At long last, the first session of the 110th General Assembly is over and both chambers stand adjourned until January 2018. We wanted to take a few minutes and share an update on our work this session, the legislation we championed, the amendments we stood against, and the priorities that drove all our activity.

It will be a lengthy update – thank you for sticking with us in this email and in the work we do day in, day out to make sure every student in Tennessee has an opportunity to succeed.

Below you’ll find our four policy priorities (click here for our 2017 Legislative Agenda) and the legislation that we supported and opposed pertaining to those priorities. While it is a lot of information, we know it’s important to tie together the “what” that we do with the “why.” Success for all students is a worthy, necessary, and important goal. It’s also a big goal! We would like to take a few minutes to highlight the legislative work that helps ensure every student has an opportunity to succeed.

Without further ado, our 2017 Legislative Wrap-up:

Supporting High Academic Standards
Tennessee’s students will soon be competing for spots in colleges, for jobs, for placements in technical fields, and for prestigious positions in our nation’s Armed Forces with students from across the country. We know our students can compete and succeed, but we also know that they can be better prepared. High academic standards aren’t about fitting more instruction into a school year or making sure every box gets checked. High academic standards are about expecting more from our students, our teachers, our parents, and ourselves.

Our Position: Support rigorous K-12 academic standards that create high expectations for students that better prepare them for post-secondary or career option.

  • House Bill 309 – Passed. This legislation highlights the Tennessee-specific standards aligned to a Tennessee-specific assessment. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.
  • Senate Bill 248 – Passed. As amended, this bill requires every school district to offer four early postsecondary opportunities, such as AP classes or dual enrollment, to all high school students. Tennesseans for Student Success supported the bill.
  • House Bill 617 – Never Put on Notice. This bill would have authorized local districts to use national standards and a national assessment to measure Tennessee’s students. After the work to ensure students only sat for one high-quality end-of-year, Tennessee-specific assessment, aligned to Tennessee-specific standards, this bill would have been a step backwards. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.
  • Senate Bill 990 – Taken Off Notice. This legislation would have led to disastrous outcomes for districts across the state and proposed granting local school districts the authority to adopt their own standards, assessments, and accountability requirements and prevented Tennessee students from receiving a top-notch Tennessee education. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

 

Supporting Fewer, but Better Aligned Tests
Helping students be successful means that along with helping them learn the necessary skills to move from one grade to the next, we should work to make sure they know how to be successful in life after graduation. Whether in college, a job, or as they file their taxes each year, there will be moments they have to show their competence. It’s harmful to bring students through the education system with the belief that they’ll never have to demonstrate their grasp of a subject or an idea. Tests are a part of life—though they look different and aren’t graded in red ink as an adult—and they need to be a part of the classroom.

Our Position: Support an assessment aligned to the state’s K-12 academic standards to accurately measure student achievement.

  • House Bill 1312 – Taken Off Notice. This bill would have prevented measurement and growth of students in early grades. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

Our Position: Support fewer, better tests as a strategy to increase classroom instructional time.

  • Senate Bill 1144 – Never Put on Notice. This bill would have required a departure from the annual administration of TNReady. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.
  • House BIll 263 – Never Put on Notice. This bill was a short-sighted and poorly conceived attempt to hold schools to totally meaningless timed limits on testing. While we continue to advocate for fewer tests in the classroom, we don’t believe arbitrary time limits will help anyone involved in the success of the classroom. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

 

Supporting Accountability for the Classroom
Public education is a public good. While we work together to protect and advance the gains made in Tennessee’s classrooms, we will stay committed to holding all those involved in the classroom accountable for success.

Our Position: Support an accountability system that incorporates student achievement and academic growth to improve instruction in the classroom.

