Tennessee inches upward in U.S. Chamber of Commerce report

Seven years ago, the Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Leaders & Laggards report was used as a clarion call to change education policies in Tennessee. This year, the report singles out Tennessee for accolades for improvements in students’ academic performance.

The Chamber of Commerce Foundation released its Leaders & Laggards report, which rates states’ K-12 education systems, earlier this week.

In the 2007 version of the report, Tennessee was one of only two states that earned an F in “truth in advertising” because, the Chamber said, the state’s reports on students’ abilities and proficiency measures weren’t lining up with scores on national assessments. That F helped spur a wave of policy changes and the adoption of a new set of standards.

In the most recent report, the state earned an A in truth in advertising. The state also earned an A for the quality of its data and for fiscal responsibility.

Tennessee’s overall academic performance earned it a D, based on students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. Tennessee students still score below the national average on the test, and low-income and Hispanic students were identified as being particularly behind students in the rest of the country. But the report singles out Tennessee as the fastest-improving state on the NAEP in recent years.

“Tennessee has come a long way with its education reform efforts,” said Catherine Glover, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a press release. “The Tennessee Chamber applauds the leadership of Governor Bill Haslam, our Legislature, and the business community for their ongoing commitment to position Tennessee as a leader in education and workforce development.”

The state earned its lowest scores in access to technology and international competitiveness. The report gives the state a B for its teacher policies and a C in “Return on Investment”—determined by dividing NAEP scores by per pupil spending in different states.

Leaders & Laggards rates states in 11 categories:

  • Academic Achievement (based on NAEP scores)
  • Academic Achievement for Low-income and Minority Students (based on NAEP scores)
  • Return on Investment
  • Truth in Advertising
  • Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (includes scores on Advanced Placement tests and high school graduation rates)
  • 21st Century Teacher Force (includes strategies for identifying and retaining effective teachers)
  • Parental Options (schools with more students enrolled in “schools of choice” and with stronger charter school laws earn higher rankings)
  • Data Quality
  • Technology
  • International Competitiveness
  • Fiscal Responsibility

Its ratings are based on scores on Advanced Placement and NAEP scores and reports on policies from the Data Quality Campaign; the National Council on Teacher Quality; NAEP; the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; and Digital Learning Now!.

The Chamber of Commerce says its results are oriented to “the needs and values of the business community, like international competitiveness, fiscal responsibility, and a respect for markets,” but that it doesn’t aim to promote a particular set of policies. Every state improved its ratings this year.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.