Letters to the Editor 

David Pickler's Viewpoint, Shelby County education, and testing standards for Tennessee

Schools Redux Redux

I laughed while reading David Pickler's self-serving whine (Viewpoint, November 27th issue) about how Germantown deserves not to be "deprived" of its neighborhood schools. This sentence comes after he's spent 500 words rewriting recent history to blame all the problems on the Memphis City Schools board, rather than copping to the fact that he started the ball rolling in the first place or, at the very least, accepting some portion of the blame for this mess. That would have been gracious (and true).

Plenty of evidence has come out that Germantown leaders originally were leery of committing to educating students not living in the Germantown city limits, so who can blame the new board for being skeptical of their plans for the future?

Payback is a bitch, David.

click to enlarge David Pickler
  • David Pickler

Nancy Reynolds
Memphis

My son will soon graduate from a Shelby County Schools (SCS) high school. He started his high school career at a Memphis City Schools (MCS) high school. But he didn't transfer. He is still attending the same school where he started, with the same teachers, the same school colors, the same team nickname, the same problems, the same points of excellence.

We have spent three years, thousands of meeting hours, millions of dollars, miles of newsprint, and billions of wasted words on an issue that has split this community in half — to change one letter.

I can spell "stupid." Too bad our "leaders" can't.

C.L. Williams
Memphis

As a lifelong educator, I find it troubling to see what is happening in public education in regards to assessing students. I recently attended a public forum on this topic in Jackson, Tennessee. There, I found more evidence why we need to reevaluate what we are doing in Tennessee with regard to testing.

I listened while students and parents told of testing anxiety to the point that children were becoming physically ill from the pressure to do well on standardized tests. Teachers expressed concern about the amount of time being spent on preparing students for the tests. In many cases, as much as six weeks of instruction time is lost to preparing students for standardized tests. That doesn't include the time required to administer the tests. If students were to go through K-12 in Tennessee with the current testing structure and take each class with an end-of-course exam, they would have to take 32 standardized tests by the end of their schooling.

Tennessee spent $40 million on testing in 2013. The new PARCC Assessment is being developed for the next school year and is currently funded by a $186 million Race to the Top grant. All of these tax dollars for testing are going to out-of-state vendors, rather than staying in our state to help children.

I serve as a county commissioner and sit on the budget committee. My county could use more help from the state in providing the basics that our students need — textbooks, technology, science labs, career technology programs, and buildings. I work at a school that has as many as 15 floating teachers in any given year, because there are not enough classrooms.

I am not opposed to assessments, but it has clearly gotten out of hand. Assessments shouldn't be the sole indicator of success. Tennessee is now making student scores a major part of teacher evaluation, while approximately 60 percent of educators teach in untested areas. Additionally, the state board has tied teachers' licensing to assessment scores. Many of Tennessee's finest educators are either retiring or looking for other careers, because they are being set up for failure.

We are entering uncharted waters in Tennessee public education. Most of the school reform is being advocated by outside sources that will benefit financially. The quality and depth of learning is being sacrificed in Tennessee for an assessment score. Nothing will change until parents begin to say enough is enough. Please express your concerns to your governor, state legislators, state education commissioner, and Tennessee State Board of Education representative.

Jeff Lipford
President, McNairy County Education Association

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