JCEA members participate in a discussion with Johnson City Press staff members on Thursday. (Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Teachers believe a bill filed Thursday by Jonesborough state Rep. Matthew Hill seeking to reverse a recent State Board of Education policy change will be passed easily by the legislature.
The bill, titled the Educator Respect and Accountability Act of 2014, would do away with the state board’s not-yet-implemented policy to tie the granting and renewal of professional teaching licenses to in-class assessments and growth scores calculated using student’s standardized testing scores.
Upon its passage in August, board members said the teacher licensure policy would likely be reconsidered before the 2015 implementation deadline, but teachers and school administrators have vehemently opposed the new policy, saying the statistical score does not accurately represent student learning.
“If we have a teacher that’s not performing well, it’s the principal’s ability to evaluate that teacher and to make a recommendation to me whether they’re going to be hired or not,” Unicoi County Director of Schools Denise Brown said Thursday, shortly before a rally in Johnson City against the state’s expanding use of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS.
“The law is already in place, so why do we need to tie it to a statistical estimate that we don’t know where it comes from?” she asked.
TVAAS is a statistical analysis model that seeks to map students’ educational progress over time using standardized test scores.
Educators say the system was originally intended to be a tool to help determine which teaching practices were most effective, but Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has tried to force it into uses where it doesn’t fit.
“We don’t want to say that TVAAS doesn’t have its place, it does have its place. It gives me a range to look at,” Gray Elementary math teacher Jenee’ Peters said. “But to use that with a large margin of error to make the decision of whether I can provide for my family, that’s just extreme.”
Upon the passage of the Board of Education policy, several local legislators, including Hill and state Sen. Rusty Crowe, called for its repeal and said the board had overstepped its bounds.
In August, Hill promised he would be the prime sponsor of a bill reversing the policy, and called a news conference earlier this month to renew the vow.
The House bill also establishes an electronic complaint form on the Department of Education’s website where individuals can report concerns with any of the state’s teachers.
The bill already had 60 co-sponsors out of the body’s 99 total members when filed Thursday.
Teachers believe that’s a sign indicating its easy passage.
“The legislators are not pleased,” Indian Trail Intermediate School teacher and Johnson City Education Association President Joe Crabtree said. “From the several I have spoken with, none of them are pleased. You mention the state board and a grimace comes over their face.”
But unless the representatives can garner a veto-proof majority, the bill will have to be signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, a fervent supporter of Huffman’s reform initiatives.
“I think (Haslam) has said ‘Huffman is the man I chose’ and if he goes back on that now, it will undo everything that has been done under the past four years under Huffman,” Crabree said. “I don’t think Haslam wants that as his legacy.”
Hill was originally scheduled to announce the Educator Respect Act at an event today at David Crockett High School, but cancellation of classes forced that event to be postponed to 9 a.m. Monday.