The P-16 Council of Loudon County will host a public, community-wide event at 6 p.m. Monday to help explain the challenges facing educators.
The meeting at First Baptist Church in Lenoir City will feature a presentation by David Mansouri from the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education. Members of the P-16 group feel that the meeting is an important step in promoting a quality public school agenda. Parents, educators, government officials, local business leaders and residents who have a common interest in supporting and improving local educational systems from preschool through college are especially asked to attend.
Leadership Loudon Class members this year heard Mansouri's presentation and suggested asking him to present it locally.
Wayne Miller, superintendent of Lenoir City Schools, and Jason Vance, Loudon County Schools director, said it is imperative that area residents become informed of what is happening in education as a result of Common Core State Standards. P-16 members have been planning the meeting for months.
Mansouri said he is excited about coming to Loudon County.
"The state is going through a lot of changes, with Race to the Top and, in many ways, the most important and most difficult part of that effort, implementation, is where we are now," Mansouri said.
"There is a difference between passing a law in the state capitol and implementing it in a school house in Lenoir City. It takes commitment and support and money and time from everybody who believes public education is important," he said. "In my mind, we don't have an alternative. We have to make this work - communicate better with everybody about education. I am excited that Loudon County is committed to the approach and I feel there is a sense of urgency to get this out." Vance agreed.
"There is a sense of urgency, because this is going to be a complete paradigm shift for education," he said, adding that the changes dictate the urgency.
"We're changing everything in Tennessee because we want our kids to be able to compete with the rest of the world," Vance said. "The toughest part of implementing Common Core and educating kids to our fullest abilities is that we need additional funding. We're trying to provide a competitive curriculum and that means resources and funding.
"We need professional development for our teachers and resources for them to pull from and an opportunity to educate parents," he added. "This is going to be a paradigm shift for parents as well. We're making a lot of changes, asking them to take four maths and three sciences to graduate. They have to have more credits than ever to graduate. They will be more sophisticated. We need to all be on the same page."
The Tennessee Department of Education is gearing up to implement Common Core next year for math in grades 3-8.
The education reform effort is a driving force behind many changes that will be coming to local schools soon. Mansouri will share challenges from a statewide perspective, as well as focusing particularly on the challenges faced by educators in Loudon County.
Vance said the following points are important to take away from Monday's meeting:
● Loudon County has been generous in its funding for facility improvements, but the daunting academic challenges over the next few years will require similar investments in the professional resources of the schools.
● Parents must stay abreast of challenges facing their children to support their success.
● Many of the recent changes in the law regarding public education, such as Common Core, new teacher evaluations, the Tennessee diploma project and salary increases, require local school systems to redirect large sums of money to fund the programs. Without local increases to parallel the changes, students lose resources.
● Students are more likely than ever to be placed in an environment in which they are competing with students from around the country for college seats and high quality jobs.
● Communities that show strong support for schools and growing academic successes most often win the race for new companies and jobs.
Common Core is a set of standards for math and English-Language Arts that were developed by state leaders to ensure that every student graduates high school prepared for college or the workforce. The standards are designed to set clear expectations of what students should know in each grade and subject. States voluntarily chose whether to adopt the standards. To date, 46 states, including the District of Columbia, have done so.
Miller said the challenge of Common Core implementation has been the toughest of his career.
It requires all students to take courses considered to be college preparatory courses.
Mansouri said he believes the biggest surprise to those attending the meeting will be learning the connection between education and economic development.