process allowing a teacher an opportunity to address anomalies and inconsistencies in her TVAAS data. These concepts are what real education reform should include. Professional development providing exposure to “best practices,” followed by an opportunity to show improvement has occurred, is the kind of positive reform that could address teacher performance issues and improve student achievement. Due to TEA’s involvement, implementation of the commissioner’s licensure changes were delayed by a year, providing more time for further input from education stakeholders and additional study. The final proposal was also amended to include an appeals process which delays the stripping of a license by one year, during which a teacher may demonstrate improved student achievement results. TEA will remain steadfast in working toward practical, common sense education reform in Tennessee. A growing body of research reveals the inappropriateness of using value-added data like TVAAS as a basis for high-stakes employment decisions. Since the teaching and learning process is complex and influenced by many factors, the effectiveness of teachers should be measured in multiple ways. More time and study is required to determine the most effective means—beyond student test scores—to decide if a teacher is having a positive impact on students. The rush to be first to reform education should not be a consideration. Instead, Tennessee’s goal should be to implement the best reforms to benefit our students. It is the right, fair and professional thing to do. Tennessee’s teachers demand nothing less.

teach (USPS 742-450, ISSN 15382907) is published in August, September (online only), October, Nov/Dec (online only), Jan/Feb, March/April, and May (online only) by the Tennessee Education Association, 801 Second Avenue North, Nashville TN 37201-1099. Periodical postage paid at Nashville, TN. The subscription price of $3.65 is allocated from annual membership dues of $258.00 for active members; $129.00 for associate, education support and staff members; $16.00 for retired members; and $10.00 for student members. Member of State Education Editors (SEE). Postmaster: Send address changes to teach, 801 Second Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37201-1099. MANAGING EDITOR: Alexei Smirnov ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Carol K. Schmoock INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & PUBLISHER: Mitchell Johnson

Tennessee Education Association 801 Second Avenue North Nashville, TN 37201-1099 Telephone: (615)242-8392, Toll Free: (800)342-8367, (800)342-8262 Fax: (615)259-4581 Website:

BOARD OF DIRECTORS PRESIDENT: Gera Summerford* (800)342-8367 VICE PRESIDENT: Barbara Gray* (901)867-6015 SECRETARY-TREASURER: Mitchell Johnson (615)242-8392 DISTRICT 1 Leisa Lusk (423)794-6247 DISTRICT 2 Lauren McCarty* (865)385-5220 DISTRICT 3 Michael Carvella (865)212-9774 DISTRICT 4 Anthony Hancock (865)293-9232 DISTRICT 5 Shawanda Perkins (423)385-9869 DISTRICT 6 Scott Price (931)455-7198 DISTRICT 7 Ashley Evett (847)338-0580 DISTRICT 8 Kawanda Braxton* (615)554-6286 DISTRICT 9 Theresa L. Wagner (270)776-1467 DISTRICT 10 Larry Proffitt (423)608-7855 DISTRICT 11 Wendy R. Bowers (731)645-8595 DISTRICT 12 Suzie May (731)779-9329 DISTRICT 13 Ernestine King (901)590-8188 DISTRICT 14 Tiffany Reed (901)412-2759 DISTRICT 15 Tom Emens (901)277-0578 ADMINISTRATOR EAST Johnny Henry (865)712-3199 ADMINISTRATOR MIDDLE Julie Hopkins (615)822-5742 ADMINISTRATOR WEST Vacancy HIGHER EDUCATION Clinton Smith* (901)230-4914 BLACK CLASSROOM TEACHER EAST Paula Hancock (865)694-1691 BLACK CLASSROOM TEACHER MIDDLE Kenneth Martin (615)876-1948 BLACK CLASSROOM TEACHER WEST Sarah Kennedy-Harper (901)416-4582 STATE SPECIAL SCHOOLS Vacancy NEW TEACHER CandraClariette (615)298-8053 ESP Stephanie Bea (901)265-4540 TN NEA DIRECTOR Melanie Buchanan* (615)305-2214 TN NEA DIRECTOR Diccie Smith (901)482-0627 TN NEA DIRECTOR Diane Lillard (423)715-0568 STEA MEMBER Parris Malone (901)406-9188 TN RETIRED Gerald Lillard (423)473-9400 * Executive Committee


UniServ Staff contact information can be found on page 12 or by scannig the Quick Response code below.


