Special Report

Tenn. Lawmakers Given First Look at Education Plan

By The Associated Press — January 12, 2010 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Lawmakers got their first detailed look Monday at Gov. Phil Bredesen’s education proposals for a special legislative session, though some complained that they weren’t given a full account of the plan.

The Democratic governor is urging lawmakers to approve a series of changes that he says are needed the strengthen the state’s application for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal “Race to the Top” money.

Some lawmakers chafed at attempts to keep some elements of the plan under wraps for fear of losing a competitive advantage over other states bidding for the federal money before the Jan. 19 application deadline.

“It kind of puts us in a precarious situation of wondering what we’re actually building and buying here,” said Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville. “I think it’s only fair that we get a little bit of a vision of where we’re headed with this without giving away state secrets.”

The special session officially begins Tuesday afternoon.

A key change would include using student testing data in evaluating teachers and for making decisions about tenure.

Susan Bodary, of Seattle-based Education First Consulting, told a joint meeting of the Senate education and finance committees that federal guidelines consider the use of testing data “as one of the linchpin issues of this competition.”

The Tennessee Education Association, which represents 55,000 teaches and other educators, has announced that it could support no more than 35 percent of evaluations being based on testing data. The Bredesen administration wants 51 percent of evaluations to be based on data, but wants to leave the specific amount up to a special advisory panel of the State Board of Education.

Tennessee’s application is based on “the belief that great teachers and great leaders make the greatest difference in student learning, unequivocally,” Bodary said.

The state’s main competitors for the federal money are Louisiana, Florida, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana and Massachusetts, she said.

Current evaluation criteria for Tennessee teachers don’t use any testing data. Republican House Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton said he is hesitant about making such a large leap over concerns it could further hamper the ability to hire and retain teachers in rural areas, he said.

“To me, 50 percent is a monumental change — 10 percent could be a significant change,” Williams said.

Other K-12 changes would include requiring annual evaluations of teachers and principals and creating a special school district for failing schools.

Some lawmakers raised concerns about the federal government meddling in the state’s responsibility for education.

“I think the whole scheme is patently unconstitutional, but there too much money not to go with it,” said Democratic Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville.

Others said they worried about what will happen after the federal money runs out. Education Commissioner Tim Webb said the administration would design a program that would seek to avoid creating “a vacuum where the districts get sucked into a funding problem.”

Republican Sen. Jamie Woodson of Knoxville said she’s also concerned about “federal impositions on what is very much a state obligation,” but added that the changes could have a positive effect on Tennessee’s education system.

“What I see this as is an opportunity not just to chase federal dollars ... this is an opportunity for us to rethink education policy, to rebuild the box,” she said. “It’s potentially transformational.”

Bredesen is also proposing as series of changes in higher education, including changing the funding mechanism to focus on graduation rates instead of on enrollment and placing more emphasis on community colleges.

Related Tags:

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: June 15, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 8, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 1, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 11, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read