Tennessee Education Association

Great Public Schools for All Students


TEA pushes pilot year for kindergarten, Pre-K portfolio system

The majority of Tennessee kindergarten teachers would like to see the new state portfolio standards to be implemented as a pilot this year in light of many problems associated with their roll out, a TEA survey has found. TEA is working with the legislature to ensure it is so. 

For many teachers, the new standards came as a surprise after the hard work to implement the standards and portfolio system for the 2016-17 school year, which many teachers supported. 

While the new math standards are still being developed, implementation of the new English Language Arts standards led to much confusion and stress in kindergarten classrooms across the state. 

As TEA members spoke out in school board meetings and on social media, TEA launched an extensive survey asking all Tennessee kindergarten teachers to weigh in on the previous and new standards, their implementation, and asking teachers whether each individual standard is age- and developmentally appropriate. 

“The survey results and anecdotal evidence from kindergarten classrooms across the state underscore the need to implement this year’s portfolio standards as a pilot year,” said TEA President Barbara Gray. “Legislators we’ve spoken to support this notion and we hope the Tennessee Department of Education recognizes this need as well.”

TEA will present the survey results to the department in the coming weeks. As the 110th General Assembly kicks into gear in January, TEA will be asking kindergarten teachers to reach out to their elected officials with their stories about the difficulties associated with the new portfolio standards and the need to implement them as a pilot. 

“We know the new standards threw everyone for a loop, even those who refuse to admit it,” said Natasha Patchen, a Knox Co. kindergarten teacher whose presentation to the Knox Co. school board in the fall was a viral hit. “Teachers worked hard and accepted the previous standards, and nobody expected to end up with the mess we’re dealing with now.”

Of more than 1,200 Tennessee kindergarten teachers responding to the survey, more than 56 percent said last year’s kindergarten portfolio system worked well and 65 percent said it measured student achievement. While the majority of teachers believe this previous portfolio system reduced instructional time, they thought it was well developed and appropriate for their students. 

That contrasts sharply with the new kindergarten standards and portfolio system rolled out by the state in August. A majority of teachers (68 percent) said they were not properly informed and trained by the district in the new portfolio system, while only 14 percent felt the training was adequate. 

“When an overwhelming majority of teachers polled received little to no training on the new standards, it would be highly inappropriate and demoralizing to measure their effectiveness based on those standards,” Gray said.

The TEA survey found that 87 percent of teachers disagreed or strongly disagreed that new assessments to measure student growth are easy to create and implement during an instructional day. Less than 1 percent of respondents strongly agreed with that statement and only 4 percent agreed. 

A very small minority (only 3 percent of respondents) believe the new online kindergarten portfolio system works well, while 42 percent agree or strongly disagree and 37 percent are unsure.

“Most teachers are confused by poor design and implementation of the new portfolio system and standards, and the lack of proper training,” Gray said. “We hope the State Department and the legislature hear teachers’ concerns and implement this year’s standards as a pilot. When 76 percent of kindergarten teachers tell you they don’t believe the new portfolio system is developmentally appropriate and will properly measure student growth and achievement, you know something is wrong.”

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