NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today signed the piece of his 2012 legislative agenda that redefines school accountability in the state and waives the state from portions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Surrounded by educators from across the state and students, Haslam also announced more than $37 million in federal grants for three school districts to assist in their efforts to turn around low-performing schools.
The waiver was approved in January by the U.S. Department of Education and required changes to Tennessee law, which were approved by the General Assembly earlier this spring. The federal School Improvement Grants fund Innovation Zones: small clusters of schools, as described in the waiver, where innovative educational systems can be developed, implemented, assessed and shared.
“This administration is committed to continuing Tennessee’s momentum in education reform, and days like today are the reason so many eyes are on us as a leader in the effort to improve education for every student in every classroom,” Haslam said. “This legislation was a priority for me this session, and I appreciate the broad bipartisan support it received – a testament to a lot of hard work by many people.”
The legislation, HB 2346/SB 2208, replaces the Adequate Yearly Progress standards and designations for local education agencies and schools and establishes a state accountability system requiring, in aggregate, significant growth in student achievement in core subjects and the reduction of the achievement gap between student subgroups.
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Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) sponsored the bill.
For the School Improvement Grants, Memphis City Schools will receive a three-year award for $14,744,394, which will serve seven schools. Metro Nashville Schools will receive a three-year award for $12,384,213 to serve seven schools, and the state-run Achievement School District will receive a three-year grant for $10,395,111 to serve six schools. Hamilton County will also receive a one-year $600,000 planning grant for the creation of a district Innovation Zone to begin its turnaround efforts.
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“Through our waiver, we committed a great deal of resources to turning around the bottom 5 percent of schools in this state, and it’s exciting to see some of those pieces coming together,” Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said. “The Innovation Zones give districts greater autonomy, responsibility and resources to turn around some of their low-performing schools.”
The money given to each district can be used to fund a variety of practices, including extended learning time for students and a greater use of technology in the classroom.
Complementing the Innovation Zone funds, the Charter School Growth Fund also announced a $6.75 million investment in two Tennessee-founded charter school organizations to help serve students in the highest-need neighborhoods in Memphis and Nashville.
Made up of federal money and private donations, the fund is giving $3.25 million to Nashville’s LEAD Public Schools, which will expand their K-12 program to five campuses and ultimately serving more than 4,700 students. They also are investing $3.5 million in Gestalt, which is located in Memphis. That investment will take Gestalt from two schools to 10 by 2016, ultimately serving 5,300 students.