By Sally Absher


Tennessee Education Department Launches Statewide Tour to Get Input on ESSA Plan

Commissioner Candice McQueen and department leaders are launching a statewide listening tour to gather input from educators, key advocates, parents, students, and the public to determine how to implement specific components of the nation’s new federal education law – the “Every Student Succeed Act” (ESSA).

ESSA replaces the former federal education law, commonly referenced as No Child Left Behind, and reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. ESSA goes into effect in August 2016, and will be fully implemented in the 2017-2018 school year.

The department plans to join or host discussions with groups including the TN School Boards Association, the state’s Assessment Task Force; teacher advisory and leadership groups, including the Tennessee Educators Association and Professional Educators of Tennessee; charter school groups; the business community; the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).

In other words, the Department is seeking input from all the major groups that support the corporate reform agenda.

Parents, teachers, students, and citizens will have an opportunity to weigh in – the Department has published a series of questions, which are the same as the questions that will guide the discussion in other forums – for the public to provide input on the Department’s ESSA website at

How much McQueen and her department will pay attention to the folks subject to this latest federal meddling in public education remains to be seen. The Focus will present research and commentary on ESSA over the coming months.


HVA Teacher Accepted into Prestigious Supreme Court Summer Institute

Hardin Valley AP US History teacher Andrea Guy will travel to Washington, DC this June to attend the prestigious Supreme Court Summer Institute.

After a highly competitive application process, 60 teachers were selected to participate this year. The Institute, open to teachers in the fields of law-related and civic education, is co-sponsored by Street Law, Inc. and the Supreme Court Historical Society.

The Institute offers teachers the opportunity to study recent Supreme Court Cases in detail and learn innovative teaching methodology for conveying this information to students.

Well-known Supreme Court lawyers, reporters, scholars, and educators will be among the speakers and instructors for the Institute.

Teachers will visit the Court to attend decisions and a reception.


Bearden High School Principal Named TN State Principal of the Year

In a news release last week, the Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals announced that .John C. Bartlett, principal of Bearden High School, has been named the 2016 State Principal of the Year by the Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals.

John Bartlett is currently the principal at Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Prior to his arrival at Bearden in 2008, he served as principal at Loudon High School in Loudon, Tennessee, from 2004-2008 and taught US History and coached baseball from 1996-2004 at Bledsoe County High School in Pikeville, Tennessee.

Bartlett is not without controversy, however. As principal at Bearden, he was responsible for a number of questionable firings of popular and effective athletic coaches, and last fall two science teachers resigned at the end of the first nine weeks of school due to punitive policies set in place after Bearden received a TVAAS score of “1” which is designates a “failing” school.


Two Recent Knoxville Graduates Join Inpact 360 Institute Gap Year

Grace Christian Academy graduate Trevan McElroy, and Paideia Academy graduate Cory Hale were recently commissioned by Impact 360 Institute Gap Year, one of many such programs that have exploded in popularity across the country.

As more millennial students decide against going straight from high school into a 4-year university, gap year programs have given future college students the chance to learn more about the world and themselves before committing to a full length program. The American Gap Association estimates between 30-40,000 students take time off before college each year—a number that’s growing every year.

Trevan and Cory are two of forty exceptional high school graduates selected to spend nine months in the program, held in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Students will learn leadership principles, biblical worldview and apologetics in the classroom, and spend time at Chick-fil-A headquarters in Atlanta learning the company’s SERVE model of leadership. They’re also involved in local service projects and participate in a month-long mission project in Brazil.

Impact 360’s Gap Year is a Christian worldview and leadership experience that equips high school graduates to be Christ-focused servant leaders on college campuses, and change agents among their generation. The organization is resourced and supported by Lifeshape Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to equip young adults in the area of Godly leadership.

Trent Wilbanks, Impact 360 Gap Year Director, says, “Our students engage in rigorous learning experiences that prompt them to evaluate, own, and fortify the foundations from which they will launch into college studies and influence various spheres of culture throughout their lives.”