Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen will leave her post in January for the top position at a national nonprofit that addresses teaching, The Tennessean said.
McQueen’s departure to become CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, focused on aiding in training, attracting and supporting teachers, means she will not stay on with Gov.-elect Bill Lee.
McQueen became Tennessee’s education commissioner in January 2015 after leading Lipscomb University’s College of Education. She replaced Kevin Huffman, who served for four years under Gov. Bill Haslam.
In a Department of Education blog post, McQueen pointed to some of hers and the department’s accomplishments:
This year, our students again set record highs: new high ACT score (20.2) coupled with a new high participation rate (97%); more students took AP exams and more students earned a 3 or higher – giving them credit for college; and high school graduates maintained our record graduation rate (89.1%). For the first time in years, we saw growth in students’ literacy skills in the early grades – pointing to some initial successes with our Read to be Ready work – and again students enrolled in our Read to be Ready summer camps showed statistically significant growth.”
She also said, “Teachers and principals, you are and have always been the reason we are growing faster than other states. I see how your expectations for yourselves and for your students inspire you to keep developing and growing.”
One education leader, however, hailed McQueen’s work.
“Professional Educators of Tennessee appreciates the contributions of Commissioner Candice McQueen,” said JC Bowman, executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee. “Commissioner McQueen is one of the most visible members of the Haslam Administration. She took over the Department during a dark period in public education, and she made a significant difference within the Department, particularly in the infrastructure. Those changes are not readily noticeable, as they include systems, processes and human capital. There are some exceptional people within the Department of Education working to make public education a success in our state. It is unfortunate that online testing continues to be a point of contention, but the state is moving in a positive direction.
“The next Commissioner of Education and the 111th Tennessee General Assembly will need to make adjustments in student assessment as we move forward. We will always be grateful to Commissioner McQueen for her unwavering support of increasing teacher salaries and commitment to student literacy. These are incredible legacies to leave as she departs her critical role serving the citizens of Tennessee, and we wish Commissioner McQueen much success in her new role. We look forward to working with Governor-elect Bill Lee and offering input on a successor.”
The department published a list of McQueen’s accomplishments that included Tennessee Succeeds, an effort to increase postsecondary and career readiness for all students. That “folded” into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.