This Week in Tennessee Education

This week, I’ve written quite a bit about what’s happening in Tennessee education. It is, after all, nearing the end of the legislative session and there’s a lot happening. From TNReady testing to revising the state’s school funding formula, key policy decisions are being made or will be made in the coming week.

Here’s what I wrote:

Much Ado About Nothing

In which I write that Rep. Bill Dunn’s proposed constitutional amendment on education funding either does nothing or is very, very bad:

Representative Bill Dunn of Knoxville has proposed an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution that purports to remove the requirement that the General Assembly adequately fund public schools in the state.

However, an Attorney General’s opinion published on March 29 notes:

“… the proposed amendments to the public schools clause of the Tennessee Constitution do not substantively change that clause.”

A Little Less Ready

With notes about the proposal to reduce testing time for TNReady next year:

After weeks of hard conversations prompted by the rocky debut of Tennessee’s new assessment, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Monday that the state will reduce the number of hours that students spend taking TNReady in its second year.

Ready to Refuse

An explanation of the laws surrounding the budding “opt-out” movement in Tennessee:

The memo specifically notes:

 “State and federal law also requires student participation in state assessments. In fact, these statutes specifically reference the expectation that all students enrolled in public schools in Tennessee will complete annual assessments.”

That’s not entirely true.

Federal law, even with the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requires states to administer annual assessments in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school.

But there’s a difference in requiring a state to administer and requiring a student to complete an assessment. Federal law requires administration of the test, but does not compel students to complete the exams.


A note on how Alaska is cancelling its new computer-based tests due to technical difficulties while Tennessee plows forward:

While school boards in Tennessee discuss not delivering TNReady Phase II and the state’s Department of Education says doing so would cost districts their BEP money, the Commissioner of Education in Alaska has scrapped new computer-based tests this year.

BEP 1.5

On Governor Haslam’s proposed BEP changes and how they represent a step back for education funding in the state:

Enter Governor Bill Haslam. He appointed his own BEP Task Force independent of the statutorily mandated BEP Review Committee. At the time, I speculated this was because he didn’t like the Review Committee’s recommendations and its insistence that the state was at least $500 million behind where it should be in education funding.

Now, he’s proposing a “BEP Enhancement Act.” This so-called enhancement is sailing through the General Assembly. It is seen as the most likely vehicle to get money to rural districts and in a year when education funds are increasing, why sweat the details?

As I’ve written before, a few districts lose significantly in the move because it eliminates the Cost Differential Factor (CDF).



For more on education politics and policy, follow @TheAndySpears

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