Tennessee Teachers: Focused on Students

The results of a survey conducted by the Tennessee Education Association indicate that Tennessee’s teachers are focused on and concerned about their students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s more from a press release:

Tennessee educators are most worried about learning loss, student wellbeing and how to engage students during school closures due to the Covid-19 outbreak, according to a statewide survey published by the Tennessee Education Association.

The survey of 319 educators across the state was conducted March 25-31 by TEA. The survey will be conducted again in coming weeks to reflect changes. 


When educators were asked “what is your greatest concern regarding the remainder the school year,” the overwhelming focus was on students. Half of all teachers cited learning loss and student wellbeing as their greatest concerns. Lost instructional opportunities, difficult home environments, food security and the absence of social and academic engagement weigh heavily on the minds of teachers, according to the survey.

“I’ve worried so much about my kids regressing but everyone is in the same situation. Parents all have different home circumstances. For the ones working, it is hard to come home and homeschool. Some just have one computer per two-plus kids in the home,” wrote one respondent. “We know the kids will possibly be behind but that’s ok. That’s my job!”

The impact of the disruption will remain long after the outbreak is controlled, and classes resume.

“Students will struggle when we return to school and they will struggle next year, especially in math classes, to make up for the large gap in knowledge created by this disruption,” wrote one respondent. “This must also be taken into account when considering test scores as a factor for next year and how they impact high-stakes decisions for students as well as teachers.”

One in five teachers expressed uncertainty as their primary concern, as well as health and safety concerns for themselves and their families moving forward. One in 10 expressed professional or student accountability as the primary concern during the closure period.


When asked “what plans does your district have regarding ongoing instruction,” more than half of educators said they were allowed to work from home to provide learning opportunities that would not count for student grades, while 36% said their school system had no current mandate on activity.

“It is clear from this survey that teachers, parents and school systems are struggling to implement strategies to continue teaching and learning. With the timing of spring breaks and the statewide school shutdown, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to plan and organize materials,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “This is going to be an ongoing process, and we ask administrators and school boards to understand that teachers want to engage their students and promote learning as much as they do. We all will be working to find the most effective means of doing so with safety and health in mind.” 

For educators who have district instruction plans, the means of communication vary. Approximately half of teachers use the phone, text, and text apps to communicate with students, one-third use email or online platforms, and one in seven use social media. 40% of teachers use two or more means of communication. Most teachers report spotty participation among students, even those in honors or AP classes. Inequity among students in home support and internet access were major teacher concerns.   

One major issue for TEA was the widespread reports of mandatory reporting to schools after the statewide closure order. The survey found that while initially there were orders to report, only a small percentage of responders indicated they had to physically go to the school building as part of their duties. 

“I am proud of our cafeteria workers and teachers who are making sure students are fed while schools are closed,” said Brown. “I am also glad to see that systems are prioritizing public health and the safety of our educators by not requiring personnel to come into a school building.”

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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Frogge Won’t Seek Re-Election

Nashville school board member Amy Frogge announced today she will not seek re-election to her seat this year. She’s served two terms and beaten well-funded opponents by a 2-1 margin in both of her past races.

Here’s her announcement:

I have struggled with the decision of whether to run again for school board during this unusual time of uncertainty and upheaval. The last few weeks – dealing with the aftermath of the tornado, the coronavirus quarantine, and a personal bout with a minor illness – have provided me with a different perspective.

When I ran in 2012, I never intended to serve more than one term. This freed me to vote simply as I saw best and to take difficult positions that were often against my own political interests. I chose to run again four years ago because I felt it was necessary given the political climate at that time.

Upon reflection this week, however, I have decided not to seek reelection this year. I am deeply grateful for the support I’ve received and the friendships I have forged during my time on the school board, as well as for the learning opportunities I’ve been provided through this position. Serving in an elected position is not for the faint of heart, but I hope I have made a positive impact, and I think it is time to step away to new endeavors. I will continue to be deeply involved in advocating for Tennessee’s students and schools and plan stay active on my social media pages.

I have decided to throw my support behind Abigail Tylor, Nashville School Board District 9, a former teacher in the Encore gifted program who taught both of my children. As a teacher and parent of children who attend MNPS schools, Abigail is well-informed about the issues and the needs in our school system, and she’ll do a wonderful job serving our community and carrying on the work that I (and others before me) have begun. With Dr. Battle now at the helm of Metro Schools and with continued good representation for our district, I truly believe great things are going to happen in MNPS over the next few years. I hope you will support Abigail in her work!