September 2013

Class is Fun With Ms. Brown


he moment you enter Sherry (Beth) Brown’s class at Grundy County High School, it’s easy to be overtaken with a sense of ease and a desire to engage in a class discussion. It could be the altitude and the fresh air (the school sits atop the ridge close to the Savage Gulf State Natural area), but it’s most likely due to Brown’s classroom presence and her cool, collected demeanor and focus on her students’ needs. “On page 12, which is the left side of your interactive notebook, I want you to jot this down, why do you think Truth keeps repeating the phrase ‘Aint’t I a woman?’ This is going to guide our third read,” Brown says, pacing through the classroom while making sure every student has the resources to tackle the task at hand. Before she reaches the board, she picks up a sheet of paper from the floor and hands out markers. On today’s agenda is continuing Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech and class discussion. The questions raised by African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist Isabella Baumfree are sure to get the students talking. During class, students discuss the speech in subgroups, report out to the whole class and grasp the rhetorical devices used in the text as

well as the author’s purpose. At the end of the class, Brown invites students to attach notes to the board entitled “What Stuck With You?” A member of Grundy Co. EA since 2001, Brown is the recipient of the California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence, one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for public school educators. As one of 36 award recipients nationwide, she will be honored at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala to be held in Washington, DC on February 7, 2014. Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the gala attracts more than 850 of the nation’s leaders from public education, philanthropy and the private sector. “We give these awards annually to honor and promote excellence in education and to elevate the profession. Educators like Beth Brown are critical to their students’ academic success, and they deserve national recognition,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We are thrilled that California Casualty has joined us again this year to pay tribute to educators who are making such a difference in the lives of students in classrooms across the

country.” Nominated by the Tennessee Education Association, Brown will be featured on the NEA Foundation’s website and her school will receive a $650 award. Having jumped head-first into the Common Core curriculum, Brown says as she talks to her students about implementing Common Core and what it looks like for them in the classroom, her students appreciate the philosophy behind the change. “They recognize the benefits of digging deeper in a text, of reading with a specific purpose in mind,” Brown says. “I have already heard multiple times this year, ‘I understand that so much better after reading it a third time.’ Students are also learning about themselves as learners, which I believe will benefit them in the long run.” To Brown, self-reflection is a key component of success as an educator. “Whether or not I agree with all of the aspects of Common Core, I must admit that it is causing me to engage in serious self-reflection and not to become complacent in my role as an educator,” she says.


Poll: Americans Unfamiliar With Common Core According to a recent survey by the Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup, a majority of Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards and dissatisfaction with standardized testing in schools is growing. The Common Core, which was voluntarily adopted by most states, consists of English and math standards establishing what children should learn each year from kindergarten through 12th grade. The standards were intended to ensure students graduate from high school prepared to enter college or begin careers, as well as to provide some uniformity in education among the states. According to an August article by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the survey found that 62 percent of those surveyed had never heard of the standards. Even among those with children in public schools, only 45 percent had heard of the Common Core. Only 22 percent of respondents said testing helped the performance of their local school, down from 28 percent in 2007. Another 36 percent went further, saying that testing was hurting school performance.

In a significant development, Americans are also growing wary of using students’ standardized tests to evaluate teachers. In just one year, the percentage of respondents who oppose using tests for teacher evaluations grew from 47 percent to 58 percent.

Americans are also growing wary of using students’ standardized tests to evaluate teachers. Even those who said they had heard of the Common Core had false impressions of the standards. Some agreed that the Common Core will create standards in all academic areas, is based on a blend of state standards or is a mandate of the



Conference November 1-2, Murfreesboro Look for more information delivered to your mailbox in the coming weeks about this exciting event, or go to 4

September 2013

federal government—all of which are false. William J. Bushaw, executive director of PDK International, a professional association for educators based in Arlington, Va., said he was surprised how many Americans have not heard of the Common Core. “State and local education leaders have been very focused on implementing the standards and working on the new assessments,” Bushaw said. “It really wasn’t until less than a year ago that groups suddenly raised criticism against the standards. It’s my opinion that the state and local leaders were caught off guard by that.” The Common Core has critics on both the left and right. Conservative critics say it is an intrusion from the federal government. (While the standards were adopted by the states, the Obama administration has strongly supported the effort.) Some critics on the left have expressed concerns about the testing associated with the standards, arguing that the tests are too difficult or that teachers should not be evaluated based on student test scores.

Tennessee Education in the News Nashville’s teachers union votes no confidence in state education chief

The Tennessean September 14, 2013 Tennessee educators fired a second salvo at Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman on Friday as Nashville’s teachers union announced a vote of no confidence in the beleaguered state leader. At the same time, a letter from school superintendents asking Gov. Bill Haslam to put the brakes on Huffman’s polices is continuing to gain momentum while its author solicits more signatures. The Metro Nashville Education Association, Nashville’s teachers union, voted Thursday night to openly oppose Huffman’s leadership and threaten Haslam with political fallout if he continues to support Huffman’s policy changes. Haslam has announced his candidacy for a second term. The Tennessee Education Association, a statewide counterpart to the Metro teachers union, declined to comment on the MNEA vote, although it has been battling Huffman’s policy changes for months. “This is craziness,” said Stephen Henry, MNEA president. “We’ve done more to deform education than to reform education.”

