Friday, May 4, 2012

Front Porch Jam Session--Education Discussion at Tennessee PTAConvention

Since Wednesday, I’ve been in Nashville for pre-convention meetings and then for the Annual State PTA Convention.  Here is a picture of my convention badge:
This afternoon, the Tennessee PTA sponsored a “front porch” session.  And it was really good. I learned a lot, tweeted a lot on behalf of Tennessee PTA, and heard some good questions from Tennessee parents.

The front porch panel was Dr. Gary Nixon, Executive Director of the Tennessee Board of Education; Kevin Huffman, Tennessee Commissioner of Education; Jamie Woodson, President and CEO of SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education); and Dr. Jesse Register, Director of Schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools.

I learned about so much stuff that every parent with children in schools or people who live in the community with school children should know.

There were a lot of concerns about the TCAPS standardized test being 20 percent of a school-aged student’s grade.  But TCAPS are being replaced by Common Core testing.  Common Core testing will be done on computers so school systems across the state need to get the hardware and connectivity rolling by 2014 (although there is a back up paper plan for testing).  Common Core is already implemented for two grades and will be expanded for all grades in three years.  One of the parent questions centered-around schools that would not be ready for computers in 2014.  One of the best quotes came from Dr. Register speaking about the lack of digital access in the Nashville school districts among economic disadvantaged students said that the achievement gap will not go away until the digital divide goes away.

On the subject of parental engagement, all of the four front porchers praised the training and involvement of PTA parents in the school systems.  One of them said there are too many parents not engaged; we need your help to get more involved.

Another question was about student health.  PTA has long been a passionate advocate for healthy children and families.   Did you know who the biggest advocate was for hot lunches and immunizations many decades ago? PTA.  All four front porchers praised the PTA leadership in healthy children.  Tennessee PTA is a big supporter of the children health/nutrition program in the schools.  Dr. Register said that in his economic disadvantaged schools, the school district has implemented a backpack program on Fridays to send food home with students for the weekend.

Helping children across the state and supporting school systems to give every child the opportunity to learn and to achieve—that is why I volunteer so much time and energy into what I consider a worthy cause. The future of our society, our leaders, our hope.