About the Authors

Tennessee Education Report is published by Andy Spears.

Spears publishes two public policy newsletters, The Education Report (national education policy news) and Advocate Andy (news on consumer finance). He holds a Ph.D. in Public Administration with an emphasis in education policy. For more than 20 years, he has worked in public policy roles in state and local government in Kentucky and Tennessee. He also has experience coaching Speech and Debate at the high school and collegiate levels. Follow @TheAndySpears for his take on politics and policy.s

Got a news tip about Tennessee education issues? Email me!

Want more education news from Tennessee and around the country? Sign up for The Education Report here.

Previously, contributions were made by Zack Barnes and those contributions remain attributed to Mr. Barnes.

Barnes is a former legislative assistant and Capitol Hill Press Corps member. While a legislative assistant, he specifically covered all the education committees at the Tennessee General Assembly and all House floor sessions. He earned a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology from Ball State University, where he was active in educational psychology research. He is currently a PhD student in Literacy Studies at MTSU. His research interests revolved around working memory, closing the research to practice gap, and education policy. Zack is currently a middle school special education teacher in Nashville.

19 thoughts on “About the Authors

  1. Could you please tell me JUST how many students were tested in TN? The Dept. of Education website says 136 school districts were included——aren’t there more school districts than that in the state? It would be interesting to see which districts were tested and which charter schools. Website says 29 charter schools—seems like a fairly high percentage.

    Lee Campbell Retired Public School Educator(42 years experience)

  2. Could you please identify the research or evidence that points to our previous standards as the reason our students are not prepared for college? I would argue that there are other factors that are more likely effecting lack of college readiness. Tennessee has approximately 1 in 4 school age children living in poverty. Tennessee also has an extremely high percentage of babies born addicted. Tennessee also has a huge meth problem. Finally, why not have some outside party examine education spending in our state. I would argue that the allocation of funds in education is a serious problem in our state. If you examine the Common Core Standards from its birth to now, you will find that there are some serious problems!! First, the standards for our youngest learners ignore decades of research and are very harmful to these young children. Most importantly, if you follow the money and identify the key players, you will see that they are NOT about helping children but rather about helping these politicians, corporations and businessmen help themselves to our education tax dollars.

  3. I have attended two meetings concerning Common Core and only a few parents have attended. Common Core began in 2008. The barn door has been opened but the will of the parents and educators can put the horses back if they push hard enough.

  4. This is an interesting article about grandparents/guardians opting out of tcap assessment as well as other testing such as benchmark testing (Dibels) to monitor student’s progress in curriculum. They are against high stake testing. It is from the Herald Chronicle in Winchester, TN.


  5. “Our hands are tied,” said Dr. Shaber. She’s the director of schools and her hands are tied. I guess Pearson must be in the handcuff making business, too. Our kids ARE tested way too much. The lie is that the results are useful in judging teacher effectiveness. This whole thing is about taking public money and putting it in private pockets. It hurts children, vilifies teachers, and jeopardizes the security of our nation. But it makes money for Pearson so I guess it’s all worth it. Kudos to the Castle family for having the strength, wisdom, and courage to do what’s right for their grand daughter.

  6. I hate this high-stakes testing! But seriously, was there a governor’s budget hearing on elementary and secondary education or not last Friday? I can’t find any coverage of it anywhere, even in your esteemed publication. Did they just cancel it because there’s no commissioner? Mike Lottman
    P.S. Excuse me for saying so, because I agree with much that you say, but don’t you think you’re going a little overboard in opposing every attempt
    at reform? Don’t you think there is a charter school, somewhere, that might be able to improve a public school that is achieving in the bottom 5% of the state? Don’t you think there is anything valid behind the idea of Common Core, as opposed to the absence of standards (or constantly changing standards) that we have now? Doesn’t it disturb you to have all these parents screaming “leave our school alone” when
    the school clearly isn’t serving the students–and when you know in many cases it’s white parents
    protesting because they don’t want their kids going to school with blacks?

    • Thanks for your comments, Michael.

      Let me say a couple things in response: 1) I’ve laid out some reforms I support in a post here: http://tnedreport.com/?p=225

      I attended the ASD meeting at Madison Middle — what I saw was a diverse group of parents talking about the reform already happening at their school under new leadership and asking for a chance for that reform to work rather than to see yet another disruption to their children’s learning environment.

