All We Want for Christmas is…
- Full-funding for our schools: Classroom teachers and parents should not be forced to purchase items such as toilet paper, cleaning products, and Kleenex—but this is exactly what is happening across our state. (TN averages $9,300 dollars in per pupil funding and ranks 49th in the nation for overall funding of public schools.)
- Smaller class sizes so teachers can better accommodate the needs of individual learners.
- Wrap-around services in schools—including social workers, health clinics, and food banks—that attempt to remediate the multiple ways poverty negatively affects a child’s life and educational progress.
- Teachers who are treated with respect by administrators and lawmakers: We believe lawmakers can show respect to our teachers by replacing TVAAS with a more transparent and fair system of measurement and by overhauling the overbearing TEAM evaluation system. (Colorado is developing an innovative method of evaluating teachers that appears to be promising.)
- An elected—not appointed--state Education Commissioner and Board of Education: We believe that our state Education Commissioner and BOE have been unresponsive to the pleas of parents and teachers because they are not elected and, therefore, do not have an obligation to consider our concerns. It seems they are more concerned with answering to the wealthy special interest groups and lobbyists that seem intent upon dismantling the pubic education system. We deserve a direct voice in the decisions these people make about our children.
- A minimum of 30 minutes of recess for each child: Currently, there are many schools across the state that do not allow enough time for physical activity during the school day. (Our own elementary children are lucky if they receive 15 minutes a day of recess. We know of some schools that actually do not have recess for their students.) This is not only cruel, but it also runs counter toresearch that shows that physical activity improves learning and increases test scores.
- Administration of only 1-2 standardized tests a year: Metro Nashville teachers estimate that test preparation and administration take 30 days a year of instruction time from our children. Knox County and Hamilton County teachers estimate that their students lose 60 days a year to test prep/administration. That means that our children lose out of 2 to 3 school years of instruction between kindergarten and 12th grade. That is the equivalent of a child only attending school through the 9th or 10th grade. This is unacceptable and must stop now.
- An opt-out law that would allow parents to easily opt out of testing if #7 (see above) does not happen: Parents currently can opt their children out of immunizations, even though unimmunized children can introduce illnesses into a school that can infect other children and adults, even those who have been immunized. Yet parents who want to opt their children out of testing are told they are legally prohibited from doing so. Refusing testing for our children does not have the potential of causing physical harm (or even death) to other children or teachers like refusing immunizations does. Therefore, allowing parents to opt out of vaccinations, but not tests, seems hypocritical and incredibly unfair.
- A law that will protect our children’s test scores and demographic data from being “data mined.”: The federal law protecting our children’s educational data (FERPA) was weakened by the federal government, and 3rdparties can now access our children’s data without parental permission. And theRace to the Top application indicated that student data is being collected and tracked from kindergarten through 12th grade. Our children have become lab rats without our permission, and we believe that is an inherent violation of their (and our) right to privacy and due process.
10) Lawmakers who will listen to the consumers of public education—including parents, teachers, and students--before lobbyists. We, ultimately, are the people who most directly experience the effects of the decisions made by lawmakers. Lobbyists do not.
Thank you for reading our wish list, and we hope that you can help some of these wishes come true for all of the public school children, teachers, and parents of Tennessee in 2014. We hope your Christmas is wonderful and your new year is blessed.