- Your News
By BRIAN JUSTICE
With the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests consuming next week’s schedule, Tullahoma City Schools is offering free breakfasts at all its schools with the goal of improving academic performance.
At stake is what could be considered a personal reflection on teachers who are either directly or indirectly affected by the TCAP scores with 35 percent of their evaluation based on student performance.
Jan Moore, school nutrition director, said free breakfast meals have been offered at East Lincoln Elementary School through April as a pilot program for the system-wide nutrition improvement effort involving the other six schools in the system.
“We just want to encourage students to develop the breakfast habit and hope it will improve academic performance,” she said. “We feel it will go toward improving academic success.”
Although the move is being made during TCAP week, Moore said the goal is to have students develop proper life-long nutrition habits, and a proper breakfast to jumpstart the day goes hand in hand with that effort.
A new benchmark was recently implemented through Tennessee’s effort to improve educational performance, and the new initiative includes the requirement that 35 percent of an educator’s overall evaluation be measured by student growth.
Some teachers say the new benchmark puts them at a significant disadvantage to ever achieve tenure amid new, much more strict requirements to attain a status that was once, more or less, a property right.
Tenure is designed to make a teaching career more attractive by providing job security through protecting the teacher’s position, and it also can allow more academic freedom in the classroom environment.
However, Tennessee is striving to greatly improve its secondary educational system, and part of the process involves terminating employment for those who fail to make the tenure grade.
Moore said nutrition is linked to attentiveness in class, and students who don’t eat breakfast have had a track record of not achieving as well as they could, and there have also been more behavioral infractions than those who do eat breakfast.
However, she said the trend is that more grade school students eat breakfast than middle school students who, in turn, have better morning eating habits than high school students.
Although the TCAP scores involve grades three through eight, older students have end of course tests that determine their achievement levels.
Moore said by extending the free breakfast offering to all the system’s schools, it should help the older students’ efforts to get better grades on their end-of-year examinations.
“By having this for the end-of-the-month tests, we believe it will help the high school students with their end-of-year testing,” she said.
Linda Thoma, a Tullahoma Board of Education member, recently said some of the new evaluation requirements, namely the 35 percent of the outcome being based on student progress, have their problems.
She said teachers are being faced with a set goal many will not be able to achieve because not all students are capable of achieving high academic marks.
Thoma used an example of a tennis player wanting to make the professional grade. No matter how many tennis lessons some less talented players take, they will never make the pro ranks, she added.
Thoma said student progress could be compared to that, and teachers shouldn’t have their career status so dependent on a percentage of students’ progress.
Dr. Dan Lawson, Tullahoma City Schools director, recently provided his outlook on how he thinks the new evaluation process stacks up.
“Bad? Good? Indifferent?” he said. “Probably a bit of all.”
Lawson said that in Tennessee, more than 50 percent of the teachers do not have Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program data on which to base student growth.
“Those teachers are compelled to use school-wide data instead of pre- and post-test data for the classes they teach,” Lawson said, adding later: “This is not a special education issue. This is an issue with too little data to measure the actual impact of individual teachers.”
The school system’s administrative staff has said that even though some of the teachers are subject to overall school performance data in their evaluations, TCAP scores overall will affect their evaluations.
If the student body overall does better on TCAP tests, the system-wide evaluations will be higher, they’ve said.