In March, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced the formation of a special Tennessee Task Force on Student Testing to study and identify best practices in testing at the school level and how those assessments align with required state tests. The task force includes a broad spectrum of education leaders, teachers, and stakeholders who have met over the past six months. As the recommendations of this task force are released, it is important to meet the insightful and dedicated individuals who served as part of this group.
Meet, Nancy Ash.
Nancy is the assistant director of schools and director of teaching and learning with 32 years of education experience in Wilson County Schools.
Nancy was awarded school level “Teacher of the Year” three times and Wilson County’s System-Level “Teacher of the Year” two times. She taught for 22 years at Mt. Juliet High School where she was instrumental in creating various extra curricular academic opportunities and award programs.
Upon leaving the classroom, Nancy spent nine years at Lebanon High as an administrator before joining Wilson County School’s leadership team as the supervisor of testing and accountability. Two and a half years ago she stepped into her current role with Lebanon Special School District.
Meet, Virginia Babb.
Virginia is a Realtor who also serves as the Knoxville Parent Teacher Student Organization Chair and the Development Director for the West High School Foundation. She described her experience on the assessment task force.
“I have appreciated learning that the state seriously considers all the different stakeholders and is trying to make statewide mandated assessments a better experience for everyone.”
Virgina is deeply involved with her community in Knoxville and received the Knox County PTA Lifetime Achievement Award among many other accolades.
Meet, Representative Harry Brooks.
Harry serves as the Chairman for the House Education Administration and Planning Committee with the Tennessee General Assembly. He is from Knox County and represents the 19th District.
During his time with the Tennessee General Assembly he served on the Education Committee for 10 years. He described what he has enjoyed about the task force.
“The Commissioner has been open to many suggestions.”
His experience in education also includes teaching at Joppa Elementary and being an adjunct professor at Carson-Newman University. Not only has he personally and professionally dedicated a lifetime to public service, but so has his wife Mary, a retired teacher of over 30 years.
Meet, Jasmine Carlisle.
Jasmine is currently a senior at Mt. Juliet High School where she is a National AP Scholar and a Valedictorian candidate. Jasmine described what she enjoyed most about serving on the task force.
“I enjoyed working with so many leaders in education with so many varying perspectives and sharing students’ perspectives and needs in regard to assessment.”
Jasmine’s passion for education began at a young age when she audited her father’s college biology courses while in the sixth grade. She has been an advocate for further enrichment for honors students of all grades including access to AP classes for underclassmen.
Meet, Phillip Eller.
Phillip is currently a fifth-grade teacher at Cedar Grove Elementary in Rutherford County. Phillip shared his biggest takeaway from being on the task force.
“Meeting talented and motivated educators and policy makers from across the state has helped sharpen my focus on what’s most important in education and pushed me to continue to improve in the classroom.”
After graduating from Welch College in Nashville, Phillip taught 12 years in both private and public schools in Middle Tennessee. He became a Core Coach during the first year of state training and served in that role for two years.
Meet, Representative John Forgety.
John is currently a Tennessee State Representative, but he has spent approximately 40 years in public education. He has served as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal , supervisor of pupil transportation, and superintendent of schools McMinn County for 16 years. John described his experience serving on the task force.
“It has become graphically obvious that each member of the task force cares deeply for the children of the state of Tennessee. I appreciate the leadership of Dr. McQueen and the Tennessee Department of Education.”
John is a highly decorated man and is currently in his third term in the Tennessee House of Representatives where he serves as Chair of the House Education Programs and Instruction Committee.
Meet, Barbara Gray.
Barbara has been in education and serving Shelby County Schools since 1972. She has served as a high school and middle school teacher and as an elementary school and middle school administrator. Barbara currently serves as the President of the Tennessee Education Association. Barbara shared some thoughts on the outcomes of the task force.
‘I feel that the task force has come up with good principles and recommendations around assessments in Tennessee.”
Barbara has served on various education task forces and committees to help provide guidance to her school system, community, and education associations.
Meet, Senator Dolores Gresham.
Senator Gresham represents Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Henderson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, and McNairy Counties. She has served as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee since her first year in the Senate in 2008. Dolores describes her experience on the task force.
“Engaging in the work of the task force was both challenging and illuminating. I was reminded of a most important principle: What gets measured gets done.”
She has served as President of the Board for many different organizations and has received several awards throughout her years of community and legislative service.
Meet, Bill Harlin.
Bill was recently named the principal of Nolensville High School, which is currently under construction and will open in the fall of 2016.
Bill is a native of Williamson County where he grew up raising Tennessee Walking Horses at Harlinsdale Farm in his youth. He has served his entire career in Williamson County beginning in 2000. He taught social studies at Centennial High School from 2000-2006 and during this time served as the department chair.
In 2006, he was hired as an assistant principal at Brentwood Middle School, and in 2009 he became principal. During his time as principal, Brentwood Middle School has been recognized as the top achieving school in the district for 3 years and for the highest growth in the district for 2 years.
Meet, Sara Heyburn.