TN school superintendents ask Gov. Haslam to rein in Commissioner Huffman The Jackson Sun September 13, 2013 In an unprecedented move, school directors across Tennessee are calling for the governor and legislature to put the brakes on Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and his reform ideas. The superintendents are tired of being treated like stumbling blocks on Huffman’s road to reform and want their opinions to be heard, according to a letter that about 60 of them signed this week and will deliver to state officials. Dan Lawson, author of the letter and director of Tullahoma City Schools , stopped short of calling the document a vote of no confidence but said many of Huffman’s moves are “counterproductive and hurtful” to the educators on the ground in local schools. “We are not content with the current leadership and feel that we are not best serving our state in this manner,” Lawson wrote in the letter. He and the others want Huffman’s boss, Gov. Bill Haslam, to put a stop to the changes and assess progress before making more changes. If Haslam won’t agree to rein in his appointee, the group hopes the state legislature will be able to help during the next session.

Teachers Urged to Renew Licenses Before March 2014 The State Board of Education voted 6-3 in August to approve its controversial plan to tie licensure advancement and renewal to teacher evaluations and TVAAS data, but delayed its implementation by one year, until August 2015. The board acknowledged the many concerns about the proposal as it now stands and made a commitment to further study the plan and amend it as-needed over the coming year. While TEA would have preferred the board had voted down the current proposal, this outcome is still a win for Tennessee teachers. The vote is evidence that the voices and concerns of educators were heard and considered. While some Tennessee lawmakers are already talking about reversing the board’s decision legislatively, TEA encourages teachers whose 10-year professional licenses will be in the sixth year of validity by March 2014 to submit their licenses for renewal by spring of next year. “According to our calculations, 40 percent of Tennessee’s teachers will be able to renew their license for an additional 10 years under the current rules,” said TEA President Gera Summerford. “This means the new measures coming into effect in 2015 won’t apply to them for 10 more years if they apply to renew their license in the early spring of 2014. We encourage TEA members to contact their UniServ coordinators with questions about license renewal.” The current license renewal and advancement policy, which will remain in place until August 2015, states that “for all educators holding a Professional License based on a Master’s degree or higher with at least five years of acceptable experience during the 10-year validity period of the license (ex: 2003 to 2013), no renewal points are required – only verification of that experience is needed. If all experience has been in Tennessee public school systems, no verification by the applicant is required.” Currently, if a teacher has five years left on his or her license, it’s eligible for renewal for another 10 years. But don’t be fooled by the Board of Education’s delay of the new rules until August 2015. Due to the intricacies of the state’s rulemaking process, the board gave life to a new rule that would exempt the majority of current licenses from renewal under the old rules. That rule is expected to go into effect next spring. Teachers currently holding an apprentice license with three years of experience are encouraged to ask their principal to recommend them for a professional license. For example, if a teacher holding an apprentice license reaches three years of teaching experience in March 2014, they should ask their principal to recommend them for a professional license under the old rules. “Generally, the State Board of Education votes on rules and policy at the same time and they are the same,” said Jim Wrye, TEA head of government relations. “When the board voted to tie professional licenses to student test scores, they delayed implementation of the policy, but they also voted on an obscure rule that makes teacher licenses which don’t expire by August 2015 ineligible for renewal under the old rules. That wasn’t brought up in the conference-call meeting and it’s certainly not the way public business should be done.” Still, Wrye said the rule won’t go into effect until spring 2015, which leaves teachers with eligible licenses a relatively short window to apply for renewal. It takes about a month to renew a professional license. Until the new changes are implemented, the board stated publicly that it will work with all stakeholders and amend the current plan to come up with a more appropriate method for issuing and renewing teacher licenses. Teachers can be

confident that TEA will be there every step of the way in the coming year to make sure the interests of educators continue to be represented. TEA’s biggest concerns with the new licensure policy remain the use of TVAAS estimates for license advancement and renewal, the dual standards for tested and non-tested teachers, and the complete removal of continuing education requirements.


Common Core: Lessons Learned


s Tennessee’s teachers work to adapt to the new Common Core State Standards, we’ve reached out to several practitioners to see how they are making it work. The consensus – as with any new curriculum, CCSS changes bring exciting opportunities, but also a few challenges. Teachers say the key is to identify problems early and let the administrators, as well as the State Department of Education, know where things can be improved. For Melanie Hazen, who teaches English/language arts at Montgomery Central High School in the Clarksville-Montgomery School System, the biggest challenge so far this year has been addressing the needs of students taking her Standard English I class. “The new standards are challenging them already,” Hazen says. “I can tell by their reaction to the kind of work we’re doing, they’re not necessarily used to it.” Hazen says during the first week of school, her students walked in with no experience in writing long paragraphs or citing evidence, so she started out by teaching them an expanded sentence structure, explaining how they can go into a story and use words as evidence. She says it was a new idea to them. While this wouldn’t be a problem for Hazen’s Advanced Placement English 4 students, she says the switch to the new, higher-order thinking requires her to slow down and show her students in Standard English I what the new requirements are and change

