VOL. 133 | NO. 22 | Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Boyd Hears Concerns About Testing, BEP Funding, Graduation Rates
By Bill Dries
When Republican contender for Tennessee governor Randy Boyd came to Christian Brothers University last week for a roundtable discussion with several dozen teachers and other educators, he walked into a lively exchange.
“I came here to listen, not to talk,” Boyd said at the outset.
About halfway into the scheduled hour-long session Thursday, Jan. 25, that went closer to 90 minutes, Hillary Anderson, a kindergarten teacher in inner-city Memphis, read off a list of a dozen tests she gives each year to her students. Some are given one on one with each student at an age when children have no familiarity with taking tests.
“It seems like the list gets longer,” Anderson told Boyd as other teachers in the group of 35 nodded and raised their hands to comment on the same point.
Karen Vogelsang, the teacher who helped organize the discussion at CBU, was quick to add that the tests are mandated by school districts – not all are required by the state of Tennessee.
When Boyd asked what was at the top of their “wish list” for education, one teacher answered, “freedom to be able to teach,” and several teachers applauded.
One Shelby County Schools high school teacher spoke of pressure to increase graduation percentages, saying the pursuit of a better rate is “like the holy grail.” She said she feels pressured toward the end of the school year to give failing students make-up-work packets.
“We’re setting them up for failure,” she said of the students. “And it all goes back to tests.”
Other teachers pushed for full state funding of the Basic Education Program – the state formula that determines the level of state funding each local school district gets.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has touted increases his administration has made in state funding despite not fully funding BEP. SCS is suing the state over the lack of full funding as it continues talks with the state toward a resolution.
Boyd noted that he’s never heard anyone involved in education say that the BEP works perfectly, but he believes the state can “find something that works a little better.”
On student testing, Boyd said the testing should perhaps be more “age appropriate.” He also said the state needs to “stay the course and not be constantly changing” education standards.
Boyd advocated “fixing what we’ve got and hold the course.”