Parents and Teachers Tell Tennessee Students “Don’t Stress. Do Your Best.” On TNReady

What does it feel like to try something new or take on a new challenge? On the front end, there might be excitement or worry. Eventually, however, those new or challenging experiences lead to growth. For many of our state’s students, this year was the first time they took TNReady, the new state test designed to assess a student’s real understanding and give teachers and parents valuable information on their student’s growth.

Like many people who try new things, some Tennessee students felt excitement or worry before the new assessment. Fortunately, many of these students had parents and teachers right there with them, ready with reassurance and encouragement, reminding them that they had the knowledge and skills to meet this new challenge head on. Here are some of these Tennessee parents and teachers who went the extra mile to reassure, reaffirm, and refocus their young scholars.

These Three Teachers Support TNReady – Find out Why

This post is part of Coffee and Conversation, a monthly interview series that highlights impactful, interesting work affecting Tennessee education. Today’s guests are teachers Erica Stephens of Shelby County Schools, Erin Rains of Bradley County Schools, and Heather Hobbs of Kingsport City Schools. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You as a teacher support TNReady. Why?

Erica Stephens: Okay, I’ll start! I think TNReady is an excellent resource for us teachers to understand if our children are on grade level and if there are any areas where we need to improve our instruction.

Erin Rains: Also, I like the ease of reading the score report for parents and that way they can also figure out how they can plug in to help their kids reach their potential. I love the alignment to the college and career readiness standards.

How do you use information from state tests like TNReady to inform your instruction? Can you walk me through what happens on your end as a teacher after students take the TNReady test?

ES: We get together in vertical teams [or by subject area] – we work with all the math instructors across the board – we see what our weaknesses are in and what we need to do to make changes either for our instruction or for how we group our students, then we meet at grade level to be sure that from the first day we start instructing students that we are hitting those areas they didn’t perform well in the previous year.

ER: I like to look specifically at my class summary reports – for instance, I noticed a gap in my instruction as far as students understanding how the main idea of a text is developed. So I can go back and really reiterate that and drive that home. 

Did the lack of data in the 2015-16 school year affect you? If so, how?

Heather Hobbs: Last year was my first year in fifth grade, so I would have really liked having more information on my students. I would have liked to have time to reflect from a state standpoint how I did, so I could monitor and adjust instruction as needed.

ES: Yes, it was challenging not having anything in term of the students. I had to pull other resources that were aligned to our standards to help me see where they were, what I needed to do. But that happens. As teachers, we push forward, preserve, and find other resources.

What information does TNReady give that districts tests or tests that you give in your classroom don’t give you?

HH: Having a standardized assessment that all students are taking and getting that data to compare really allows you to see that big picture we need for equity for all students in Tennessee.

ES: The purpose of the test is that you see if your students understand that standard so they can apply it to any situation. Not just the way you’ve shown them in class.

ER: It helps me see that I’m hitting the target in my instruction – that I’m not teaching in isolation. My students need to be able to be competitive on a state, national, or global level if they so choose and if I’m teaching in my box it’s hard to ensure that it’s happening.

Do you have any words of encouragement for families – parents or students – who might be taking TNReady for the first time starting in April?

ES: Parents should know that this is the first step in the right direction. We want our students to be able to excel. No matter what comes their way, no matter what job they decide to dive into. Change is difficult for everyone – it’s new. But we embrace it and we can go to higher heights.

ER: Also, as an ELA person, I would encourage families to read. The more you read for different purposes and in different texts and contexts, the less something like this becomes a daunting undertaking.

HH: I think, just for the students to know to give their best. And then, for parents to know that their children have been prepared all year and they are able to complete their task.

What is your go-to workday pick-me-up?

HH: Green power smoothies from Panera.

ER: Mine is the boldest cup of coffee that I can find. I kick off my day with AP Psych so I need to be fully caffeinated.

ES: I used to be a coffee drinker, but now honestly my pick-me-up is the kids. It’s their ability to be positive.

Erica Stephens has been educating children for 13 years in the city of Memphis. During this time, she has created an environment conducive for all students to be successful. Erica has held many positions as a testament to her expertise, such as 4th Grade Team Leader, Instructional Leadership Team Member, America Achieves TN Ed Fellow, and SCORE Tennessee Educator Fellow. Follow her on Twitter at @apple4urteach.

