Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


We can challenge students, teachers without punishment

Drill. Drill. Drill. Test. Punish. Repeat.

This is the education system our current generation of children is experiencing. Our children are growing up in a time when all they know is the test-and-punish model that has ruled public education for too many years now.

Years of elected officials and administration leaders buying into the “education reform” movement have brought us to a place where our children and teachers are stressed, anxious and making themselves physically ill as a result of high-stakes testing in Tennessee. In the name of rigor and challenging students and teachers, reformers are destroying the joy of learning and teaching. 

But here is the thing – it doesn’t have to be this way! You know it, I know it, and elected officials are finally starting to realize it, too. It is time to bring the joy back to our classrooms. 

Educators have been successfully teaching and challenging children in our public schools for centuries, without creating an environment that is detrimental to our students. Teachers are motivated by their love for their students and their profession. There is no need to hang the weight of a high-stakes test around their necks, threatening their professional livelihood based on flawed testing data.

Statewide assessments have their place in public education. As a diagnostic tool, an assessment is a powerful tool in identifying gaps in knowledge, disparities between different communities and more. Assessments became a tool for punishment when the state tied so many high-stakes decisions to their outcomes. 

A TEA field staff recently told me a story of going into an elementary school to read to students. Three students came up to introduce themselves to her. In addition to their names, one student identified herself as “advanced” and the other two students identified themselves as “below basic” – completely unprompted.

I have experienced the same thing myself with teachers. I have lost count of the number of teachers who have said, “I’m a three,” or “I’m just a one.”

The state has placed these damaging labels on students and teachers. Labels that they are internalizing. Labels that have become part of their identities. No teacher or student should view themselves as “below basic” or “just a one.”

It is time to reclaim our classrooms and our profession. TEA will be working diligently this legislative session to greatly reduce or eliminate TVAAS in all high-stakes decisions, but we need your help! 

Once the session begins, The Advocate will resume its every-other-week print schedule to keep you informed of important actions you can take to advocate for your students and your profession.

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