Teachers’ Union is the Real MVP at School Board Meeting

The Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education is making big statements on behalf of the local teachers’ union these days. At Tuesday night’s business meeting, the group of nine voted unanimously on several key items, chief among them are establishment of collaborative conferencing and resolution to oppose use of TCAP in 2016-17 teacher evaluations.

Collaborative Conferencing

For decades, MNPS staff and teacher union reps battled it out in what was known as  “negotiations,” but in 2011 the GOP-controlled Tennessee legislature flipped the script by eliminating The Education Professional Negotiations Act and replaced it with The Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act.

Collaborative conferencing severely minimizes the union’s menu of items from which to negotiate, putting a cap on their long-held power. I’m guessing the items removed that stings the most are differentiated pay and staffing decisions. But something is better than nothing– which is what Nashville teachers had their disposal prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Teacher Evaluations Sans Student Achievement

Tennessee messed up “bigly” (we’re a red state, so…). Our schools experienced a huge dust-up last winter with the rollout of the new testing system. Dust-up is generous, it was an outright failure. Ironically, Tennessee Department of Education officials traversed the state for months campaigning for the new test tragically named TNReady. It wasn’t ready.

Ultimately, blame was placed on vendor Measurement, Inc., but TNDOE commish Candace McQueen accepted responsibility, sent them packing, and awarded accountability waivers to TN districts for 2015-16.

Fast forward to the current school year with new vendor Questar hired July 2016 and testing in progress as I write this post. Hence, the Nashville board’s resolution.

The board voted on a resolution to oppose the use of 2016-17 TCAP data as part of teacher evaluations. As mentioned above, the TN commish granted waivers for 2015-16. There are a couple of things sitting quite uncomfortably with me.

First, someone has to be accountable for student outcomes. The resolution’s language is exceedingly pro-adult with no source tapped to take responsibility. We cannot relax accountability, not now, not ever.

Second, requesting a waiver for a second year doesn’t say sense of urgency. As I have said before, children do not have the luxury of time, but as mentioned above the resolution is in no way about them.

So, after winning a hard-fought school board election, the fruit of the local union’s labor is ready for harvest.





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