  • Senate Bill 774 – Taken Off Notice. This politically motivated, short-sighted bill would have placed Tennessee’s award winning teacher accountability model under a political microscope. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.
  • House Bill 67 – Passed House, will be heard in the Senate next year. This legislation required every local school district to use at least one alternative growth model in non-tested grade teacher evaluations. Tennesseans for Student Success supports this bill.
  • House Bill 174 – Passed. Tennesseans for Student Success was opposed to this bill in its original form as it would have prohibited the use of student achievement data in annual teacher evaluations and banned school districts from making key personnel decisions based on a teacher’s effectiveness. An amendment to this bill removed the language that threatened to undermine Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system, which more than 70% of the state’s teachers believe helps to improve their instruction. As a result of Amendment number 007285, Tennesseans for Student Success moved to a neutral position on this bill.
  • House Bill 308 – Passed.  HB 308 is a great step toward strengthening accountability by requiring performance goals for schools and districts, allowing for student achievement and student growth to factor into the criteria for the priority list, clarifying the process for district-led interventions, and setting the time a school can stay in the Achievement School District. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.
  • House Bill 511 – Passed – The Governor’s Budget. This year’s budget includes a $180 million investment in education and an additional $10 million for district-led school improvement plans.  Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.
  • Senate Bill 572 – Taken Off Notice. This legislation sought to create a commission to study how frequently student were consecutively placed in low-performing classrooms. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

Our Position: Support investments into teacher preparation programs to ensure talented new educators are recruited, trained and supported throughout the state.

  • Multiple bills were filed related to teacher preparation, most relevant exclusively to higher education. As a result, TSS did not take a position on any bills related to this issue in 2017.

Our Position: Oppose efforts to repeal Tennessee’s new A-F school accountability framework.

  • House Bill 449 – Failed. Tennesseans for Student Success was opposed to the initial amendment to this bill, which would have allowed districts to opt out of the state’s new A-F school accountability framework. However, the bill was eventually amended to keep the state’s A-F school accountability framework intact with some minor adjustments. As a result of an Amendment, Tennesseans for Student Success moved to a neutral position on this bill.

Our Position: Support the current system for selecting the members of boards of education and local school superintendents. 

  • House Bill 1039 – Taken Off Notice. This legislation would have established partisan school board elections in parts of the state, without evidence they would support or improve student learning. We opposed any other efforts, like amendments, to legislation that would introduce partisan school board elections. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.
  • House Bill 570 – Taken Off Notice. This legislation would have introduced partisan politics into the management of local school districts and limited the pool of qualified candidates to serve as superintendent. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill and other efforts to that would have established, or made easier, a process to establish elected superintendents.
  • House Bill 793 – Taken Off Notice. This legislation would have limited the ability to recruit and retain successful superintendents. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

 

Support Public School Choice

More than an elected official, more than a school administrator, engaged parents know best the right place where their child can reach his or her full potential. For many students, success in the classroom comes in a traditional school setting. Yet for other students, more focus is needed in certain disciplines or subjects. The goal for education advocates in Tennessee isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Every child in Tennessee deserves a top-notch education that prepares them for success.

Our Position: Support strategies to turn-around and improve underperforming schools that have a demonstrated track record for improving student growth measures.

  • Senate Bill 1124 – Sent to Summer Study. This bill would have prohibited the closure of any school for any reason. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.
  • House Bills 353/354 – Taken Off Notice. These pieces of legislation would have prevented the thoughtful transition of students out of failing schools. We believe every child – no matter their zip code – should have every opportunity for success. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed these bills.
  • House Bill 1129 – Taken Off Notice. This legislation proposed an arbitrary school turn-around and transition plan that could jeopardize efforts to improve the state’s most at-risk schools. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

Our Position: Support facilities funding for state or locally authorized non-profit charter schools.

  • House Bill 310 – Passed – The Tennessee High-Quality Charter Schools Act. HB 310 ensures a transparent process for charter school accountability and creates a standard authorization fee that districts may assess to ensure charters may be adequately managed by the district. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

We say this a lot, and we mean it more each time we do, thank you. Many of you called your elected officials, came to the Capitol, emailed the education committees, posted on Facebook, or made it a priority to talk about student success. We couldn’t do this work without you.