Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law a bill that will prevent student growth on tests from being used to revoke or not renew a teacher's license — undoing a controversial education policy his administration had advanced just last summer.
The governor's signature, which came Tuesday, follows the Tennessee General Assembly's overwhelming approval this month of House Bill 1375 / Senate Bill 2240, sponsored by Republicans Rep. John Forgety and Sen. Jim Tracy, which cleared the House by a unanimous 88-0 vote and the Senate by a 26-6 vote.
That marked a major repudiation of a policy the Tennessee Board of Education in August adopted — at Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman's recommendation — that would have linked license renewal and advancement to a teacher's composite evaluation score as well as data collected from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, which measures the learning gains of students.
The bill to reject the policy had been pushed chiefly by the Tennessee Education Association, the state's largest teachers' organization, which engineered a petition drive to encourage Haslam to sign the legislation despite it passing with large bipartisan support.
"Huge, huge win for teachers," the TEA wrote on its Twitter page, thanking both bill sponsors as well as Haslam for "treating teachers as professionals."
Eyeing a 2015 implementation, the state board in January had agreed to back down from using student learning gains as the sole and overriding reason to revoke a license. Composite evaluation scores, in which 35 percent is influenced by value-added data, were to centerpiece.
It followed through on rescinding that portion of the policy at its quarterly meeting this month.
But now the governor has given his signature to a bill that prevents the department from holding up the renewal or revoking licenses because of TVAAS — by itself or in part.
State education officials referenced the legislation at the board of education meeting this month, acknowledging that the legislature might force board members to revisit the matter this summer. They said it would perhaps necessitate a special called meeting.
The law went into effect immediately.