6  September 2013

their way of thinking. While prior year’s end-of-course exams didn’t require AP-style skills, all of Hazen’s students are expected to have them during the new school year due to the gradual switch to CCSS. Hazen says it helped to have an extensive staff development course put together by the local school system during the summer. “Over three days, teachers of all academic subjects – history, math, science and English – came to learn the new standards. It was very helpful to get ready for the switchover,” she says. To advance their CCSS skills, Montgomery Central High School teachers get together in small staff development meetings or during faculty meetings. “Our principal is very good,” Hazen says. “She communicates most information by email. Most of the actual meetings this year have been focused on Common Core.” At the most recent meeting, Hazen and colleagues went through an exercise of writing a text-based question to help students understand their texts better. “In history, the whole subject is an informational text,” Hazen says. “In English, we haven’t done a lot of that. We have a more balanced approach to the kind of

plans we’re doing. We’re doing a lot of things around having common language.” Working on things like addressing the writing component and incorporating more subject-specific writing has been a slow transition for Hazen, partially because teachers are still expected to teach a part of the old state standards along with Common Core. “I don’t like having a mixture of Common Core standards and the old standards,” Hazen says. “Because they will be on our end-of-course exams at the end of the year, we still have to teach both, but I would prefer to make the switch to Common Core and be done with it. The people in charge probably want us to switch gradually.” Hazen is also concerned about the student outcomes going forward. “I think it’s going to be a big leap for a lot of us,” she says. “During the summer training, when we saw a sample of what a test would look like under Common Core, it seemed like a huge jump in expectations. There’ s going to be a big drop-off in test scores. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but we have kids who are not ready for this. We’ve been propping them up in credit recovery, making sure more and more kids graduate. We’ve been trying to help them along. I think when the actual switch happens, it’s going to be a tough year or two.” In the midst of challenges, Hazen’s English department is prepared to strive for excellence through vertical team development. As a result, ninth graders end up learning skills which will be required in the 10th grade, while 10th-grade teachers are aware of what their students need to learn in order to succeed in 11th grade. “Teachers in the same subject meet a couple of times a month to do long-range planning. Our ninth grade teacher group met last Thursday in lieu of the faculty meeting. It’s growing out of the push for Common Core. We have to be together as a department to make sure we keep the kids even and ready. That also helps because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel yourself. It’s been good for us to meet regularly and work together to make sure we fill in the gaps, to see what our freshmen need the most.” In Hazen’s observation, students starting school under Common Core are going to be better off. “When they get to high school, they’ll be prepared,” she says. “The kids entering high school now probably feel like they’re behind the eight-ball. It’s a big adjustment for these kids and their teachers.” Jessica Holman, principal of Inskip Elementary in Knox Co., says her teachers are teaching the content deeper than they have before.

“It’s a huge jump in expectations. There’s going to be a big dropoff in scores... for a year or two.”

With fewer standards, teachers are expected to develop a sharper focus, but Holman says because her school is still expected to administer TCAP this year, the focus hasn’t been solely on Common Core. “In the past, student skills were built in isolation,” Holman says. “Now the curriculum is building on what the kids have learned and have already experienced. My kindergarten and first graders spend weeks and weeks on building a foundation, on building up number sense, on adding and subtracting, which is going to build coherence. If my kindergartners this year don’t master these math skills, it’s going to affect them in the first grade. We’re thinking across grade levels.” When it comes to reading and language arts, Holman says the focus is on the text complexity, informational texts. The trend is moving away from just reading stories in elementary grades. At Holman’s school, teachers meet twice a week for student-teacher improvement meetings. They plan their lessons, talk about different strategies and learn about the new standards. “We have instructional coaches who support those efforts,” Holman says. “We have Common Core teams who went through training. Several of my teachers went out of state to observe schools which have been on CCSS for a long time.” Still, Holman says the training for school administrators developed by the State Department of Education could have been better. “I was not impressed with it,” she says. “While the principals who trained us came from Knox County, I knew most of them and they are great people, the materials weren’t good.” Holman says the Common Core leadership training course began in January 2013 and by the time it ended in May, she felt there was not enough information on how to support teachers under Common Core. “They spent the first couple of months talking about what a big shift it is,” Holman says. “That was obvious. I would have preferred to go through the same training with the teachers, to know the same things they know.” Holman says she heard that teachers liked the CCSS math training, while the English/language arts teachers didn’t enjoy theirs. Emily Clay, a math teacher at Hazelwood Elementary School in Clarksville-Montgomery Co., says her training was good, but the way CCSS is being implemented concerns her. “The standards themselves are not clearly measurable, not easily quantifiable, and they don’t state clearly what they mean,” Clay says. “If I were to create an assessment to match CCSS, there would be multiple ways which might or might not match those standards. They are a little fuzzy.” Clay says the new standards were sold to teachers as a way to narrow curriculum and allow time for deeper understanding, but, according to the rumblings she hears from lower grade-level teachers, CCSS have actually increased the number of things that children are supposed to master at a younger age.

