This bill rewrites the present law provisions regarding school accountability requirements, removes the present law provisions regarding the inner city educational enhancement pilot project, and revises present law regarding the achievement school district.
SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY REQUIREMENTS - PRESENT LAW
Under present law, all public schools and local education agencies must make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in achieving proficiency for all student subgroups in core academic subjects as determined by the state board of education. All public schools and LEAs must have academic growth for each measurable academic subject within each grade greater than or equal to standards for expected academic growth set by the commissioner with the approval of the state board.
If schools or LEAs do not have academic growth equal to or greater than the standards for expected academic growth based upon the Tennessee comprehensive assessment program (TCAP) tests, or tests that measure academic performance that are deemed appropriate, each school and LEA is expected to make statistically significant progress toward that goal. The rate of progress within each grade and academic course necessary to maintain compliance with the performance goals will be established after two years of consecutive testing with tests adopted for each grade and subject. Schools or LEAs that do not achieve the required rate of progress may be placed on probation. Schools or school districts that do not achieve the required rate of progress are referred to as "high priority schools or school districts."
All schools within all LEAs are expected to maintain appropriate levels of school attendance and graduation rates. The 1991-1992 school year is the base year for measuring levels of attendance rates. The 2002-2003 school year is the base year for measuring levels of graduation rates. Schools that do not maintain appropriate levels, as set by the state board on the recommendation of the commissioner, may be placed on probation.
There is a rebuttable presumption that if a school or school district has not achieved the goals or maintained attendance and graduation rates pursuant as described above, then it is out of compliance and subject to probation.
By September 1 of each year, the commissioner must recommend for approval to the state board a listing of all schools and LEAs to be placed in improvement status for failure to make adequate progress. If an LEA is deemed by the commissioner as not carrying out its responsibilities to a school or schools in improvement status for technical or other assistance that may ensure that a school meet or exceed the performance standards, or the standards of fiscal accountability, the LEA may be included in the recommendation to the state board to be placed in improvement status. Schools and LEAs in improvement status must abide by guidelines established by the commissioner for the purpose of improving student performance.
During the first year a school or LEA is placed in improvement status, the commissioner of education must publicly identify and study all schools or LEAs that are placed in such status.
Present law details the following for schools that do not meet performance standards:
(1) If a school or LEA does not meet the performance standards of the state board by the end of the first year of improvement status, the school or LEA may be placed in the second year of improvement status;
(2) If a school does not meet the performance standards of the state board by the end of the second year of improvement status, the school may be placed in the third year of improvement status;
(3) If the LEA does not meet the performance standards of the state board by the end of the second year in improvement status, it may be placed in the third year of improvement status;
(4) If a school does not meet the performance standards of the state board by the end of the third year in improvement status, the school may be placed in the fourth year of improvement status:
(5) If the LEA does not meet the performance standards of the state board by the end of the third year of improvement status, it may be placed in the fourth year of improvement status (LEA Restructuring 1);
(6) If the school does not meet the performance standards of the state board by the end of the fourth year of improvement status, the school may be placed in the fifth year of improvement status. During such status or at any time a Title I school meets the United States department of education's definition of "persistently lowest achieving schools," the commissioner may: approve an LEA's allocation of financial resources to schools; and approve an LEA's allocation of personnel resources to the schools. The director of each LEA serving such schools must perform the actions that are required of schools in the third year of improvement status and must implement the plan for governance described in present law; and
(7) If the LEA does not meet the performance standards of the state board by the end of the fourth year in improvement status, it may be placed in the fifth year of improvement status. During such status the commissioner may, among other things, assign the LEA, or individual schools within the LEA, to the achievement school district (ASD).
