Gov. Lee asks to suspend accountability measures for schools, teachers this year due to pandemic

Coronavirus

Citing the disruption caused by coronavirus, Tennessee’s governor and education commissioner said Friday they want to remove negative consequences for schools and teachers from this year’s student assessment results.

“Given the unprecedented disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic and extended time away from the classroom has had on Tennessee’s students, my Administration will work with the General Assembly to bring forward a solution for this school year that alleviates any burdens associated with educator evaluations and school accountability metrics,” said Gov. Bill Lee in a statement.

Lee said he will work with the Tennessee General Assembly on his call to “temporarily pause the accountability that we have in our state that ties student testing to teacher evaluations.”

Student assessments will be conducted as planned.

Some teachers and school district administrators have called for cancellation of tests or suspension of accountability measures. Teacher pay can be influenced by teacher evaluation scores, and poorly performing schools can be moved under state control.

In Tennessee, students take TNReady tests in math, English language arts, social studies, and science. They also take part in other types of assessments under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, which has been the state’s testing program since 1988.

Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said she supported the move.

“Due to COVID-19, Tennessee districts and schools experienced extended periods away from the classroom and missed critical instruction time during the spring. The department supports Governor Lee’s call for holding teachers and schools harmless from negative consequences associated with accountability measures this school year,” Schwinn said.

“We look forward to working together with our elected officials on a solution for this school year that preserves our strong foundations while ensuring that every teacher feels supported in focusing on educating their students,” she said.

Joris Ray, superintendent of Shelby County Schools, released a statement in support of the governor’s action:

As the Superintendent of the largest school district in Tennessee, I unequivocally believe in accountability for students, teachers, schools, and districts, especially the one I lead. Shelby County Schools along with other leaders across the state issued a call to action earlier this summer and we applaud the Governor’s response to temporarily suspend accountability measures for 2020-2021 school year. Now more than ever, we need to have a laser focus on student progress and continue to benchmark student achievement; however, we owe it to them to remove the high stakes of state testing so that we can focus on what matters most – doing whatever is necessary to help students reach their full potential.

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