For Clay and her colleagues, this raises a lot of concerns because students need to master the basics before jumping into higher, more complex skills. “I don’t know what exactly I’m expected to teach,” Clay says. “I don’t understand how some test maker in the ivory tower will interpret those standards.” Clay has observed that in the so-called Math Tasks under Common Core, a constructive response assessment, there are a few good and challenging problem-solving types of questions, while others are just “convoluted and complicated word problems.” “My concern is when we’re setting out with the goal of tricking students, we are going to have a 100percent success rate of tricking them,” Clay says. Clay says she would prefer to have the nationally normed PARCC test over a current criterion-referenced TCAP test because currently, when Tennessee students are being compared to students in other states, “it’s a statistical manipulation.”

“Now the curriculum is building on what the kids have learned. We’re thinking across grade levels.” This hits close to home for Clay because she teaches in a community in a permanent state of transition. With children from military families and close to the Tennessee-Kentucky border, Clay is worried that the stated goals of CCSS aren’t practically aligned with helping her students succeed. “We were told Common Core would help us because we’re a highly transient community, children would be coming from out-of-state and would be at a similar place with the national curriculum, and testing would become more genuine,” Clay says. “Instead, I see a lot of uncertainty about the interpretation of those standards. I see that ‘convoluted’ has become synonymous with ‘rigorous’ and it shouldn’t be the case. It’s alarming.” Clay teaches fifth-graders, who between the ages of 10 and 11 know quite well the difference between a genuine math problem and a trick question. When Clay recently asked one of her brightest students to draw a picture to explain how she solved a math problem, as required by CCSS, the student balked. “She said, ‘Why should I draw a picture to show that I understand this math problem? I just solved it. This is ridiculous, Miss Clay.’ She is a very bright student and she didn’t draw that picture. At times like these, I don’t know if I have a good answer for them,” Clay says. “This problem came from the TN Core website. I see more children expressing their

displeasure at the way they’re being asked to do their school work.” An experienced teacher and CMCEA member of 13 years, Clay understands that every curriculum change is difficult. She wants to be able to explain to her students why certain things are required of them, but those resources aren’t available at present. Clay has heard similar lamentations at trainings. When her fellow teachers ask their students to draw pictures and write explanations, some students refuse. “I use drawing in my teaching; it’s absolutely a proven strategy,” Clay says. “But when my students are required to explain their thinking in three different ways, nine out of ten will solve the equation mathematically, and then they will try to draw a picture to fit their solution. All students have different skills, and some really can’t draw, so a kid who solved a problem well but failed at drawing ends up looking like he doesn’t have a clue.” To hear Clay say it, a lot of things need to be ironed out in our interpretation of Common Core. “We do this every time we have a curriculum shift: we set the bar at impossible,” she says. “It’s very hard for teachers who are dependent on those test scores. It’s destroying teacher morale. The kids who are learning in that situation, you have to wonder what they are missing when they are aiming at impossible. It’s certainly a mistake to equate ‘hard’ with ‘good’.” According to Clay, the concern in Montgomery Co. is not because teachers are being told what to teach and when. “I know a lot of places in Tennessee are upset about the prescribed curriculum,” she says. “We’re used to this. My fear is that we’re not interpreting this in a way that’s realistic for our kids. I’ve got a student who just arrived from another country. He’s brilliant, but he has to solve a word problem where he’s expected to estimate to the nearest thousand and he doesn’t even understand our alphabet.” Allen Nichols, who teaches history to 11th and 12th grade students at Central Academic Magnet in Rutherford Co., says Common Core standards haven’t hit his department yet. “Social studies will ultimately support ELA Common Core,” he says. “Our students will have to master the analysis of primary documents, secondary sources and historical documents. We won’t feel the effects until next year. Right now we’re teaching to our current standards while doing our best to support ELA.” During the time of transition, Nichols says he and his colleagues are preparing for the coming changes. “The days of questions like ‘Who was the first president’ are gone,” Nichols says. “Our students will have to read the text and truly grasp its meaning. We’ve been collaborating with other teachers on how to best teach this.” Nichols says it was helpful to attend social studies seminars during the summer. Organized by the State Department of Education, those trainings gave him the right strategies to jump into CCSS next year.


