(NASHVILLE, TN), December 2, 2011 — “I am very grateful that Mr. Morton and the business community recognizes the importance of the work done over the past several years in education reform, and its impact on jobs and the economy in Tennessee. These efforts could not receive a better endorsement from those who know best what skills are needed to boost economic development in our state and enhance opportunities for Tennessee students. I am pleased to stand with them to ensure that these reforms are not eroded.”
The following op-ed regarding the teacher evaluation system was submitted by Gregg Morton, TBR President, and published in The Tennessean this morning:
Don’t roll back teaching reform: Tennessee Education needs upward momentum! By, Gregg Morton
Tennessee is on the right track on education reform. From K-12 to college completion, Tennessee leads the nation in bold education reforms, which will produce long-lasting results for our students. Business leaders understand that these same steps will also lead to economic development in our state for years to come.
We had a long way to go. In 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Tennessee an “F” for truth in advertising, because we were not being honest about how well our students were doing. Compared to students across the nation, our students lagged behind their peers. We weren’t honestly reporting our students’ progress, and as a result, Tennessee fell behind, consistently ranking near the bottom in national report cards.
Tennessee’s leaders acted. Democrats and Republicans came together to enact meaningful reforms. Thanks to their work, we adopted nationally competitive testing standards for our students and linked student performance to teacher evaluations, ensuring that our students are taught by highly effective teachers.
With these steps, Tennessee became a national leader in education reform and other states took notice. Tennessee was one of only two states to win the first round of federal Race to the Top grant funds — a $500 million recognition from Washington that Tennessee is on the right track. This is great news for our state, and we should be proud of what we have achieved.
The business community strongly supports these education reform initiatives. The reason is simple. When we look for new employees, we want to find them in Tennessee. Too often, Tennessee students have lacked the basic knowledge and skill sets employers needed, forcing businesses to look outside Tennessee to find qualified employees. The reforms enacted in Tennessee make it far more likely that Tennessee businesses can find the right employees here at home.
Tennessee is off to the right start, and it would be a mistake to roll back any of these reforms. That is why business leaders are concerned when we hear calls to change course, particularly calls to abandon the teacher evaluations that are vital to ensure that our students are prepared for the work force.
The New York Times recently editorialized, “Tennessee has a long way to go in improving its schools, but it has made significant headway in turning itself into a laboratory for education reform… even with shortcomings, the new approach to teacher evaluation is a vast improvement over the one it replaced.” This new system of evaluating Tennessee teachers combines scores from classroom observations, student growth, and other achievement measures to ensure that Tennessee students are getting what they need to compete.
The Tennessee Business Roundtable agrees with Gov. Bill Haslam and applauds his recent statements in support of teacher evaluations. With recent reports showing that Tennessee still ranks near the bottom in National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, now is not the time to step off course. We should stay the course.
Tennessee has embarked on a journey that will require patience, endurance and hard work. The business community in Tennessee supports the newly developed performance evaluation system as a positive step forward on that journey, and we believe we’re on the right track to a bright future for Tennessee because of it.
Gregg Morton serves as president of the Tennessee Business Roundtable and is president of AT&T-Tennessee.
Published in the Tennessean on December 2, 2011