Johnson City school board urges testing policy reversal

Nathan Baker • Sep 4, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Contrasting Gov. Bill Haslam’s statements Tuesday, the Johnson City Board of Education unanimously passed a symbolic resolution in opposition of using standardized testing data as a prerequisite for granting professional teachers’ licenses and urged lawmakers to overturn it.

“It’s just appalling to me,” member Richard Manahan said after the vote. “If this board was to do that, we’d all be run out of office.”

The resolution, which calls the new licensure policy “inequitable and counterproductive,” will be sent to the governor, the state education commissioner and the chair of the state Board of Education bearing each of the board members’ signatures.

• Related article: Governor Haslam stands by Tennessee Board of Education policy changes

Superintendent Richard Bales said local administrators got very little warning that the policy change would be considered at the state board’s August meeting.

“I don’t know if there was any background work done on it, and if there was it wasn’t shared with city staff, nor was there any opportunity for input,” Bales said. “It was done very fast.”

Paired with sweeping education reforms statewide, officials say the aim of the new licensure policy is to increase teacher accountability and to rid schools of underperforming educators.

Using in-class evaluations of teachers and their students’ standardized test scores to determine a measure of year-to-year growth, new licenses or those up for renewal would be placed under evaluation if a teacher scored 2 out of 5 or less in either of the categories during two of the previous three years.

If the teacher’s scores fail to improve, that teacher’s license could be revoked.

City board members said the policy would likely only serve to make hiring competent teachers more difficult.

“Frankly, I believe if they pass that, they’ll have a hard time attracting people who want to teach in Tennessee regardless,” member Lottie Ryans said.

In the weeks after the policy was passed, local state legislators have questioned the methods used to enact the measure and have hinted that the General Assembly may see bills to reverse it when the lawmakers reconvene in session after the first of the year.

State Board of Education members voted 6-3 to approve the new policy in August, but pushed back its implementation until 2015 to allow time to analyze and possibly amend it.

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