The State Board Voted. What’s Next? Soon after the State Board of Education approved the new policy of granting and renewing professional teaching licenses based on student test scores during a conferencecall vote in August, some Tennessee lawmakers said they intend to reverse the board’s decision legislatively. Under the new policy, approved in August in a 6-3 vote but delayed until August 2015, if a teacher scores a 2 out of 5 in either of the categories in the two previous years, they could be put on probation or even lose their teaching license if the scores don’t improve. Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, called the move by the state board “misguided.� “I can’t imagine using something as intangible as they are to take someone’s license,� Crowe told The Johnson City Press. A member of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee, Crowe said TCAP (Tennessee ValueAdded Assessment System) was designed to help administrators and teachers track student progress. “Then the legislature decided to utilize that system as part of the teacher evaluations. Now it’s just being used too much.� State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, told The Johnson City Press he is “absolutely taking a look at being the prime sponsor� of the bill to reverse the state board’s new policy in the House. “A lawyer doesn’t get their license renewed based on the number of cases won; doctors don’t get licenses for the number of patients they help. I don’t understand why we’re doing that for teachers,� Hill said. Joining the chorus against the controversial measures passed by the State Board of Education, school boards in Johnson City and Union County recently adopted resolutions to oppose the new changes to the licensure policy and the state minimum salary schedule. “It is the belief of the Johnson City Board of Education that tying teacher licensure renewal to performance based on value-added assessment scores is inequitable and counterproductive,� read the Johnson City school board’s resolution. The board said it wants to “employ the most professional and effective teachers available in order to provide the most effective and highest quality education to the students of Johnson City,� but the teachers and other education employees “continue to face increasing expectations in regard to student achievement...� As part of its challenge of the state board licensure proposal, TEA convened a news 8  September 2013

conference in mid-August. Gera Summerford, TEA president and Sevier County math teacher, along with TEA General Counsel Rick Colbert and Vanderbilt University Professor Dale Ballou, presented evidence of flaws in student growth data that could lead to a qualified teacher mistakenly losing his or her license under the new proposal. TVAAS data from Cynthia Watson, a Weakley County teacher, shows how student growth data for one school year continues to change for up to three years based on what the state calls “recalculation.� Watson saw her growth score swing wildly from the highest possible score of 5 one year to the lowest possible score of 1 the next.

TEA General Counsel Rick Colbert and TEA President Gera Summerford respond to media questions following a press conference about the dangers of tying student test scores to professional licenses of teachers.

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Tennessee’s Teachers, Business Leaders Team Up To Spread Good News About Our Public Schools Start keeping an eye – and ear – out for TEA’s new TV, print and radio ads this month. Thanks to an NEA advertising grant, TEA launched a new statewide advertising campaign called “Pencils to Paychecks” featuring TEA members and small business owners who graduated from Tennessee public schools. The goal of Pencils to Paychecks is to connect local public schools and educators with the communities they serve. As you know, a strong, successful community is built on a foundation of strong, successful public schools – making everyone, not just educators, accountable for the success of Tennessee’s children. Receiving the grant money from NEA provided an opportunity for TEA to combat all of the negative rhetoric surrounding public schools and put out a positive message that Tennessee educators are doing great things every single day. TEA knows our public schools are producing thousands of graduates each year who later become the lifeblood of our communities, and it is time for business leaders and community members to know it, too. To get this message out statewide, TEA planned a comprehensive TV, print and radio advertising

campaign that will run September through March. The TV commercials will air in Chattanooga (WRCB), Knoxville (WBIR), Memphis (WREG), Nashville (NewsChannel 5) and Tri-Cities (WJHL). Print ads will appear in business journals in the metro markets and in community newspapers in rural markets. Radio ads will air on public radio stations and on the Titans Radio Network which airs on 58 stations statewide. The Titans Radio buy includes a special “TEA Scholar Athlete of the Week” feature during every Titans football game. A different high school senior will be honored each week for his or her outstanding academic and athletic achievements. Each student will receive a plaque signed by Titans’ Head Coach Mike Munchak and TEA President Gera Summerford. Visit to see the ads and learn more about the campaign. The campaign’s print and television ads feature TEA members and small business owners who graduated from Tennessee public schools. One of the ads features a father and daughter from Robertson County. Jerry Duncan is a graduate of Robertson County Public Schools and now owns his own

business, Lee’s Building Center. His daughter, Katelyn Duncan, teaches math at East Robertson High School and was recently honored as her school’s New Teacher of the Year. The second ad features Allan Benton, a former educator who now owns Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams in Monroe County. Best known for his bacon, Benton has become a household name not only in Tennessee, but nationwide. Prior to starting his own business, Benton was a school counselor in Monroe County and an active member of TEA. Alongside Benton in the television commercials is Metro Nashville teacher Sheila Garcia. Sheila teaches at Isaac Litton Middle School – the location for the ad shoots – and also serves on the Metro Nashville Education Association executive board.

Get Involved in the Campaign!