Heather Hobbs is a fifth-grade teacher at Andrew Johnson Elementary School in Kingsport, Tennessee. Heather teaches literacy and social studies. She believes in high expectations, and she strives to help each student fulfill their dreams. Follow her on Twitter at @Live2Learn5.

Erin Rains teaches at Walker Valley High School in the Bradley County school district. She is an alumna of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Arkansas State University. Erin has been teaching for 13 years. Follow her on Twitter at @erains1.

Check out Eight Sample Questions to Get a Feel for TNReady

Pop quiz! When Tennessee students in grades 3-11 begin taking TNReady, they will be greeted with:

A) Multiple-choice questions
B) Essay prompts
C) Open-ended responses
D) Multiple-answer questions
E) All of the above

The answer would be E – all of the above.

TNReady, Tennessee’s state test that better measures student progress, uses a few different types of question formats to give students a variety of ways to show what the know and can do. But for parents and older students who might be used to tests that rely predominantly or entirely on multiple-choice questions, it’s important to know that TNReady is different.

To give parents and students a sense of the types of questions asked on TNReady, I dug through the Tennessee Department of Education’s parent guide to find sample questions to show a few of the questions types on the assessment.

Notice, this question is not designed as a multiple-choice question. For this open-ended question, students will have to come up with their own answer instead of choosing between answer A, B, C, or D. Additionally, TNReady questions will examine a student’s mathematical knowledge both with the assistance of a calculator and without. The first subpart will be without a calculator and the second and third subpart will be with a calculator.

This sample question gives an example of a multiple-answer question. Once again this question raises the difficulty of the question since a student has to select two right answers, instead of just one.

TNReady will have questions that are not multiple-choice (like the first two sample questions in this post), but many questions will still be multiple-choice questions like the science question above and the remaining ELA and social studies questions below.

Besides multiple choice and multiple answer, the TNReady ELA section’s first subpart will feature one writing prompt that asks students to read a text and then respond. There will just be one writing prompt on TNReady and that prompt could test explanatory, opinion/argument, or a narrative mode of writing.

Preparation for TNReady doesn’t require any additional test preparation other than the learning happening in Tennessee classrooms during the course of the school year. And it’s really probable that students have already run into these types of questions on classroom or district assessments. But both my parents and I have always found it helpful to get a quick refresher on both the structure of a test I am about to take before I sit down to take it. Once you have that information and after a year of hard work in the classroom, all that’s left for a student to do is wake up, eat some brain food, drink some water, and then, channel your energy and smarts toward showing what you have learned.

Parents, Learn More about TNReady – a Test That Matters

Beginning April 17, approximately 600,000 students in Tennessee will sharpen their No. 2 pencils and take TNReady, Tennessee’s new state assessment. There’s a lot of information out there about what TNReady is, why Tennessee kids are taking it, and how you can help them prepare. If you’re a parent and you’re already juggling a half million things – soccer practice, homework, and work – you might feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry – this SCORE Sheet post is for you.

Why is it important for Tennessee public school students to take TNReady?

Two reasons.

Option 1 4-18-16First, it’s important to have an annual statewide assessment. Why? Because it gives important information about how Tennessee students, schools, and districts are doing. For parents, an annual test is a mile marker allowing them to see their child’s progress and to continue working with their school to help their child learn more each year. TNReady matters because it is a tool that helps measure and prepare students grade-by-grade for success.

Second, TNReady was designed to work with Tennessee academic standards and measures whether students are gaining the knowledge and skills they should in each grade. To continue making progress in student achievement gains in Tennessee, we need a test that really reflects the material being taught in class and TNReady does that. Since TNReady is aligned to those standards, it better assesses real-world skill and real understanding. For school, for career, and for life, TNReady matters.

What’s unique to this year’s TNReady testing cycle?

Based on feedback from educators after last year’s TNReady, testing time blocks have been restructured to reduce disruptions to instructional time and classroom schedules. Additionally, Tennessee and the new testing vendor, Questar, have taken steps to ensure the success of the administration of TNReady in the 2016-17 school year. All students in grades 3-8 and most high school students will take the test on paper, although some high schools are administering TNReady online after demonstrating technological readiness.)