Present law describes in detail corrective measures that the commissioner and director of schools are authorized to make and required to make for each of the status levels referenced above (see TCA Section 49-1-602). Such actions include, for an LEA placed in the fifth year of improvement status, the recommendation by the commissioner that some or all of the local board of education members be replaced. If the state board concurs with the recommendation, the commissioner must order the removal of some or all of the board members or director of schools, or both, and declare a vacancy in the office. Vacancies on the board must be filled by the local legislative body until the next general election for which candidates have time, under law, to qualify. If the entire board of a special school district is removed, the commissioner must appoint three responsible citizens of the district to serve on the board, and they may appoint persons to fill the remaining vacancies. Any director of schools or board member removed as described above is ineligible for appointment or election to the office for the remainder of the person's term and for one full term thereafter. An appeal of the decision to remove a director or board member is appealable to chancery court of Davidson County.
The two school systems having the greatest number of schools placed on notice or probation status may, with the advance approval of the appropriate local legislative body, establish an inner city educational enhancement pilot project. The pilot project consists of after-school programs at all or a significant portion of the LEA's schools placed on notice or probation status. The pilot project may also include before-school, Saturday or summer programs at such schools. Programs and services must be principally provided by qualified volunteers who are retired teachers, university professors, law enforcement officers, armed forces veterans, members of the Urban League or public employees. At the discretion of the appropriate local legislative body, incentive grants may be offered to the volunteers, except that no volunteer may receive incentive grants totaling more than an amount that equals half of the local real property tax previously paid by the volunteer on the person's principal place of residence for the most recently concluded tax year.
SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY REQUIREMENTS - THE BILL
This bill rewrites the above provisions. This bill requires the commissioner, by September 1 of each year, to present to the state board for approval annual measurable objectives for achievement and achievement gap closures for the state, LEAs, schools and student subgroups. Each LEA and school will be evaluated based on the combination of overall student achievement data and achievement gap closure targets as set by the state board.
If an LEA achieves both the achievement and achievement gap closure targets set by the state board, it would:
(1) Be identified by the department as an exemplary LEA;
(2) Be permitted to develop and maintain school improvement plans at the LEA level without approval by the department; and
(3) When permissible by law, rule or regulation, be granted increased funding flexibility by the department.
If an LEA misses the achievement target, achievement gap closure target or both, the LEA will, at the discretion of the commissioner, be subject to at least one of the following:
(1) Placement on a public list of LEAs in need of improvement;
(2) Creation of an aggressive plan for corrective action and submission of such plan to the commissioner for approval; and
(3) Preparation and submission of a detailed analysis of its student achievement results to the commissioner, along with a plan to achieve its annual measurable objectives, subject to the approval of the commissioner.
By September 1, 2012, and at least every three years thereafter, based on an evaluation of all schools' achievement data, the commissioner must recommend for approval to the state board a listing of all schools to be placed in priority, focus or reward status pursuant to the rules, regulations and performance standards of the state board. Once approved by the state board, priority, focus and reward schools would be publicly identified by the commissioner.
Schools identified as priority schools would represent the bottom 5 percent of schools in overall achievement as determined by the performance standards and other criteria set by the state board and would be subject to one of the following interventions as determined by the commissioner:
(1) Turnaround through LEA adoption of an identified school improvement grant (SIG) intervention model or other LEA-led school improvement process, subject to approval by the commissioner;
(2) School turnaround under the governance of an LEA Innovation Zone; or
(3) Placement in the achievement school district (ASD).
An LEA with a school identified as a focus school must submit a plan to the commissioner, subject to the commissioner's approval, outlining how the LEA will address the factors leading the school to be placed in focus status.
A reward school would be recognized by the department for outstanding achievement or progress and provided opportunities to serve as strategic partners with the department to raise student achievement levels throughout the state by analyzing and sharing best practices.
An LEA may develop a plan for the creation of an LEA Innovation Zone for the purpose of monitoring, overseeing and improving schools within the LEA that are designated as priority schools and approved for inclusion in the innovation zone by the commissioner. Upon approval of such plan by the commissioner, an LEA Innovation Zone may be established. An LEA creating an LEA Innovation Zone must:
(1) Establish an innovation zone office; appoint a leader for such office; and provide such leader with sufficient management authority to appoint and dismiss staff for the office as well as appoint a leader for each school placed in the innovation zone; and
(2) Allow schools under the governance of the innovation zone office to have maximum autonomy over financial, programmatic and staffing decisions.
