A number of school superintendents in Tennessee have signed on to a letter that asks Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to force the state’s education commission to stop implementing controversial school reform measures and take time to evaluate what has already been put in place.
The Tennessean reports that the letter written and circulated by Dan Lawson, director of Tullahoma City Schools, says in part:
We are not content with the current leadership and feel that we are not best serving our state in this manner.
Kevin Huffman, a former Teach For America official and the former husband of school reformer Michelle Rhee, has instituted a number of controversial reforms since he became education commissioner of Tennessee in April 2011. Among them is the linkage of student standardized-test scores to teacher evaluations and to teachers’ licensing.
Tennessee media have reported that nearly half of the superintendents in the state have signed the letter. Lawson is still collecting signatures.
The Tennessean reported that Lawson decided to write a letter after an August meeting of the State Board of Education. The meeting was conducted by conference call and “board members could barely be heard and were interrupted by numerous noises including a dog howling,” the Tennessean said:
During that call, board members approved Huffman’s teacher licensing plan even though they were not satisfied with the policy and knew they would make changes.
The Nashville Scene reported that the letter also says superintendents feel they have no input into education policy because Huffman ignores them. It said:
It has become obvious to the signees that our efforts to acquire a voice within this administration is futile. We have been patient, professional and focused on the needs of each of our communities but the expertise we have and the passion we feel must become a part of the efforts to improve Tennessee education.
Huffman is the latest education commissioner to face rebellion. The people of Indiana voted Tony Bennett out of his job as public schools chief last year in an election won by a veteran teacher who had been critical of parts of Bennett’s standardized test-based school reform program, which had originally been implemented in Florida under Jeb Bush when he was governor from 1999 to 2007. Bennett, with Bush’s backing, moved to Florida, where he became schools commissioner until he quit over the summer after revelations about his actions in Indiana.