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STATE OF THE STATES: Tennessee and Florida Governors Call for Reforming Teacher Policies

“I want to be very clear: my goal is to treat teaching like the important and honorable position that it is.”

Tennessee: Haslam Recognizes and Encourages Great Teachers

Governor Bill Haslam (R) delivered his first state of the state address on March 14 and proposed an average 2.5 percent reduction throughout state government but a 1.6 percent salary increase for state employees. He talked at length about teaching and learning, calling on the state Board of Education to help educators spend more time in the classroom and less on paperwork.

“I want to be very clear: my goal is to treat teaching like the important and honorable position that it is,” said Haslam. “My goal is to make Tennessee a place where great educators want to teach and feel rewarded and appreciated for their efforts. Because, at the end of the day, there is nothing that makes as much difference to a child’s educational experience as the teacher standing in front of the classroom.”

The governor discussed his plan to require a five-year period before teacher tenure is granted and periodic reviews to ensure that the best teachers are in the classroom. He said tenure reform should be viewed as a recognition and reward of achievement not as a punitive action. Haslam recognized a science teacher from Chattanooga and her efforts to increase student engagement and collaborate with other teachers. He also recommended removing caps on the number of charter schools and expanding school choice.

The governor noted that there will be a 2 percent reduction in higher education but no decrease in financial aid for low-income students. He prioritized increasing college graduation rates, noting that while 30 percent of the national adult population has a higher degree only 21 percent of adult Tennesseans do. Additionally, Haslam asked for flexibility in applying HOPE funds, the state merit-based college scholarships program, to students’ summer terms in order to ensure timely graduation from technical centers, community colleges, and four-year institutions.

Florida: Scott Calls for Student Learning to Guide Education Reform

“With so many Floridians out of work, and the exhaustion of one-time federal handouts, Florida educators will face challenges in managing limited resources,” said Governor Rick Scott (R) during his first state of the state address on March 8. “But our commitment to positive change must not waiver.”

Reminding his constituents that “we all improve through competition,” the governor suggested that every school in the state should be focused on continual improvement in order to outperform every other school attracting students. He called for increasing scholarship opportunities, expanding the number of charter schools, and directing more education money to the classroom instead of to administrative costs or capital expenditures. On accountability, the governor said students must be tested and educators must be evaluated using fair and thoughtful measurements that are linked to clear rewards and consequences.

Scott expressed his belief that student learning should drive all education reform efforts and called for recruiting, training, supporting, and promoting great teachers, principals, and superintendents. He said educators should be treated like other working professionals and rewarded based on their performance rather than on the length of their professional life. Scott also called for paying superior educators more and ending the practice of guaranteeing teachers a job for life without taking into account their effectiveness.

The Associated Press recently reported that Scott is planning to sign legislation that would take away Florida public school teachers’ job security, but at the same time, give them the opportunity to earn more if their students do well on standardized tests. The bill has been received with mixed reaction. Andy Ford, president of the state teacher union, was quoted in the story as saying, “We’ve looked closely at plenty of scientifically sound, peer-reviewed research out there that shows this is the wrong approach to take to implement performance pay and to revamp evaluations.”


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