ACHIEVEMENT SCHOOL DISTRICTS - PRESENT LAW
Under present law, the commissioner may contract with one or more individuals, governmental entities or nonprofit entities to manage the day-to-day operations of any or all schools or LEAs placed in the achievement school district (ASD), including providing direct services to students. Such person or entity contracted with to manage schools or LEAs that have been placed in the ASD (hereafter referred to as "the managing entity") may apply to the commissioner for a waiver of any state board rule that inhibits or hinders the ability of the school or LEA to achieve the required adequate yearly progress benchmarks. However, the commissioner may not waive rules related to the following:
(1) Federal and state civil rights;
(2) Federal, state and local health and safety;
(3) Federal and state public records;
(5) Possession of weapons on school grounds;
(6) Background checks and fingerprinting of personnel;
(7) Federal and state special education services;
(8) Student due process;
(9) Parental rights;
(10) Federal and state student assessment and accountability;
(11) Open meetings; and
(12) At least the same equivalent time of instruction as required in regular public schools.
The managing person or entity may determine whether any teacher who was previously assigned to such school will have the option of continuing to teach at that school as an employee of the managing entity.
After a school or LEA that has been placed in the ASD achieves the required adequate yearly progress benchmarks for two consecutive years, the commissioner must develop a transition plan for the purpose of planning the school's or LEA's return to the jurisdiction of the local board of education. Implementation of this plan begins after the school or LEA achieves the required adequate yearly progress benchmarks for three consecutive years. The plan must be fully implemented and the transition must be completed after a school or LEA achieves adequate yearly progress benchmarks for five consecutive years. However, the commissioner may remove any school or LEA from the jurisdiction of the ASD at any time.
Absent other funding, the ASD must use state and local funding identified above to operate a school placed in alternative governance and to implement new initiatives and programs as appropriate. Such state and local funding may be used to implement new initiatives and programs to the extent that any increase in recurring expenditures are funded additionally so as not to create a financial burden on the LEA when the school or LEA is removed from the ASD. To the extent that such state funds are not used to support a school or LEA in the ASD, they must be allocated to a state reserve fund to be distributed to an LEA only upon approval of the commissioner. To the extent that such local funds are not used to support a school or LEA in the ASD, the LEA must allocate such funds to a special BEP reserve account, for use only for nonrecurring purposes, until the school or LEA is placed back under the jurisdiction of the LEA.
Any managing entity must provide timely information to the LEA and director of schools regarding its operation of such schools. The LEA may continue to support the educational improvement of the school under the direction and guidance of the commissioner. In addition, any managing entity may voluntarily work with the LEA in providing to the schools professional development or technical assistance, instructional and administrative support and facilitating any other support that may be beneficial to academic progress of the school.
