DFER Condemns Governor Haslam for Skipping Another Year of Accountability for Tennessee Schools


April 23, 2018

DFER Condemns Governor Haslam for Skipping Another Year of Accountability for Tennessee Schools, Calls on Secretary DeVos to Closely Review this Decision that Harms Tennessee Children

Decision Marks the Second Time in Three Years that Tennessee Skirts Accountability, This Time Mere Months After the Volunteer State’s ESSA Plan – Contingent on Assessments – Was Approved by Education Secretary DeVos

Washington, D.C. – Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) today responded to the news that Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill last week suspending the use of accountability assessments for schools statewide for the 2017-18 school year, less than eight months after Tennessee’s ESSA plan was approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.  This marks the second time in three years that the state has waived consideration of student achievement in rating schools and targeting limited federal and state funding to students and classrooms most in need.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could skip our annual reviews at work and avoid the discomfort of getting the feedback necessary to get better at what we’re paid to do?” said Charles Barone, National Policy Director for Democrats for Education Reform. “That’s what Governor Haslam and the Tennessee legislature have just done for those charged with the responsibility of providing high-quality educational opportunities for every child. Sadly, the victims of this escape from accountability are Tennessee’s schoolchildren and in particular, low-income students and students of color who are most in need of the support and funding that should be directed to schools where students are falling the furthest behind.”

Tennessee’s retreat on school quality began in 2014 when Governor Haslam abruptly pulled the state out of the PARCC test.  In 2016, the state selected a new testing vendor that, not surprisingly given clear red flags about its competence, botched test administration. Problems continued last year with yet another vendor (Questar) that the state has obviously failed to resolve in light of this year’s glitches. This may be why, after years of progress, Tennessee’s scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress flat-lined on the recently released national report card.

“Governor Haslam and Superintendent McQueen should demand that lawmakers go back to the drawing board even if that means calling a special legislative session in which these policies could be debated and decided thoughtfully, responsibly, and publicly” said Barone. “If, instead, the state remains stubbornly attached to this policy, then the ESSA statute is unambiguously clear that Tennessee must seek and obtain approval from Secretary DeVos who we hope will set aside partisanship and fully exercise her responsibility in this regard by asking tough questions and seeking a solution that best serves Tennessee’s students, parents, and taxpayers.”