Thursday, September 12, 2013 - by Rep. Eric Watson
Tennessee has taken major steps in education reform over the past few years. We owe it to our children to provide an outstanding public education. At the same time, we must recognize that the biggest impact on the quality of education comes from our teachers. The time has come to slow down the constant reforms in education and closely examine recent changes. Failure to recognize the value of our teachers may result in a shortage of new teachers. Young people will soon begin to choose other professions rather than face the unreasonable expectations of education reform.
Teachers are under more pressure than ever to perform in the classroom. Recently the State Board of Education made a decision to tie the renewal of teachers' professional licenses to test scores. Test scores are one factor used in determining the effectiveness of a teacher. Results from just one student can have a negative effect on test scores. Public schools are in the business of educating all children with vastly different abilities. Teachers are called upon to educate children from ideal homes as well as those from unfortunate circumstances.
While some “education experts” claim a child’s home environment does not impact learning, experience tells a different story. Our teachers have the training to facilitate different teaching methods that adapt to the learning needs of all children. They do this every day, and should not also be forced to meet some arbitrary standard established by the education bureaucracy. It is unfair to make test results the only evaluation of a teacher.
Most importantly, teachers need to be respected for the impact they have on the lives of children. That impact simply cannot be measured on a standardized test. While I respect the opinion of the state school board, I will join with other state legislators and closely examine the policy adopted by the board.
We must also revisit the increased demand of paper work placed upon teachers and school administrators. Recent reform legislation currently pushes to collect data at every turn. This is valuable time lost in the business of educating our children and will begin to have a negative impact on education outcomes. Now is the time to let teachers know that we place great value on the role they play in the lives of our children.. We must examine recent reforms closely and listen to the input of those that are working in our schools. Let us work to improve and refine recent educational initiatives.
Rep. Eric Watson