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DAR chapter talks education

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 3/25/23

The Shelby Chapter of DAR hosted Bedford County Schools Superintendent Tammy Garrett at their regular monthly meeting.

Garrett gave the group an update on the school system as well as any impact …

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DAR chapter talks education


The Shelby Chapter of DAR hosted Bedford County Schools Superintendent Tammy Garrett at their regular monthly meeting.

Garrett gave the group an update on the school system as well as any impact from recent legislation regarding third grade retention.

Speaking among many former and retired teachers, this sparked discussion and topics of concern.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed two pieces of legislation during their “1st Extraordinary Session of 2021”— the Tennessee Literacy Success Act and the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act. The goal of these pieces was to help ensure Tennessee students could “recover from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and close gaps in students’ learning.”

However, this basically comes down to testing third graders on their reading comprehension. If students do not meet the expectations of this one test, they are held back, required to attend summer school, or must receive tutoring in the fourth grade.

Garrett explained this would be a burden on the school system resources as well as on the students themselves.

One cause of concern with this third-grade retention test is that the teachers cannot look at the test. Instead, the school system is required to hire an outside vendor.

Garrett said she asked during one of the study sessions for this new legislation which school system had the highest proficiency level in the state. Garrett said she was told Williamson County had the highest at 35% proficiency rate in third grade.

“It is very concerning,” said Garrett. “And here is my concern as an educator: if I am teaching a course and I give a test that everybody made 30%...I better be looking at my test and my instruction.”

According to Garrett, these standards created by educators were not meant to define proficiency.

Such legislation is especially concerning for a system like Bedford County’s which has, according to Garrett, a higher percentage of English Language Learners than the Memphis City School System.

Garrett said they asked legislators to amend the law to include only those who are “below” and not the “approaching” or above proficiency. However, she said it is unlikely any further changes will be made to the legislation.

“When you’re grading in the classroom, you’re not necessarily grading for all the standards for all year. You may just be grading for a portion of that. And it’s hard to get people to see that sometimes,” said Garrett.

School systems currently have a retention policy in which the teacher, the principal, the parent and student decide if they should be retained or not. “So, we want some of that local ability to make that decision for the child,” said Garrett. 

Looking at Bedford, Garrett defined two main goals of the school system and those are to get all students out of portables and to achieve proficiency that is above or at the state’s level.

In the upcoming year, the school system will be adopting a new math program, switching from Pearson to Savvas. The goal with this switch was to put a math textbook in the hand of every student.

Garrett expressed her surprise when she found out not every student was able to take a textbook home to study due to a lack in resources. 

Plus, like many counties across Tennessee, Bedford is facing a difficulty retaining teachers. According to Garrett, the county actually has 80 fewer teachers than surrounding counties. “So, my goal is to create a culture in which people want to be here and that educators have a vice and are respected in what they do,” said Garrett.

Garrett admitted it is hard to compete with the “Williamson Counties of the world.” For example, Maury County puts close to $42 million more into the school systems than they have to.

“Those resources make a difference,” said Garrett. “But I think teachers will work in a culture that they feel supported in…especially if the principal and the superintendent support them in discipline.”

DAR award

The chapter also awarded Tina Corley from the Adopt-a-Teacher campaign. The goal of this campaign is to help supply teachers with plenty of resources.

Teachers become a member of the Facebook page (at Bedford County, TN - Adopt a Teacher), create an Amazon wish list for their classroom needs and share that wish list to their page. That wish list is then shared by other teachers from the page to the teacher’s personal Facebook page. In most instances, the sharing continues to occur thereafter.

“That’s how we’ve grown our group so successfully,” according to Corley.  “While awards are icing on the cake, that’s not why I do this! I always accept the award with an incredibly grateful heart…” she said in a recent Facebook post.

The 4th annual campaign will kick off June 10 and last about 40 days.