TNReady is also more rigorous, and it is better aligned with Tennessee standards and 21st-century skills.  For example, TNReady’s ELA section will ask students to analyze literary and informational texts and write in a response to demonstrate critical thinking and communication skills. In math, TNReady moves away from simply multiple-choice questions by giving sections that require students to show their work and enter the correct answer.

Parent_Image9How can I help my kids prepare?

Support their learning. TNReady evaluates the learning that happens all year in the classroom, so making sure your child completes his or her homework and understands new concepts in class is the best way to help them succeed. Communicating with your child’s teacher throughout the year to understand how your child is doing in class is also important – and maybe the teacher will have more tips to reinforce learning at home.

One other thing you can do, especially if your child gets nervous about tests, is help them find ways to manage and use that stress to do well. Remind them of all they have learned, watch for signs of anxiety coming from deeper sources, and share with them a few stress management techniques.

How can I get more information?

Just ask! Here are some reliable, clear sources that will help you get your TNReady questions answered.

  Expect More Achieve More’s Parent Page of TNReady Tips
  Tennessee Department of Education’s Parent Guide
  Tennessee Department of Education’s Supplemental Guide for Students with Disabilities
  Tennessee Department of Education’s TNReady Website

Coffee and Conversation: Education and Tennessee’s Military Families

Coffee - Teacher Leadership4

This post is part of Coffee and Conversation, a monthly interview series that highlights impactful, interesting work affecting Tennessee education. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the relationship between the military and national security in general and education?

Anne Haston: A strong well-equipped military is vital to today’s defense. Especially in today’s work when we have so much technology – today’s soldiers and airmen are much more educated. The requirements for their jobs have changed so much with cyber missions and new technology. Education is a really big piece to being able to service in the military.

How does your organization, the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), help military families?

AH: The Military Child Education Coalition is a nonprofit that focuses on the military child’s educational experience. They create programs to support the military student and the parent and they have a professional development series for educators. It’s important that [military students] receive additional support because military families move on average every 2-3 years and a child can attend 6-9 schools on average. During all those times of separation, especially deployments, they can go from an A student to a B or C student.

Are there things that schools and teachers should think about when they have children making that transition?

AH: Without program-creation, if the teacher can just be sensitive to the fact that a new student needs to be connected to other students right away. Because the last thing you want to see is a student eating alone in the cafeteria.

But MCEC creates programs like that – the student-to-student program is specifically about transitioning students – not just military, but any students that are new to a school – partnering them with another student so they can make friends more quickly. They also have parent-to-parent programs that educate the parents on how to best help their child – from how to prepare for pre-K to how to fill out that FAFSA. Many of those programs go hand in hand with the Tennessee Promise, the Drive to 55. We have been in conversation with state leaders with implementing programs for Tennessee.

Your husband is a military general. Did you go through any of these challenges that military families face?

AH: [Laughs] I have been married to the military for 35 years. We have had the benefit to see what it’s like to be an active duty, a traditional Guard family, and a full-time National Guard family.  It’s good we have all three perspectives.

Our military child was in middle school when his dad deployed to Iraq – he did not want anyone to know about it. If the child is in elementary school there is a lot of talking about it, but in middle school, they don’t really want to be the center of attention. It is worrying. These children grow up spending more time paying attention to the nightly news than your average child.

SCORE had an event on the connection between military and education issues – what do events like that do for the conversation in Tennessee?

AH: Anytime we come together to work collaboratively, that inspires us to keep moving forward. Our military service members truly value education for themselves and their children. We also noticed that several that attended the SCORE summit in December were really pleased to learn things they didn’t know before. We’re looking to keep moving that conversation forward with the AIM High TN initiative. It’s a new partnership to raise awareness of the importance of high-quality education and aligned assessments and it is also to raise awareness across the state about what a big military student and family state we are.

Finally, what’s your go-to work day pick-me-up?

Ginger turmeric tea – but if I’m being really bad – it’s a chocolate mocha.


 

Anne Haston with her husband Major General Max Haston at the 2015 SCORE Prize

Anne Haston with her husband, Major General Max Haston, at the 2015 SCORE Prize

 

Anne Haston serves on the Military Child Education Coalition’s Board of Directors. As a child and youth education advocate since 1997, and as first lady of the Tennessee National Guard since January 2010, Mrs. Haston focuses most of her volunteer time on the ‘force behind the force’ – the military child and family. She currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Tennessee Expect More, Achieve More Coalition, and is President-elect for the Knoxville Region University of Tennessee Alumni Association Network Board. She is a mentor for the Tennessee National Guard Youth Action Council and serves as the Military Child & Family Liaison for the Knox County Council PTA. She is married to Major General Terry “Max” Haston and they have one son, Travis, a recent college graduate, and one shelter rescue dog, Harley.

