Tennessee Education Commissioner addresses “TNReady” testing and school voucher legislation

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Tennessee’s Education Commissioner traveled to the Tri-Cities on Thursday, visiting Science Hill High School and David Crockett High School throughout the day. 

Dr. Penny Schwinn met with students and faculty in what she called an “incredible visit.”

“At the end of the day,” she said, “we are children first everytime, no matter what, and that is a commitment you have from me directly.”

One of the tour’s highlights, according to Schwinn, was the school’s Career Technical Education program.

“When we’re talking about excellent CTE in this state,” she said, “we’re talking about this high school.”

Dr. Schwinn told us Thursday that the state is expected to have a new contract with its TNReady vendor by the end of June.

The commissioner also said she is excited for more transparent and earlier reporting, as well as publicly posting all of the testing questions within the next two years.

“If I’m a parent and my daughter is coming home with her report in two years when she’s ending third grade, I want to know what answers she took, I want to know what her answers were and I want to have strategies that I can work on at home to help her be the best student she can be going into fourth grade.”

Comissioner Schwinn made it clear Thursday that regardless of the controversial school voucher legislation that will impact students in two counties in western Tennessee, her focus is on the one million children in Tennessee schools. 

“I want to be able to look a parent in the eye, no matter where they live in the state, she said, “and say we are working for you and your family and your child to ensure that he or she has the best possible education.”

Schwinn also relayed her experience as a teacher to cast out any doubt whether the school voucher system would diminsh the quality of teachers in Tennessee public schools. 

“I think if there is any impact,” she said, “it’s about making sure that as a state, we remain committed to being a kids first, children first state, so anyone who wants to come into education knows that’s what we’re about, so if you want to teach and lead in Tennessee, then you better teach and lead because you’re here about kids regardless.”

Dr. Schwinn also said so far, there is no time table yet as to when schools in the Tri-Cities could see receive funds from the school voucher system earmarked for schools in rural communities. 

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