Frist education group calls for fewer assessment tests

Friday, January 22, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 4

NASHVILLE (AP) - An education advocacy group founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Wednesday called for fewer but smarter assessment tests and for helping minority students and the underserved bridge the achievement gap.

Those were among five goals that the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) outlined for the state of Tennessee for the current year.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan education research and advocacy group also stressed the need to empower teachers and invest in professional training for school leaders. Finally, the group said business and community organizations should work more with the local schools.

The goals were announced hours after the state Comptroller's office released a report saying that despite recent gains, a large number of the state's high school graduates are still not ready for college.

Frist said the five goals were very achievable and were developed from hundreds of conversations with stakeholders around the state, including, parents, teachers, education consultants and the business community.

"That leads us to have great confidence that these are achievable priorities, both in terms of the process - what we do under each of the five (goals) - plus the outcomes, which is advancing student achievement. They're very current. They're modern. They're not goals from the past. They're not even aspirational. But they're real practical, genuine thought-out priorities."

Frist, a heart and lung transplant surgeon, said at the event that he became interested in education because he noticed that people with less education had worse health outcomes.

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen and state Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) also spoke at the event.

SCORE's top priority is the successful implementation of the TNReady assessment, a new achievement test scheduled to be rolled out across the state this year. The test mea sures math and English skills with a focus on critical thinking.