Education Reform Group Rates TN 11th Nationally in Education Policies

News release from StudentsFirst:
NASHVILLE- Today, national education reform advocacy organization StudentsFirst published its first-ever State Policy Report Card, a new tool for improving student achievement that does not look at individual or school-wide test scores or teacher effectiveness, but instead gauges how well each state’s education policies are serving students and schools.
The national report raises serious questions about whether states’ education laws and practices are contributing to student success. Nationally, nearly ninety percent of the states received less than a “C” grade on the State Policy Report Card, and no state earned higher than a “B-“.
Tennessee was awarded an overall grade of “C-,” with a grade point average of 1.75, for its performance in three critical areas: elevating teaching, empowering parents and spending public dollars wisely. The state ranked 11th nationally, but was praised in the report for implementing a comprehensive system for meaningfully evaluating teachers and principals that positions the state far ahead of most in the country.
“The StudentsFirst Policy Report Cards serve as a roadmap for leaders and policymakers in Nashville, and an opportunity to continue building on the meaningful reforms that put students first,” said Brent Easley, Tennessee state director for StudentsFirst. “We believe that every child in Tennessee can learn regardless of their background or circumstance, but we must have the right policies in place that offer a supportive and enriching educational environment for reform to thrive. That includes empowering parents, and offering high-quality options for students throughout Tennessee.”


Built on StudentsFirst’s experience, education research, and evidence from successful school districts, the report card evaluated Tennessee policies based on three critical pillars: elevating and improving the teaching profession, empowering parents with information and choice, and ensuring public dollars are being spent wisely in ways that help students learn. The report is the most comprehensive state-by-state assessment of these three policy areas, which StudentsFirst selected because research shows they can have the highest impact on student achievement.
“StudentsFirst is a strong voice advocating for policies that focus on kids and closing the achievement gap and an important partner in the education reform movement,” said Representative John DeBerry, Jr. (D-Memphis). “Through a focus on student-centered policies and laws, we can dramatically impact our kids’ school achievement and thereby their lives.”
StudentsFirst plans to update and release the State Policy Report Card annually, and aims for states to use the report as a guide to pass laws and policies that prioritize student interests and close achievement gaps between groups of students.
“Parents and anyone focused on improving our schools ought to be encouraged that StudentsFirst is fighting to put laws in place that help improve student achievement,” said Representative Mark White (R-Memphis). “The most powerful way to transform our education system is to shape the policies that control our schools in a way that puts power in the hands of parents and holds government accountable.”
Focusing on enacting common-sense laws and policies will be the singular mission of StudentsFirst Tennessee and its 37,000 members in 2013 and beyond.
The top two states, Louisiana and Florida, each earned a B- for beginning to adopt the kind of student-centered policies that bring more rigor and accountability into their school systems and expand parents’ access to quality school choice.
Moving forward, Tennessee K-12 public education would strongly benefit by taking bold steps to elevate the teaching profession through mutual consent and paying great teachers more, as well as empower parents with quality choices through vouchers and creating a statewide charter school authorizer. In addition, Tennessee should establish a parent trigger law that allows a majority of parents to band together at the grassroots level and petition to turn-around low-performing schools.
The 2013 Tennessee State Policy Report Card can be viewed, downloaded and compared to other states on the StudentsFirst report card web site here: http://reportcard.studentsfirst.org.
For more information about Tennessee’s State Policy Report Card or StudentsFirst in Tennessee contact Calvin Harris at charris@studentsfirst.org.

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