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Tennessee Granted NCLB Waiver Request; Seeks Accountability and Evaluation Systems

On Thursday (2/9/2012), President Barack Obama freed 10 states from some requirements of No Child Left Behind’s toughest requirements. Those states, which had to commit to their own, federally approved plans, will now be allowed to pursue alternate means of measuring student progress.
The first 10 states to obtain a waiver from the education law are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The only state that applied for the flexibility and was denied - New Mexico - is working with the administration to get approval. In addition, 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have indicated that they also plan to submit waivers to the law in order to pursue their own plans.
Overall, the states that received waivers no longer have to meet deadlines under NCLB. Instead, they have to submit their own plans detailing how they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement for all students, and reward and help top performing schools and underperformers.
Over the last few months, Deltek has been reviewing the various states which have applied for waivers and detailing some of the notable information technology-related initiatives associated with their requests. 
In this week’s installment, Deltek would like to highlight the state of Tennessee and discuss its plans to “meaningfully improve instruction and raise achievement for all students.” As part of its waiver request, Tennessee has disclosed two IT-specific initiatives, including a plan to:
1.     Provide a State-Developed Differentiated Recognition, Accountability, and Support System, and
2.     Develop and Adopt Guidelines for Local Teacher and Principal Evaluation and Support Systems.
Among Tennessee’s top priorities is to Develop and Implement a State-Based System of Differentiated Recognition, Accountability and Support. This accountability system will be implemented no later than the 2012-2013 school year, and will be designed to “improve student achievement and school performance, close achievement gaps, and increase the quality of instruction for students.” 
In its waiver request, Tennessee said the proposed accountability structure reinforces the goals, priorities, and plans outlined in the state’s Race to the Top proposal, while providing the flexibility and tailored interventions necessary to ensure that the Department of Education can significantly increase student achievement and reduce achievement gaps across the state.
Tennessee is also seeking to Develop and Adopt Guidelines for Local Teacher and Principal Evaluation and Support Systems. As part of this, Tennessee said it implemented a comprehensive, student-outcomes-based, state-wide educator evaluation system in July 2011. The state’s TEAM (Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model) system is a comprehensive evaluation tool designed to improve instructional practices. 
The TEAM program gives educators a roadmap to instructional excellence, a process to guide reflection, and a common language for collaborating to improve instructional practice and examine student outcomes. Tennessee is also using the TEAM system for the evaluation of principals and plans to implement the system state-wide in the 2011-2012 school year.
Overall, Tennessee said it’s currently developing “robust” data systems which will allow teachers, schools, and the state to track and learn from student progress and other indicators at each level. The Department of Education said it’s focusing on a P-12 system – which includes teacher evaluation, a more robust student information system, an expanded TVAAS (Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System) data reporting system, and a P-20 statewide longitudinal data system, among other things. The data systems will allow the state to monitor the ways in which common core state standards (CCSS) instruction drives student progress, learn from the CCSS-aligned field test items how well students are achieving the standards, and study the extent to which teachers are delivering quality instruction (from teacher evaluation data).
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