Tennessee education department announces $2M for educator training programs

Aspiring teachers attending seven universities across the state will be able to apply for limited full scholarships, thanks to a $2 million allocation by the Tennessee Department of Education through it’s Grow Your Own teacher education program.

Funded by Grow Your Own grants, university educator training programs partner with school districts to provide tuition-free education for aspiring teachers. Participants work as education assistants at placements in partner school districts, learning under qualified teacher mentors. The program was initiated with an eye to increasing access and removing barriers to the teaching profession.

“The Grow Your Own initiative will expand across the state and support hundreds of individuals to become teachers for free – while employed in our Tennessee school districts,” Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said. “Right now, it could not be more important to remove barriers to the teaching profession, and I am proud of the way our state is

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Charles Fancher, leader in Tennessee higher education, dies at 99

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Charles B. Fancher Sr., a leader in Tennessee higher education, has died. He was 99. 

Fancher, who had a career in higher education that spanned nearly 30 years and two states, died Monday after dealing with an abdominal condition. He was two weeks away from his 100th birthday. 

Throughout his career, Fancher served in various higher education roles in Tennessee, including as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the Tennessee Board of Regents, a position he retired from in 1985. While there, he oversaw the court-ordered merger of Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee at Nashville.

While working at TSU, Fancher was tapped to serve as interim president of the university, where he held other positions during his tenure, such as dean of faculty and vice president of academic affairs. 

He also worked in education in Alabama. During his

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Tennessee school voucher program unconstitutional Appeals Court rules

Gov. Bill Lee’s education savings account program took another hit Tuesday, with the Tennessee Court of Appeals upholding a lower court’s decision that the controversial plan is unconstitutional. 

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeals upheld a previous decision by Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Anne Martin, who ruled against the school-voucher law because it only applies to Memphis and Nashville. 

The state attorney general quickly appealed that decision, hoping to kick off the program with the 2020-21 school year, but the courts blocked the state from receiving applications and preparing for the program’s kickoff for this academic year.

PREVIOUSLY: Judge rules Gov. Bill Lee’s education savings account program unconstitutional

In its appeal, the state argued that education policy is the state’s responsibility — and that the local constitutional protections, known as “home rule,” don’t apply in this case. Martin had ruled that the law violated the home rule

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Lawmakers, superintendents blindsided by Tennessee Education Department learning loss projections

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s announcement of COVID-19-related learning loss projections for Tennessee students took state lawmakers and school superintendents by surprise.



a school bus parked in a parking lot


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In a joint news conference with Gov. Bill Lee last week, Schwinn announced Tennessee students are expected to face learning loss of 50% in English and 65 % in math, stressing the importance of in-person learning. Projections were based on national research and early results of beginning-of-year student checkpoint assessments in Tennessee.

“This press release really caught a lot of us off guard,” Henry County Schools Superintendent Leah Watkins told The Center Square. “I feel like this was a smack in the face of my educators, of my team, who have given up summer break to have had to change everything they do to make it work for a dual environment – virtual and in person. It just feels

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Tennessee education commissioner accused of misleading about learning loss

Chalkbeat Tennessee says during a call with superintendents on Friday Schwinn described the data as “estimated predictions.”

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Educators and lawmakers from across the state are criticizing the Tennessee Department of Education for data it released, showing Tennessee students were experiencing a “significant” learning loss due to schools being closed from COVID-19.

But it turns out much of that data was based on testing done before the pandemic, according to Chalkbeat Tennessee, a non-profit news organization focused on education issues.

It was an announcement that got everyone’s attention.

Tennessee education commissioner Penny Schwinn released data to show the impact prolonged school closures were having on Tennessee students.

“Because of some of these building closures and because of the impacts of COVID-19, we are seeing a significant decrease in the proficiency of students entering school this fall,” said Schwinn.

Schwinn said data showed a 50 percent decrease in third-grade

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Online learning emerges as a key issue from Tennessee House hearings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — School online learning emerged as one of the key issues during ten-hour hearings by Tennessee state lawmakers that wrapped up Wednesday.

“We are going to have our hands full and we all need to be on the same page,” said House Education Committee Chair Mark White.

It was a statement about the delicate nature of Tennessee K-12 education as schools re-open in the age of COVID-19.

Online learning is key because it’s estimated that half of the state’s million students are presently doing it.

One figure drawing attention during the hearing this week was underachieving students falling potentially two grades behind since the start of the pandemic.

Issues with online learning often are blamed as students, teachers, and parents are learning about virtual education.

Districts like Metro Nashville Public Schools are already addressing the kind of issues faced by school parents like Tim Johnson. He’s been

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Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn tells Tennessee lawmakers she’s ‘committed’ to working with them

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn told irate Republican members of the House Education Committee this week that she would work more closely with them going forward following a series of blow-ups that incensed hard-right GOP lawmakers.

“I am committed to that. I know the committee is committed to that,” Schwinn told Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, who raised issues including the uproar among conservatives over a proposed state child welfare wellness-check program during the pandemic that GOP members charged smacked of government intrusion into the home.

“I appreciate the feedback and the ongoing conversations, especially within the last several weeks,” Schwinn said. “I know we’ve come up with a number of really strong ideas about how to continue to strengthen that over the coming months.”

The exchange came amid a revolt by a number of conservative lawmakers, primarily in the House, with threats to hold a no-confidence vote on

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Tennessee education commissioner testifies before committee after call for no-confidence vote

State lawmakers aired grievances over missteps by the Tennessee Department of Education to Commissioner Penny Schwinn as she appeared before the House Education Committee on Tuesday to provide an update on school reopening.

Broadly, legislators criticized the department for communication breakdowns and stressed the importance of improving students’ performance in reading and math.

“There has to be trust between you and this committee,” said Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, addressing Schwinn directly. “We have to know that, philosophically, we’re on the same page. There has to be cooperation between us, you, and Gov. (Bill) Lee. There’s a million kids who are depending on us to get this right.”

Cepicky outlined missteps the department made in the rollout of the Child Wellbeing Checks toolkit.

“I don’t ever want to be blindsided by something like this again, OK?” Cepicky said. “I’m just telling you, as representative of District 64. As we move

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Tennessee Department of Education has 33% turnover rate under Schwinn

Under the leadership of Commissioner Penny Schwinn, Tennessee’s Department of Education and its affiliates have experienced turnover of one-third of its employees, department data shows.

Since Schwinn took office as commissioner in February 2019, a total of 405 employees, or roughly 33 percent, have left the department. The vast majority of employees leaving the department have resigned – about two-thirds of the total number.

Since last February, 116 employees have resigned from the department’s central office, 19 have retired and 26 were terminated. As of this month, 391 employees remain in the department’s central offices.

A total of 244 employees left the departments’ subsidiaries, including the Achievement School District, State Board of Education, the Energy Efficient Schools Initiative, School Support Services program and the Tennessee Early Intervention System.

In the first nine months of Schwinn’s leadership, the turnover rate at the agency was about 18 percent, an increase from

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