New Commissioner of Education.Governor Haslam has appointedDr. Candace McQueen, Dean of Education at Lipscomb University, as Commissioner of Education.McQueen, endorsed by teacher organizations, has been welcomed by teachers across the state. McQueen, has been a strong supporter of Common Core. Both the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) and Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) have expressed their hope that Commissioner McQueen will listen to veteran teachers in making important policy decisions. TEA specifically requested that she use her position to advocate to improve per student investment in Tennessee. McQueen has indicated her intent to seek teacher input about best instructional practices and is currently on a statewide tour of classrooms, talking with teachers.
Common Core. In coming weeks the legislature will be debating bills to determine if the Common Core State Standards will survive or whether a state commission will be appointed to oversee the development of new state standards dubbed as the Volunteer State Standards. The Tennessee Organization of State Superintendents (TOSS) has submitted a petition requesting that the state standards not be changed during this state legislative session. The petition pleads to allow the public review of standards (initiated by Governor Haslam to be completed by March 2015) to proceed. The public review process allows Tennessee residents to review each standard, and to recommend whether the standard should be retained or changed, and to explain why. “There has been unprecedented participation in the review process, especially by Tennessee teachers,” the TOSS letter says. “We ask that their input be valued . . . .[W]e urge the General Assembly to allow the review to continue and to refrain from passing legislation this year that disrupts standards or assessment.” TOSS represents the state’s superintendents and directors of schools and is the leading advocate organization for public education in the state of Tennessee.
Teacher’s Salary. Salary concerns continue with teacher organizations emphasizing the disparity in student achievement between the counties with the highest and lowest paid teachers. Governor Haslam has outlined in his budget $100 million to provide money to districts to reward the “best performers.” Districts could give all teachers 4% or they could provide 6% raises for some teachers and 2% raises for others.
School Vouchers. Vouchers remain a hot topic with TREE(Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence) organizing on March 3 at the statehouse against current voucher bills in committee.
Value Added. The Tennessee Education Association (TEA), joining with the National Education Association, has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s TVAAS data in teacher evaluations. According to a press release,more than half of the public school teachers in Tennessee receive evaluations based substantially on standardized test scores of students in subjects they do not teach. The lawsuit seeks relief for those teachers from the arbitrary and irrational practice of measuring their effectiveness with statistical estimates based on standardized test scores from students they do not teach and may have never met.