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Gov. Bill Lee calls for teachers, schools not to be penalized by state testing this school year

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Gov. Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said Friday that Tennessee schools and teachers should not face negative consequences state assessments for the current academic year.

Though neither Lee nor Schwinn are backing a complete suspension of state standardized testing or TNReady this year, the two are calling for a temporary suspension of accountability measures, or for schools to be “held harmless.” 

“Given the unprecedented disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic and extended time away from the classroom has had on Tennessee’s students, my Administration will work with the General Assembly to bring forward a solution for this school year that alleviates any burdens associated with educator evaluations and school accountability metrics,” Lee said in a statement Friday morning.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn interacts with Anna Foley, 7, during a visit to Forest Hill Elementary School on Wednesday, Sept 2, 2020.  (Photo: Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal)

“Accountability remains incredibly important for the education of Tennessee’s students, and we will keep this year’s assessments in place to ensure an accurate picture of where our students are and what supports are needed to regain learning loss and get them back on the path to success.”

The state legislature will have to officially sign off on the governor’s call in order for accountability measures to be suspended. The issue is expected to be taken up quickly when the General Assembly convenes later this year.

Both Lee and Schwinn have consistently called for schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, citing in-person learning as the best option for students.

Some educators and lawmakers began calling for a suspension of testing before the 2020-21 school year even began, but Schwinn has argued the importance of gathering data on current student achievement. 

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“Due to COVID-19, Tennessee districts and schools experienced extended periods away from the classroom and missed critical instruction time during the spring. The department supports Governor Lee’s call for holding teachers and schools harmless from negative consequences associated with accountability measures this school year,” Schwinn said in a statement.

“Administering assessments to gauge student learning and ensuring strong accountability best enables us to meet the needs of all students, however we know the significant challenges our teachers and school and district leaders are facing and it remains critical to reward their good work. We look forward to working together with our elected officials on a solution for this school year that preserves our strong foundations while ensuring that every teacher feels supported in focusing on educating their students,” Schwinn added.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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Meghan Mangrum covers education in Nashville for the USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee. Contact her at mmangrum@tennessean.com. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2020-10-16 14:49:45
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