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Steve Ahillen
By Steve Ahillen March 9, 2012

Education Leadership Academies under construction

In his campaign literature titled "Bill Haslam: The Right Experience” candidate Haslam vowed to "develop great principals by creating a statewide leadership academy network that will serve to coordinate the efforts of existing principal preparation program.”

He added: "The goal of this network will be to produce well-trained and highly effective school leaders for every region, school district and school across the state. As a businessman, I understand the importance of having a highly effective leader on site with the right autonomy and accountability, and I'll make sure every Tennessee school has great leadership.”

The governor said he is committed to improving the state's low national ranking for schools, which has been a problem for decades. That same "Jobs4TN” literature mentions that Tennessee had a ranking of 41st in national test scores. Rankings on education are plentiful, but usually contain subjective elements and are often two or more years old. U.S. News and World Report does offer a 2011 ranking for high schools that puts Tennessee at No. 36. Tennessee received an "average” rating in the Science and Engineering Readiness Index, not as bad as some other Southern states' rankings, but hardly a national leader.

We asked the governor's office how he is doing toward meeting this promise of instituting leadership academies and got this response on Jan. 4, 2012: "The statewide leadership academy network initiative is in the works. It is notable that the governor fulfilled a significant education ‘promise' that he talked about in the campaign through his legislation to lift he cap on and expanding charter schools in Tennessee.”

We checked back again and got an emailed reply on March 7 that it is still in the works.

In fairness, the governor has demonstrated a focus on improving education both with the charter schools measure mentioned as well a teacher evaluation system. That system, in which teachers are rated in part on the performance of their students, has caused much controversy, so much so that Haslam has ordered a review of it to be completed June 1.

Then, on Feb. 15, 2012, the Department of Education announced the formation of a Common Core Leadership Council, explained as: "Thirteen directors, supervisors and an assistant principal from across the state will advise department officials on formal and informal assessments and professional development resources; shape the framework for all Common Core pilot programs; and become regional experts and leaders in the importance and concrete expectations of the standards. They also will be tasked with the selection and training of exemplary educators, who will facilitate summer training on Common Core implementation in July.” Common Core Standards were described as "a rigorous set of internationally benchmarked standards that require from students a deeper level of critical thinking.”

So, there are things being done on education, but so far nothing of substance announced on the leadership academy plan.

We"ll give this an In the Works.

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