NEWS: Over 700 TN students, teachers, families & others give “listening session” feedback on teacher effectiveness

United Ways across Tennessee are working with representatives of numerous sectors to see how to help improve teacher effectiveness

Friday, December 3rd, the United Ways of Tennessee (UWTN) organization will hold a statewide summit to release the results of “listening sessions” with more than 700 students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders about ways to improve student outcomes.

The summit (held in Nashville, TN) will host representatives from numerous sectors including the business community, state government agencies, universities, nonprofits, and parent advocacy groups, to name just a few.  There will also be time dedicated to speakers and discussing the results of the listening sessions.

“As Tennessee implements the First to the Top program, we believe it’s important to hear what local communities experience and think about our education system,” said Bryce Haugsdahl, president of United Way of the Mid-South in Memphis and chairman of the United Ways of Tennessee organization. “Our statewide United Way system conducted listening sessions to give parents, teachers, administrators, middle and high school students and other community members an opportunity to share their opinions about effective teaching and necessary reforms for improving student outcomes,” Haugsdahl explained. 

While this part of the effort is not designed to produce a statically accurate sampling, it does give “snapshots” of opinions about statewide educational reforms.  “We intentionally sought people whose voice might not normally be heard, such as non-English speaking parents, students in GED programs and parents who are home-schooling their children or have kids with disabilities,” Haugsdahl noted.

Several policies of interest to United Way include those that improve teacher evaluations, increase the number of effective teachers, reward effective teachers and place them in effective areas of need, and hold administration responsible for supporting effective teachers.

“It’s really about supporting good teachers to do good work, one of the major factors in student success,” said Mary Graham, president of UWTN.  “United Way is a neutral convener and can be a catalyst for action. We have a long history of knowing our communities and building diverse collaborations to work toward common solutions.”

This effort is part of a United Way Worldwide grant awarded to United Ways of Tennessee with the goal of building public will to promote policies that improve teacher effectiveness. Grants were also given to local United Way organizations in Memphis (Mid-South), Greater Chattanooga, Greater Knoxville, and Metropolitan Nashville. These four United Ways serve as “hubs” working both in their immediate areas and throughout their regions.

Several speakers will be featured at the summit, including:
– Patrick Smith, Executive Director of Tennessee’s First to the Top Oversight Team
– Al Mance, Executive Director of the Tennessee Education Association
– Diane Neighbors, Chair of the Tennessee Alliance on Early Education and Vice Mayor of Nashville
– Brad Smith, Executive Director of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education.

For a copy of the UWTN report or to find and contact your local United Way about activities in your community, link to:  www.uwtn.org.

For more media-related information, please contact Mary Graham, President, United Ways of Tennessee, 615-791-1464 or mary.graham@uwtn.org

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About Dave Skorupa

Dave Skorupa is a member of the Communications team at United Way of the Mid-South, Memphis, TN.
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