In a historic show of unanimity and bipartisanship, a united Tennessee House of Representatives demanded that teachers are not damaged in any way by the failure of TNReady.
TEA has worked closely with the House, whose leadership has been responsive to members, and it’s the chamber where good things start and bad bill die. Every member is encouraged to thank their representative today.
The Senate and Governor were content with the hold-harmless legislation passed last week that covered termination and compensation decisions based on invalid TNReady data. Yet that left other professional and evaluation penalties still connected with the failed test, something the department and governor wanted to maintain.
The House heard the teachers’ voice. On the last day of session, the majority House Republican Caucus held an overwhelming vote to have leaders do what it took to protect educators and ensure fairness. Next, in a unanimous vote of every Democrat and Republican representative, the House halted the state budget, delayed other legislation, sent a new hold-harmless bill to the Senate and a message to the governor stating this must be resolved. House majority leader Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) moved the budget.
After hours of fighting, threats and negotiation, with a backdrop of teachers calling for change, Minority Leader Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) and Republican Caucus Chair Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville), with steady pressure applied by Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), got the Senate and administration to agree on an amendment Fitzhugh had written, following precepts outlined by TEA. It passed both chambers late Wednesday night.
The key clause in the bill is “no adverse action may be taken” on a teacher using TNReady data for 2017-2018 school year. TEA's legal department says the clear language means TVAAS scores linked to this year’s failure cannot be used against a teacher in any way, whether it is based in state law, rules or policies, or in local policies and decisions. Required remediation, extra observations and other professional penalties triggered by TVAAS data are eliminated in the latest version.
Added with the legislation passed last week, it is strong comprehensive hold-harmless legislation that will have a lasting impact in future years. Teachers will still be given a TVAAS score, but it must be ignored if it would harm a teacher, and used if it benefits. TEA knows TVAAS is invalid for use in high-stakes decisions — regardless of whether the testing system functions or not.
With recurring and continuous failures of TNReady, the wish of every teacher is to hold harmless our students and stop this disastrous system for good.