Commissioner’s Comments: August Edition

Dear educators,

cm_r2br2Welcome back to school! I hope the year is off to a great start. The beginning of the year is always an exciting time, but it’s also a busy time – you’re getting to know your new students while collaborating with colleagues to plan for the year ahead. You’re also digesting new knowledge and ideas from summer professional learning and planning sessions.

Here are a few key things to know that may be helpful as we begin the new school year:


  • Your standards are the same this year.

Academic standards in Tennessee now undergo a public review process at a minimum of every six years. This process allows teachers, as well as the general public, to share detailed feedback about academic standards.

On April 15, the State Board of Education voted unanimously on final reading to approve the revised Tennessee academic standards for math and English language arts. This final approval comes after a rigorous review process, which included two rounds of public review, with the majority of feedback coming from K-12 educators. While the standards have been approved, they don’t go into effect until fall 2017. The department will offer training on the new standards, and that training will begin during the spring to give educators more time to plan for the following year.

The State Board of Education oversees the standards review process, and you can learn more here to see when standards are revised for your content area.

You can view current academic standards on our website (here).


  • We’ve streamlined our state assessments.

R2bR2This summer we announced how we’re streamlining our assessments to provide a better testing experience for you and your students. We’ve eliminated Part I, so that all operational assessments will be given in one administration window at the end of the year. We’ve also reduced testing time by about 30 percent, and you can view the detailed testing time chart (here). Finally, we will phase in online tests over multiple years to ensure we transition to online assessments at a pace that is right for Tennessee.

You can find more detailed information in my previous message (here) and in our FAQ (here). You can also view the updated assessment blueprints (here).


  • We’re committed to sharing information with you.

We believe you deserve accurate and timely information about issues that affect you and your students. To that end, we publish the monthly teacher newsletter, the Educator Update, and I’ll continue to send additional emails when we have big news to share. We encourage you to stay up-to-date on the latest education news by visiting us often here at our blog Classroom Chronicles, as well as our website (here). We also hope you’ll connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @TNedu.


  • We’re also committed to listening to you.

We’re firm believers that communication is a two-way street. The most helpful feedback we hear often comes from teachers, and what we learned from many of you last year directly informed our decisions for the year ahead.

I will continue to travel the state, visiting classrooms. This year, I’ll focus on making direct connections with students to learn about their experiences and ideas. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting 84 districts since I joined the department, and I particularly look forward to visiting communities where I haven’t yet traveled.studentreading

I’m also proud to work with an incredibly talented group of teachers through our Teacher Advisory Council. These teacher leaders regularly share their perspectives with me, as well as gather feedback in their home regions to share.

We’re also committed to exploring new ways to engage with teachers. I invite you to join me for my first Twitter chat next week on Tuesday, August 23 at 6 p.m. CDT using the hashtag #chatwithtnedu. I’ll lead a discussion about our educator survey results, released earlier this week (here). Stay tuned to my Twitter account, @McQueenCandice and the department Twitter account @TNedu for more details.

Thank for all you do for your students every day. I’m so encouraged by the growth we’ve seen in our students as they continue to rise to higher expectations, and I’m so inspired by your dedication to this important profession.

Best wishes in the 2016-17 school year,