Sara is the current Executive Director of the Tennessee State Board of Education. She first joined the State of Tennessee in 2010 as K-12 policy advisor in the Governor’s Office. Following this, she served as Assistant Commissioner of Teachers and Leaders at the Tennessee Department of Education from 2011-2014 before assuming her current role. She explained the greatest benefits of serving on the task force.
“We are emerging on the other side with a clearer picture about best practice, the role of state and district guidance and a set of recommendations that can inform our shared efforts to ensure all assessments are grounded in sound instructional practice and enhanced student learning.”
Sarah’s work in education began in Brentwood, TN, where she worked as a high school English teacher.
Meet, Cathy Kolb.
Cathy is a 30 year veteran special educator who has taught at Moore Magnet STEM Elementary School in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School District for the past 21 years. Cathy shares her biggest takeaway of participating on the task force.
“Meeting and collaborating with other colleagues is always the most important work we do as educators as it gives us the opportunity to fine tune our craft by listening and talking to teachers in order to make the assessment piece more efficient and meaningful.”
Cathy has been selected as her school’s Teacher of the Year three times during her tenure. She was also selected as Clarksville-Montgomery grades 5-8 Teacher of the Year during the 2014-15 school year.
Meet, Valerie Love.
Valerie currently serves as the associate principal at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in the Kingsport City Schools District. Valerie discusses her favorite aspect of the task force.
“The most enjoyable aspect of the task force is the collaborative nature of participants. The group worked diligently by putting students first, allowing all voices to be heard, and making available to all members appropriate research and necessary information so that all members were appropriately informed.”
Valerie has been an educator for 21 years as high school math teacher and k-12 math coach. She was also a SCORE Fellow for 2014-2015 school year and served as a Core Coach for 3 years. Before taking on the role as associate principal, Valerie was selected as her school’s Teacher of the Year for 2014-15.
Meet, Becky McBride.
Becky is a high school English teacher at Brighton High School in Tipton County. Last year, she was a finalist for the Tennessee Teacher of the Year and winner of the Southwest Region Teacher of the Year. She expresses her favorite things about serving on the task force.
“Working with Commissioner McQueen in a small group setting as well as others, has definitely been a highlight of this experience. We have really examined the logistics, the needs, and the outcomes of assessment in our state as well as the benefits that valid assessments do provide.”
During her 13 years as an educator, she has had extensive experience in assessment advising and in the past has served as a TN Ready item reviewer, a District Common Assessment team member and an EOC English I and English II item reviewer. Becky has contributed to Classroom Chronicles in the past where she discussed effective team teaching. Read more about her classroom in this blog post.
Meet, Debbie Shedden.
Debbie is the President-Elect of the Tennessee School Boards Association, having served as the 2014 TSBA Vice-President and the 2013 TSBA Treasurer. She reflects on her time as part of the task force.
“As our state moves forward as a leader in education reform, I know the assessment principles drafted by this task force will reflect the collaborative efforts of a concerned and passionate group of individuals.”
Debbie has served on the Hawkins County Board of Education since 2008 and she is a current member of the Hawkins County Schools Leadership Team, currently developing a 5-year strategic plan.
Meet, Wanda Shelton.
Wanda is the Director of Schools for Lincoln County Schools and has served in this role for the past 10 years. Wanda has been recognized as the Tennessee Superintendent of the Year, 2015 and is happy to celebrate her system’s continued growth. Under her leadership, she recently had the opportunity to see three of her seven schools recognized as Reward Schools. She states her biggest take away from the task force.
“From all seats, I learned that we are on the same page, we do indeed have a shared vision, and we all want what is best for the students, teachers, and the citizens of Tennessee… we also found a way to reach consensus and share differing opinions with the best interest of students always in mind as our shared goal.”
Wanda began her career as a social studies teacher followed by working as a school counselor. Eventually, she left the classroom and became a supervisor of curriculum and instructional programs and supervisor of assessment and data for several years before being named the Director of Lincoln County Schools in 2006.
Meet, Beth Unfried.
Beth has been an educator for 27 years with the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and currently serves as the Director of elementary education. She has taught second and fifth grade and she was a school level administrator for 19 years before assuming her current role. Looking back on her time on the task force, she shares her biggest take away.
“I have appreciated the knowledge I have gained from the data being presented as well as the plans for implementing TNReady.”
Beth’s most recent principal assignment was at Norman Smith Elementary School. Here, she led the school to Reward School status as well as the TN SCORE Prize winner in 2013. In addition, Beth was also named the Middle Grand Division Winner for TN Principal of the year in 2014.
Meet, Mike Winstead.
Mike became the director of Maryville City Schools in 2014, after serving for six years as Assistant Director of Schools. Mike shared his thoughts summing up his experience on the task force.
“I believe the Task Force did a good job of taking (stakeholder) input and input from statewide surveys, and developed a document that provides guidance on what a balance assessment program should look like.”
Prior to his arrival in Maryville, Mike spent fourteen years in the Knox County School District serving as a teacher and administrator at both the school and district level.