Teacher licensure bill headed to governor

Nathan Baker • Apr 9, 2014 at 10:36 AM

A bill seeking to forbid the state from using student standardized testing scores as a base to grant or renew teachers’ licenses could soon be placed under the governor’s pen, but that doesn’t mean he’ll sign it.

Riding a wave of lawmaker opposition to a policy adopted last summer by the State Board of Education tying licensure decisions in part to growth scores calculated using the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS, the House of Representatives voted 88-0 Monday to approve a bill sponsored by Republican John Forgety.

Forgety’s bill, and its Senate companion, passed 26-6 last week, bars student growth data from being used to deny a license to a school supervisor, principal or teacher.

The bill was similar to those of other legislators, including Jonesborough Republican Matthew Hill, who sought to keep further licensure policies from being enacted by the state board.

Hill’s sponsored bill, titled the Educator Respect and Accountability Act of 2014, is still winding its way through the committees of both chambers.

It was passed by the House Government Operations Committee Tuesday and its companion is now set to be considered on the last regular calendar day in the Senate.

With several similar bills advancing, Hill said he and the other sponsors met to forge an agreeable piece of legislation using aspects of all the hopeful laws.

“It’s not really about who gets credit for it,” he said from Nashville. “We just wanted to combine our efforts to get one bill that does what we wanted it to do.”

Forgety’s bill originally forbade licensure decisions based solely on TVAAS growth scores, but was amended to remove the word “solely,” which Hill said was an important distinction.

During an Education Committee meeting earlier this year, David Smith, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Haslam, said the administration could accept Forgety’s bill, which left the Education Department open to still use the standardized scores, but Smith opposed Hill’s bill, which removed the use of standardized test data altogether.

But removing that single word could bring Haslam, whose education reforms have agitated both teachers unions and legislators, to veto the bill.

In an emailed response, Smith said the bill was flagged by the Department of Education as amended, and that Haslam, as with all bills, would review the legislation’s final form before taking action on it.

Hill said he hasn’t heard from administration officials whether the governor is planning a veto, but said the overwhelming support from lawmakers in both houses left him unconcerned regarding the bill’s prospects of passage.

His bill, Hill said, would continue its progression through the General Assembly to serve as a backup to the approved licensure bill.

Follow Nathan Baker on Twitter @JCPressBaker. Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jcpressbaker.

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