As an educator, I can speak first hand that there are issues coming from our state’s gross mismanagement of education that is having a devastating impact on our communities. Public education is the backbone of our communities, and the local school system is the largest employer in all 96 of our counties. Educational funding is being decreased by the bills authored by someone who has Scott Cepicky’s ear, these actions being pushed through without debate are targeted to reduce state funding of our local public schools putting the burden to maintain our schools more on our county. The current plan if not changed will result in Maury County to maintain status quo, which is not enough, having to either: cut positions, cut programs, or cut salaries, but they will also see a need to increase our property taxes due to this egregious TISA push. There is nothing in this that is there to help grow our county; it is a total abandonment of Maury County to push this agenda. The University of Tennessee has reported a drastic reduction of education majors entering the programs in the whole network, and MTSU only graduated 2 education majors with undergraduate degrees in 2021. Actions like this attack on educators and the attack on school librarians is facilitating an exodus of our profession without having anyone to replace the ones we lose.
What can be done?
We have to invest in education; this means both financially and in supportive changes to make the field a place for Tennessee to Grow. All public servants, meaning: education, social workers, police, nurses, firefighters, paramedics, and government office employees deserve our investment in their lives. All of those groups deserve free college including advanced training, all of them deserve free health, dental, and vision, care with low copays, all of them should be able to afford to live in the communities that they serve, and their children should have their full college education paid as a part of their service to our communities. We need to expand how we are involved in educating Tennessee Students; this means we need to offer them more in school, and this will help some with the teacher shortage, but it starts by increasing the demand for educators.
State funded 3 year old-5 year old pre-kindergarten programs that includes: language development (English, American Sign Language, and Spanish), explorative education, mathematics development, arts for fine motor skills, and gross motor learn and play these classes need to have adult to child ratio of 1:8, this should include at least 1 general early education teacher, an assistant, and a Special Education Early Education Teacher, now if there are 2 classes the Special Education Early Education teacher could work with both of the other classes, and assistants could help be the other support in those classes. Kindergarten through second grade: Classroom size should not exceed 20 students with an adult to student ration of 1:10. Each grade needs a special educator, reading specialist, English Language Learner, and Math specialist per 3 classes. There should be an assistant for every 30 children per grade (classes could share an aid if needed based on enrollment) each school needs available physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, behavior specialist, social worker, and counselor for every 300 students enrolled, and a school psychologist for every 1000 students in the system. Curriculum needs to focus at these grades in whole child development, which has a focus on an all of the growth for an individual child in all aspects of life example: physical, emotional, cognitive, and social. Noting that these students have developmental needs specific to their stages of life their classes beyond the general classroom should include: daily 30 minutes of physical education, 30 minutes of daily arts (ex. vocal or instrumental music, visual arts, dance, creative writing, or theater arts) Spanish/ASL as an extra
expanded coverage in language arts and math, and a rotation of STEM/CTE classes including agriculture, computer and technology, independent health skills, social development, and spatial awareness through age-appropriate guided construction, and an hour run of recess and lunch combination. The curriculum for this age group focuses on written and spoken language, mathematics. Reading needs to gain more around phonemic awareness as opposed to the focus on sight-words. Reading comprehension should be a significantly higher priority compared to fluency speed. Teachers at these grade levels would be granted three 30-minute planning periods allowing them to better design and manage the class throughout the transition of the day. This would require more teachers in the other fields as well and an increase in classified personnel. Library use should be an arrangement for each teacher with timeslots for each grade in the building. Students should gain access to the available books and resources guided by the school librarian and grade-level personnel. The school library should have available 2 copies of each book available for checking out at all levels kindergarten through eighth grade one copy for the student and one to be sent home if the parent would like to be capable of having an open discussion with the student on what is written in the book for the reader, each library in the school should have the ability to have quality sections for each age group in the building; in the case of a unit school, there should be a library available for kindergarten through sixth grade and one available for seventh through twelfth grade requiring at least 2 librarians per unit school otherwise there should be one librarian per 800 students per building.