Coffee and Conversation: Teacher Leadership

Coffee - Teacher Leadership4

This post is the first of Coffee and Conversation, a new monthly interview series that highlights impactful, interesting work affecting Tennessee education. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you define teacher leadership?

Keilani Goggins: I think a teacher leader is someone who contributes to the success of students and the culture of success at their school.

Peter Tang: It’s about teachers expanding their influence. That influence can be in a school building or school district, in state efforts to improve student outcomes, and sometimes even nationally.

Geoff Millener: I think it starts with people who do a job having a voice in how the job is done.

Geoff, the PEF Fellows are very locally focused. What’s the benefit of having that tailored focus with teachers from the same region?

GM: Working at a local level – you see immediately the influence that you can have. You know, Chattanooga has been changing a lot for about three decades and that’s a place where we have to have education voice. Policymakers and influencers are hungry to hear from our teachers.

So, Hope Street is a national organization. Do Hope Street Fellows work with fellows in other states that Hope Street has a presence in? 

KG: Yeah, so we have the national fellowship and we have them in four different states – North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Hawaii. It is very state-specific, but they do have the opportunities to work across the state lines, which I think is a selling point for our fellowship. It lets you see, I’m here in Sumner County – but there’s a teacher over in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County dealing with the same things.

When teacher return to their schools or districts do they help foster of a culture of teacher leadership?

PT: One cool thing Keilani does initially with the Hope Street Fellows is talking to their district so the district can understand the value proposition in investing the time to send a teacher to a convening.

GM: Our elementary teachers, our counselors, have been able to build a critical mass around what they are specifically working on that makes translating it back to the school a bit easier.

KG: And the type of work you’re doing is so deep – you’re going to communities – don’t you go to a prison and jail?

GM: Yeah, that’s on the docket. You know we know teachers are asked to do a lot more than teach every day. So getting our fellows involved in housing, in criminal justice, just creating some more conversations between these organizations and groups in the community.

When you’re recruiting from classroom teachers how do you strike that balance of making sure they can excel in the classroom and having a sustainable lifestyle?

PT: Geoff, and Keilani and I are in some ways coaches for the teachers we work with and it’s having those honest conversations – what are you involved in, is this the right time for it, when do you say yes and no?

What’re the most innovative or impactful projects that have been done as part of the fellowship?

KG: One of the things our Shelby County fellows did is they talked to Superintendent Hopson. And he charged them with creating a teacher advisory council for him and his cabinet. They had a half day retreat with the Superintendent and team to talk about compensation models, teacher leader pathways and that work.

PT: In our case, a local community partnership to bring together business people, policymakers, and teachers to say “Let’s have a better conversation. How do we support each other?”

GM: [Fellows] come up with a public-facing, student-centered advocacy project. They are looking at things like more and better early childhood education, teacher preparation and retention, school start times, more racial and socio-economic diversity in our schools. We just didn’t anticipate how this would look along the way, but we are excited to see how it unfolds.

What is your go-to morning pick up beverage? Coffee or Tea?

KG: Mine is coffee. I grind my beans right then, I use a French press. It’s serious business.

PT: Coffee gets me too hyped up. I’m a Trekkie. Captain Picard loves a cup of Earl Grey, and I do the same.

GM: Similar to Peter, caffeine and I don’t agree with each other. It’s a bad mix for anyone involved.


 

Coffee - Teacher Leadership

Geoff Millener leads PEF Chattanooga’s Policy Fellows Program, a 16-month fellowship infusing teacher voice into public policy.  Follow Geoff on Twitter at @gmillener

Peter Tang leads SCORE’s Tennessee Educator Fellowship, a yearlong program that helps teachers learn about and advocate for student achievement and educator effectiveness. Applications for this program open February 1. Follow Peter on Twitter at @petertangck.

Keilani Goggins leads Hope Street Group’s Tennessee State Teacher Program, collaborating with 26 teachers to engage their peers and gather input on education topics. Applications for this program are now open. Follow Keilani on Twitter at @HSG_TN.

