Kevin Huffman Was Wrong; Test Results Didn’t Get People Off His Back

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says he was hired to be a "change agent." Credit: TN Photo Services

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says he was hired to be a “change agent.” On Thursday, he said “any reasonable observer” would say the state has made “remarkable progress” since 2010. Credit: TN Photo Services

Tennessee’s high-profile education commissioner has a new stump speech. Within it, he says he figured critics would quiet down after results of a national test showed Tennessee making bigger gains than any other state. They haven’t.

“I thought in my head, you know, I think people are going to step back and say this is a really good thing and we should figure out how to do more of this,” Huffman told business leaders at an event in Belle Meade Thursday. “That is absolutely not what has happened.”

There have been attempts to backtrack on everything from Common Core grade-level standards to high-stakes teacher evaluations.

Huffman says it shouldn’t even be a conversation. He sees what he calls a “conflict between anecdote and evidence.”

“It’s as if there’s an open discussion about whether we should go in one direction or another,” he said. “That bothers me.”

Huffman also dismisses resistance from groups that “pretend” to represent parents. Without singling out organizations, he says most represent special interests.

The education commissioner’s new, tougher stump speech is getting some pushback in person.

Metro school board member Amy Frogge challenged Huffman directly at last week’s meeting. She said it’s unfair to demonize those who resist reform.

“There is narrative that change is hard and that disruption is good,” she said. “But not all change is well thought out, and not all change leads to positive long term outcomes.”

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