Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has chosen Lipscomb University Senior Vice President Candice McQueen to take over the role of education commissioner.
The decision was announced to widespread enthusiasm from education reform leaders who had backed Kevin Huffman, the man who McQueen will be replacing. Huffman’s critics were also pleased with the announcement.
While she was dean of Lipscomb’s College of Education, she positioned herself as an authority of two education policies in the state, including a shift in the state to focus more on the rigorous Common Core standards, as well as a teacher evaluation system that is based more on student test scores.
New standards and the creation of a new standardized test will be among what faces McQueen when she takes over on January 20.
Haslam said she was chosen due to her past classroom teacher experience as well as her leadership of a teacher preparation program at Lipscomb, which is considered to be one of the top performing programs in the country.
“There’s nothing really that’s more critical to us than making certain that our teachers have the right preparation, and we have someone leading our department that can play a leadership role there,” he said.
At a news conference on Wednesday, McQueen thanked the governor for the opportunity, and took the chance to discuss some of her immediate priorities once she takes over the position.
“First priority would be to listen,” she said, adding that her second area of focus would be to ensure that the state’s review of standards is one that includes feedback from all Tennesseans.
“We’ve had influence in the work that we’ve done (at Lipscomb), but I want to impact the million kids that we have in our state, for good,” she said. “I want to make sure that we have the education that is nationally known and respected, and I believe that’s going to happen.”
Earlier in the year, Haslam had announced that a public review of academic standards in the state would take place amid criticism over Common Core.
“The future of Common Core will depend on our review of [state] standards,” McQueen said Wednesday. “Certainly, I’m in favor of high standards … we’re going to stay on track for [outlining] high standards.”
The governor, who took a month to decide who would best fill the role, would not say who else he had been considering for the position, although he did say he only looked at applicants from Tennessee.
McQueen had been promoted by Lipscomb in January to the role of senior vice president after she was given credit for overseeing one of the most successful education programs in the nation. The National Council on Teacher Quality named the school one of the top ten nationwide to have a top-ranked teacher program at both the elementary and secondary levels.