Tennessee Board of Education Approves Value-Added Licensing Reforms

The Tennessee Board of Education has approved a slate controversial teacher licensing changes that will tie teachers' licenses to student test data to take effect in 2015, reports The Associated Press, and many Tennessee teachers are unhappy.

On August 14, the Tennessee Education Association held a press conference saying that it "opposed incorporating the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (or TVAAS) data into license requirements."

Education association president Gera Summerford said teachers are concerned that flawed scores could cause qualified teachers to mistakenly lose their licenses, although the education department says there will be a way to appeal.

Under the approved plan, a renewal would depend 50% on value-added data; teacher evaluation and tenure status currently rely on 35% of student test data. There are more than 20 types of licenses which are renewed for periods of 10 years regardless of a teacher's effectiveness.

At the board meeting, Chairman Fielding Rolston acknowledged that people disagree with the changes. He proposed approving the changes in order to give stakeholders an idea of the direction the board wants to go but delaying their implementation in order to give the board time to hear concerns and make changes.

Rolston's motion was opposed by several board members who said "they did not want to vote for a policy that contained elements they did not support". According to board member Janet Ayers, she was concerned about tying value-added data to licensure because the evaluations are still relatively new.

According to Jason Reynolds of the Times Gazette, the board was originally was looking to implement the changes in August, 2014, but then delayed the implementation date until 2015 on the recommendation of Rolston.

He [Rolston] said he wanted to get a plan on the table — meaning the board would approve the plan — and any concerns could be addressed during the delayed year, suggesting such changes could be made prior to August 2015.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, rather than additional degrees or professional development credits, licensure decisions will be based on overall evaluations and individual growth scores. The changes would streamline the process and reduce the duration of a license.

Professional Educators of Tennessee, a teaching advocacy group, has expressed concern over the new plan.

"Our organization has expressed trepidation over changes to licensure as proposed by the state board of education," according to a recent statement by the group. J.C. Bowman, the executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee said he expected the board to approve the changes but thought the vote should have been delayed.

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