The Top Five Engaging Posts on SCORE Sheet in 2016

New Year’s Day is a natural point in time to examine the previous year, celebrating successes, before diving into the following year. As the year closes, we take time to look back at the SCORE Sheet posts that prompted and shaped online conversation on education in Tennessee as measured by views and engagement on these posts.

The most popular posts showcased education successes in Tennessee or shared new developments in education in the state, indicating a keen interest in learning about best practices and trends.

So, before we move into 2017, we would like to share with you the top five engaging posts of 2016.Trousdale Teaching 4-14-15

Trousdale County Fosters Success with Personal Attention and Innovative Use of Data by Amy Griffith Graydon

“At Trousdale County Schools, which also won the district SCORE Prize in 2013, value-added and assessment data are closely monitored from elementary school on. Value-added data guide about 85 percent of classroom forming decisions starting with late elementary grades. The district and schools use the data to divide students into three tertiles – low, medium, and high achievers – and monitor which teachers tend to foster the most growth from students within each group. Placements are adjusted based on student performance, as often as every nine weeks at the middle school grades.”

score_brad_gentryTennessee Educator Fellowship: The Third Way for Teachers to Handle Change by Brad Gentry

“Embracing change or waiting for new changes never seemed like good options to me. I knew there had to be a better way, a way that my voice could be heard. Thanks to the Tennessee Educator Fellowship, I have found that third option. The Tennessee Educator Fellowship has given me many lessons that have helped shape my understanding of education in Tennessee. The fellowship taught me many skills and lessons which will follow me throughout my career, and I know I am a better educator for having participated in the fellowship.” Image1

Five Things Tennessee Parents Need to Know About ESSA by Rachel Miklaszewski

“Over the next several weeks, Tennesseans have the opportunity to offer community feedback on the state’s ESSA plan at town hall meetings hosted by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE). But if you aren’t closely following federal education policy you may be wondering, “What is ESSA? How do you even pronounce that? And most importantly, what does this mean for Tennessee students?”

GymExploring the Links between Health and Educational Outcomes by Indira Dammu

“Research shows that physically healthy students tend to have better grades, school attendance, and classroom behavior. The impact is especially profound for students from historically underserved backgrounds. Participation in a free school breakfast program, for example, has been positively associated with students being on time; missing less school; and having better attention, behavior, math grades, and standardized test scores. Promoting student physical and mental health is a promising strategy that could have an impact on student achievement.”Toolbox

Chamber Programs Help Rutherford County Students Chart Their Careers by Erika Leicht

“Students in Rutherford County Schools and Murfreesboro City Schools do not need to wait until high school to begin exploring career possibilities. Students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades can participate in ACE (After-school Career Exploration), an after-school program coordinated by the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce that educates students about high demand occupations and postsecondary opportunities.”

 

These posts are just the tip of the iceberg of Tennessee’s 2016 education work. As 2017 begins, the SCORE Sheet will continue to push forward posts that showcase success, highlight new areas for innovation, and encourage people to actively understand, talk, and participate in Tennessee’s continued progress in education. Thanks for reading in 2016 and if you have an idea for a 2017 SCORE Sheet post, please contact SCORE Communications Associate Rachel Miklaszewski.

Five Things Tennessee Parents Need to Know About ESSA

Image1Over the next several weeks, Tennesseans have the opportunity to offer community feedback on the state’s ESSA plan at town hall meetings hosted by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) or on the TDOE’s website.

But if you aren’t closely following federal education policy you may be wondering, “What is ESSA?How do you even pronounce that? And most importantly, what does this mean for Tennessee students?”

Don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone. But by the end of this post, you’ll have answers to all those questions and more.

What is ESSA?

ESSA (pronounced EH-suh) is an acronym for the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal education law, crafted by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, among others. ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind, notably shifting more responsibility for providing a quality education to the states, instead of the federal government.

Great, ESSA’s a federal education law – how does it affect Tennessee?

ESSA requires each state to develop a plan to make sure its public schools are showing growth and achievement for all students. It gives states more autonomy over public education—but at the same time more responsibility. So, Tennessee has been coming up with a plan, in line with federal guidelines and regulations, and that it will share with community members for feedback.

Image3Okay. So what are some of the things in Tennessee’s plan?

