NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam today signed into law his legislative initiative that redefines school accountability and brings the state out from the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The governor also announced some $37 million in federal grants designed to help local education districts turn around troubled schools, primarily in Nashville and Memphis.
Hamilton County, however, will only see $600,000, which the school system will use to planning to create a similar "innovation zone."
"This is a big day in Tennessee," Haslam said during a signing ceremony at Brick Church Middle School in Nashville, calling it "one of the landmark steps along the way" to improving Tennessee schools.
Asked why Nashville and Memphis school systems were collectively receiving some $27 million and Hamilton County only $600,000 for planning, Haslam later said the other two systems "were just further ahead in the process. Hamilton County is getting planning money and when their innovation zone gets in place, then they'll be eligible for more funding."
Education Commission Kevin Huffman said that in the state's waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Tennessee has committed "a great deal of resources to turning around the bottom 5 percent of schools in this state."
The state's waiver replaces the NCLB's Adequate Yearly Progress standards, which states and educators say are unrealistic, and installs a state accountability system in its place.
The new system requires aggregate, significant growth in student achievement in core subjects and reducing the achievement gap between student subgroups in areas like race and poverty.
Innovation zones are intended to give local districts greater autonomy, responsibility and resources to turn around low-performing schools. Memphis city schools are getting a three-year award of $14.74 million for seven schools. Nashville will see $12.38 million for seven schools.
The state-run Achievement School District is also getting a three-year grant of $10.39 million to serve six schools.