Gov. Bill Haslam and Randy Boyd, Special Adviser for Higher Education, talked with the Johnson City Press editorial board Tuesday afternoon about higher education issues. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam stood by recent controversial teaching license policy changes by the state Board of Education, saying a job performance measure for educators is needed to help the state’s students improve.
“I think if you’re a parent and your child has a teacher who’s been graded a 1 out of 5 for two years in a row, you’re going to have some questions,” Haslam told the Johnson City Press editorial board Tuesday, referencing a policy approved last month tying students’ standardized testing scores to the approval and renewal of professional teachers’ licenses. “I do think it’s something the state Board of Education will have more discussions this year on what that should look like. The practical ramifications of that I think will be talked about a lot more during the year.”
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The governor said that a functional and easy to apply gauge of teacher performance is the ultimate goal of Commissioner Huffman’s push for the new rules, and said the issue will likely be analyzed carefully by the board of education before the implementation date.
“Commissioner Huffman does feel like having some standards that determine licensure is a very reasonable thing to do — it’s something that a lot of states do,” Haslam said. “The concept is not one that we think is a bad thing to do, but we’re open to those additional discussions going on through the year.”
In an Aug. 16 board meeting, the state Board of Education, on recommendation of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, voted 6-3 to enact new rules tying the granting and renewal of teachers’ licenses to in-class evaluations and students’ calculated growth factor.
If a teacher scores a 1 out of 5 on either of the measures in two out of three consecutive years prior to getting a professional teaching license or having it renewed, her license could be put on review status and denied if scores don’t improve the next year.
Educators and legislators objected that the standardized test scores were too imprecise to govern the success of an individual’s chosen career, the implementation of the new policy was delayed until 2015 to allow the board to further examine the policy.
State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, and state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, warned last week that the legislature could intervene if the board does not amend or reverse the licensure policy.
Following Huffman’s plan for education reform, since 2011 the state has changed the teacher pension system, eliminated collective bargaining rights, made it more difficult for teachers to achieve tenure and, most recently, implemented a new minimum pay schedule.
The multiple reform initiatives have led teachers’ groups to call for Huffman’s dismissal, but Haslam said they don’t represent the majority of educators in the state.
“If you look at real surveys of teachers, that’s not true,” Haslam said, citing a 2013 TELL survey that collected job satisfaction data. “The results are good. There are a lot of teachers who say the pace of change in Tennessee is very rapid.”
The governor pointed to recent gains in performance among the state’s students as evidence the education initiatives are working, but said students here still have a long way to go.
“We have an issue when 70 percent of our students who get to community college need remedial work, when we have employers who say you’re not providing us with the skill level we need,” he said. “That doesn’t just start as a first- or second-year college student. We have to make certain that all along the way we’re preparing that student to succeed.”
Eds note: The original article incorrectly stated that a teacher could face denial of a license after scoring 2 out of 5 or lower on the measured indicators in the preceding three years. It has been changed to reflect the correct scores.