The following is a Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
Greetings! This “Special Session” called by the Governor, I must tell you, has been a special one indeed and highly extraordinary, to say the least.
The numerous hearing meetings discussing ways we can improve Tennessee Education brought this legislation to a more finite process. Because I value the heartbeat of my district when it comes to education, my school tour last fall provided a wealth of information needed to properly understand the nuts and bolts of public education.
“Race to the Top” will give much needed assistance to our great teachers that will help them reach even greater heights and thus reap greater achievements for our schools. I am very proud of the fact that we do not have any failing schools in the fortieth district. Hats off to our administrators, our principles and most importantly our teachers who labor in the classroom preparing our children to succeed!
It is my hope that one day we will focus more on rewarding success when it comes to distributing grant funds and rewarding our teachers with a better salary reflecting their diligence in educating our children. Never the less, our schools continue to work hard enabling our students to prepare for graduation and beyond.
Listed below are bullet points of what Race to the Top will bring to the table:
Provides $4.35 billion in competitive grants.
Building data systems that measure student growth and success.
Inform teachers and principals how they can improve.
Turning around the lowest-achieving schools.
Actually use the twenty years of information to improve the quality of education and to ensure that student performance is improving.
Reform education by putting in place common sense strategies and taking bold steps in reforming education laws.
Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) can now be used for up to 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, with another 15 percent of the criteria to be determined in part by an independent committee.
Teachers and principal will mutually agree with the person(s) performing the evaluation.
Teacher evaluations will be done once a year and will give teacher training programs access to TVAAS data on their graduates to help identify strengths and weaknesses of training programs.
Legislators have, for many years, advocated these types of education reforms on the state level, and we are glad to see a step forward being made for our children and our schools.
The state plans to enhance its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program.
Finalists in the competition will be invited to Washington to present their plans to the U.S. Department of Education in March. The winners will be announced in April. If successful, Tennessee can expect to begin receiving funds in September 2010 which will continue in equal increments over four years.
Tennessee currently ranks 40th in the nation in completion of bachelor’s degrees, and 45th in completion of associate’s degrees. We were told that in order to reach the national average, Tennessee would need to graduate another 20,000 graduates annually. The House passed the “Complete College Act of 2010”. I believe this plan will increase the number of college graduates, offer easily transferrable credits, and make the community colleges, four-year institutions, and technology centers work as a tightly knit network.
The bill will:
Revise the current law by making it easier for transfers of credit among institutions.
Give students an easier, more affordable way to finish the degree of their choice.
Develop a new funding formula based on outcomes.
And in addition legislators approved $6.2 million to establish the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as a premier research institution by partnering with Oak Ridge National Lab. The partnership is expected to create nearly 200 new jobs.
In closing, we have made great strides in putting into effect policies that will greatly enhance our education system and put us on the right track to realize our goals. By implementing accountability coupled with performance "Race to the Top" and the "Complete College Act of 2010" will bring us one step further toward meeting our goal to ensure a solid foundation for the future of our great state - Tennessee. Again, thank you for allowing me to work and serve you. Never hesitate to call my office at 615.741.2192. Blessings!