Third through fifth grade: At these grades, we should still offer daily physical education, arts, STEM/CTE, Spanish/ASL, and hour block for lunch/recess. The general education class adult to student ratio moves to 1:15 capping class sizes at 25 students; there should be an assistant for every 45 students at this area of education, and a special education teacher for every three classes. Core curriculum should expand to include English Language Arts, Reading, History/geography, mathematics, and sciences. Third grade should learn Tennessee Geography and history, short stories, informative reading, and reading for understanding. English Language Arts needs grammar, sentence structure, writing styles. Mathematics needs to have a greater focus on developing skills of multiplication, division, long addition, subtraction, and a growing emphasis that grows with each grade-level including fractions, decimals, percentages, etc. Science in these levels needs to be Earth and Physical Sciences based. STEM/CTE includes – Agriculture, Family and Consumer Science, Health, STEM, Spanish, and/or Computer/Technology. Current grade standards remain for now for fourth and fifth, with the exception
Sixth-Eighth Grade: Still Daily physical education, arts, STEM/CTE, Spanish/ASL, and the 1-hour block for lunch/recess are still part of the day. Teachers specific to subject having 1 subject per teacher. Life Sciences advancing with each grade and a combination of Life and Physical science in 8th grade. The current ELA, and Social Studies standards will remain in place for now, adjusting with the state looking to modify as the first third graders to be part of the change would have sixth grade to meet the new needs. The STEM/CTE for this set of grades will include Agriculture, Family Consumer Science, Health Occupations, STEM, and Service Learning. Physical education should have a split of fitness days, skills based, and social domains each as their own graded domains. In the eighth grade, students will get an opportunity to select each semester which of the five art options they would like to take as their art focus for four of the five school regular school days, but each will still have one day per week of a music class as it matches the current Music/Art Standards.
Nineth through Twelfth Grade: Considering that we are aware that Perkins Law has not been updated in over 20 years, Tennessee will match the spending by the federal government on College and Career
Technical Education programs at the High School level; this is to adjust for the expense change and population shift in the state since the late 1990s. CTE should have a growth in the programing at the high school level, for every 100 possible high school students there should be at least 1 Agriculture teacher, 1 Health occupations teacher, 1 form of building trades or metal works, and 1 automotive teacher, 1 Family and Consumer Science or Teaching as a Profession teacher, 1 business teacher, journalism, and all High Schools should have some form of Junior Reserve Officer Training Course. All CTE programs’ third level courses should offer a Statewide Dual Credit class. CTE should also see more of its courses include coverage for “Advanced mathematics” Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 should remain required mathematics, but the accomplishment of a fourth-year math should be able to be covered by someone reaching a level 3 or higher CTE class, as all of them have mathematics in the program as well as social studies and sciences. Core curriculum focus should include an expanded physical education requirement with one being required per year not including the continuation of Wellness. Social studies still needs Ancient World History, Government, and Economics, but we need a shift to offer US History 1 and US History 2 (1 Pre-Revolutionary War-Civil War, 2 Restoration-Present), and a Full Credit of Civics certain CTEs can cover for Government, Economics, and Civics. Social Studies should offer elective focus courses in World Geography, Ancient World Religions, Current World Religions, Current Events, and Public Policies each of these electives as well as the US Histories, and World History should offer a Statewide Dual Credit course. Algebra 2 should be offered with a Statewide Dual Credit College Algebra substitute, and any advanced non-CTE math should count as a Statewide Dual Credit course, and focus area classes would include Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Mathematical Principles of Physics, and Applied Mathematics. English/Language Arts should also have four levels: English 9 writing composition and classic literature, English 10 writing composition and modern literature, English 11 writing composition and American literature, and English 12 writing composition and English Literature with two required levels of a foreign language; Language art focus areas can include, Creative Writing, Speech, levels 3 and 4 of a foreign language, advanced use of American Sign Language 1-3, debate, expressive writing, competitive writing, and Poetry writing. Science requirements Biology 1, Physical Science, and a third level Science, CTEs with a science portion can count here, other Science options, Chemistry, Physics, Principles of Technology 1 and 2, Earth Science, Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy, Biology 2, and Ecology: all advanced sciences can be statewide dual credit and taking 3 or more advanced sciences in a singular group ex. Biology 2, Ecology, Anatomy, Principles of Technologies and Physics (both science and math), or Earth Science, Astronomy, and Ecology gives a specific focus area in science. This should lead to a testing shift within our secondary schools shift should include entry test taken in the first 9 weeks of the nineth grade exit exam taken in May of the senior year; these two tests should be the same test to measure the growth of the student throughout the high school experience. Algebra 1, English 10, and Biology should each have a standardized test of measurement, the ACT should be offered 1 time free by the school system for by the end of the junior year. The other “standardized tests” should be when a student chooses Statewide Dual Credit as it is for their ability to replace a needed college course.
