Blog Archives

2018 Legislative Wrap-Up

The 110th General Assembly has adjourned, it is time for our yearly Legislative Wrap-Up. We’ll be listing all the bills and resolutions we supported or opposed this year. We’ve been busy, which makes emails like these long, so we wanted to thank you for being dedicated to student success in Tennessee. We couldn’t do this work without you.

A housekeeping note, we offer the bills of the Second Session of the 110th General Assembly (link to the bills of the First Session here) in thematic order. We’ll list our four priorities and place the bills we worked under their appropriate policy priority. At the end of the wrap-up, we’ll have a separate section wrapping up the last few days of Session. You’ll see mostly bills, but there are a few amendments fought to keep out of legislation, and one resolution we supported. As always, reach out if you have any questions or concerns!

And now (we need a drumroll), our 2018 Legislative Wrap-Up:

Supporting High Academic Standards 
Tennessee’s students will soon be competing for spots in colleges, for jobs, for placement 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 career and technical education or early postsecondary opportunities that prepare all students to thrive after high school.

House Bill 1599 – Passed. This legislation incentivizes Tennessee’s businesses to participate in work-based learning partnerships with local school districts, providing students invaluable hands-on experience in their chosen field of study. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

House Bill 1569 – Passed. We are strong proponents of Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes and of Tennessee’s students learning skills today that will help them tomorrow. This bill creates greater access to CTE courses in high school by providing greater flexibility to local school districts. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

House Bill 2030 – Behind the Budget. This legislation increases opportunities for more students to participate in dual credit or dual enrolment courses, encouraging students to get hands-on experience for the standards taught in their classrooms. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

Our Position: Support investments into the Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) program to ensure that all students are on track to succeed.

House Resolution 192/Senate Resolution 158 – Passed. These resolutions confirm changes in the state’s education funding formula, the BEP, and provide additional RTI2 (early intervention for struggling students) funding for instructors. Tennesseans for Student Success supported both resolutions.

House Bill 2644 – Passed. This year’s state budget, once again, highlights and supports education efforts in Tennessee. It added $212 million to K-12 including: $55 million in teacher pay raises, $6 million in charter school facilities grants, $10 million in school turnaround grants for priority schools, $3.5 million for the Read to be Ready early literacy program, $1.75 million to strengthen Tennessee’s principal pipeline and $13.3 million for RTI2. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

 

Supporting Fewer, but Better Aligned Tests

When working to make certain every student in Tennessee has an opportunity to be successful, we have to make sure that every student in Tennessee is on track for success. Without observing, we can’t know if our students are on that right track. An assessment allows parents, teachers, and students themselves to observe and measure their yearly trajectory toward success. We believe the majority of classroom time should be built on learning and centered around Tennessee’s state standards, but it is important to measure how well our students, teachers, and schools are mastering our standards. It’s the only way to be sure we’re on the right track.

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

House Bill 1609 – Failed in Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee. A politically-motivated and short-sighted bill, this legislation would have ushered in a national assessment and thrown out the statewide work to establish a Tennessee-specific assessment. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

House Bill 2203 – Taken off notice. This legislation removed annual assessments for many subjects and grades, preventing teachers, parents, and students from being able to utilize information from the assessment to improve the work done in the classroom. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

House Bill 1922 – Taken off notice. This legislation called for the Department of Education to meet unreachable deadlines as it relates to returning student results on the assessment, endangering the quality of information shared with teachers and parents. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

House Bill 1855 – Passed. This bill would have prevented Tennessee from adding or changing subjects to the end of the year assessment for the next three years. Tennesseans for Student Success was opposed to this bill in its original form, then moved to neutral once amended with House Amendment 014083.

House Bill 2576 – Taken off notice. Another politically-motivated bill aimed at tying the hands of Tennesseans to make sure every student is on track to success; this broad legislation was a vehicle to undermine the work of the Department of Education. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

 

Supporting Accountability for the Classroom

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.

House Bill 67 – Passed. This legislation required every local school district to offer at least one alternative growth model in non-tested grade teacher evaluations. It was passed in the House last year and heard, then passed, in the Senate this year. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

House Bill 2207 – Off Notice. This legislation would have made it difficult for teachers to observe and capture their students’ year to year growth, which we believe is a critical part of student success. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

House Bill 2238 – Taken off notice. This bill would have tied the hands of parents and teachers to know if their students were on track for success and called for the state to be out of compliance with federal education law. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

Our Position: Support efforts to ensure that talented new educators are recruited, trained, and supported throughout the state.

House Bill 2447 – Sent to Summer Study. This bill is another that would increase access to high-quality educators in Tennessee by creating a joint university/local district teacher residency program. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

House Bill 1694 – Passed. This legislation will ensure everyone involved in Tennessee’s teacher preparation programs is accountable for student success by requiring professional development offerings for new educators. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

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

House Bill 2144 – Taken off notice. This legislation would have complicated the process for local school boards to make the best decisions to help their students and teachers. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

Our Position: Support strategies to increase access to effective teachers for all students.

House Bill 1549 – Passed. Helping clear the way for high-quality teachers to come from out of state and stay in our classrooms by streamlining the license renewal process for teachers with demonstrated success. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

House Bill 1863 – Taken off notice. This bill would have helped monitor how frequently students are placed with high-quality teachers. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

 

Support Public School Choice

More than an elected official, more than a school administrator, engaged parents know best where their child can reach his or her full potential. For many students, success in the classroom comes in a traditional school setting. 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 of improving student growth measures.

