published Saturday, April 9th, 2011

An education reformer

Tennessee’s new education commissioner faces a big challenge as he seeks to improve public schools. But in a visit to the Times Free Press recently, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, who was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam, proposed some sensible ways to pursue that goal.

Among them:

• Encourage innovative charter schools. Charter schools, which have less bureaucracy than ordinary public schools, are not perfect, Huffman noted, but many of the best public schools are charter schools.

• Find out what good schools are doing and replicate it elsewhere.

• Compensate good teachers well.

• At least consider the use of vouchers. Vouchers let children in failing public schools attend private schools. A voucher program in Florida proved highly economical. Huffman said vouchers are not a “cure-all,” but he added, “I don’t think we should take things off the table.”

• Promote parental involvement, but also recognize that children from difficult family circumstances can learn — as evidenced by the fact that many teachers of children from poor and broken families still manage to get good academic results.

We wish the commissioner success in his tough, often thankless task.

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