State legislator Matthew Hill announces a bill to reverse a state Board of Education decision on teacher licenses Thursday afternoon at Indian Trail Intermediate School. (Tony Duncan / Johnson City Press)
An unpopular change by the Tennessee Board of Education to the evaluation process granting teacher licenses will face legislative opposition from a local legislator when the General Assembly reconvenes next week.
At a press conference Thursday in the library of Johnson City’s Indian Trail Intermediate School, state Rep. Matthew Hill announced his intention to sponsor a bill aimed at reversing the state board’s August policy decision tying the approval and renewal of professional teachers’ licenses to standardized testing scores.
Under the board’s new policy, to attain or renew a state license, a teacher must score a two out of five or better in two of the previous three years on in-class evaluations and on their individual growth score, calculated using standardized testing scores through the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS.
If a teacher fails to meet those requirements, she has one additional year to improve her scores before her license is revoked.
In front of the teachers and parents gathered in the school library, Hill called the board’s action “nefarious,” noting that the state board of education is an unelected body.
“It has become very clear, very apparent to me, that a statistical average is not something that you base a teacher’s license on,” he said.
The Jonesborough Republican did not present a draft of the bill he intends to file after the start of the legislative session Tuesday, but said it will reverse the state board’s decision and “put once and for all into code that we will not use a statistical estimate to determine whether or not a teacher gets to keep their license.”
The legislation doesn’t yet have a sponsor for a companion bill in the Senate, but Hill said he believes one will be forthcoming shortly.
If approved by the General Assembly, the bill would need to be signed by Gov. Bill Haslam before becoming law.
In the months after the Board of Education’s decision, Haslam defended the intent of the new policy and its originator, reform-minded Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.
Despite his past support for using standards to determine licenses, Hill said he believed the governor would sign his bill into law if there was enough support for it in the legislature.
Although he staunchly opposed using TVAAS scores to determine eligibility for licenses, Hill said the statistical estimates still do have uses in the state’s education system, namely in the teacher evaluation process, which can be used to govern the hiring and firing of educators.
“I think TVAAS scores can be used in the evaluation process, they’re already used in the evaluation process, they just shouldn’t be used to determine whether or not a teacher’s career has ended in the state of Tennessee,” he said.