I am also excited to formally announce my new role as Executive Director of Pastors for Tennessee Children. The Pastors for Children network, which is expanding nationwide, brings together faith leaders to serve schools and to advocate statewide for public education. I’m honored to be a part of this group, and I hope you will follow my work with the Pastors, as well!

Thank you for believing in me and for the experience of serving. Please continue to support our local schools! I’ll see you in the neighborhood.

Diane Ravitch and Amy Frogge

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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A Lesson Not Learned

In a post at the Washington Post, Derek Black warns that investment in public education must not be denied in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and coming economic impacts.

Some notes:

During the Great Recession of the late 2000s, Congress hoped that most of a $54 billion set-aside in stimulus funds would be enough to save public school budgets, which had been savaged by state and local governments. It wasn’t enough.

States imposed education cuts so steep that many school budgets still have not fully rebounded — and Congress’s 2020 stimulus bill aimed at trying to save the economy from a new calamity fails to address the possibility of a sequel. Meanwhile, even before the economic effects of the current crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic are being fully felt, states are already looking to cut education funding.

If states cut public education with the same reckless abandon this time as last, the harm will be untold. A teaching profession that has spent the last two years protesting shamefully low salaries may simply break. The number quitting the profession altogether will further skyrocket — and it’s not likely there will be anyone to take their place.

The first signs of this possibility are here. In recent weeks, three states — Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee — have cut teacher salary increases for this coming year — increases intended at this late date to begin repairing the damage from the last recession. Education Week reports that teachers may lose all of an anticipated pay hike in Kentucky, and legislatures in at least five other states have not acted on salary hikes for educators.


Black notes that Tennessee is among the states not learning the lesson of the Great Recession. It’s worth noting that Tennessee’s teachers already earn less in inflation-adjusted dollars than they did all the way back in 2009.

Between FY 2016 and FY 2020, lawmakers enacted a total of $429 million in recurring increases for teacher pay. Since that time, growth in Tennessee teachers’ average pay has begun to catch up with inflation. After adjusting for inflation, however, teachers’ average pay during the 2018-2019 school year was still about 4.4% lower than a decade earlier.

So, the response to the coronavirus by Gov. Bill Lee and the General Assembly was to cut a planned investment in teacher compensation and instead fund a voucher scheme.

When (if?) the General Assembly returns in June, it will be interesting to see if commitments are made about investments in public education going forward. Tennessee is already $1.7 billion behind where we should be in school funding.

Perhaps the crisis caused by coronavirus will give lawmakers time to actually conduct a comprehensive review of our school funding formula and make necessary adjustments and improvements.

Alternatively, as Black suggests, lawmakers may look to “save money” by moving to cheaper, less reliable online learning options while foregoing investment in teachers and the resources students need.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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Byrd is Back

Admitted child sex offender David Byrd, who serves in the Tennessee House of Representatives, has indicated he will seek re-election to his seat in 2020. The announcement comes despite earlier claims by Byrd that he would not seek re-election AND after Gov. Bill Lee reportedly asked Byrd not to run.

Here’s a summary of what TNEdReport has noted about Byrd in recent years:

Casada Cozies Up to Byrd

Last year, former House Speaker Beth Harwell was calling on state representative David Byrd to resign amid allegations he had improper sexual relationships with high school students he had coached. Now, new House Speaker Glen Casada has appointed Byrd to Chair the House Education Administration Subcommittee.

No One on Byrd’s Subcommittee Would Challenge Him

At yesterday’s meeting, Byrd asked each committee member to introduce himself (the committee is made up of seven men) and state an interesting fact.

Each member proceeded to attempt humor. Not a single member used the opportunity to call on Byrd to resign from his committee leadership post. Instead, they acted as if having an admitted sex offender at the helm of a legislative committee was just business as usual.

Voucher Vote Nails Byrd

David Byrd is out as chair of a House Education subcommittee just one day after his vote against Governor Bill Lee’s school voucher plan. While some had speculated Byrd might vote in favor of vouchers in exchange for cover from Lee, Byrd voted NO on Lee’s plan yesterday in the full House Education Committee.

Weak Lee

Governor Bill Lee failed to call on admitted sex offender and state Rep. David Byrd to step down from his leadership post on an education subcommittee following a meeting between Lee and one of Byrd’s accusers. However, Lee’s henchman, House Speaker Glen Casada, removed Byrd from his leadership post following Byrd’s vote in opposition to Lee’s school voucher scheme.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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