Tennessee’s proposed system would give parents and community members a more nuanced view of how schools and districts are performing. It also would give school and districts more and more specific data about the achievement and growth of all their students.

Under ESSA, Tennessee’s new plan will look at student achievement, growth, graduation rates, and data for Tennessee’s historically underserved populations. These requirements are already part of Tennessee’s district accountability system. ESSA also requires that state accountability systems consider progress for English Learners (EL), a new factor for Tennessee. Finally, ESSA asks states to include a student success indicator, a measurement that pushes states to look beyond test scores for measuring schools and districts.

Tennessee’s plan also specifies that schools and districts will be expected to make improvements on those factors. Based on performance, schools and districts will receive a grade ranging from A to F. It’s important to note that this grading system isn’t from ESSA, it is actually from a new Tennessee law. However, this law is in line with ESSA requirements. The A- F grading system will take effect in schools in the 2018-19 school year. This also is the first time that there will be an accountability framework for Tennessee schools; in the past, only districts have been evaluated this way.

Why and how will Tennessee consider data for historically underserved populations?

While seeing a school’s overall achievement or growth for students is one good way to understand school and district data, these averages sometimes hide gaps between different groups of students. ESSA asks states to pull out data for specific groups and see how all different types of students (students from major ethnic and racial groups, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English Learners) are performing to make sure no one is falling behind.

Schools must show that they are reaching these subgroups under Tennessee ESSA plan. Forty percent of their grade will be based on how well districts taught those populations.

What happens if the students in some schools are not doing well?

Image2Tennessee labels schools that fall in the bottom 5 percent of absolute student achievement as priority schools. For priority schools, there are multiple ways to improve, such as district-led intervention, placement in the Achievement School District or Innovation Zone, or tailored intervention from the TDOE. Under ESSA, these priority schools would get more tailored help and support, as well as federal funds, to improve.

Wait, I have more questions and ideas about ESSA and Tennessee!

Here’s a great way to get answers. Attend an upcoming ESSA town hall in your area or provide feedback online. Learn and share more as Tennessee builds its plan, aligned with ESSA, to advance student achievement.

Bristol, January 11, 5 p.m. – Tennessee High School
Chattanooga, January 17, 5:30 p.m. – Orchard Knob Elementary School

Building, Experimenting, Inventing: 3 Innovative Science-in-Action Programs in Tennessee

science3When I heard the great news about Tennessee science students from the Nation’s Report Card, I wondered, “What helped Tennessee achieve this incredible growth?” Commissioner McQueen pointed to Tennessee’s hands-on, science classrooms in her Classroom Chronicles post on the NAEP science growth:

“When I first dug into our results, my mind immediately went to classrooms where I have seen science in action… We have more and more partners who are coming around this work to support innovative new approaches, like blended learning environments, STEM labs, work-based learning, and different professional learning models for educators.”

Commissioner McQueen is right. There are schools across Tennessee that are growing their science, technology, engineering, and math programs with an emphasis on giving students a chance to directly experiment and apply concepts to reality. To show off some of the great work happening in Tennessee schools, here are three programs in the news that are worth sharing and celebrating.

1. William Blount STEM students build models for Chilhowee Dam research

“Students in Randy Puckett’s class at William Blount High School see directly how studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics relate to the real world. They are using what they learn in his STEM II class this semester to study the Chilhowee Dam.

The dam is currently undergoing repairs for seepage, and Puckett’s students are creating models and testing various possible solutions to improve the dam. Using iPads and concrete, power tools, sand, soda bottles and more, in a lab carved out of a couple of automotive shop bays they are building scale models, testing theories, collecting data, improving designs and testing some more.”

Read more at The Daily Times. 

2. Tyner students learning by building energy-efficient tiny house powered by solar energy

“Learning about renewable energy doesn’t involve listening to lectures and staring at textbooks for students at Tyner Academy. Instead, they’re learning by doing — building an energy-efficient tiny house that will be powered by solar energy.

“A lot of people don’t know how much you can do with the sun,” said Tynia Palmer, a junior at Tyner. “Now we do.” Palmer and her classmates are working on the house’s thermal roof, and in coming weeks will be adding solar panels, a composting toilet and a solar oven to the structure.

“Sponsoring the Tyner tiny house is a way to accomplish these twin goals and represents an investment in these students’ future careers by giving them hands-on experience with STEM concepts they are learning in the classroom,” STEM education, program manager Charley Spencer said.”

