Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit organization that declares itself dedicated to state and local government transparency, has released a 2013 Transparency Report Card grading every state and the largest counties, cities and school districts within each state on the availability of information on government websites.
Government websites were graded “A” to “F” measuring available content available against a checklist of information all governments should provide to citizens.
Tennessee gets a grade ‘B’ overall and ranked 24th in the nation. Tennessee’s graded counties got a ‘B-‘ and cities a ‘C+’.
The full report is HERE.
H/T Mike Donila, who posts some commentary on Knoxville and Knox County ratings.
The Cato Institute, in a “fiscal policy report card” for the nation’s governors, has given Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam a ‘D.’ His numerical score is 43 on the Cato scale, which is lower than such governors as Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York.
Here’s what Cato had to say about Tennessee’s governor:
Bill Haslam is a former businessman and mayor of Knoxville. As governor, his best fiscal move so far is to repeal Tennessee’s inheritance tax. Haslam says the tax is prompting “a whole lot of people” to leave the state because “it’s cheaper to die in Florida.” Haslam originally called for an increase in the exemption amount, but he ultimately agreed to a full phase-out of the inheritance tax over three years. Haslam also signed a small cut in the sales tax on groceries. Balancing out those tax cuts, Haslam approved an increase in the state’s hospital tax from 3.5 to 4.5 percent of hospital net income. Haslam has also been leading the charge to increase taxes on Internet sales. State general fund spending rose about 14 percent during Haslam’s first year in office, which was a key factor in the governor’s low grade.
The full report is accessible HERE.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The interim president of Tennessee State University said allegations of grade fixing at the university have opened dialogue for better communication between faculty and administrators.
The Senate Higher Education Subcommittee held a hearing on Monday to address allegations that university officials changed more than 100 students’ grades of “incomplete” for two introductory-level courses into letter grades without instructors’ permission.
Tennessee Board of Regents officials told the panel there were mistakes made and that there was a lack of communication, but they said an internal audit found no wrongdoing by university administrators.
One of the faculty members who made the allegations said she voiced her concerns outside the school because she didn’t think they would be addressed by university administrators. Another faculty member said he was simply “afraid.”
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE), July 12, 2012 — Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) released a response today giving Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) authorization to probe allegations at TSU regarding grade alterations. Summerville sent Gresham a formal letter of request yesterday asking for permission to hold hearings after it was reported that the TSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors claimed that “someone in the administration” changed many student grades from Incompletes to Cs.
“This is to acknowledge and approve your request to conduct hearings on the allegations of grade tampering at Tennessee State University,” Gresham said in responding to Summerville’s request. “I am confident that you and your subcommittee will determine the facts and scope of the situation and subsequently offer a report with recommendations for corrective action. As you know, compliance with the Complete College Tennessee Act with fidelity and integrity is our highest priority.”
“You are authorized direct liaison with other agencies as appropriate,” she continued.
Other members of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee are Senator Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) and Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville).
Gresham said the date for the hearings will be set by Senator Summerville.
UPDATE: Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) has set a date of
July Aug. 25, 2012 for the Senate Higher Education Committee to address the issues surrounding allegations of grade changes made at Tennessee State University. The hearing will be located in Room 29 of the Legislative Plaza in Nashville at 1:00 pm.
Tennessee university and college systems got a mixed report card from a business organization, reports the Commercial Appeal, with grades ranging from an ‘A’ in fostering online learning but ‘F’ in another category.
Tennessee was graded an F in one area because of “burdensome” state regulations for the accreditation of schools.
“One of the reasons Tennessee legislators have made it more difficult for Tennessee schools to get approved is the default rate for student loans at for-profit schools is significantly high,” University of Memphis President Shirley Raines said.
The U of M is a public, not-for-profit school with all of its degrees nationally accredited and some internationally.
Tennessee leads the country, however, in policies promoting outcomes-based funding and a common course numbering system that allows students to transfer credits from one campus to another. It was also applauded for its “robust” endorsement of online learning.
The state-by-state report, “Leaders & Laggards,” prepared by a division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, doesn’t break down data by institution, but the U of M may have helped Tennessee get a B in online learning innovation.
The university provides more online courses than any other public or private institution in the state, according to the report.
