NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In his “State of the State” speech last night before Tennessee’s General Assembly, Governor Bill Haslam left many teachers with unanswered questions.
“TEA is encouraged by the governor’s commitment to education funding and a proposed salary increase, but we still have concerns about his education agenda,” said Gera Summerford, Sevier County teacher and Tennessee Education Association president. “The delay in making changes to the evaluation system and his proposal to change class size mandates do not support our shared goal of improving student achievement.”
Summerford continued, “While I am pleased that Governor Haslam recognizes the need for a review of the evaluation system, to use his words, ‘We can’t put off until tomorrow what we should be doing today.’ Educators need relief from this flawed system sooner rather than later. They do not object to a rigorous evaluation, but they expect a fair one. We have now experienced a semester of full-scale implementation statewide. It’s time to build on what we’ve learned.”
“Though he didn’t address it last night, the governor’s proposal to eliminate the average class size mandates will undoubtedly increase class sizes across the state – and that is something our students simply cannot afford,” Summerford said. “If we truly intend to close the achievement gaps and help every child succeed, we must all make the decision to put student learning first.”
“At-risk students are particularly vulnerable if this proposal passes. Teachers, regardless of expertise, will not be able to provide the personal attention and differentiated teaching necessary to meet each student’s needs,” the TEA president continued.
“While Tennessee’s teachers support state leaders in the effort to improve student achievement, they remain adamant that increasing class sizes is counterproductive to that effort,” added Summerford. “Even if teachers could manage a larger class, no one can deny that it will result in less time and attention given to individual students.”