New law sponsored by Gresham relieves Tennessee from federal No Child Left Behind Provisions to focus on state’s ambitious but achievable goals

(NASHVILLE, TN), June 15, 2012 – A new state law that amends Tennessee’s statutes to relieve schools from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is now in effect as a result of legislation sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville).  Gresham said the new law acknowledges Tennessee’s own ambitious but achievable goals, which include recognizing high performance schools and focusing state resources and the most significant interventions on those who score in the bottom five percent. 

In an interview highlighting the 2012 legislative session, which adjourned last month, Governor Bill Haslam said the new law was one of the most important bills passed by the General Assembly this year. Haslam included the initiative in his legislative priorities after Tennessee received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to waive certain provisions of the federal NCLB law.  Gresham was then selected to carry the bill through the legislative process.

“We listened to teachers whose efforts were not being properly acknowledged and addressed,” said Senator Gresham.  “I was very pleased to sponsor this legislation.
It matches Tennessee’s law with Tennessee goals, moving away from the barriers created by the federal NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards.  No Child Left Behind created a culture of compliance. We want to create a culture of achievement.”

Under the waiver, Tennessee proposes to raise overall achievement by 3 to 5 percent each year and to cut achievement gaps in half over an 8-year period. 

“One of the most important things that it does is to remove the over-identification of failing schools under the NCLB provisions to a system where schools are recognized for achieving individual student progress benchmarks set though our successful Race to the Top application,” added Gresham.  “This will give us greater autonomy and flexibility for schools and LEAs with proven success in turning student scores around, rather than applying a state takeover for all schools eligible for state intervention under NCLB provisions.”  

State Department of Education officials have said the AYP standard applied under No Child Left Behind would have designated hundreds of Tennessee schools as failing to meet the federal law’s definitions and timelines, making them subject to state takeover even though many are making progress.  In place of the annual AYP designation for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and schools, the new law establishes a state accountability system requiring significant growth in student achievement in core subjects.  It also contains provisions designed to cut the achievement gap between the poorest students and racial minorities with their counterparts, whose scores are higher.

“Now, local school districts can apply their own concentrated measures to improve student scores, as the state focuses on those schools which need help the most, particularly those who are under state intervention in the Achievement School District (ASD),” Gresham continued.  “The legislation is predicated on the general belief that local school districts are best positioned to manage schools against goals, and state intervention should happen in a limited way and only when LEAs are failing to make progress for groups of students or overall.  I am very pleased it has been enacted and hopeful that it will benefit our students for many years to come.”

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