Read more at the Chattanooga Times Free Press

3. Lemelson-MIT awards $10,000 to students at the STEM School to build an invention

“Students at the STEM School Chattanooga have been awarded $10,000 to invent a detector for bicyclists who are riding in protected bike lanes. The team of eight students is in the initial stages of planning their invention, explained student Alayna Baker. The team will use sensors to detect cyclists and then notify drivers they are nearby at intersections or

The team of eight students is in the initial stages of planning their invention, explained student Alayna Baker. The team will use sensors to detect cyclists and then notify drivers they are nearby at intersections or stop lights. The team decided on this invention because of the growing cyclist community in Chattanooga and “the issue seemed close to home,” Baker said.Tony Donen,

Tony Donen, principal at the STEM School, said this grant exemplifies the spirit of the school, as it encourages students to be inventors, problem-solvers and entrepreneurs. “At school we want to provide students with the opportunity to identify problems and figure out solutions,” he said. “They don’t just go to school to regurgitate information.” Read more at The Chattanooga Times Press.

science1These stories are just a snapshot of the hands-on learning happening across the state. Thes e programs along with other programs that emphasize science in action grow student understanding in unique ways, allowing students to take ownership of their science education and connect the theoretical to the practical. As we celebrate Tennessee’s science growth, it is important to also celebrate the innovative work of educators and communities that accelerated Tennessee’s growth. As Tennessee students experience science in action, Tennessee grows and our students develop the skills to become tomorrow’s scientists and problem-solvers.

Three Words that Describe SCORE’s Visit to Satterfield Middle School

Caring and strategic.

Those words usually don’t go together, but they both fit Troudale County’s Jim B. Satterfield Middle School. SCORE visited the school in October and observed both how the school’s vision and operation reflected their commitment to thoughtful planning and carefully recorded data, and also reflected effusive camaraderie and care. It was a blend of mind and heart.

The tour started with Principal James McCall highlighting the unique challenge of middle school education. Middle school is a difficult place, he explained, there are lots of developmental changes and higher academic and behavioral expectations. At Satterfield Middle, teachers and staff try to strike the right balance between being supportive, but also pushing students take greater responsibility for their actions.

Finding some tables in the school library, Mr. McCall with the help of Director of Schools Clint Satterfield started explaining their school and district vision – essentially a vision of high expectations for all. But vision is at best 50% of the equation, and we – as a group of education advocates – wanted to know, “How did Trousdale put this vision of high expectations into action?”

We made a lot of tough decisions, McCall explained. When he became principal, he knew he wanted passionate educators with a growth mindset and the commitment to teach all students well. It was a high bar and about 75 percent of the school staff changed, but those who remained could focus and move forward on their shared goals.

McCall also realized that if Satterfield’s quality of instruction was going to continue to grow, the school and the district would have to get aggressive about recruiting and retaining teachers, especially since Trousdale is close to wealthier, larger districts. He, along with Dr. Satterfield and other school leaders, developed a plan for recruitment, touting the small-town aspect of Trousdale along with the continuous learning and supportive atmosphere of their schools. Trousdale’s professional development plan for current teachers became a selling point for prospective teachers looking to refine their practice. And Trousdale school leaders also started researching best practices for retaining great teachers, implementing a structure to ensure that great work was being recognized and rewarded.

Just like with teachers, Trousdale school leadership broadly and proactively thinks outside the boundaries of Trousdale County the success of its students. Trousdale County doesn’t have the industry to supply jobs for the majority of its graduates, Dr. Satterfield explained, so they have to think outside of our district. So, Trousdale students in middle school take part of the ACT Explore to help them identify a career field. Then, the school hosts a career fair, so students enter high school with a plan and then, graduate competitive nationally and statewide. This improvement doesn’t just benefit the students, it benefits the entire community. McCall mentioned that school improvements are attracting outside attention and families are starting move to Trousdale specifically for the public school education.

One final word was anchored in my thoughts the SCORE team headed back to Nashville: necessity. As Principal McCall and Superintendent Satterfield talked about high expectations, they didn’t talk about it like it was a bonus or just an extra thing the school was doing, they framed the conversation as doing what was necessary. Insisting on high expectations wasn’t an option, but the only way they could give their students, teachers, and community all they needed to learn and succeed.


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