Extracurriculars: For each sport per season offered at a school, there should be at least one Certified Athletic Trainer on staff; it is within reason for these ATCs to teach health occupation courses, work in the school clinic or with the physical therapy department for the care of students, or if they take the praxis for physical education or health and wellness education to teach those classes. From grades 3-12 there should be six categories of athletic extracurricular activities these activities should be school sponsored and consider the overall needs of the population, and by allowing these activities to be
available we create an inclusive nature for whole child development and thus building a chance for students to be their best selves. These activities include traditional male, female, co-ed sports, para- games, special sports, and collaborative sports. Male includes but not limited to: Basketball, baseball, golf, soccer, tennis, track & field, cross-country, flag-football, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, bowling, swimming & diving, and/or volleyball. Female include but not limited to: Basketball, softball, golf, soccer, tennis, track & field, cross-country, flag-football, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, field hockey, bowling, swimming & diving and volleyball. Co-ed: football, wrestling, weightlifting, cheerleading, and dance. Special Sports: these sports are games for students that would participate in Special Olympics, sports include but not limited to: bocce ball, tennis, track & field, cross-country, speed skating, badminton, cornhole, bowling, swimming & Diving and weightlifting. Para-sports include but not limited to: track & field, sled hockey, cross-country, golf, basketball, soccer, football, wrestling, weightlifting, swimming & diving, and bowling. Partnered sports are sports that combine typical students and students with various differences like our para and special populations to compete in co-ed sports. These sports include but is not limited to: flag football, soccer, basketball, golf, tennis, hockey, lacrosse, slow-pitch softball, badminton, and field hockey. By offering equal opportunities of all student-athletes to participate representing their schools makes the schools a safe, empathetic, and diverse group ensuring growth for all of our students this is also the complete value of the original intentions of Acts such as Title IX. All Tennessee Publicly funded schools should offer at least one of each of these categories of sports in each of the three seasons; sports that have partnered sports seasons that offer similar sports in the typical groups can offer its partner sport in the other’s off season to maximize participation. All six of these competition categories should be treated as official sports with the official guidelines of the higher fields. Tennessee also should have growth in the sports offered at the community college level to include: football, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s hockey, volleyball, powerlifting, track and field, swimming, and diving, cross-country, golf, and tennis; it should also expand para-sports as well. The expansion of short seasons for third and fourth grade all sports should be co-ed and include: flag football, basketball, soccer, track & field, volleyball, and cross-country possibly include other sports like swimming & diving. Extracurriculars outside of sports would focus on all current Career Technical Student Organization, and other student organizations and clubs with offerings to expand based on other groups and focuses in the school like health and fitness, Language and writing, dance or other student groups.
Post-Secondary: Tennessee Promise for TCAT and associates level courses is a great start for what we are trying to accomplish in improving what our students have offered, but we need to do more. We need a 50% increase in TCAT, Community College, and current colleges/university satellite campuses. Universities need to have a full office and junior and senior classes available on community college campuses like University Tennessee Southern partnered with Columbia State Community College campuses, Tennessee State University should be partnered with Nashville State Community College campuses and each should have at least one or two partnered campuses. We should also open in the University of Tennessee network and the Tennessee State University network to operate junior/senior/graduate schools in various areas that are not a satellite campus but a fully independent operating college/university decreasing the required travel for individuals to travel for on-campus learning opportunities for those who took the Tennessee Promise or TN Reconnect opportunities these schools should offer four to six major to finish these programs, one major offering at each of these schools and satellite campuses needs to be in the school of education and the other majors should be specific for the particular school it is. These campuses need to be located along major highways
throughout the state; examples of these locations could be University of Tennessee Spring Hill with education, agriculture, fire science, and health science or the Tennessee State University of Criminal Justice near interstate 40 in Fairview with majors in education, criminal justice, pre-law and juris doctorates, civil and human rights, or West Tennessee State University with a campus around Paris or Savannah, TN. There should be an increase in these schools to accommodate the growth and demand needs of our state’s population. I-65 needs an increase of 3 of these types of school options, interstate 40 should have one between Memphis and Jackson, one between Jackson and Nashville (such as the school in Fairview mentioned above), between Nashville and Crossville, while interstates 55, 69, 75, and 81 each should have one school added to them each, and Interstate 24 needs to add 2 such campuses. These schools would offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in person, online, and hybrid systems, NAIA or NCAA divisions 2 or 3 athletic opportunities for our students, as well as offering traditional fraternities and sororities. By adding these schools that offer diverse locations to pick up an education major and four to five other majors at these twelve possible locations, plus the expansion of on campus and satellite campuses of our existing programs we would increase the overall opportunities for higher education careers, plus it brings an increase in other support jobs to these communities, which is a jobs growth move. Each college sport from Community College up needs one head Certified Athletic Trainer and one Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer (community college GA athletic trainers can be from their partnered College/University) These training staffs should increase by demand, but the GA and non- head athletic trainers can be shared with demand for in season sports when their primary is in the primary sport assignment is out of season. To reiterate from an earlier point, all civil servants (teachers, police, firefighters, social workers, nurses, government employees, paramedics, and veterans) and their children have free tuition for undergraduate and graduate courses.