Pro-voucher group gives TN an ‘F’ for not having vouchers

StudentsFirst, which supports school vouchers and a state charter authorizer, gives Tennessee an ‘F’ in “school choice” as part of its rating of state school systems because, well, it doesn’t have a voucher system and a state charter authorizer..

So reports The Tennessean:

That’s the main negative in an otherwise fairly positive outlook in StudentsFirst’s 2014 Tennessee report card released today. Tennessee received a “C” score overall — sixth among all states — up from a “C minus” a year ago.

“Our leaders should be encouraged by the rise in Tennessee’s report card grade, and motivated to continue the course for reform,” said Brent Easley, state director of StudentsFirst Tennessee.
His group plans to use the report card’s findings as it pushes policy during the upcoming legislative session, which kicks off today.

The Sacramento-based lobbying organization, founded by former Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2010, rolled out a new state-by-state grading system last year, not to measure academic achievement but to evaluate states by what it calls “student-centered policies.”

In most academic metrics, Tennessee ranks in the bottom half of the United States in performance and in some cases near the bottom.

But it has earned high marks from StudentsFirst, in part because of its utilization of new teacher evaluations and creation of the Achievement School District, a state-led operation that has turned Tennessee’s lowest-performing schools over to outside charter operators.

Note: the Tennessee StudentsFirst report card is HERE.

The news release is below.

News release from StudentsFirst:
NASHVILLE – Today, national education group StudentsFirst published its 2014 State Policy Report Card. Rather than rank states based on current student achievement levels, the report card evaluates whether states have the right policy environments in place to best raise academic levels from where they are today.

Due to the efforts of legislators to pass mutual consent and pension reform, the state increased its grade on the State Policy Report Card over the prior year, and improved its ranking amongst other states in the country. Moreover, Tennessee was awarded an overall grade of “C”, with a grade point average of 2.10 for its performance in three critical areas: elevating the teaching profession, empowering parents, and spending public dollars wisely.

“While countless studies analyze the performance of students, this one focuses on key policies that need to be put in place for kids to succeed,” stated Brent Easley, StudentsFirst Tennessee State Director. “Tennessee’s recent improvement on student achievement provides some evidence that meaningful education reforms are working. Our leaders should be encouraged by the rise in Tennessee’s report card grade, and motivated to continue the course for reform.”

According to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Tennessee posted one of the country’s highest gains in student improvement by implementing comprehensive teacher evaluation systems in concert with other education reforms.

According to Deseria Turner, a public school parent in Nashville, “I was pleased to see that Tennessee is prioritizing effective teaching by ensuring that effective teachers and principals are recognized. But it is clear that we have room for growth, especially in empowering parents with quality school options for their children. I encourage our legislators in Nashville to read this thoughtful, well-researched report and take action.”

Focusing on enacting common-sense laws and policies will be the singular mission of StudentsFirst Tennessee and its over 35,000 members in 2014 and beyond. And as reflected by the report card, Tennessee can continue to build on progress by prioritizing the growth of high-performing charter schools through better authorization and more rigorous accountability, and expanding opportunities for low-income students in struggling districts by creating a targeted scholarship program.

Abbey Andrews, a parent from Johnson City, added, “If you are a school parent and want to know what laws and policies you should be demanding from your elected officials, this is your resource. We demand excellence from our students, and we should reach out to legislators with this report so they can use it as a tool.”

The 2014 Tennessee 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.