January 17, 2010
'Race to the Top' passed; now what?
On Friday, the Tennessee General Assembly approved legislation that will implement changes in state education practices in hopes of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government for the next several years.
The state's largest teachers union, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), came to an agreement with Governor Phil Bredesen's administration on the types of data that can be used to evaluate teacher performance. Even so, some of the Legislature's Democratic members voted against the bill, citing concerns over teachers' job security. Additionally, two conservative Republicans, Rep. Susan Lynn and Sen. Mae Beavers (both from Wilson County), voted against the bill, though Rep. Lynn had her vote changed after the fact.
The deadline has been met; the bill has been sent to Gov. Bredesen and is expected to be signed into law in time to turn in the federal application. But what are the chances of winning the grant?
And what happens if we miss out on the grant? Will the reforms, by themselves, improve the state's education system in ways that engender the dramatic and lasting economic recovery so desperately needed?
These are just a few of the questions. I don't have the answers. Some teachers I know are glad to see reform, yet understandably anxious about using lackadaisical students' test scores to judge their own hard-working performance. Yet most stakeholders agree that the status quo will not work.
As I intend to focus mostly on elections this year, I highly recommend keeping up with Chattarati contributor Aaron Collier's upcoming posts on education. I'll point out others, too, as the conversation continues.
References and further reading:
Nashville Public Radio (WPLN)
Andy Sher's Sunday cover story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press
Two more conservatives on why they voted for the bill
More on teacher concerns