Saying Tennessee students are enslaved by standardized testing that holds teachers hostage in trying to educate children, Warren County’s state government delegation agreed something needs to be done about the state’s education policy.
“We should teach them to love the educational process and not be bound by the chains of constant testing,” said longtime Warren County teacher and state Rep. Kevin Dunlap as he addressed the Warren County Board of Education during its legislative roundtable at WCHS on Monday night.
Dunlap joined local lawmakers state Rep. Judd Matheny and state Sen. Janice Bowling at the informal gathering.
Dunlap pointed out the state spends $46 million a year for the standardized tests that are given to students, yet these end-of-course exams cannot be used for learning tools since neither the teacher nor the student are allowed to see the tests to see what they got right or wrong. For this reason, Dunlap is pushing for the state to pass the Testing Transparency Act where students and teachers can see the tests instead of just seeing a score.
“All you get is scores and a label,” Dunlap noted, urging the state to “remove the mystery” when it comes to test scores.
Joe Pitts, a representative from Clarksville, attended the roundtable and agreed something needs to be done about how testing is done.
“We are over-testing our students,” said Pitts, pointing out that allowing teachers to teach, in-stead of angling their class toward a standardized test, is the best way to give students a proper educa-tion.
Rep. Matheny says the state legislature is trying to get a grasp on the never-ending changes that have been dominating education.
“We want to avoid the whiplash going on and put continuity in the classrooms,” Matheny said. “I think common sense will prevail.”
Sen. Bowling said wrestling away federal control over education is something that would be helpful. Bowling said she is poised to introduce a bill this coming year that would remove the require-ments of retiring school buses at a certain mileage, pointing out school systems should not be required to spend large amounts of money over a pointless state requirement.
“Local school systems like Warren County care about their students and they are going to do what they think is right when it comes to transportation,” Bowling said. “This will ease the financial costs to local school systems.”
As for the coming legislative session, Matheny said there will be some polarizing educational questions facing the General Assembly when it convenes in 2016.
“School vouchers will be a big issue,” Matheny said concerning a law that would allow students who go to low-rated schools to choose to take their state money to get a private-school education. “We will revisit Common Core and I’m sure same-sex bathrooms will come up again.”