Education is primarily a state and local responsibility in the United States. Most Tennesseans support local control of public education by the district board of education. This includes the autonomy of the local school district to adopt curriculum, assessments, and programs to meet recognized educational goals and objectives.
It is clear in the Tennessee Constitution that the responsibility for control and support of public schools is delegated in the Tennessee General Assembly, while in large measure the operation is entrusted to local school boards. The school board is the community’s watchdog on public education, thus ensuring that taxpayers get the most for their tax dollars. Taxpayers must hold school board members accountable for spending and results. School boards represent the public’s voice in public education.
Professional Educators of Tennessee has been a strategic part of the discussion with policymakers and other stakeholders in the effort to streamline and reduce testing time. We have also been critical to changing the conversation on the role of assessments in Tennessee. The role of state tests should always be to supplement other feedback loops that teachers, parents, and students use to get a more complete picture of a student’s development, including classroom performance, report cards, portfolios, performances, and other ways students show their development.
State tests are not meant to be the sole driver of instructional decisions. The information from an assessment should provide educators, parents, and students with a better perspective on how the students are succeeding academically compared to their peers across Tennessee. Assessment should provide information about a student’s strengths, needs, and areas for growth.
Local school boards reflect the needs and aspirations of the communities as well as the interests and concerns of professional and nonprofessional employees. We believe non-partisan control is what is best for our communities. This is best ensured when educational policy is made by representatives vested in the community where they live, and whose undivided attention and interests are devoted strictly the to education of children in that district. What we stress in a nutshell: Public education is a federal concern, a state responsibility, and a local operation.
State and federal education policies should be designed to assist local school districts in improving student achievement for all children and not as a disguised means to label public schools as failures. Prior to any state or federal intervention based on a school’s or district’s failure to meet performance or accountability standards, governments should ensure that local schools and districts receive the necessary resources, support, and time to improve. Tennessee, to its credit, has done a lot right in public education. However, no system is perfect.
The authority of the local school board is established in code, and this authority should not be delegated to others. Local boards of education must not relinquish their governance responsibilities in any situation, especially in management and oversight. We believe all children should have equal access to an education that maximizes his or her individual potential.
School boards are subject to the requirements of existing law and are the governing and policymaking bodies for schools in their district. They have the duty for representing general public interest in education. Local boards know the unique and varied needs of their communities.
We host many training sessions and conferences throughout the year to help our members, teachers, administrators, , policymakers and other stakeholders, including school board members on key education issues. You can learn more about public education in Tennessee by attending Leader U on June 30, 2017 at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). For more information call us at 615-778-0803 or visit the website at www.leaderutn.com. This year the theme is Ensuring Equity and Excellence in Education. We will have classes on important topics that address issues such as poverty, trauma, special needs, including Autism, Dyslexia and Deaf Education, and much more.
School boards must embody the community’s beliefs and values. School board members should be as diverse as the citizens they serve. We should thank the men and women who are serving our communities as school board members. They are too often unappreciated doing a thankless but necessary job.
We should also encourage high character men and women that want to serve the community to consider seeking a position on the school board. We need passionate people committed to children and those who teach them looking out for each community’s interest. Are you ready to serve?
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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter @jcbowman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.
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