TREND Spring 2020 - Page 17

an alternative to accepting school-wide growth measures for their evaluations, the solution that has been provided in the form of a portfolio model has proven unreliable and riddled with controversy. A priority of the Department of Education this session has been to promote its new literacy bill, a sweeping piece of legislation that was greeted with serious concerns from lawmakers on numerous fronts. Following several amendments, including provisions to delay implemenation and require reports from the Commissioner, it seemed poised to make progress. However, with the remainder of this school year a giant question mark, any momentous change to current practice seems unlikely. N LEGISLATIVE UPDATE SAY NO TO PORTFOLIOS SB496 / HB38 (J. Bowling / M. Van Huss) Sponsored by State Rep. Micah Van Huss, House Bill 38 passed the House Education Committee with bipartisan support in a 16-7 vote. The bill would remove the Tennessee Department of Education’s ability to administer standardized tests to students in grades K-2, but would not hinder or block testing administered by local school districts. Van Huss has been an outspoken champion for eliminating rigorous mandates that tie the hands of local education professionals in the classroom. “My teachers have told me again and again that the majority of their time is spent on preparing students for tests and that’s not what school is supposed to be about,” Van Huss said. “Teaching is a profession unlike any other. It takes an enormous amount of passion, commitment, and hard work to walk into a classroom every day and give your best. This bill is about giving teachers back the time to do what they entered the profession to do: teach.” LITERACY OVERHAUL SB2160 / HB2229 - Literacy Proficiency in Early Grades (J. Johnson / W. Lamberth) The details of the Department of Educaiton’s literacy bill weere still being ironed out even as it passed the House subcommittee. Numerous amendments had been drafted and discussed among legislators and stakeholders in an attempt to find common ground. One of the biggest concerns centered around the potential negative impact of decreasing decision-making at the district level, where contracts with specific vendors already exist and some are satisfied with current curriculum and practices that have proven successful. The process by which the Department would determine new vendors was another sticking point. Allowing exemptions for high-performing districts was another concern. “We still need a full discussion and conversation on exemptions. We live in a very mobile society. Exemptions are an equity issue. We look forward to that conversation with the full committee. However today was a big step for literacy.” We are confident that work will continue when the legislature resumes, resulting in positive new legislation to improve early childhood literacy rates.