I am thrilled about the future of public education in Tennessee. It will ensure that every student receives a high-quality education that prepares them for success in the modern world.
Many critics like to point out some of the shortcomings of our system, and rightly so. A one-size-fits-all system does not work for everyone. It never has, and never will. The system will continue to evolve, albeit slowly, and adjustments will always be needed. We should welcome debate on public education, which remains our greatest priority.
To attract and keep the industries and businesses that we need for a global economy, we must build and develop a quality workforce. A quality education system ultimately provides economic mobility for all our citizens. It is imperative that taxpayers understand that education is an investment for our state’s future, not merely an expense to bear. It is also a constitutional requirement in our state.
At the state level, we must still improve the teaching pipeline. This means we must identify and develop a community of well-trained, highly compensated educators who can flourish in the teaching profession. Any investment we make in education must be high quality, and position our children for success in the classroom, career, and life. We have a lot of work still to do.
"Every generation, civilization is invaded by barbarians—we call them 'children,'" often attributed to the political philosopher Hannah Arendt. This concept reflects a common idea in many societies throughout history regarding the role of socialization and child-rearing. Education is critical in that arena.
Societies have recognized the importance of teaching values, norms, and skills to the younger generation to ensure their integration into the social fabric and the continuity of cultural traditions. There is an increased recognition of the importance of providing a supportive and nurturing environment for children.
Good schools and educators pay careful attention not only to how students learn but also to what content they learn. The content of education should be thoughtfully curated, relevant, inclusive, and adaptable to the changing needs of society to provide students with a well-rounded and meaningful educational experience. The content that students learn shapes their educational experience.
We must ensure that students are exposed to a well-rounded and meaningful body of knowledge. This includes not only core subjects like math, science, language arts, and social studies but also a range of elective courses and extracurricular activities that can foster a holistic education.
Different students have different learning styles and abilities. Good schools pay attention to individual needs and offer a degree of customization in their curriculum to accommodate diverse learners. When students can see the practical applications of what they're learning, they are often more engaged and motivated to learn.
While it's important to have a strong foundation in traditional subjects like mathematics, science, and literature, it's also important to incorporate modern and relevant topics as well. Strengthening the foundations of our public school system begins with support for local control of public education. Educators also want that chance to be inventive, and they understand the need to challenge the status quo.
The testing culture has killed the enthusiasm of many educators. Although we need testing to measure the progress of our students, we should recognize these tests are often unreliable in evaluating teachers and schools. We should pursue reliable standardized tests that provide accurate feedback for educators, parents, and students.
No single test should be a determinant of a student’s, teacher’s, or school’s success. True measurement of progress should instead consist of several benchmarks, not just testing. The goal should be to provide accurate and constructive feedback to educators, parents, and students. This feedback can help identify areas for improvement and inform instructional decisions.
We must also break down the bureaucratic barriers that have kept educators and school districts from pursuing solutions to the unique challenges of their communities. This means we need to pilot innovative approaches that encourage our schools and their communities to work together and design solutions without bureaucratic hurdles.
In Bradley County, Tennessee the school district has launched the Partnerships in Industry and Education Center, a unique concept that creates an innovative student experience through collaboration with business, industry, and nonprofit organizations changing learning pathways, providing experiential learning in STEM, embedded work-based learning experiences and promotion of design thinking. That is a wise strategy to pursue. Rutherford County should look at this model as well.
Business and community leaders understand that the solutions to many problems we face hinge on a quality public education system. Our future depends on that success. Let’s all work to make that happen.
JC Bowman is the executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee