Lamar: TNReady troubles are Obama’s fault

OK, so the headline is a somewhat an exaggeration. Here’s the WPLN report:

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says federal interference could be at fault for the state’s continued delays in standardized testing. He spoke at Belmont University Monday about passing his fix to the No Child Left Behind law. He also addressed Tennessee’s problems moving to a new test.

TNReady wasn’t the original plan. Tennessee was supposed to use the PARCC test that goes along with Common Core classroom standards. But when lawmakers decided to back away from Common Core, they also decided to go with a new test — even though that meant hiring a company for $107 million to design a new one.

Senator Alexander chairs the education committee and previously served as the country’s top education official. But he blames the feds.

“You had the backlash to Common Core, so you had to change Common Core,” he said during a presentation to students and education officials. “Then you had to change the assessment. Well you can’t just do that overnight, and it costs a lot of money. And a lot of that was because people felt like Washington was telling Tennessee what its standards and tests ought to be.”

At the moment, state education officials are primarily pointing fingers at the company hired to create TNReady. This week, Measurement Inc. said it could not guarantee that the paper tests would be delivered in time for students to take them by the state’s deadline of May 10.

Note: Alexander’s press release on his Belmont speech is below.

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office
NASHVILLE, April 25 – Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told a room full of Tennessee education leaders, legislators, teachers and students that “Tennessee public school classrooms are back in your hands,” thanks to the new education law that fixes No Child Left Behind and restores local control of public schools.

Speaking at Belmont University, Alexander said: “This new law is the biggest devolution of federal control in a quarter century, according to the Wall Street Journal, which means that now you have the ball and my role is to be your most aggressive defender.”

“I’d recommend that you form a coalition in Tennessee of teachers, principals, superintendents, legislators, along with Governor Haslam and Education Commissioner Candace McQueen, and work together to write a new state education plan, which is necessary to receive federal dollars for your schools. The national coalition that worked to pass the law, is now working to see that it is implemented it as Congress wrote it—a state coalition is just as important.”

Alexander said “the law isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on unless implemented properly, and I’ll use every power of Congress to make sure the law is implemented the way we wrote it for 50 million students and 3.4 million teachers in 100,000 public schools.”

Alexander said the Senate education committee will hold at least six hearings this year on oversight and implementation of the new education law.

Alexander worked to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act last year which restored to states, local school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement.

The new law ended the National School Board run out of Washington, DC, the federal common core mandate, “Mother May I” conditional waivers, highly qualified teacher definitions and requirements, teacher evaluation mandates, federal school turnaround models, federal test-based accountability and adequate yearly progress.

The Secretary of the Education Department is specifically prohibited from telling states how to set academic standards, how to evaluate state tests, how to identify and fix low-performing schools, teacher evaluation systems, and setting state goals for student achievement and graduation rates.

Alexander predicted that “placing accountability where it belongs—in the hands of states, parents and classroom teachers—would inaugurate a new era of innovation and student achievement in our nation’s 100,000 public schools.”

The bill was passed by the House 359–64, passed by the Senate 85–12, and signed by the president in December. Alexander attributed much of the law’s success to a unique coalition of national organizations—including governors, teachers, parents, superintendents, chief state school officers and principals—who “became fed up with Washington telling those closest to the children so much about what to do in our 100,000 public schools. Everybody wanted the law fixed and we found a consensus to fix it.”