Teacher voice

Here’s what one Tennessee teacher will be listening for in Haslam’s State of the State address

Erin Glenn teaches U.S. history at East Lake Academy of Fine Arts in Chattanooga. She is a Tennessee Educator Fellow with the State Collaborative on Reforming Education.

When eighth-grade history teacher Erin Glenn hears Gov. Bill Haslam’s State of the State address Monday night, she’ll be listening closely for what he says about education — not only for her own eighth-grade students in Chattanooga but for future teachers attending Tennessee’s teacher training programs.

A teacher at a Title I magnet school serving inner-city students, she’s especially interested in what Haslam will say about investments in career readiness, including state partnerships with business leaders to ensure that her students have the skills they’ll need after graduating from high school.

She also wants to know the progress of the state’s Ready to be Ready initiative, as well as how the state is using public feedback to improve its schools proposal under the new federal education law, the Every Students Succeeds Act.

Glenn has taught for a decade at the high school level and now teaches middle school U.S. history at East Lake Academy of Fine Arts in Hamilton County Schools. A Tennessee Educator Fellow with the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, she spoke with Chalkbeat over the weekend about Haslam’s upcoming address, in which he’ll set administration priorities for the upcoming year.

What specifically would you like to hear the governor say to Tennessee parents, educators and students about K-12 education?  

I would like the governor to remind listeners of the big picture — (how Tennessee’s) revised standards and assessment equips students with the skills and knowledge needed for post-secondary success. … Parents, educators, community leaders, business partners and stakeholders have a common interest — the success of all students beyond high school graduation. Recognizing the need to ensure our students’ preparedness, we are fortunate to have a statewide assessment, TNReady, that measures students’ proficiency and growth each year. Not only does this assessment reveal a student’s achievement from one year to the next, it is an assessment of skills needed for the workforce and military interests. Statewide accomplishments that enabled us to become the fastest growing state in the nation and rank 16th in science on the National Assessment of Education Progress will only continue with rigorous classroom instruction and examination of data provided in TNReady.

What are the most important ways that Gov. Haslam and the state legislature can improve our schools?

PHOTO: TN.gov
Gov. Bill Haslam delivers his 2016 State of the State address.

Equitable outcomes are not easily attained for underrepresented groups. Given the achievement gaps among demographic groups and sub-categories, additional supports are needed to address this population of students. In order to prepare rising educators to effectively address our underrepresented (students), targeted teacher preparation and supports are needed. As rising educators develop their teaching philosophies to prepare for their own classrooms, additional considerations are needed to equip them with the tools, strategies and practices critical to equity of underrepresented students.

What would you like Gov. Haslam to know specifically about your classroom and your school when setting the budget and policy for Tennessee public schools?

In years past, my eighth-grade students were the recipient of a “Know How To Go” grant that allowed them to tour one of four college campuses across the state. While this grant no longer exists, a renewed interest in firsthand college and career experiences beginning in middle school will provide early exposure for these considerations. It is during eighth grade that students apply to high schools aligned to specific subjects and possible career paths. As a result, this is an ideal time to allow them to tour college and career opportunities available within their communities and possibly the state. Financial supports that afford exposure to college and career possibilities, as early as middle school, will enable students to determine which high schools are best aligned to their long-term goals.

beyond high school

Tennessee leads nation in FAFSA filings for third straight year

PHOTO: TN.gov
Bill Haslam has been Tennessee's governor since 2011.

Equipping more Tennesseans with the tools to succeed after high school has been a hallmark of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration. And the efforts seem to be paying off as the governor heads into his final 18 months in office.

Haslam announced on Thursday that the state has set another new record for the number of high school seniors filing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA.

With 73.5 percent completing the form for the upcoming academic year — an increase of 3.2 percent from last year — Tennessee led the nation in FAFSA filings for the third straight year, according to the governor’s office.

The increase isn’t surprising, given that students had a longer period to fill out the form last year. In order to make the process more user-friendly, the FAFSA window opened on Oct. 1 instead of Jan. 1.

But the increase remains significant. The FAFSA filing rate is one indicator that more students are pursuing educational opportunities beyond a high school diploma.

Getting students ready for college and career has been a major focus under Haslam, a businessman and former Knoxville mayor who became governor in 2011. He launched his Drive to 55 initiative in 2013 with the goal that at least 55 percent of Tennesseans will have postsecondary degrees or other high-skill job certifications by 2025.

“The continued surge in FAFSA filing rates shows the Drive to 55 is changing the college-going culture in Tennessee,” Haslam said in a news release. “First-time freshman enrollment in Tennessee has grown 13 percent in the past two years and more students than ever are going to college. As a state, we have invested in making college accessible and open to everyone and students are hearing the message.”

According to calculations from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Tennessee led all states by a large margin this year. The closest states or districts were Washington D.C., 64.8 percent; Delaware, 61.6 percent; New Jersey, 61 percent; and Massachusetts, 60.4 percent.

The commission calculated the filing rates using data provided through June 30 from the U.S. Department of Education.

Filing the FAFSA is a requirement to qualify for both state and federal financial aid and is part of the application process for most colleges and universities across the nation.

To get more students to complete the form, state and local FAFSA drives have been organized in recent years to connect Tennessee students with resources, guidance and encouragement.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has championed bipartisan efforts to simplify the FAFSA process. The Tennessee Republican and former governor introduced legislation in 2015 that would reduce the FAFSA paperwork from a hefty 108 questions down to two pertaining to family size and household income.

You can read more information about the FAFSA in Tennessee here.

an almost-deal

Albany deal appears close after Assembly passes two-year extension of mayoral control

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie at a 2015 press conference with Democratic colleagues

After weeks of haggling by state lawmakers — and a day spent huddling behind closed doors — the stage is set for a possible two-year extension of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of city schools.

The Assembly passed a bill in the wee hours of Thursday morning that outlines both the extension and a number of other provisions, including the reauthorization of local taxes and the renaming of the Tappan Zee Bridge for the late Governor Mario Cuomo. Notably, it does not include sweeteners for the charter school sector, which Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has forcefully opposed.

The state Senate is expected to return for a vote Thursday afternoon, though it is not yet clear if a deal has been reached. Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, did not confirm a final agreement, but told reporters Wednesday night that negotiations were “moving in the right direction.”

According to Politico, the text of the bill was released just before 11:30 p.m. and passed the Assembly around 1 a.m., by a vote of 115-15.

The bill was passed in an “extraordinary session” called by Governor Andrew Cuomo this week after lawmakers failed to reach a deal during the regular legislative session, which ended last Wednesday. Mayoral control is set to expire Friday at midnight, an imminent deadline that’s led to a flurry of “what-ifs.”

If the Senate approves the deal, it would be a victory for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has repeatedly sought multi-year extensions but been granted only one-year reprieves. It would also allay the fears of education experts on both sides of the political aisle, who have spoken out on the need to retain mayoral control rather than returning to a decentralized system run by 32 community school boards.

Losing mayoral control “would be devastating,” wrote schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in a June 19 op-ed. “If Albany lets mayoral control lapse, there will be no one accountable for progress.”

But not everyone was pleased with the way things have gone down this week. “Today’s extraordinary session produced nothing to celebrate,” wrote Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb in a statement released after the vote. “There is no victory in completing work that should have been done weeks ago. No one deserves applause for passing bills in the middle of the night out of public view.”