on the air

Trumpeting a ‘new and improved TNReady,’ radio ads tout why testing matters

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
The sponsored radio ads air this week to promote the upcoming TNReady exam.

Two Tennessee teachers are getting some radio air time this month through ads running statewide to talk up TNReady, the state’s new standardized test that students in grades 3-11 are about to take.

The one-minute ads, which tout Tennessee’s test as “new and improved,” are voiced by Jolinea Pegues, a Trezevant High School teacher in Shelby County Schools, and Derek Voiles, the state’s 2017 Teacher of the Year from Hamblen County.

The two-week run goes through next week in conjunction with the state’s April 17-May 5 TNReady testing window. Students in grades 3-11 will test to measure their proficiency in math and English language arts.

The campaign was produced and paid for by Expect More, Achieve More, a coalition of more than 100 business, community and education organizations advocating for high K-12 academic standards in Tennessee. The effort was spearheaded by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, a Nashville-based education advocacy group founded by former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist.

This is the second year of TNReady testing, which unraveled last year with the failed rollout of Tennessee’s first online test and led Education Commissioner Candice McQueen eventually to cancel the assessment for grades 3-8. McQueen says students, parents and educators can expect a successful rollout this year under Questar, the state’s new testing company, which this week delivered printed testing materials to schools statewide. Only 25 districts have chosen to take the test online again.

“The radio campaign is aimed at parents, especially parents of public school students in grades 3-9 who are taking TNReady for the first time this year,” said SCORE spokeswoman Teresa Wasson. “We think it’s helpful for parents to hear real teachers explain how they plan to use the TNReady results to help students learn.”

Pegues, who teaches English at Trezevant High, says in her ad that “TNReady will help parents keep track of their child’s progress and will help teachers like me identify areas for student improvement.”

PHOTO: SCORE
Derek Voiles, Jolinea Pegues

She continues: “TNReady focuses on reading, writing, math and real-world problem-solving. Because test-taking isn’t the goal; making sure our children are ready to compete is. And test time has been reduced 30 percent which ensures more quality classroom time. Because we want to see our children succeed on TNReady — and in life. ”

The messaging rings similar to a television ad that the coalition created last year featuring 2016 Teacher of the Year Cathy Whitehead of Chester County.

“The experience with last year’s ad reinforced something we already knew: Teachers are a voice that parents trust,” Wasson said. “When teachers explain how a high-quality assessment is an important part of the learning cycle, parents listen.”

She declined to give a price tag for the campaign.

awarding leaders

Meet the nine finalists for Tennessee Principal of the Year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's 2016 principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis. This year's winner will be announced in October.

Nine school leaders are up for an annual statewide award, including one principal from Memphis.

Tracie Thomas, a principal at White Station Elementary School, represents schools in Shelby County on the state’s list of finalists. Last year, Principal Docia Generette-Walker of Middle College High School in Memphis received the honor.

Building better principals has been a recent focus for Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen as roles of the school leaders change under school improvement efforts.

“Successful schools begin with great leaders, and these nine finalists represent some of the best in our state,” McQueen said. “The Principal of the Year finalists have each proven what is possible when school leaders hold students and educators to high expectations.”

The winner will be announced at the state department’s annual banquet in October, where the winner of Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year will also be announced.

The finalists are:

West Tennessee

  • Tracie Thomas, White Station Elementary, Shelby County Schools
  • Stephanie Coffman, South Haven Elementary, Henderson County School District
  • Linda DeBerry, Dyersburg City Primary School, Dyersburg City Schools

Middle Tennessee

  • Kenneth “Cam” MacLean, Portland West Middle School, Sumner County Schools
  • John Bush, Marshall County High School, Marshall County Schools
  • Donnie Holman, Rickman Elementary School, Overton County Schools

East Tennessee

  • Robin Copp, Ooltewah High School, Hamilton County Schools
  • Jeff Harshbarger, Norris Middle School, Anderson County Schools
  • Carol McGill, Fairmont Elementary School, Johnson City Schools

you better work

Hickenlooper, on national TV, calls for bipartisanship on job training for high school graduates

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke to reporters on the eve of the 2017 General Assembly.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday said Republicans and Democrats should work together to rethink how states are preparing high school graduates for the 21st century economy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, appeared on the Sunday public affairs program alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to discuss their work on healthcare.

The Colorado governor brought up workforce training after moderator John Dickerson asked what issues besides healthcare both parties should be addressing.

“Two-thirds of our kids are never going to have a four-year college degree, and we really haven’t been able to prepare them to involve them in the economy where the new generations of jobs require some technical capability,” Hickenlooper said. “We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.”

Hickenlooper has long supported a variety of education reform policies including charter schools and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. Last fall he backed a new program that is expected to this year connect 250 Colorado high school students with paid job training.

Watch Hickenlooper and Kasich here. Hickenlooper’s remarks on job training begin right before the 11- minute mark.