Lawmakers in the House Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee heard testimonies from several individuals this week on a bill that would impact how higher education performance funding is awarded in Tennessee—tying part of the funding, the entire “quality assurance” portion—to outcomes from one specific academic area: Teacher Preparation Programs. A vote was ultimately deferred until next week.
HB1481 by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) would tie quality assurance funding for public institutions of higher education to Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) scores of graduates of Tennessee’s teacher training programs. TVAAS scores are one measure of teacher effectiveness utilized by the state. Under the bill, in order to receive quality assurance funding, each institution would need to have a high number of graduates from teacher training programs with TVAAS scores of “above expectations” or “significantly above expectations.”
If passed, it would be the first time that quality assurance funding was tied to one specific academic program area rather than a broad set of institutional performance metrics that span a number of different academic programs.
This legislation was proposed in an effort to promote accountability for public university teacher preparation programs across the state.
Longtime Education Committee member, Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens), voiced concerns on relying solely on TVAAS scores because they only highlight one aspect of a teacher’s effectiveness. Forgety also was quick to point out that Tennessee has 97.8 percent of teachers that are levels 3, 4, and 5 (the highest quality levels) and that for the last two National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) cycles, Tennessee has been the fastest improving state in the nation.
Quality Assurance Funding provides an incentive for public higher education institutions to ensure post-graduation success for students and the quality of the institution’s programs in order to align with the state’s higher education priorities. The standards are evaluated every five years by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to ensure they reflect the state’s current priorities.
The University opposes the legislation in its current form and is in ongoing dialogue with the bill sponsor and other stakeholders on the issue. Teacher preparation programs at every UT campus are actively working to best serve and prepare our students and graduates as they enter the teaching profession. In order to graduate from these programs, students must successfully complete the coursework, summative test and the clinical (student teaching) experience. All graduates must pass the Praxis Reading exam and the edTPA. Many factors ultimately influence new teacher performance, many of which are outside the University’s control including the school’s curriculum, class size, leadership, available teacher support/mentoring services, and teacher induction programs.