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County teachers face too much ‘test pressure’

Washington County teachers apparently will have to “take another one for the team” when the new educational mandates go into effect.
In order to qualify for much needed monies from the federal government, teachers will be facing even more demands to show results from standardized tests as a measurement of their students’ academic improvements.
This time, not only will money be on the line, but in some cases, teachers’ employment futures will be on the block, based on how well or how poorly their students do.
The Tennessee legislature recently approved Governor Phil Bredesen’s plan to base 50 percent of public school teachers’ job evaluations on their students’ academic performance.
This is a drastic departure from the way Tennessee has always approached teacher evaluations.
For the first time, decisions about tenure, job retention, termination and compensation will sit squarely on the shoulders of student academic gains.
As usual, it’s all about the money. Tennessee lawmakers apparently felt they had no choice but to make this decision, in order to put the state in a competitive position for their fair share of a $485 million in federal grants.
That’s a big carrot to dangle and it was irresistible. The bill won a 29-3 Senate vote and the House agreed with an 83-9 vote.
With already mounting complaints about “teaching to the test,” this decision only drives the nail a little deeper. Thirty-five percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation will be based on student improvements on standardized test scores.
The other 15 percent will be measured by methods yet to be determined, but possibilities include reading assessments, college entrance tests, end-of-year subject tests and advance-placement testing.
Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes made the comment to the Herald & Tribune in a recent interview that “we live and die by testing.” Never before has that been so true. And, despite Dykes’ best efforts to push the testing dates back as far as possible, curves keep getting thrown at the Washington County school system. More and more days missed due to inclement weather means fewer and fewer days to get ready for the all-important tests.
No doubt, our teachers are feeling the pressure.
There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer to the issue at this point. But as teachers work even harder than before to get ready for testing, the families of school-age children need to be mindful that they too are part of this team. Making sure your students are doing their homework, catching up on work missed, and studying materials that teachers send home is more important than ever.
This is no time for parents to sit back and expect the teachers to leap giant buildings in a single bound. They are not superheroes. They are hard-working professionals faced with a daunting task. And, unless they are successful, everyone loses.
With so much at risk, we urge you to become a team player with your children’s teachers. That is the only way we can all reach the goals that have been so politically and financially laid out before us.