Join TEA in spreading the word about the great things happening in Tennessee’s public schools. Share the link to the ‘Pencils to Paychecks’ website, www.PencilsToPaychecks. org, with your friends and family through social media. TEA is also looking for more quotes to include on the website. Ask a local business owner who graduated from a public school to submit a quote to appear on www. Quotes from educators and business owners may be submitted to Chris Watson at


Visit to learn more about the great things happening in your local public schools. 9


September 2013

Tennessee Courts Uphold Teachers’ Rights in Knox, Sumner Cases The Knox County Chancery Court vindicated eight tenured teachers who were suspended without pay and a hearing by the Knox County school board. As a result of the ruling, the Knox Co. Board of Education has paid more than $25,000.00 to the teachers, including interest. The court ruled that it was illegal for the Knox County Director of Schools James McIntyre to suspend the teachers on administrative leave without pay indefinitely pending an investigation. The tenured teachers and Knox Co. EA members were suspended by McIntyre for disciplinary purposes. According to the opinion issued by the court, the school board did not follow the rules set out in Tennessee Code Annotated. “Clearly, the superintendent cannot suspend a licensed, tenured teacher... and that statute restricts his ability to do so during the pendency of the investigation, the hearing before the board of education, or the appeal taken by the employee to Chancery Court.” The judge ruled that the teachers “were entitled to the statutory hearing prior to suspension.” “We are grateful that our members were vindicated,” said KCEA president Tanya Coats. “This case is a great example of why we fight for the rights of our members.”

Following the court decision, the parties agreed that no further disciplinary action would be taken by the school board against the teachers. “These teachers’ willingness to stand up to the superintendent and the Board of Education will have far-reaching impact on all teachers both in Knox County and across the state,” said Courtney Wilbert, attorney with Kay, Griffin, Enkema & Colbert, who represented the Knox Co. teachers on behalf of the TEA. “The judge refused to allow the superintendent and the school board to circumvent the statutory requirements found in Tennessee law, requirements that were designed to protect tenured teachers.”

Sumner County Wins Insurance Lawsuit Last year, a Sumner County chancery judge ruled in favor of the Sumner County Education Association in its lawsuit against the Sumner County Board of Education. SCEA filed a lawsuit filed in 2011 after the school board decided to impose a unilateral increase in Sumner County teachers’ share of their insurance premiums. The court ruled that the school board’s actions were unlawful and ordered the board to repay nearly $1 million in wrongfully withheld premiums to Sumner teachers. Those still working in Sumner County schools are being paid by a premium adjustment over 12 months ending on October 15, 2013. Teachers who have left the system were to be paid in a lump sum.

Following the court ruling, SCEA President Alzenia Walls called the decision “an important victory for the teachers of Sumner County and the Sumner County Education Association.” “The school board chose to ignore its obligations to its teachers and SCEA, leaving us no other option than to file this lawsuit to stand up and fight for the benefits promised to teachers,” Walls said. “We feel vindicated by this outcome and hope it reminds teachers they still have a voice in Sumner County.” This is the second of two lawsuits filed by SCEA in 2011. The first lawsuit grew out of restrictions imposed by the Board of Education on the activities and communications of SCEA and its representatives. SCEA and Walls claimed that those restrictions violated the First Amendment and state law. Last December, the federal court issued an injunction against the board of education as a result of those restrictions. Earlier this year, the Sumner County Board of Education approved a settlement of the first lawsuit. “The resolution of these lawsuits enables SCEA and the Sumner County Board of Education to begin rebuilding our relationship,” Walls said. “We all want what is best for our students and teachers. Bringing closure to these matters allows us to all come together and work in the best interest of Sumner County schools and students.”


Need information, services? Tennessee Education Association 801 Second Avenue N., Nashville, TN 37201-1099 (615) 242-8392, (800) 342-8367, FAX (615) 259-4581

UniServ Coordinators Educate and advocate—Stephanie Fitzgerald of Memphis tells it like it is to Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman in 2011.

Advocacy Conference to Lift Up Teachers’ Spirits and for our students.” Conference sessions will tackle childhood poverty and student achievement, professional rights and responsibilities within the advocacy framework, ways to use collaborative conferencing to advance the Association’s agenda, instructional issues and social networking, not to mention an informative new look at the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System. A Chattanooga Times-Free Press writer will deliver the keynote address on Saturday. On-site conference registration will begin at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, and will continue on Saturday morning. Hotel check-in will be available after 4 p.m. on Friday. The conference will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday evening with the Early Bird session, and will end at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013. Please contact your local president if you wish to attend the conference and check back for conference details and registration at

2013-14 teach publishing schedule

The Tennessee Education Association’s 2013 Fall Advocacy Conference will connect the urgent battles in the state legislature with the concerns of school districts and will equip teachers with the tools to fight for public education jobs going forward. Dubbed “Statehouse, Courthouse, Schoolhouse and You!” the conference will be held on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1-2, 2013, at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Expected to draw hundreds of teachers from Memphis to Mountain City, the conference will open with the TEA Pink-Out, a breast cancer awareness event. A government relations and legislative town hall meeting will conclude the evening on Friday. “With the implementation and pending enactment of various “education reforms,” this is a critical and challenging time for our profession,” said TEA President Gera Summerford. “The TEA Advocacy Conference will focus on skill development and strategies needed to promote the collective voice of Tennessee’s teachers as advocates for our profession


