Contact: Darlene Schlicher (615) 741-6336 or email: [email protected]
(NASHVILLE, TN), February 5, 2010 — Tennessee’s colleges and universities are working collaboratively to improve teacher quality according to officials of the state’s Teaching Quality Initiative (TQI) who testified before the Senate Education Committee this week. State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) is also a member of the TQI Task Force which has been focusing on the teacher quality and teacher supply issues facing Tennessee.
“Tennessee will reap benefits from this initiative for years to come,” said Senator Tracy, who is a former science teacher. “I was on the school board for nine years and have talked to many teachers and principals across the mid-state area. This initiative comes from the bottom up, with everyone working together to address progress and I am very pleased to see this plan in motion.”
The collaboration was formed to bring a shared vision among Tennessee higher education institutions to assure that teachers graduating from those institutions demonstrate higher levels of knowledge, competence and personal characteristics to bring student learning to new heights. It also aims to ensure programs in the state’s colleges and universities are accountable for their graduates.
The State Department of Education’s Executive Director of Innovation Dr. Connie Smith said, “At a meeting at MTSU four years ago, Senator Tracy challenged higher education to better prepare more effective teachers for the real world. We are now in a position to implement a better generation of teachers around the new standards that are so relevant and rigorous.”
Task Force Chairman Dr. Hal Knight, Dean of the College of Education at East Tennessee State University, thanked Tracy and other members of the Education panel for passing legislation last month to allow colleges and universities to receive feedback on how teachers who graduate from their colleges are performing. The legislation gives teacher training programs access to non-identifying TVAAS data on their graduates to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of their programs.
One of the Task Force’s goals is to actively recruit science and mathematics majors to teach in Tennessee schools. To accomplish this there has been a collaborative effort between the colleges of sciences and education. This effort will help the state’s plan to enhance its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program.
“We must improve our student’s science and math skills to be ready for the jobs of the future,” added Tracy. “The emphasis on science and math skills will result in new and better paying jobs for Tennesseans.”
The group is also focusing on teacher mentoring programs to help provide the support system needed to establish those who are new to the profession. The premise is that new teachers need a robust program of mentoring that begins early in their preparation programs and continues through their early years in the profession.
“I am pleased that the Task Force’s collaborative efforts are charting a course for a stronger teacher recruitment and support system,” he added. “This will make a big difference in boosting student achievement in our schools.”