The second session of the 108th Tennessee General Assembly encompassed 67 legislative days full of activity, during which the 33 senators and 99 representatives worked to promote, advocate, and revise the laws of our state with a common goal to improve life for Tennesseans.
I became a member of the SCORE team in January. Prior to this, I served as the legislative liaison for the Tennessee Department of Education for two legislative sessions. Before moving to Nashville, I taught pre-kindergarten in the District of Columbia Public Schools system. My degrees in journalism and political science, coupled with my passion for education, ultimately led me to SCORE, where I have the opportunity to be part of a team working toward ensuring that Tennessee is the fastest-improving state for academic achievement and that every student graduates from high school prepared for college and a career.
As the 2014 legislative session began on January 14 and bills were filed daily, it became apparent that strategic work was necessary to ensure high academic standards, high-quality and aligned assessments, and other key education initiatives already in action throughout Tennessee were upheld so our students could continue to move forward.
The first part of 2014 consisted of extensive conversations — on the public front with all stakeholders and at Capitol Hill with legislators — concerning higher academic standards and correlated strategies to improve learning. By preserving Tennessee’s Common Core Standards, a teacher evaluation system that bolsters effective teaching, and other key policies that are centered on students, the 2014 legislative session cemented the key, foundational pieces that are vital to the academic gains our students have made so far.
The legislative process can be a complicated one to follow, especially with over 180 bills filed involving education. To help, I’ve compiled a synopsis of some of the most important measures that addressed the state priorities identified in the 2013-14 State of Education in Tennessee report released in January by SCORE. This blog post will cover legislation related to higher standards and data and technology. Future blog posts will summarize action on bills that address effective teaching, strong leadership, and supporting students from kindergarten to jobs.
1. Maintaining a Commitment to Rigorous Standards and Assessments
The General Assembly passed the following measures:
Tennessee’s Common Core Standards
–SB1266/HB1129: requires that students be taught the foundational instruments, mechanisms and values of American government, in addition to instruction in Tennessee’s government and foundational documents. The House amended the bill to pause Common Core and postpone PARCC, but the Senate refused to agree with the amendments due to the high cost. The House later dropped the amendments, and ultimately the bill passed in its original form.
-SB1835/HB1549: establishes requirements for the adoption of educational standards; prohibits use of student data for purposes other than tracking academic progress and educational needs of students; prohibits adopting any “common core state standards” in any subject other than English and math; and requires a bidding process to select an assessment for Tennessee’s Common Core State Standards. The bill specifically says:
• PARCC will not be implemented in 2014-15.
• The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment of Progress will be used for 2014-15.
• The state will use competitive bidding to select a new assessment for school year 2015-16; the legislature’s fiscal review committee will review all contracts.
• Field tests for the new assessment will be conducted before 2015-16.
SB2404/HB2167: requires the department of education and local education agencies (LEAs) to post on their websites information about state mandated tests that will be administered during the next school year by July 15 for the department and July 31 for LEAs; requires LEAs to disseminate the testing information to parents by placement in the school’s student handbook or guidebook that contains the policies and procedures of the school and is distributed annually.
–SB1602/HB2249: revises various provisions governing the state textbook commission and the way members of the state textbook commission are chosen. Six members must be educators (one county schools director, one city schools director, one principal, one teacher from grades 1-3, one teacher from grades 4-8, and one teacher from grades 9-12). Three members, one from each of the grand divisions, must be employed outside the education system but knowledgeable about education in Tennessee. The commissioner of education serves ex officio.
–SB1881/HB1697: requires cursive writing be taught in public schools, at the appropriate grade level as determined by the state board of education.
2. Data Privacy and Security
–HB1459/SB1835: establishes requirements for the adoption of educational standards; specifies that data collected from the use of or testing under educational standards adopted by the state board must be used for the sole purpose of tracking the academic prowess and needs of students; establishes certain requirements regarding the collection and release of data by the department of education and state board of education.
-SB1786/HB1654: requires an LEA in which a student is transferring to another school to send the student’s records to the school to which the student transfers; requires LEAs in transferring records to comply with FERPA.
-SB2006/HB1973: requires that the identification numbers assigned to students with active duty military parents or guardians be maintained in a separated electronic database that is managed by the department of education and protects the identity of these students. Requires the department to establish a mechanism for a person or entity to have different types of access to the information contained in the database, if the information is necessary for the performance of a duty or if the information may be made available without posing a threat to the confidentiality of a student.
There were many more bills filed that did not pass and died at the end of the session, including measures that would have prohibited the state from adopting common standards for science and social studies, required the state to immediately withdraw from PARCC and Common Core, and required written consent from a parent to collect any individual student data.
Be sure to read the next blog post here: http://bit.ly/1op2ANH, which summarizes action on bills that address effective teaching and strong leadership!