TN Education Commissioner visits Unaka High School
Published 8:27 am Monday, April 11, 2016
Students and staff at Unaka High School received a special visit from Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen as part of her state-wide tour of schools.
After she was appointed as Education Commissioner in 2015, McQueen began her Classroom Chronicles tour.
“Our goal is to be inside as many schools as we can and getting inside the classrooms,” McQueen said. “We have a goal of meeting 10,000 teachers and we are very close to that goal — either meeting them face-to-face in their classrooms or at workshops and trainings.”
During her visit to Unaka High School, McQueen said she was pleased with the success demonstrated at the school and the work the faculty and staff are doing to make improvements in all areas.
“I have been impressed with the growth here over the last year,”McQueen said.
Seeing that growth in action is a driving force behind McQueen’s visits to schools, she said. In the past couple of years, the state has announced new standards and initiatives for local school systems to adopt and McQueen said she wants to get inside the classrooms to see how those standards and programs are being implemented.
“I want to see how it is working in our classrooms,” said McQueen, who herself has experience teaching in the classrooms of public schools.
So far, all of the feedback from teachers in the field has been positive, McQueen said.
“Teacher are very positive about the successes they have had,” she said.
However, there is still room for improvement all around McQueen said.
Currently, the Tennessee Department of Education is looking through its evaluation, testing and teacher instruction processes to find ways to make those things better and more effective. One of the things the state is considering, McQueen said, is decreasing the number of testing days for students in order to allow more days for instruction.
Also, McQueen said, the state and local school systems can improve the ways they help teachers actually teach.
“You need to make sure teachers have the resources they need to fully meet the depth of the standards,” she said.
One of the biggest focuses right now at the state level is on student literacy levels, McQueen said. The Carter County School System is also working on a major literacy initiative at this time.
“We know when students aren’t reading proficiently by the end of third grade they continue to struggle with reading throughout their education and they are less likely to graduate or go on to college,” she said.
As part of her tour of Unaka, McQueen visited several classes, including three of the school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs —health occupations, auto body and collision repair and the meat cutting class in the agriculture program.
“I have been in many, many classrooms but I have never been in one for a program like this,” McQueen told teacher Josh Armentrout about the meat cutting class.