ACHIEVEMENT SCHOOL DISTRICT - THE BILL
This bill revises present law regarding the ASD as follows:
(1) Specifies that instead of contracting with a managing entity, the commissioner may choose to directly operate the ASD. If the commissioner operates the ASD directly, then the commissioner would have the same powers and duties as the managing entity under present law;
(2) Authorizes the commissioner to assign any school or grade configuration within a school to the ASD at any time such school is designated to be in priority status;
(3) Rewrites the present law provisions described above regarding when a school in the ASD would return to the LEA to instead specify that a school placed in the ASD would remain in the ASD for at least five years. Under this bill, after the school improves student performance for two consecutive years such that the school would no longer be identified as a priority school, the commissioner would develop a transition plan for the purpose of planning the school's return to the LEA. Implementation of this plan would begin after the school achieves the required improvements for three consecutive years. The plan must be fully implemented and the transition must be completed after the school achieves the required improvements for five consecutive years, unless the LEA is identified as an LEA in need of improvement for missing both the achievement and achievement gap targets and the parents of 60 percent of the children enrolled at the school sign a petition in favor of remaining in the ASD. However, the commissioner may remove any school from the jurisdiction of the ASD at any time;
(4) Rewrites the present law provisions described above regarding funding for the ASD to instead specify that the ASD would receive from the department or LEA, an amount equal to the per student state and local funds received by the department or LEA for the students enrolled in the ASD school. ASD schools would also receive all appropriate allocations of federal funds as other LEAs. The ASD may receive donations of money, property or securities from any source for the benefit of the ASD and schools within the ASD. To the extent that any state and local funds allocated to the ASD are not used to support a school or LEA in the ASD, they would be allocated to a state reserve fund to be distributed to the appropriate LEA upon approval of the commissioner and upon the removal of the school from the ASD;
(5) Authorizes the ASD to require any LEA to provide school support or student support services for a school transferred from the LEA's jurisdiction, including student transportation, school food service, alternative schools or student assessment for special education eligibility that are compliant with all laws and regulations governing such services. In such cases, the ASD must reimburse the actual cost to the LEA providing such services;
(6) Requires the commissioner, in conjunction with the ASD superintendent, to establish an annual budget for the ASD based on its mission and to submit such budget directly to the commissioner of finance and administration as a part of the department of education's budget;
(7) Specifies that if it is determined that the ASD will directly operate a school within the ASD, then the employees of the school may be deemed employees of the ASD. Employees of the ASD assigned to a school within the ASD would be a part of the executive service and would be under the exclusive control of the ASD;
(8) Specifies that the ASD would, at a minimum, have the same authority and autonomy afforded to LEAs under state law regarding the procurement of property, goods and services, including personal, professional, consulting, and social services. The ASD must develop written procedures, subject to approval by the commissioner, for the procurement of all goods and services in compliance with the expenditure thresholds for competitive bidding;
(9) Allows the ASD to authorize the preparation and use of publications for the marketing and public education needs of the ASD in order to effectively carry out its mission;
(10) Specifies that for a charter school that enters the ASD, the ASD would remain the chartering authority through the duration of the charter agreement and the school would remain under the authority of the ASD. Upon expiration of the charter agreement, and upon the school meeting the above conditions required in order to leave the ASD, the school would return to the LEA and the terms of the charter agreement may be renewed upon submission of a renewal application by the governing body of the charter school to the LEA; and
(11) Specifies that any contracts to operate schools placed in the ASD would require expenditure reports for funds received and expended pursuant to such contracts. Such reports must be provided to the department of education and comptroller for review.
ON MARCH 19, 2012, THE SENATE ADOPTED AMENDMENT #1 AND PASSED SENATE BILL 2208, AS AMENDED.
AMENDMENT #1 removes the bill's requirement that the commissioner, in conjunction with the ASD superintendent, establish an annual budget for the ASD based on its mission and submit such budget directly to the commissioner of finance and administration as a part of the department of education's budget. This amendment removes the bill's provision specifying that employees of the ASD assigned to a school within the ASD would be a part of the executive service. This amendment requires that staffing needs of any school within the ASD be exclusively determined by the ASD with approval of the commissioner.
Under the bill, the commissioner, by September 1 of each year, must present to the state board of education for approval annual measurable objectives for achievement and achievement gap closures for the state, LEAs, schools and student subgroups. Each LEA and school must be evaluated based on the combination of overall student achievement data and achievement gap closure targets as set by the state board. This amendment requires that the commissioner present to the state board of education for approval annual measurable objectives for achievement and achievement gap closures for "the state and LEAs", instead of for "the state, LEAs, schools and student subgroups", and only requires that "each LEA", instead of "each LEA and school", be evaluated based on the combination of overall student achievement data and achievement gap closure targets as set by the state board.