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Tennessee editorial roundup

August 29, 2018

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Aug. 23

Johnson City Press on TNReady:

While Gov. Bill Haslam probably will leave Tennessee’s education system better than he found it, his successor will inherit one huge quagmire: the mess Haslam’s administration and the Legislature made of Tennessee’s standardized testing program.

With five months to go in his tenure, the governor has announced that he would embark on a six-stop tour across Tennessee to garner input about how to improve the inaptly dubbed “TNReady” system.

Since TNReady reared its ugly head in the 2015, parents have yet to receive a set of reliable data about how their kids are performing in school as compared to those across the state and around the country.

The Associated Press quoted Haslam as saying he fears the state will take the “easy way out” and just stop working on TNReady.

Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

TNReady was supposed to be part of the state’s answer to critics who slammed our schools for lack of rigor and reliable comparisons to national data. Schools often were meeting the state’s own standards but not so much against the broader results. Our kids were way behind those in other states, and a makeover began to more closely align Tennessee’s curricula and tests with national benchmarks. Of course, politics took over, and the state’s lawmakers balked at an 18-state coalition’s common testing program.

And that begat TNReady, which has been anything but ready.

Tennessee tried to reinvent the wheel, and Haslam’s tour sounds like more of the same. As we stated in May, 49 other states are out there testing their kids, and surely one of them has a working model that Tennessee can adapt to meet our families’ needs.

Rather than asking teachers, parents and students how to fix TNReady, the governor would do better to ask them about how rote testing preparation affects personalized teaching and learning and how the state could free up teachers to truly reach students.

Now, we’re not saying Tennessee should not set standards or evaluate its teachers and students with high expectations. Every governor we’ve had since Lamar Alexander took office in 1979 — Haslam included - has helped inch Tennessee into higher standards.

Rigor and assessment are the only ways a state can ensure students’ needs are being met, but when testing drives the conversation, it becomes an end in itself.

Children lose in that equation. Manufactured widgets they are not.

It’s time for Tennessee to move past the politics of testing, rely on a path proven in other states and worry more about how students learn that what they can regurgitate. If we get that right, the tests will show it.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/


Aug. 17

The Tennessean on a Tennessee city’s commitment to MLS soccer:

Nashville made a commitment to welcome MLS soccer last year, and the city must keep it.

While the political environment in the city has changed, with a new mayor, and with concerns about what the development of a new sports stadium will mean for all of Nashville, this is an opportunity to grow smartly.

Soccer and hockey are the fastest growing sports in popularity in the United States, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Nashville once would have been considered an unlikely place for a hockey team, but we now have the award-winning, uniting and popular Nashville Predators.

Soccer also has that potential, and we have seen record-breaking crowds at international games at Nissan Stadium.

When Metro Council members overwhelmingly agreed to move forward on this deal last November, they made a business commitment.

The tinkering, toiling and, in some cases, trashing of the deal could hurt future business prospects.

Defenders of The Fairgrounds Nashville, where the stadium will be built, are concerned the place voters overwhelmingly decided to save from development in 2011 will be gone.

That is not the case.

The fairgrounds are very much a part in play and will get needed investment.

The MLS team coming to Nashville will provide future revenue, growth opportunities, jobs and a framework to build more housing that is affordable to Nashville residents.

No doubt, Nashville needs to grow smarter as the boom has been inequitable, and this is an opportunity where the public sector interest, private interests and community interests align.

Metro Council members who want to take this issue to a referendum would be shirking their responsibilities to act as representatives of the people.

There are tough questions that need to be answered, and officials need to make sure this deal is executed in an honorable way.

Trust in government is in shorter supply after the scandal that forced former Mayor Megan Barry to resign in March and helped overwhelmingly defeat the transit referendum in May.

Our leaders need to resist conflating this with the MLS soccer deal.

Let’s move ahead to grow Nashville’s prosperity and provide opportunities that benefit all citizens.

Online: https://www.tennessean.com/


Aug. 26

Johnson City Press on a plan for improving Medicaid:

Our local health professionals, in partnership with thousands of their counterparts across the country, have taken on a monumental task — improving the care of the nearly 75 million Americans who rely on Medicaid.

According to an announcement from Ballad Health, the regional system joined with 16 others as part of The Medicaid Transformation Project, an effort led by former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Andy Slavitt. Under Slavitt’s leadership, the participating health systems, which serve more than half the country’s Medicaid population, have committed to improving care for patients in the areas of behavioral health, women and infant care, substance use disorder and reducing the number of preventable emergency department visits.

The leaders of Ballad and its predecessors, Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance, have long identified needs in those specific areas in our region, and we applaud their willingness to combine forces with other large care providers to take on the persistent and important issues.

With Medicaid expansion stalled in the Tennessee statehouse for the past four years, depriving thousands of affordable access to health care, it’s good to see these systems stepping up and making an effort to improve our overall health.

Even more promising, the solutions these 17 systems come up with may be shared with others across the nation that serve Medicaid patients.

In the competitive industry of health care, convincing health systems to share anything, be it resources or information, is remarkable. It’s a messy, dog-eat-dog world out there, but this partnership may represent a change.

We encourage Ballad to form more partnerships in strategic areas outside the region to enhance our care, and we hope other systems are willing to cast off the old competitive models and work with them.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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