By Lisa Fingeroot | The Tennessean
One of the nation's most influential education reform groups recommended Monday morning that Tennessee create a school voucher program and take charter school approval out of the hands of local school boards.
StudentsFirst gave the state's education policy an overall C- or 1.75 grade-point average for 2013, mainly because of its low marks on policies aimed at giving parents a choice in their child's education, a cornerstone idea of the reform movement.
StudentsFirst is a group of about a million members across the nation that was founded by Michelle Rhee, a national figure in the push for accountability reforms, a former Washington, D.C., Public Schools chancellor, and ex-wife of Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.
Tennessee should provide more school performance information to parents and devote more energy to the growth of high-performing charter schools, according to the report card. The group also suggested that charter school approval should not be decided by local school boards. The creation of a statewide charter school authorizer is a proposal being discussed by several state officials and likely to show up during the upcoming legislative session.
StudentsFirst also said Tennessee should create a voucher program for low-income students that would allow them to attend private schools.
Tennessee received a C+ in the "elevate teaching" category and was praised for the creation of a state teacher evaluation policy, which StudentsFirst said puts the state ahead of others in the move toward making schools accountable.
However, Tennessee received a D+ in the "spending wisely" category