On a chaotic conference call — interrupted every few moments by new callers, blasts of static noise and the howling of dog — the state’s Board of Education adopted marked changes to how teachers earn their licenses.
On a 6-3 vote Friday afternoon, the board also agreed to push off implementation of those changes for a year to August of 2015 in an effort to build in time for members to examine and — if necessary — change parts of the controversial proposal giving them worry.
“I really believe at this point it’s important to get something on the table that we can look at and evaluate to make improvements,” said B. Fielding Rolston, SBOE chairman. “I think this captures the good work that has already been done,"
Putting off a vote would have left future changes to teacher licensure “in no man’s land.” he said.
Members across the board said they and teachers were concerned with some of the new rules, such as using data as a primary factor in issuing teachers’ licenses. Under the new policy, teachers at least three years into their career would need to avoid the lowest teacher evaluation scores and student test scores for two out of three years to qualify for a teaching license. Teachers unions argue the data is unreliable and would put good teachers out of a job.
Some members took issue on voting for the policy at all, including Janet Ayers, a retired nursing home administrator from Parsons who said she has “serious concerns” about tying the relatively new teacher evaluations to teacher licenses, and likened its politics to voting on an immigration policy.
Aspects of the new policy gave board member Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, “heartburn,” he said. However, Edwards also said some of those changes may turn out as good policy and suggested information coming from the state’s main student data system over the next year could cause the data-driven crux of the new policy to sink or swim.