The Tennessee Principals Association was founded in 1939 as a support system for Tennessee school leaders. Over the decades, TPA has evolved as the premier professional association for K-8 Tennessee principals and district leaders. Our mission as the Tennessee Principals Association is to
support, empower and connect Tennessee principals. Although we do not endorse political parties or candidates, we do use our voices to advocate for the needs of schools in Tennessee.
Tennessee Principals Association Executive Board Members have identified the following key priorities:
Specific to the current pandemic (COVID-19) and the re-opening of public schools, we also find the following key priorities:
Advocacy Directors: Dr. Brian Partin (Federal) and Heather Wolf (State)
In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Education waived federal assessment and accountability requirements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures. In January 2021, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation to ensure a strong statewide administration of Tennessee Comprehensive Achievement Program(TCAP) assessments in spring 2021 to both generate reliable data on how Tennessee students were performing and inform strategies to help support academic success during the pandemic. Although the participation rates are positive, it does not mitigate the need for fair and reasonable Annual Measurable Objectives as targets to set goals for schools and districts. While most schools have returned to in person learning, the pandemic is not over. With 16.2% of total cases being school age children, the results continue to be an abrupt transition to online instruction and intermittent absences due to illnesses and quarantines.
It is the position of the Tennessee Principals Association that the Annual Measurable Objectives be set based on the 2020-2021 data to ensure that the true intention of the general assembly’s legislation is honored as stated to “inform strategies to help support academic success during the pandemic”. This ensures district and school level instructional goals are based on the current reality represented in the results of 2020-2021 administration of TCAP.
Reason1: Using the 2018-2019 data sets AMOs at nearly double or beyond the typical expected gains. In a sampling of districts statewide, you can see each selected district would be demanded to have increases of 12.8 to 24.4 (math) and 6.9 to 13.7 (ELA) percentage point gains for large districts, which is unprecedented in the best of times. More considerable in impact is the percent change increase in large school districts. Calculations factored from the data set not only demonstrate actual percent proficient targets, but the percent change increase as well, making this an insurmountable task for many districts. Districts such as Shelby County, for example, would need to achieve a 329% increase from 7.4 to 31.8. Of the districts sampled, even a percent change at the lower end such as Williamson County at 25.2% is not fair or reasonable in the midst of the languish caused by the continued impact of COVID 19 on schools across Tennessee.
Reason 2: Teachers in Tennessee have experienced career changing demands to their pedagogy, including more intensive, responsive and personalized instruction to support the rapid acquisition of skills due to “learning loss”. One result identified is a heightened level of job related stress. According to results of the 2021 State of the U.S. Teacher Survey, the Rand Corporation notes that a much higher proportion of teachers reported frequent job-related stress and symptoms of depression than the general adult population. Nearly one in four teachers said that they were likely to leave their jobs by the end of the 2020–2021 schoolyear. Mode of instruction and health were the highest-ranked stressors for teachers. Many pandemic-era teaching conditions were linked to job-related stress, depressive symptoms, and burnout. These issues have not subsided with the beginning of the new school year. As seen above, the sampling of districts represents a drop of anywhere from 9-20 points in math and 3-9 points in ELA. The recovery efforts are specific and targeted, but all require time with evidence-based strategies that support students with additional time and dedicated attention from well prepared teachers. To set unprecedented AMO targets will have detrimental effects on the job-related stress that is currently infiltrating our teaching population.
Reason 3: By using the 2018-2019 data to set AMOs, the unprecedented demand for exorbitant growth will feel unattainable for teachers and schools. The impact on culture and efforts toward continuous improvement could be adverse to the mission and vision of schools. In a study conducted to identify motivation for goal pursuit and predictability of responses to unattainable goals, results indicate that controlled motivation, in our case unfair and unreasonable setting of AMO targets, is typically not associated with behavioral investment in the face of adversity. It goes on to say, “Given that self-worth is “on the line” when motivation is controlled, disengagement might provide an opportunity to free oneself from the pressures and contingencies that controlled motivation represent.” Lastly, controlled motivation for goal pursuit does not result in adaptive self-regulatory responses, when the pursued goal becomes unattainable. In order to respond to the continuing needs of Tennessee’s students we must set fair and reasonable AMO targets so that our teachers can deliver instruction rooted in both evidence and hope for what is possible.