After NCLB, state Department of Education offers more tools to grade schools

Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 3:07am

As talk about education and school choice gain traction on Capitol Hill, the Tennessee Department of Education is giving the public more tools to evaluate its public schools.

Part of the state Report Card’s upgrade includes the department unveiling new layers of data on academic achievement and measures to judge schools on, according to state officials.

“I think it can be a really empowering tool for parents and community members to understand how schools in their area are doing. And that’s the most important, I think, compass for a report card,” said Kevin Huffman, Department of Education commissioner.

The new tools also serve to formally ditch standards the state used under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which the state received a waiver from this year.

The upgrades offer additional data points to compare student proficiency levels in various subjects and new information on the number of students enrolled in career technical education.

Unveiling new data comes just as Metro Nashville Public Schools begins accepting applications from parents wanting to switch their students to one of 67 public schools within the district. Parents can compare schools here and apply to switch schools on the district’s website.

The new tools to compare student performance at varying schools come as House Speaker Beth Harwell hints that the legislature will talk more seriously about installing a program to allow parents to use state tax dollars to shop for a private school next year after a high-profile charter school rejection by MNPS’s school board members.

Lawmakers are also poised to consider making it easier for politically embattled charter school applicants to apply with the state in an effort to expand the state’s school choice offerings.