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District 1 — Harry Farthing, P.O. Box 298, Elizabethton, TN 37644; phone: (423)262-8035, fax: (866)739-0949; Assns: Carter, Hancock, Hawkins, Rogersville, Johnson, Sullivan, Bristol, Elizabethton, Kingsport. District 2 — Jennifer Gaby, P.O. Box 70, Afton, TN 37616; (423)234-0700, fax: (423)234-0708; Assns: Cocke, Newport, Greene, Greeneville, Unicoi, Washington, Hamblen, Johnson City. District 3 — Tina Parlier, P.O. Box 70288, Knoxville, TN 37938-0288, (865)6881175, fax: (865)518-3104; Assns: Claiborne, Grainger, Jefferson, Sevier, Union, Scott, Campbell, Oneida (in Scott Co.). District 4 — Vacancy, Assns: Knox,TSD, District 5— Jason White, P.O. Box 5502, Oak Ridge, TN 37831; (615)521-1333, fax: (865)200-5254; Assns: Anderson, Clinton, Oak Ridge, Blount, Alcoa, Maryville, Lenoir City, Loudon. District 6 — Jim Jordan, P.O. Box 4878, Cleveland, TN 37320; phone: (423)472-3315, fax: (855)299-5674; Assns: Bradley, Cleveland, McMinn, Athens, Etowah, Meigs, Monroe, Sweetwater, Polk, Rhea-Dayton, Roane. District 7 — Theresa Turner,HCEA 4655 Shallowford Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37411; (423)485-9535, fax: (423)485-9512; Assns: Hamilton. District 8 — Chris Brooks, P.O. Box 3629, Chattanooga, TN 37404; phone: (615)332-2636, fax: (866)483-2514; Assns: Clay, Cumberland, Fentress, Jackson, Morgan, Pickett, Putnam, Overton, York Institute, TN Tech. Univ, Bledsoe, Sequatchie,Van Buren, White. District 9 — Jackie Pope, 2326 Valley Grove Dr., Murfreesboro, TN 37128;phone: (615)898-1060, fax: (615) 898-1099, Assns: Bedford, Moore, Cannon, DeKalb, Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Manchester, Tullahoma, Marion, Warren. District 10 — Jeff Garrett, P.O. Box 1326, Lebanon, TN 37088-1326; (615)630-2605, fax (855)3208755—; Assns: Rutherford, Murfreesboro, Sumner, MTSU, Macon, Smith, Trousdale. District 11 — Cheryl Richardson-Bradley, P.O. Box 354, Goodlettsville, TN 37070; (615)630-2601, fax: (888)519-4879; Assns: Wilson, Lebanon, FSSD, Williamson. District 12 — Miley Durham, P.O. Box 10, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464; phone: (931)766-7874, fax: (913) 762-9391— Assns: Giles, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Fayetteville, Maury, Wayne, Marshall, Perry. District 13 — Forestine Cole, Vacancy, Metro Nashville, 531 Fairground Court, Nashville, TN 37211; (615)726-1499, fax: (855)299-5837 (Cole), (855)299-4968 (Smith); Assns: Metro Nashville, TN School For The Blind. District 14 — Rhonda Thompson, TEA 801 Second Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37201; phone: (615)354-3305, fax: (888)519-7331; Assns: Clarksville-Montgomery, Robertson. District 15 — Maria Uffelman, P.O. Box 99, Cumberland City, TN 37050; phone: (931)827-3333, fax: (855)299-4925; Assns: Benton, West Carroll, Central, Clarksburg, Huntingdon, McKenzie, Henry, Paris, Houston, Humphreys, Stewart, Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman. District 16 — Lorrie Butler, P.O. Box 387, Henderson, TN 38340; (731)989-4860, fax: (855)299-4591; Assns: Chester, Hardeman, West TSD, Henderson, Lexington, Jackson-Madison, McNairy, Decatur, Hardin. District 17 — Karla Carpenter, P.O. Box 177, Brunswick, TN 38014; (901)590-2543, fax: (855)299-4892; —Assns: Crockett, Dyer, Dyersburg, Gibson, Humboldt, Milan, Trenton, Haywood, Lake, Lauderdale, Obion, Union City, Tipton Weakley. District 18 — Zandra Foster, 3897 Homewood Cove, Memphis, TN 38128; (901)377-9472, fax: (855)320-8737;—Assns:, Shelby, Fayette. District 19 — Assns: Memphis Education Association — Ken Foster, Executive Director; MEA UniServ Directors: Susanne Jackson, Terri Jones, Tom Marchand, 126 South Flicker Street, Memphis, TN 38104; (901)4540966, fax: (901)454-9979; Assn: Memphis.

Scan this Quick Response code for UniServ contact information and photos. 12  September 2013

September2013 teach  

Licensure renewal intel, best practices from Beth Brown, Common Core poll and nuggets of wisdom from colleagues, TEA’s new Pencils to Payche...

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