House Bill 2060 – Passed. Parents are a full, necessary, and welcome part of the work for student success. This legislation will create a pilot program encouraging and studying parent engagement. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

House Bill 2088 – Failed. We support the work to make sure every child in Tennessee is in a school that supports and promotes student success. If a child is trapped in a failing school, every effort must be made to either turn that school around or provide another alternative for the student. Any efforts to abolish turnaround school models will always be met with our strong opposition. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

Senate Bill 2703 – Off Notice. This bill, similar to House Bill 2088 above, would have stopped the work of Tennessee’s plan to turn around low performing schools. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

House Bill 2525 – Taken off notice. You’ve heard us say before that politics should stop at a school’s front door and we will always fight politically-motivated legislation that threatens Tennessee’s academic progress. This bill would block some public charter schools from receiving the information necessary to help inform parents of public choices available for their children. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

House Bill 1463 – Taken off notice. This bill, similar to House Bill 2525 above, would have blocked some public charter schools from receiving the information necessary to help inform parents of public school choices available for their children. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

Our Position: Support equitable access to resources for high-quality charter schools.

House Bill 1870 – Passed. This legislation makes certain all eligible special needs students, including those in Tennessee’s public charter schools, have access to services that will help them succeed. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

House Bill 2425 – Off Notice. This legislation would have ensured that Tennessee’s public charter schools have equitable access to resources provided by their school district. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

House Bill 2430 – Passed. This bill ensures that public charter schools authorized by the Tennessee State Board of Education have full access to available resources. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

End of Session

This brings us to the last two weeks of the 110th General Assembly. If you were following your favorite legislators, reporters, or education groups on Twitter or in the news, you know those last days were packed full of activity. We’ll follow our short overview up with analysis of the bills and amendments filed, and the legislation that ultimately became law.

Frustrations around the ongoing challenges with Quester, the vendor who administers TNReady, and the impact those challenges had on some students’ online test experience led to an intense debate around TNReady at the end of this year’s session. The state’s once-a-year assessment is given to students in 3rd -8th grades, as well as in High School as End Of Course exams. While the number of students affected by the regular disruptions in Questar service is too many given the great importance and value in the yearly test, in the end roughly 317,000 students successfully took the assessment online. Districts choosing to take this year’s assessment on paper were not affected.

Hearing from frustrated teachers, parents, and administrators, elected officials spent the last few days of session debating how best to handle TNReady this year. Tennesseans for Student Success understands the frustration found in our classrooms when we are all ready for an assessment that doesn’t work as expected. Our position on the value of that assessment, however, remains unchanged both now and during the final days of the 110th. We acknowledge lawmakers wanted to respond to their constituents, but we also continue to believe that only a thoughtful review of the totality of this year’s challenges is the way to keep from doing harm to student achievement and success.

The information students, teachers, and parents receive from a once-a-year assessment, and an assessment that aligns with the standards taught all year is critical. That data is how everyone in the classroom can make certain every child in the classroom is on the right track. As we move forward in thoughtful conversations with you, with our partners, and with our elected officials about how to protect the integrity of the assessment in the years to come, we will do so with the assessment’s value for every student in Tennessee in mind.

House Amendment 1337 (House Bill 2426) – Passed the House, not taken up in the Senate. This amendment allows for the removal of 2018 TNReady data in teacher’s student growth composites for the next three years. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this amendment because it was a disproportionate reaction that went beyond the scope of the 2018 TNReady complications, threatening the next two years of student success.

House Amendment 1235 (House Bill 1109) – Taken Off Notice. This amendment was identical to House Amendment 1337 but was taken off notice before passing. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed the amendment.

House Bill 1981 – Passed. This conference committee report preserved the use of growth data in teacher evaluations but prohibits its use in school accountability decisions such as A-F school ratings and intervention into low performing schools. Tennesseans for Student Success deeply regretted that the legislature felt compelled to act before a full review of this year’s challenges could be undertaken but understanding there were far greater legislative threats to Tennessee’s continued success, we took no position on this bill.

House Bill 75 – Passed. This bill simplified the work of the last few days of session. It says that no adverse action can be taken against teachers, students, schools, or districts based on TNReady data for 2018. Tennesseans for Student Success took no position on the bill.

 

As you can see, it was a busy legislative session. We are grateful for all the ways you continue to support us as we work to support student success. We couldn’t do this work without you.

Weekly Update – April 16, 2018

Across the state this week, our 3rd – 8th graders are taking this year’s TNReady assessment. They’ve worked hard, learned the standards, and are ready to show their teachers, parents, and themselves what they’ve learned this year.

The state’s once-a-year-assessment window opens today, and 650,000 students will take TNReady over the next few weeks. We wanted to share with you a short note from the Tennessee Department of Education giving three points on how this year’s test will be administered.

From the Department of Education:

  1. Technological readiness: Since last summer, our districts have been going through a number of technological checks to look for device readiness, infrastructure readiness, and operational readiness. We’ve been working with our vendor to proactively solve for potential risks and test the Nextera platform.
  2. Platform preparation: Additionally, we have enhanced and streamlined our data processes, which will improve administration, and we have been working with districts for months to ensure there are ample opportunities for students to practice on Nextera so they will be comfortable with the platform and the types of questions they will see. More than 160,000 practice sessions were completed in the fall and 620,000 have been taken this spring.
  3. Communication and support throughout the testing window: We’ve also been planning with districts and schools about how we will handle issues that may occur during the testing window – again recognizing that the nature of the online environment means we need to prepare for any possibility. We have established a variety of support avenues and processes that are available throughout the operational testing window to provide immediate support, including devices that are ready to be deployed if a district has issues with theirs and staff stationed throughout the state so we can get to any school and provide on-the-ground support in 90 minutes or less. We shared all of these avenues with testing coordinators, technology directors, and directors of schools earlier this week, and that letter is here.

If you’re looking for some great inspiration to rock TNReady, take a few minutes and watch this great hype video from Station Camp Elementary. They’re ready to rock TNReady, and we know students and teachers across the state are, too.