Bill Lee Wants to Reduce Student Testing, While Karl Dean Thinks Current Levels Are Just Fine

Bill Lee

The battle lines over common sense in public education have been drawn in the gubernatorial battle between Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean, and Round One goes to Bill Lee.

Lee, the outsider business executive, wants to reduce the current level of student testing while Dean, the former Mayor of Nashville, thinks the current levels of student testing are just fine.

Dean and Lee may both talk about education being a priority if they are elected governor, but they have some big differences in their visions, especially testing.

The Democratic and Republican candidates, respectively, won their parties’ primaries Thursday.

Dean says his administration would generally continue Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s education policies, which are a holdover from Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s, Chalkbeat says. Chalkbeat points out that Haslam has stuck with a controversial policy to include student growth scores from state tests in teacher evaluations.

The Haslam plan is “1) raising academic standards; 2) adopting an aligned test to measure student progress; and 3) using the results to hold students, teachers, schools and districts accountable.”

This past spring, the Tennessee Department of Education once again experienced widespread technical issues with TNReady testing, The Tennessee Star previously reported. From the original vendor failing to create a functioning testing platform to thousands of tests being incorrectly scored to classes not receiving their test results at all, TNReady’s state-led implementation has been under criticism from the beginning.

The Tennessee General Assembly had to step in and pass a bill to “hold harmless” all students, teachers and districts from the test results.

The education issues page on Dean’s website lists goals like increasing teacher pay but does not mention tests except to say Metro Nashville Public Schools test scores improved when he was mayor.

Lee’s education website page says, “I understand that a good education isn’t defined only by a test score. It’s realized in a student who becomes a whole person and has the skills needed for a successful career.”

Lee said standards are important, Chalkbeat said, but added, “I think we can push for high standards while reducing the testing burden and focusing on a testing protocol that is more meaningful to our teachers and parents.”

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