Tennessee's Race To The Top Plan Receives High Marks

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Tennessee’s recent application to the federal Race to the Top initiative contains a number of significant education policy reforms. Under the state’s plan, virtually all organizational decisions must be sensitive to their impact on student learning. If fully embraced and implemented, Tennessee’s plan will both advance the state educationally and serve as model for educational improvement nationally.

The Education Consumers Foundation has reviewed Tennessee’s 1,100+ page proposal and highlighted 15 key developments that have the potential to dramatically improve schooling in the state. Its report, titled “Policy Highlights from Tennessee’s Race to the Top Application,” explains the significance of these reforms and quotes supporting text from the application.

The report highlights the following planned changes:

• Local control over salary schedules and evaluations

• Full participation by all districts

• Key elements will go forward regardless of federal funding

• TVAAS training now required for all teachers

• All teachers will have ongoing access to TVAAS data

• Student achievement gains will be central to the assessment of teacher and principal job performance

• New teacher training materials will emphasize the role of TVAAS in data-driven instruction

• Renewal of alternative certification programs will depend on performance data

• District-by-district summaries of annual teacher and principal performance reviews will be publicly reported

• Professional development will be customized to individual evaluations and employ only proven vendors

• Effective and ineffective teachers and principals will follow differentiated career paths

• Only “effective” teachers will be tenured

• Rigorous workforce development goals will be met through retraining or, if necessary, dismissals

• Teachers designated as “highly qualified” must also be “highly effective”

• Teacher and principal preparation programs will expand or retrench on the basis of their graduates' performance

According to Dr. J.E. Stone, president of the Foundation, “In years of looking at similar proposals, I see the Tennessee plan as one that goes the heart of schooling’s seeming intractable problems: A lack of clear priorities. Going forward, good schooling in Tennessee will be known by the student achievement gains that it produces. It may produce additional benefits—as good schooling almost always does—but it must enhance student knowledge and skills.

“Now that the mandate has been made clear through this plan and TVAAS data is being made still more accessible, Tennesseans can expect to see a much clearer alignment between public policy and classroom-level practice.”

Those wishing to review the complete report online, or download it in PDF format, can find it at www.education-consumers.org.
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