Raines said the U of M is focused on “keeping students on track,” an area the report shows needs some attention statewide.
Tennessee’s four-year universities received a D for student access and success. The state is doing well in getting students enrolled in college, with a high percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, but not so well on keeping them there.
Congressmen speak at nearly a full grade level lower than they did seven years ago and seven of the 11 members of the Tennessee delegation to Washington are below the national average, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis.
“Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from a high of 11.5 in 2005,” said the non-partisan foundation in a news release Monday. “Of course, what some might interpret as a dumbing down of Congress, others will see as more effective communications.
“And lawmakers of both parties still speak above the heads of the average American, who reads at between an 8th and 9th grade level,” the release says.
In the Tennessee delegation, the lowest grade level went to two of the most highly educated members, Resp. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, at 8.64 and Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, at 9.87. Both men are physicians who graduated from medical schools.
The top Tennessee rating went to Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher, a farmer who gives the Crocket County community of Frog Jump as his hometown. He is listed as speaking at a 12.7 grade level in his congressional comments.
Tennessee got a grade of “C” last week in a “state integrity” national rating of state governments, an averaging of some areas wherein our fair state warrants an “A” and others wherein it warrants an “F.”
The review was conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International. No state got an overall “A” (eight got an overall “F”) and Tennessee’s numerical score of 77 was actually eighth best in the nation.
(Note: National overview HERE; Tennessee scorecard HERE; Tennessee narrative story HERE.)
Tennessee is slightly below average in how well it monitors, verifies and enforces the terms of its job-creation subsidies, an economic-incentive watchdog group said in a study released Wednesday.
From the Tennessean’s report :
The Volunteer State received a C-minus grade and a 29th-place ranking from Good Jobs First, whose Money-Back Guarantees for Taxpayers report found fault with all five of the state’s major incentive programs.
Tennessee doesn’t require those receiving job tax credits to report their outcomes, the study said. Nor does the state independently verify claims made by those receiving FastTrack job-training assistance, the headquarters tax credit or even sales-tax credits for a qualifying facility in an emerging industry.
The law that created the Tennessee Job Skills program, which awards job-training grants, does not contain any penalties for those who don’t meet requirements, the study said. The group said the program’s administrator was “unwilling” to answer its questions about the program.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), November 30, 2011 — State Senators Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) today announced the introduction of a bill that will ensure 8th graders have learned the material necessary to start high school. Senate Bill 2156 will end the practice of social promotion for 8th graders. Social promotion is the practice of passing students to the next grade level even though those students have not mastered the material.
The bill expands upon Public Chapter Number 351 by Sen. Burks, which passed last year and ended the practice of social promotion for third graders. The legislation is the eighth in a series of announcements by Kelsey in his “12 for ’12” initiative for the next legislative session, which is set to reconvene January 10, 2012.
“Our high school students in Tennessee must enter the 9th grade with the skills they need to succeed,” said Sen. Kelsey. “Passing students regardless of their test scores sets these children up for failure. It denies them the quality education they deserve.”
Currently, over 20,000 students in grades 4 through 8 are promoted to the next grade every year without demonstrating a basic understanding of the curriculum or the skills tested by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, the end of year test administered in grades 3 through 8. Approximately 1,600 of those students are promoted from 8th to 9th grade.
Florida, which has proven a leader in education results, passed a similar bill in 2002. Students there who repeated third grade performed better than they would have if they had been passed to a higher grade. The improvement was measurable within only two years, according to a Colorado University study. The practice has also helped reduce racial gaps in education. Latino students in Florida now outperform all students in Tennessee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to make it more difficult for Tennessee students to obtain lottery scholarships may end up being studied by a task force over the summer, said the measure’s Senate sponsor.
Gov. Bill Haslam, who has made education reform a top priority during his first term, has not included such legislation in his agenda.
Currently, students need a grade point average of 3.0 or a score of 21 on the ACT to qualify for the $4,000 annual scholarship at four-year schools.
Under a bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Harry Brooks of Knoxville that’s advancing in the House (HB13), those requirements would bump up to a 3.1 GPA or a 22 on the ACT for students graduating high school after June 30, 2014. And in the following year, the standards would rise to a 3.25 GPA or a 23 on the ACT.