Teachers appreciate opportunity to give feedback on new standards

Published 9:58 am Friday, April 8, 2016

Teachers, parents and students will for the second time have the opportunity to give feedback on new standards in state education.

On Wednesday, the Tennessee Board of Education (BOE) launched science standards review website to gather public feedback on Tennessee’s recently revised grade K-12 science standards. This is the first time the revised standards will be available for public critique.

“We are eager to gather more public feedback after a very successful first round,” said Dr. Sara Heyburn, Executive Director of the State Board of Education. “This extensive and transparent review is a critical part of our collective efforts to ensure Tennessee students are postsecondary and workforce ready.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Local educators say this process gives them a voice in decisions regarding curriculum standards and testing which have been criticized for not including enough educator input. Shane Callahan, a science teacher at T.A. Dugger Junior High, said though teachers, students and even parents have felt the weight of overtesting, he believes the revised standards and the reception of public feedback is a step in the right direction.

“All the teachers and administrators were scrambling so we could perform, and then they were measuring on something that wasn’t very clear, so they found the direction they were traveling was too much, that everybody was weary, but it’s a good thing to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Callahan.

He said the new standards are moving in a direction of not so much changing testing but reducing the amount of questioning and the types of answers that will be accepted.

Over the last few months, Governor Bill Haslam and the State BOE has emphasized the importance of finding a balance between consistency in education and ensuring that the standards work for each school system individually. This is another measure to ensure that educators and community members have the opportunity to review the curriculums which they will teach and the standards by which learning will be measured.

The standards specify what students are expected to know by the end of each K-12 grade level or course.

“They’re trying to keep aligned with national standards, so they’re not so much changing the standards but trying to figure out grade level appropriateness where they best fit,” said Callahan.

For example, he said seventh graders have been overwhelmed because so much content is tested in comparison to sixth and eighth graders.

“I was excited to hear about this change because I knew it would give relief to students, teachers and parents,” said Callahan.

He reviewed the standards online when they were given the opportunity in the Fall, and said that with numerous other local teachers, he plans to provide feedback again.

Evie Lafollette, a science teacher at Elizabethton High School said they have reviewed the standards individually and as a department.

“From my review I do not have an issue with the new standards,” said Lafollette. “When I reviewed them personally I selected to keep a majority of the proposed standards.”

She said her biggest concern with the proposed standards was the use of the phrase “use a model, investigate and evaluate scientific data” in nearly all of the new standards.

“Creating and using models as well as performing more experiments for almost every standard will be near impossible given the time we have before state tests are administered, the number of standards, not to mention the science budgets that would be needed to perform experiments on each standard,” she said.

She said the ACT test is all about evaluating scientific data, so it is logical that this would have greater emphasis on new standards.

“I hope the new standards will be specific in terms of learning targets so that we teachers can take into account the different levels of biology offered at the schools from general to honors, and even AP,” said Lafollette.

In Fall 2015, the standards review website received more than 29,000 public reviews from 1,300 reviewers. These results were reviewed over the Winter by the Science Standards Recommendation Committee. According to the state, that committee will review the new feedback, and then their recommendations will go before the State BOE in July 2016. The final reading will take place in October, and the standards will be implemented in the 2018-19 school year.

The State BOE is responsible for reviewing academic standards every six years, and that process was recently updated in Public Chapter 423 to include websites for public feedback. Social Studies standards are up for review through May 1, and the posting of revised science standards are available for review through May 13.

Click this link to give feedback online.