      Regarding Common Core, the authors of this site jointly published a letter with Bluff City Ed out of Memphis expressing support for high standards while also asking for improved implementation — the teacher’s council Gov. Haslam has appointed is a step in the right direction in that regard.

      Finally, I’ve written in the past about the need for additional support for schools by way of investment in wraparound services.

      People should be angry about what’s going on in our schools – they are under-funded and under-supported. Teachers are underpaid. Schools are under-resourced. Reform that provides support for teachers and resources for students MUST happen now.

      • I think, Andy, I feel your pain.

        I’m a former teacher, and, upon coming to TN 17 years ago, thought I might offer my services as a ‘sub’. I interviewed at my local district headquarters. I had degrees in Astronomy and Physics, certification in many areas (mathematics, in particular) in both Ohio and New Jersey, and I found out first that the pay would be $50 per day (a bit more than the gas money, but, really?). Then, I visited a school. It was vastly different from what I considered a healthy learning environment. It seemed, even then, either a ‘school to prison’ or a ‘school to military’ pipeline.

        No thanks (even at 5 times the money).

        Teachers aren’t motivated by money. Most are professionals, many with graduate degrees. They could make much more money somewhere else, however they love watching and helping young people grow into adulthood. They know far more than politicians how to do that job.

    • John, thanks for the comments.

      To be clear, Zack is currently a middle school teacher in Nashville. John H taught through TFA in Nashville and is now an attorney. Jon Alfuth (new to the blog) is a teacher at a school in Memphis. I have a Ph.D. in education policy and teach college courses at a public university and also volunteer as a debate coach at a local public high school in middle Tennessee. We are all involved in some way (in two cases, quite directly) with public education on a daily basis.

  7. Folks, I just had a meeting with our superintendent about testing issues. Several things I need to run by someone more informed than I before I can formulate next steps. Is there a way to email you that isn’t public? thanks

  8. The Tennessee goal is ACT 21 only in 2020 representing 75% of graduating students not being ready but for minimum wage jobs. Fast food retailers are already going robotics. Supermarkets plan the same about 2 years behind fast food. That changes the readiness picture significantly for the worse. We claim EXCELLENCE in education. Is this excellence? 1. Be honest about where you are in performance, 2. Why is it necessary to lie to the public? 3. Do you have the extraordinary determination to go to 25 ACT with 75% ACT Readiness as a goal or higher? Obviously not and can’t. THAT IS WHAT IS NEEDED. LOW EXPECTATION GOALS AND OBJECTIVES GET ONLY WHERE WE ARE TODAY: DESTROYING OUR CHILDRENS FUTURE. Look at the poor readiness percentage of Tennessee graduates for the past decade without considering robotics at http://www.education100.org/2017_2007ACTandReadinessTNKCS.jpeg

    WE TEACH FOR YESTERDAY’S JOBS. Education must be FOR VOCATIONAL AREAS THAT WILL BE IN DEMAND IN THE FUTURE AT LEAST 10-15 YEARS AWAY, must be promoted and achieved through an 1. uncompromised high school education with 80% readiness of graduates, NOT 80% WHO ARE NOT READY. 2. “The future jobs that are most independent of robotics will be those based on the most advanced version of mathematics, all sciences and economics”. 3. Set ambitious ACT or SAT objectives that represent high expectations. LOW EXPECTATION OBJECTIVES PRODUCE LOW RESULTS, LIKE OURS. 4. Promote teaching as a profession, strengthen their university curricula which is poor today (ref: http://www.education100.org/index.html#teachersdilemma ) 5. hire potential teachers with a master’s degree in the subject they will teach from the top 10% of their master’s program, and 6. match them psychologically to the teaching profession (e.g., Strong Interest Inventory plus Myers-Briggs correlated, cost $130 plus one hr vocational psychologist).

    *****A diploma must represent achievement. Award a diploma only for ACT Readiness or something else of similar value. Set ACT objectives at last year’s ACT performance plus 15% for the current year. It is education management that SHOULD decide where we must be in performance, and not the public. The public has no idea where the competition is and where we should be. Even teachers don’t know that, and neither do state education departments. We are doing poorly and you all go to the public and elected school boards who were party to creating the poor results. We just spend more money and do not think. If teachers are not up to par, and many are not, THAT has to be fixed w/o self-serving opinions. Objectives and operating plans are needed in schools. They produce the results. Right? Spend money in the schools on the right things, not in Central Management. Compare and listen to OECD published info about the best education systems in the world.

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